A member of the Post War World Council, an ardent pacifist, and anti-imperialist, Stephen Siteman was a long-time member of the Socialist Party of America, serving for seventeen years as secretary to the party's leader Norman Thomas. In his late teens, Siteman was imprisoned as a conscientious objector during World War II. Although he was later pardoned, his time as a prisoner led him into active involvement in prison reform and the peace movement.
During his long involvement in the Socialist Party, Siteman collected a large quantity of material relating to important socialist issues, including Socialist Reform, the peace movement, conscientious objection, and prison reform. The collection also includes a small selection of Siteman's personal correspondence with Frank Zeidler, former Socialist mayor of Milwaukee, and the novelist Mark Harris.
The collection is open for research.
Background on Stephen Siteman
Born in Montague, Massachusetts, on September 15, 1919, Stephen Siteman was introduced to Socialist ideals during the Great Depression, beginning a lifelong association with Democratic Socialism and leftist politics. A pacifist, Siteman was interned in upstate New York during the Second World War for resisting the draft, and although he was later pardoned for resisting military service, his experience helped galvanize his political beliefs.
Siteman became a member of the anti-Communist Socialist Party of America and for seventeen years, beginning in the 1950s, he served as secretary to the Party's leader and six time Presidential candidate, Norman Thomas. During this time, Siteman became deeply involved in several issues resonating with his life experience, including reform of the United States prison system and the promotion of peace and conscientious objection. Through his involvement in the Party, he was introduced to the novelist Mark Harris, assisting Harris with his dissertation on the pacifist and draft resister Randolph Bourne
During the later years of his life, Siteman worked closely with Frank Zeidler, the Socialist mayor of Milwaukee and one of the last Socialists to hold a significant elected office in the United States. Concerned with the failure of the Socialist movement to catch on in America and with the problem of factionalism, the two sought ways to return the party to its founding ideals. Together, they helped organize a series of Democratic Socialist Conferences during the 1980s in the hope of reviving the Party. Siteman retired to Greenfield, Mass., dying there on July 1, 2001, without realizing his dream.
The Stephen Siteman Collection is composed of three thematic series: Socialism, Peace, and Prison Reform. Ranging in date between 1910 and 1990, the contents cover a variety of topics that center on Socialist politics and Socialist ideals. Siteman's idealistic, pacifist, and internationalist world view informs the collection throughout, offering insight into the moderate end of the Old Left political spectrum.
Series 1 contains publications on war resistance, conscientious objection, and peace. Comprised of works that question militarization and American Cold War-era politics, the series also includes articles on the philosophy and practice of non-violence. A significant portion of the series consists of the publications of War Resistance, The War Resister, and The War Resisters League from the 1940s through1960s.
The largest series in the collection, Series 2 (Socialism) contains three boxes that can be divided roughly into three portions. The two largest and most personal consist of Siteman's correspondence with the novelist Arthur Mark Harris, on the one hand, and with Frank Zeidler, Socialist Mayor of Milwaukee on the other, dating between 1948 and 1960.
At the time of his correspondence with Siteman, Harris was writing a dissertation on the pacifist Randolph Bourne and was referred to Siteman for help. From 1954-1956 Harris and Siteman corresponded regularly about Bourne, developing a cordial relationship. For his assistance, Siteman was sent copies of Harris's newly published books South Paw and Bang the Drum Slowly (neither present in the collection). Siteman was not shy to critique Harris's work: he did not care too much for South Paw and missed the overall message Harris was trying to convey. Although he wrote that he did not like baseball in general, Siteman did enjoy Bang the Drum Slowly, however in the letter thanking Harris for the book, Siteman politely told Harris not to send him any other books, stating that he knew writers received only a few free copies and that Harris should not waste them on him. Harris also sent Siteman a copy of his dissertation on Bourne, entitled Randolph Bourne: A Study in Immiscibility, which is included in the collection.
The correspondence with Zeidler is of a more personal nature. Zeidler and Siteman were longtime friends and collaborators. From 1985 to 1991, they exchanged letters and ideas on matters of Socialism, world politics, and the state of the Socialist Party. During Zeidler's term in office, Milwaukee grew industrially and never had to borrow money. Despite his success as a mayor, Zeidler failed to see his Socialist ways of administration take hold within the United States. "Socialist ideals of cooperation are combated with every event within the world," he wrote. Although he continued to work for the Democratic Socialist Conference -- material from which is included in the series -- Zeidler seemed to lose faith that Socialism would ever succeed in the United States. Siteman and Zeidler discuss the growing divisions within the party based on agendas like women's right or race, which divided the movement as a whole.
The series also contains several works on Socialist theory and practice, including an array of newspaper articles from 1918 to the 1980s.
Siteman's imprisonment as a conscientious objector and Socialist led him into research on reform of the American prison system. The Prison Reform series includes published articles and works, not only from the United States but from countries ranging from Austria to Yugoslavia. Siteman had the idea that prisons throughout the world did more harm than good, and he worked to change the system altogether. The series includes news articles documenting problems in prisons and laying out a vision for positive reform of the basic structure of the system. Several pamphlets focus on the idea of a Socialist reformation of the prison system, arguing that prison should be a place of reform, not simple containment.
Purchased in .
Processed by Joel Nilles, 2009.
Approximately 9 linear feet of books have been separated from the Siteman Collection and have been catalogued and shelved separately in the Rare Books Collections. See a list of the Siteman Books separately.
Cite as: Stephen Siteman Collection (MS 503). Special Collections and University Archives, UMass Amherst Libraries.