In Jack London’s chilling 1907 dystopia, The Iron Heel, one of the first signs that things are turning for the worst come with the publication of Alice’s father’s book following his forced resignation from his university post. Economics and Education argues that “education was dominated by the capitalist class” and at first creates “a furore all over the world”; “newspapers showered him with praise and honour”. But it is not to last: “Then came the suppression of the book”.
“And then, abruptly, the newspapers and the critical magazines ceased saying anything about the book at all. Also, and with equal suddenness, the book disappeared from the market. Not a copy was obtainable from any bookseller. Father wrote to the publishers, and was informed that the plates had been accidentally injured.”
Eventually “a big socialist publishing house arranged with father to bring out the book. Father was jubilant, but Ernest [Alice’s future husband and leading socialist] was alarmed… ‘I tell you we are on the verge of the unknown’ he insisted… ‘The suppression of the book is a precipitation'”. There are signs that the book will be a great success in this new edition, but the press is soon attacked and burned by a mob.
What follows is a prolonged period of oppression and poverty, with extreme riches for some (Felice Van Verdighan’s lap-dog has its own maid) and grinding poverty for many, ending in the brutal suppression of the “Chicago Commune”.
The attack on the book was an early sign of the horrors to come.
Jack London, The Iron Heel, 1907