Daniel De Leon editorial : Not Gompers But Gompersism


Not Gompers But Gompersism
by Daniel De Leon
From the Daily People, Nov. 23, 1912
as reprinted in The People, January 11, 1991, Page 4

A De Leon Editorial

Gompers' Unionism

The failings of the AFL-CIO-type unions do not stem from the "poor leadership" or personal failings of their top officials. They stem from "the pernicious doctrine of fraternal relations between labor and capitalist."


Not Gompers But Gompersism

(Daily People, Nov. 23, 1912)

Duncan McDonald, a miners' delegate at this year's AF of L convention, is the one personality whose record at the convention may be expected to go "thundering down the annals" of AF of L annual gatherings as the swallower of camels and strainer at gnats.

Mr. McDonald expressed himself "utterly disgusted with the farce of the election of President Gompers."

The only fault one could find with such a sentiment is the use of the word "farce" in connection with the recurring elections of Gompers. They are not a farce. They are a tragedy.

The recurring elections of Gompers could mean nothing else but an endorsement of Gompers as the individual who best typified Gompersism. And what has Gompersism stood for these many years in the land?

Gompersism has stood for the pernicious doctrine of fraternal relations between labor and capitalist; it has stood for the Civic Federation banquets that put the seal of approval upon the doctrine; it has stood for a system of unionism that delivers the working class of the land tied hands and feet to the mercy of the employing class; it has stood for a narcotic that narcotizes the workers within its reach with the illusion that they are getting a larger and larger share of the wealth that they produce, and thereby benumbs their senses to the fact that the purchasing power of their wage is a declining magnitude; it has stood for the splintering of labor's forces on the political, the same as it splinters them de facto on the industrial, field; it has stood for the practice that degrades the proletariat to the level of pariahs whose pariahship is rendered all the more ignoble because of the grandiloquent phrases with which the pariah is rigged out; it has stood, in short, for all that makes against socialism and for bulwarking capitalism.

Such is Gompersism. Surely the constant reelection of the chief exponent of such a monstrosity is no farce. But, perhaps, Duncan McDonald did not mean "farce" when he said "farce." The theory is inadmissible. He did mean "farce" when he said "farce." That which disgusted him was not the infamies of Gompersism; it was-what?-that "Gompers is often found smoking nonunion cigars"; that "even at the present convention he put up at a hotel that does not recognize unionism in any form, with the possible exception of the bar"; hence, that "Gompers wasn't even a good trade unionist"!

In other words, Duncan McDonald swallows the infamies of Gompersism, but strains at the trivialities of Gompers. In other words, Duncan McDonald would dethrone Gompers but leave Gompersism unwhipped.

Gladly would Gompersism make a scapegoat of Gompers. It is not the individual Gompers, it is the infamy Gompersism after whose scalp the Social Revolution has taken the field.