Guy A. Aldred Archive
Source: PDF Scans from Marxists.org; OCR'ing and editing from RevoltLib.com.
Transcription/Markup: Andy Carloff
Online Source: RevoltLib.com; 2021
Daniel De Leon was born on December 14, 1852, in Curacao, an island off the coast of Venezuela, and educated in Europe. He returned to America in 1872, and graduated from Columbia Law School in New York City in 1878. He held the position of lecturer in that college for six years. In 1886 he took an active part in the Henry George campaign, and severed, in consequence, his connection with the law school. Four years later he joined the Socialist Labor Party, and in 1892 became editor of its official organ, The People, and leading theorist in the Socialist movement of America. He held his editorial position until his death, on May 11, 1914.
De Leon was noted for his bitter and often outrageously unjust attacks on Anarchism. The lawyer in him degraded his Socialist pen. But the trend of his work was to reconcile Anarchism and Marxism. He was always paying tribute to Marx for the latter's analysis of capitalist production. But he supplemented Marx's work with an even more important contribution to the philosophy of the workers' struggle, a definite application of Socialist knowledge to the purpose of evolving the new social order. De Leon proclaimed that Socialism was incomplete unless it adopted a negative program on the political field and a positive program on the industrial. This was his conception of social revolution, of Marxism, Communism, or Socialism. And it is the true and only conception.
De Leon saw and taught that the system of government based on territorial lines has outlived its function: that economic development has reached a point where the Political State cannot even appear to serve the workers as an instrument of industrial emancipation. Accumulated wealth, concentrated in a few hands, controls all political government. No franchise permits the democracy to control accumulated wealth.
Once he had found his stride, De Leon devoted himself to this definition of Socialism as the Industrial Republic. He did so, not as an Utopian, dreaming vainly and speculating gloriously, but as a scientist and a thinker, seeking earnestly and penetrating with analysis.
Adapting Kautsky's Socialist Republic in 1894, De Leon wrote, on this theme, as follows:--
"Few things are more childish than to demand of the Socialist that he draw a picture of the Commonwealth he labors for. The demand is so childish that it would not deserve much attention, were it not for the circumstance that, childish though it be, it is the one objection against Socialism which its adversaries raise with the soberest mien. The other objections are, if anything, still more childish, but in making them the adversaries of Socialism are not half so serious.
"Never yet in the history of mankind has it happened that a revolutionary party was able to foresee, let alone determine, what the forms would be of the new social order which it strove to usher in. The cause of progress had gained, not a little, but quite a good deal, if it could as much as ascertain and recognize the tendencies that led to such a new social order, to the end that its political activity could be a conscious and not merely an instinctive one."
Anti-parliamentarians accept this clear and simple statement as defining the anti-parliamentary position. It is one of the clearest statements to be found in the whole range of Socialist literature.
Anti-parliamentarians also endorse the following eulogy of the agile few, made by De Leon, at the Second Convention, I.W.W., in 1906:--
"I know what Marx teaches upon the instinct of the class-struggle is correct; the instinct is there, it is latent. It is the mission of the lieutenants of the capitalist class to interfere with us, and to prevent us from touching that chord, and that chord if touched responds immediately. But the capitalist class of this country walks upon a flaming volcano, and that volcano will start in eruption and overthrow them the day we have organized a substantial minority. One correction, I think, to the Preamble was suggested to-day that sounded to me quite logical, or rather quite historically true. I wish to refer to it in connection with what I have just stated with regard to our chances. One critic--I think it was McIntosh--stated that is was a mistake to expect to organize all the workers. Ah, indeed, it is a mistake; only he did not carry his argument as far as I would have carried it. Not because you cannot organize all the workers, but because is not necessary to organize all the workers. The revolutions of this world have been accomplished not be majorities but by minorities; only the minority had to be large enough and earnest enough and determined enough and convinced enough to act. Soon as it had the numbers that raised it above a negligible quantity, just as soon as it was numerically strong enough, although but a small minority compared to the whole, its energy, its determination, its courage added to audacity have always brought about the Revolution.
"Ex-Speaker Reed, very correctly and very much to the sorrow of his class, pointed out that if a vote had been taken, if a male vote of referendum had been taken, the colonies in this union would by a large majority have voted against independence. Correct. That revolution was accomplished by a clearheaded, determined minority. Between the minority that wants a certain thing and those who do not want it there lies a large mass of the 'undetermined.' Whether it will always be so I do not know. It has always been that way, and will continue to be until some time after the Cooperative Commonwealth has been established. That minority must have fire enough in it--not straw fire, not kindling wood fire, but a fire that nothing can extinguish--to beat up and move that indifferent mass. And when that minority moves the indifferent mass moves, and is able to move the earth with the revolutionary minority."
Again, in defining the attitude of the S.L.P., De Leon was really stating the position of the Anti-Parliamentary Communist movement: --
"The Socialist Labor Party carries on its work of education, encouraged by the knowledge that some day, somehow, something is bound to rip. And that, at that crisis, when the people, who have allowed themselves to be misled from Mumbo Jumbo to Jumbo Mumbo, will be running around like chickens without a head, there will be one beacon of light 'midst the clouds to-day; one beacon, whose steady light will serve as guide; whose tried firmness will inspire confidence; and whose rock-ribbed sides will serve as a natural point of rally from which to save civilization."
The Socialist Labor Party is dead. But Daniel De Leon's contribution to Socialist thought and action, all that matters of it, like the inspiration of John MacLean's heroic struggle, is embodied in the agitation of the Anti-Parliamentary Communist movement.
How correct that conception is, as opposed to the conception of the parliamentary "united front," "Communists" and the Labor Party, will be seen from the statement made by Justice Swift, to the jury, at the London Central Criminal Court, on November 25, 1925, when summing up in the Communist Party trial. Swift said: --
"The Government of this country is not a Conservative, Liberal, or Labor body, represented by a Baldwin, an Asquith, or a MacDonald. We speak of the Government of this country as an unceasingly active and permanent body, represented by the King in Parliament. Governments appear to fall frequently, by only superficially, merely a change of the 'Party' political appendage. An over-throw of a Government means a complete change of the Constitution, the sorry effect of a Revolution, the abolition of the King and present Houses of Legislation and their replacement by an entirely new structure."
Which means that parliamentarism is not Socialism; that Laborism is not Socialism; that the Communist Party "United Front," Leninism and Nepism, Stalinism, is not Socialism; but that the unceasing agitation towards the Industrial Republic, the entirely new structure, is Socialism. Actually, De Leon pioneered the Anti-Parliamentarism, and all that is of moment in the S.L.P. program either has been, or should be, embodied in the Anti-Parliamentarian Communist program.