Daniel De Leon editorial : Getting Something Now


Getting Something Now
by Daniel De Leon
from the Daily People, September 6, 1910
as reprinted in The People, December 23, 1995

DE LEON EDITORIAL -- Introduction


The SLP was right about where reform movements would lead and leave the working class. The undoing of New Deal and Great Society sops by the "Republican Revolution" proves it -- and there is worse ahead.



(DAILY PEOPLE, Sept. 6, 1910)

The NEW YORKER VOLKSZEITUNG, an organ of the Socialist Party, in its issue of Sept. 3, editorially ventures "to propose" to its "party's executive committee to utilize [Theodore] Roosevelt's thunder -- which anyhow is stolen from us -- for the socialist [Socialist Party] fall campaign." The same editorial says of the electors, "They are also little benefited, at present, by the socialist goal."

Roosevelt may or may not have stolen Socialist Party "thunder"; he, however, stole nothing from socialism. That he stole or cared to steal Socialist Party "thunder" is pretty good evidence of the fate that is in store for the Socialist Party. And that the hand of fate is upon the SP is confirmed by the VOLKSZEITUNG'S own declaration as to the "little benefit" that can be secured at present from the socialist goal.

The theory that the success of socialism is predicated upon the movement's gaining something for the workers NOW, right away, is a theory that has no place in the program of revolutionary socialism, especially in America.

The fundamental principle of socialism is that freedom for the workers is not possible while the system of wage slavery lasts. Hence socialism has for its mission the overthrow of the capitalist system of private ownership of the machinery of production and the establishment of collective ownership in its place.

The theory that socialism can with safety depart from the hard and fast line of its ultimate goal and follow the lure of "something now" batters itself against the hard fact that "something now" is not obtainable by it, and the logical consequence of such departure would be the degeneration of the movement into a "something now," or reform, movement.

American history bears eloquent testimony to the fact that "something now" is not obtainable now. The fate of the movements that followed that lure into the desert of opportunism is to be read upon their gravestones as a warning to others.

If the aim of socialism were to be made the getting of "something now" and socialism later, socialism would have to be sacrificed to immediate progress. Hence for a Socialist to preach "something now" means that he discredits socialism, and only helps to prepare the workers as voting cattle for capitalism, when capitalist parties, by "stealing," by taking up the "something now" demands, promise their immediate realization.

The Socialist Party that in America follows the lure of getting "something now" will wind up by getting nothing now. Nor will it get anything later, because it will have lost the golden opportunity of preparing the workers and the way for the benefits of the socialist goal.

The only something worth striving for now by Socialists, because it is the only thing obtainable now, is the laying of as solid a foundation as possible on which to move forward to the conquest of capitalism. Then, too, the more attention that Socialists pay to the ultimate goal, the more will the capitalist class endeavor to stem the tide and check its progress by offering "something now" schemes galore; so that, granting that "something now" is desirable, the way to get it is not by bothering about it but by working steadily for the goal.

The VOLKSZEITUNG and other SP papers have thrown socialism to the winds and become a rainbow-chasing institution. If such doctrine is accepted and practiced by the Socialist Party, it will ere long be interred with the other rainbow chasers, upon whose headstones is to be read the inscription, "I tried to get 'something now' and got here."