Daniel De Leon biography


The People
December 9, 1995
Vol. 105 No. 16


Daniel De Leon was born Dec. 14, 1852, on Curacao, a Dutch-owned island off the coast of Venezuela, and died in New York City on May 11, 1914. During the second half of this relatively brief life span of 61 years, De Leon devoted himself to the cause of working-class emancipation from capitalist exploitation.

As editor of THE PEOPLE, from 1892 until his untimely death, De Leon developed the strategy and tactics needed to establish socialism by civilized, yet revolutionary, means in highly industrialized countries like the United States -- the Socialist Industrial Union program of the SLP.

That program, which also provides the outline of the democratic structure on which genuine socialism will be built, was not the work of a chairbound intellectual or theorist. It was developed on the foundation of hard-fought battles within and around the labor movement over a quarter century. Those battles were not fought by one man, but by an organization of men and women whose understanding of the class struggle and Marxist principles enabled them to build that foundation of experience.

De Leon was an active participant in those struggles, not only with the SLP on the political field, but also on the economic field, first from inside the Knights of Labor, then with the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance, and ultimately with the original Industrial Workers of the World.

The SLP has often been labeled as a "personality cult" because it acknowledges De Leon's contributions, but those who criticize the SLP on that account are dead wrong. De Leon was only a man, much like any other, except that he had an exceptional mind and made a conscious decision to use it for the sake of humanity. He owed no apology for that, and we owe none for acknowledging his contributions, emulating his example or continuing his work as we mark the 143rd anniversary of his birth.