Daniel De Leon Answered the Critics of Socialism

Since the 19th century a recurrent pattern has been found in the reactions of capitalism's defenders. They react as though the proposal to build a classless society were, as Marx and Engels wrote in the opening line of the Communist Manifesto, a spectre that must be exorcised. The exorcism is often performed by gathering every available cliché (capitalism is God-ordained, socialism is against human nature, a capitalist is a genius, etc.) and repackaging selections of these into highly publicized books or speaking engagements.

Daniel De Leon (1852-1914), as a public speaker for the Socialist Labor Party of America, and especially as the editor of the party's newspapers The People and The Daily People, often used the strategy of answering the apologists for class rule.

Since the names of the quacks whom De Leon answered are no longer widely recognized today, I offer these notes as introductions to a few of them.

Thomas I. Gasson

Thomas Ignatius Gasson (1859-1930) was a Jesuit priest, and the president of Boston College from 1907 to 1914. (All of the presidents of Boston College to date have been Jesuit priests).

Gasson is mentioned in the current literature of the college primarily in reference to the the fact that it was he who arranged the purchase of 31 acres of farm land in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts in 1907 so the college could relocate from the Sound End of Boston to a new campus. Therefore the building Gasson Hall on the newer campus was named after him, and although he was the college's 13th president he was nicknamed its "second founder".

On Feb. 5, 1911 Gasson delivered an address at Boston College entitled The Menace of Socialism.

Gasson's address was also published in a book that was an anthology of essays: George William Coleman, editor, Democracy in the Making: Ford Hall and the Open Forum Movement -- A Symposium, Boston: Little, Brown & Co, 1915. The book is available to read online, but not download, at http://books.google.com/books?id=aSgAAAAAYAAJ . The Gasson address appears in the book as Part IV, Chapter II on page 235. The direct link to page 235 is http://books.google.com/books?id=aSgAAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA235&lpg=PA235 .

Gasson's anti-socialist views were answered by at least two socialist publications:

(1) Daniel De Leon, in a series of 19 editorials under the heading Father Gassoniana from Feb. 22, 1911 to Aug. 4, 1911. To read these editorials individually, see http://slp.org/litera.htm and scroll down to the heading 1911. The 19 editorials were reprinted by the SLP as the pamphlet Father Gassioniana, 1912. A new title, Abolition of Poverty was given to the pamphlet at the time of the fifth edition, 1935. The online edition of Abolition of Poverty, in Adobe (.pdf) format, 2005, is available at http://slp.org/pdf/de_leon/ddlother/abol_pov.pdf .

(2) The Socialist Party of America, a pamphlet entitled: The Menace of Socialism: An Address Delivered by Rev. Thomas I. Gasson, S.J., President, Boston College, in Ford Hall, Boston, Feb. 5, 1911; A Reply by James F. Carey, Secretary, Socialist Party Clubs of Mass. in Faneuil Hall, Feb. 27, 1911. (Current availability of this text, to be determined.)

W. H. Mallock

William Hurrell Mallock (1849-1923) was born and educated in England. (Details in the encyclopedia article at http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/William_Hurrell_Mallock .)

He is remembered today as a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. The two major themes of his nonfiction were defense of religious faith and opposition to socialism. The titles of his works are listed in the encyclopedia article.

Mallock best-known anti-socialist book was A Critical Examination of Socialism, 1908. The text of the book in ASCII format is available from Project Gutenberg at http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/17416 . An Adobe format version of a 1989 reprint of the book can be read online but not downloaded at http://books.google.com/books?id=1PpL-dkKpHQC . Note that, around chapters III through V, Mallock refers repeatedly to the "errors" of Karl Marx. For example, he claims incorrectly that Marx said that manual labor alone is the creator of wealth. Mallock asserts that "the directive ability", "the directive faculty", of the capitalist is the actual source of the creation of all wealth, a fact which Marx "overlooked".

Mallock came to the United States and went on a tour of speaking engagements (dates = ???) to misrepresent the facts about capitalism and socialism. Mallock's speaking tour was arranged by the National Civic Foundation (NCF), a group that had been established by A.F. of L. president Samuel Gompers for the purpose of pushing the labor union movement in the direction of political conservativism and support for corporate interests.

Mallock's assertions were answered by Daniel De Leon on Jan. 21, 1908 in a public address in New York City entitled Marx on Mallock. This address is published in the form of a pamphlet. Because Mallock's name is not widely recognized, some of the editions were published with the major title Socialist vs. Capitalist Economics, with a subtitle displayed in smaller font, (Marx on Mallock); for example, the 1963 reprint. The online edition, 2001, in Adobe format, goes back to the original title, Marx on Mallock, and can be downloaded from http://slp.org/pdf/de_leon/ddlother/marx_mallock.pdf .

It's interesting to note the contrast in the adjectives applied to Mallock and his work. As of this writing in June 2007, a Wikipedia editor refers to "his keen logic" and "brilliant works on economics": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mallock . In contrast, the SLP refers to Mallock as having been "imported here ... to slay the dragon of Socialism" and yet he was "such a humbug." [former Weekly People editor John Timm, in the preface to Marx on Mallock.]

One of Mallock degree's was from Oxford. Timm's preface refers to Mallock as an "Oxford professor." I believe that this description is incorrect. (To be verified.)

O. D. Skelton

Oscar Douglas Skelton (1878-1941) incurred De Leon's response as an academic author, although, after De Leon's death in 1914, Skelton became best known as a government official.

During 1908-1925 Skelton was a professor and later a department dean at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. During 1925-1941 he was the Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs, in the federal government of Canada. He participated in the negotiations which led to the independence of Canada from Britain.

Studying at the University of Chicago in 1908, the title of Skelton's doctoral thesis was The Case against Socialism. In 1911 he wrote the book Socialism: A Critical Analysis, an Adobe version of which can be read online or downloaded from http://books.google.com/books?id=iTwFAAAAMAAJ . Skelton claimed to have disproven the validity of Marxian economics, including its central theorem, the Law of Value.

Daniel De Leon answered Skelton in a series of editorials from April 8, 1912 to June 29, 1912. To read these editorials individually, see http:// www.slp.org/litera.htm and scroll down to the heading 1912. These editorials were collected in the form of a pamphlet entitled Vulgar Economy, first edition 1914. The online edition of that pamphlet, in Adobe format, 2002, is available at http://slp.org/pdf/de_leon/ddlother/vulgar_econ.pdf .

Notes written by Mike Lepore on June 9, 2007

Revisions. June 9, 2007: first draft. Feb. 27, 2008 fixed typos.