Why the SLP Dropped Reforms


Date: Mon Nov 20, 1995 6:04 pm EST
From: Conference thepeople.news
Subject: De Leon on Reforms

The People November 25, 1995 Vol. 105 No. 15


This is how and why the SLP dropped reforms from its platform and came out foursquarely for socialism, the whole of socialism and nothing but socialism.


(DAILY PEOPLE, AUG. 27, 1912)

THE NEW YORK TIMES of the 12th of this month announces that, "Many planks of the Bull Moose platform are only a paraphrase of pledges of the Socialist Labor Party of 1896."

The TIMES deserves thanks for the discovery and reminder.

Eighteen ninety-six was the last presidential year in which the SLP held a national convention clogged, hampered and otherwise fettered by the navel string of the curiosity named the SocialistIC Labor Party. The fact manifested itself in the long list of "immediate demands" -- a regular "appendix" to the anatomy of the party, and fit only to produce appendicitis -- a political inflammation that is now afflicting the Socialist Party. The navel string being cut at the 1900 National Convention of the SLP the "appendix" was removed and thrown into the political garbage can.

Whatever else a political party of bona fide socialism may be compelled to do in other countries, where the economic and political clime is different from ours -- in America the program of a party of bona fide socialism has no concern with aught but the abolition of wage slavery. Here, capitalism is confronted with socialism, no practical vestige of feudalism being left between the two, and to be removed by the latter. In such a country as America, immediate demands or reforms are a source of unqualified, and of double danger to the socialist movement.

In the first place, the reforms are a danger in that they operate as bait. A bait-recruited body may be useful in many, especially financial, ways to the holders of the other end of the line; to the socialist movement such a body is mainly injurious. It is a center from which radiates not one of the virtues that the social revolution requires for its triumph. The thing is a gelatinous bulk -- big in mass, spineless in energy.

In the second place, such reforms in an American socialist program are a danger to the movement in that the reforms demanded -- they being used as props, and the props belonging to bourgeois society -- some of them, even all, may at any time be pulled away by the foe, and the structure reared upon them must then collapse.

It is at its own peril that the social revolutionary movement of America will take a single "plank" that fits in bourgeois society. Insofar as such a plank is good, it needs no entry in the socialist program. Socialism is impliedly a safeguard to all the great achievements of the civilizations that preceded it. All such "planks" are self-understood. Insofar as such "planks" are not self-understood, they are harmful in that they are props to prop up the ills of the bourgeois social system.

Conscious of all this, the SLP made in 1900 the politico-surgical operation that cut off and cast off the immediate demands, and today the party stands forth with a program that proclaims both the economics and the sociology of the great pending revolution -- the abolition of wage slavery, and also of the social structure of the same, the political state -- a proclamation not a note of which is muffled by any immediate demands, or aught else that can be stolen by the bourgeois foe.

By recalling the fact that Roosevelt merely paraphrased the SLP reform demands of 1896, the TIMES underscores the deep gulf that separates the SLP of 1896 from the SLP of 1912; and the paper simultaneously underscores the shortness of the bridge that bridges the Roosevelt party and the Socialist Party -- Bullmoosia and Kangarusia.*

-- -- --

* Former president Theodore Roosevelt broke with his successor, William Howard Taft, and the Republican Party over the issue of reforming capitalism and ran against Taft and Woodrow Wilson in 1912 as the candidate of the newly founded Progressive Party, with the bull moose as the party's emblem. Hence De Leon's expression: "Bullmoosia." The expression "Kangarusia" was a reference to the reformers who tried to take over the Socialist Labor Party in 1899, and who -- when frustrated -- jumped like kangaroos, first into a bogus Socialist Labor Party, then into an intermediate Social Democratic Party, and finally to the so-called Socialist Party. The term kangaroos has been widely used in America since the Civil War, when adventurers would go to localities where they were not known, pose as judges and court clerks, announce that they would hold trials of persons under arrest, find them guilty, impose fines, collect the same and then jump -- kangaroo-like -- to another place before they were discovered. The courts were known as "kangaroo courts."