Daniel De Leon editorial : The Liberal 'Surrender'


Daniel De Leon
The Liberal 'Surrender'
from the Daily People, April 11, 1906
reprinted in The People, November 1996

The pure-and-simple Socialists -- a convenient resounding board for the chicanery of "liberal" bourgeois parliamentarianism -- are echoing the jubilant cry of a Liberal "surrender" in the House of Commons to the Laborites on the subject of freeing union treasuries from all liability to employers. The bill as desired by the Laborites, and as it should be framed, was adopted by the Liberal premier. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman espoused the bill; he came forward in its behalf with all the fire of an apostle of righteousness. The bill was passed -- but was it passed into law? No; it was passed into the House of Lords, where, 10 to one, it will be killed.

Speaking in the 1840s on the subject of liberalism, Marx said:

"Although the Liberals have not carried out their principles in any land as yet completely, still the attempts which have been made are sufficient to prove the uselessness of their efforts. They endeavored to free labor, but only succeeded in subjecting it more completely under the yoke of capital; they aimed at setting at liberty all labor powers, and only riveted the chains of misery which held them bound; they wanted to release the bondman from the clod, and deprived him of the soil on which he stood by buying up the land; they yearned for a happy condition of society, and only created superfluity on one hand and dire want on the other; they desired to secure for merit its own honorable reward, and only made it the slave of wealth; they wanted to abolish all monopolies, and placed in their stead the monster monopoly, capital; they wanted to do away with all wars between nation and nation, and kindled the flames of civil war; they tried to get rid of the state, and yet have multiplied its burdens; they wanted to make education the common property of all, and made it the privilege of the rich; they aimed at the greatest moral improvement of society, and have only left it in a state of rotten immorality; they wanted, to say all in a word, unbounded liberty, and have produced the meanest servitude; they wanted the reverse of all which they actually obtained, and have thus given a proof that liberalism in all its ramifications is nothing but a perfect utopia."

Had Marx lived down to our own days he would not have broken off where he did. The indictment that he drew up against the Liberals belonged under an early category of liberalism -- the period when the Liberal took stock in his own visionariness of universal happiness. That early period has been followed by the period in which we now live. At present none is so well posted on the visionariness of liberalism, insofar as the working class is concerned, as the Liberal leader himself. While at first the Liberal was a mooncalf, now he is a cross between a fox and a wolf. Formerly he believed; now he seeks to make others believe. In this country we have seen the spectacle in Colorado of every single member of the bourgeois legislature having voted for an eight-hour law and yet there was no law passed -- the eight-hour bill of the House was voted down by the Senate and the eight-hour bill of the Senate was voted down in the House. The members of each went to the people with breasts inflated, proud of their "labor record" -- a record which left no eight-hour law in existence. The Colorado trick is a 20th- century trick. The trick of the Liberal "surrender" is a stale old one.

Original liberalism was "a perfect Utopia." Up-to-date liberalism is a perfect bunco game.