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1920 New York State Senate investigation of the SLP
The following is an OCR scan of an excerpt
from pages 818-827 (only the section on the
Socialist Labor Party) from the document entitled:
Revolutionary Radicalism -- Its History,
Purpose and Tactics -- With an Exposition and
Discussion of the Steps Being Taken and Required
to Curb it -- Being the Report of the Joint
Legislative Committee Investigating Seditious
Activities -- Filed April 24, 1920, in the Senate
of the State of New York -- Part I, Revolutionary
and Subversive Movements Abroad and At Home --
The title page also indicates:
Albany, J. B. Lyon Company, Printers, 1920
The entire document is also available
as a PDF file from Google ebooks:
number of pages: 1,140
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Errata: the misspelling of Petersen as "Peterson"
in two places in the original document, and its
correct spelling in two other places, have
been preserved in here.
Socialist Labor Party
Prior to 1898 the lending Socialist organization claiming to be a political party was the Socialist Labor Party, which in that year had gained its zenith, polling 82,204 votes throughout the United States. During that year a bitter controversy arose with organized labor, which resulted in a split in the party, the rigid discipline exacted by Daniel De Leon being in large measure responsible for the differences which arose. As pointed out in Chapter I of this subsection, the bulk of Socialist adherents left the party to form the nucleus of what afterward became the Socialist Party of America. Those who remained in the old organization continued to function as the Socialist Labor Party, under the leadership of Daniel De Leon.
The Socialist Labor Party as it exists today is a small group, effective for its propaganda and for its connections with the Workers' International Industrial Union. The aims and purposes of this party differ very little from those of the Socialist Party of America. They both desire the creation of a co-operative commonwealth and favor industrial unionism as opposed to trade unionism of the type of the American Federation of Labor. Though the two parties profess to differ fundamentally, in the final analysis very little difference between them may be discerned. The party stands for the overthrow of the present system of government, by the use of industrial action to be made effective by organizing the workers in industrial unions and by the carrying on of the class struggle. Its purposes and objects are manifest from a reading of the platform adopted at the national convention on April 30, 1916, which is as follows:
"We hold that the purpose of government is to secure to every citizen the enjoyment of this right; but taught by experience we hold furthermore that such right is illusory to the majority of the people, to wit, the working class, under the present system of economic inequality that is essentially destructive of their life, their liberty, and their happiness.
"We hold that the true theory of economics is that the means of production must be owned, operated and controlled by the people in common. Man cannot exercise his right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without the ownership of the land on, and tools with which to work. Deprived of these, his life, his liberty and his fate fall into the hands of that class which owns these essentials for work and production.
"We hold that the existing contradiction between social production and capitalist appropriation -- the latter resulting from the private ownership of the natural and social opportunities -- divides the people into two classes: the capitalist class and the working class; throws society into the convulsions of the class struggle; and perverts government in the interests of the capitalist class.
"Thus labor is robbed of the wealth it alone produces, is denied the means of self-employment, and, by compulsory idleness in wage slavery, is even deprived of the necessaries of life.
"Against such a system the Socialist Labor Party raises the banner of revolt, and demands the unconditional surrender of the capitalist class.
"In place of such a system the Socialist Labor Party aims to substitute a system of social ownership of the means of production, industrially administered by the working class, — the workers to assume control and direction as well as operation of their industrial affairs."
"This solution of necessity requires the organization of the working class as a class upon revolutionary political and industrial lines.
"We, therefore, call upon the wage workers to organize themselves into a revolutionary political organization under the banner of the Socialist Labor Party: and to organize themselves likewise upon the industrial field into a revolutionary industrial union in keeping with their political aims.
"And we also call upon all other intelligent citizens to place themselves squarely upon the ground of working class interests, and join us in this mighty and noble work of human emancipation, so that we may put summary end to the existing barbarous class conflict by placing the land and all the means of production, transportation, and distribution into the hands of the people, as a collective body, and substituting the Co-operative Commonwealth for the present state of planless production, industrial war and social disorder -- a commonwealth in which every worker shall have the free exercise and full benefit of hisi faculties, multiplied by all the modern factors of civilization."
The attitude of the party on war is made clear by a letter addressed to the Copenhagen Conference, in which it is stated:
"So long as this theory (of national defense) is adhered to, a repetition of the present mass-murder of Europe's proletariat may occur at any time. Nothing can prevent a capitalist class of one country, through its various agencies, from starting a war with another nation, unless the respective Socialist parties are organizing the working class industrially, i. e., for the immediate overthrow of capitalism."
The cause of the collapse of the Second International is attributed by this party to "Lack of proper economic organization is the mediate, and the superstition of 'nationalism' the immediate cause of the downfall of the International."
An attempt was made, at a conference held in New York City on January 6, 1917, to effect a union between the Socialist Party and the Socialist Labor Party. This, however, came to naught.
The fundamental principles of the Socialist Labor Party were made clear in a statement of minimum demands presented at that conference, as follows:
"(a) As to aim: Abolition of the capitalist system and establishment of collectivism, i. e., Socialism.
"(b) As to political action: Declaration in favor of uncompromising revolutionary political action.
"(c) As to economic action: Declaration in favor of industrial unionism, and a condemnation, generally, of craft unionism.
"(d) As to militarism and war: Declaration to the effect that military establishments are maintained partly for the purpose of crushing working-class rebellion and partly to protect foreign interests of the capitalist class."
Prohibition (on the part of elected officials) to vote for men or money, for war or militarism, under pain of expulsion, to vote for preparedness either on an increased or the present scale. Also a declaration to the effect that the workers 'have no country to defend but a country and a world to gain from the capitalist class of this country and of the world.'"
The party, according to the report of Arnold Peterson, national secretary of the Socialist Labor Party, appearing on page 366 of the American Labor Year Book for 1917-18, had a membership of 3,185 on December 31, 1916, and had at that time five foreign Language Federations affiliated with it. They were:
The Scandinavian Socialist Labor Federation.
The South Slavonian Socialist Labor Federation.
The Hungarian Socialist Labor Federation.
The Lettish Socialist Labor Federation.
The Jewish Socialist Labor Federation.
According to Arnold Petersen's report, appearing in the American Labor Year Book for 1919-20, the membership of the party has increased up to the present year, and he says that they have "succeeded in putting our message 'across' despite the almost insuperable difficulties which were engendered by the war."
The Socialist Labor Party published a number of papers, among them the following:
The "Volksfreund und Arbeiter Zeitung." This publication, printed in German, was compelled to suspend by reason of its deprivation of second-class mailing privileges.
The "Weekly People," the party's official organ, also deprived of second-class mailing privileges but still continuing to be published.
The "Proletareets," the Lettish organ of the party, which discontinued publication in 1917 by reason of the provisions of the Trading With the Enemy Act."
"A Munkas," the Hungarian organ of the party, which also lost its second-class mailing privileges but which is still continuing to be published.
Arnold Peterson (pages 420 and 421, American Labor Year Book for 1919-20) has this to say about the work and theories of the Socialist Labor Party:
"The theories of the Socialist Labor Party have received a startling, and in a certain sense, unexpected vindication in Russia. To be sure, Russia economically was not so situated as to present a most favorable soil for the application of the Socialist Labor Party's principles. But so far advanced, generally, is capitalism now, that Russia, under the leadership of Lenin, soon found it necessary to proceed along the lines laid down by the Socialist Labor Party, namely, to discard the political state machinery and to organize the workers and peasants along occupational lines. This process , of organization, and the result -- the Soviets, correspond to the industrial union program long ago formulated by the Socialist Labor Party, with such differences, of course, as naturally result from the differences between the two countries (Russia and the United States of America). Furthermore, the soundness of the principles of the Socialist Labor Party has been recognized by no less an authority than Lenin himself, who, it is said, has been much impressed with Daniel De Leon's writings, which it is further reported, are being translated into the Russian language.
"Thus, while the party as such has not increased much in membership and votes, it can, nevertheless, look back with satisfaction upon the harvest so far reaped, and look forward with confidence to the harvest yet to be reaped, and, if all signs do not fail, a harvest to be reaped in a not too distant future.
"More recently, since the signing of the armistice, the party decided that besides the general broad propaganda always carried on, the time had come to concentrate upon a given field so as to pull in shape, more rapidly, the industrial forces of the working-class. The mining industry was selected and invaded and the propaganda of the S. L. P. carried to the workers in the mines. This move, carefully planned and energetically executed, met with instant success. The State of Illinois, the key position of the United Mine Workers of America, was taken in hand first. There the miners are today in full revolt against both the mine owner and the reactionary labor leader — the latter always a working partner of the former. The miners are now determined to take their organization into their own hands, to place all power with the rank and file and they are taking a decided revolutionary position that aims, ultimately, at the overthrow of capitalism.
"The party membership in the coal fields is now growing and so is the dissemination of the party organs and of party literature."
The aims and purposes of the Socialist Labor Party are summarized in an open letter addressed by the National Executive Committee of that party to Senator Lee S. Overman, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee which investigated Bolshevism about a year ago. The relevant portions of this letter follow:
"The Socialist Labor Party is a revolutionary organization. In this day and age, and above all to an American and an American legislator, it certainly should not be necessary to apologize for, nor even to define, the word revolution. So tremendous is the confusion of ideas, however, that the word is continually coupled with murder, bloodshed, anarchy, arson, and a general reign of terror. We, shall therefore, t;ike no chances of being misunderstood. Technically, and as employed by the Socialist Labor Party, revolution means a fundamental and internal change in government. The particular change which the Socialist Labor Party advocates is a change from the capitalist class-ownership to the social ownership of the means of production, with the management and control lodged with the workers themselves, the power originating from below, in the industries. Hence we hold that under such a system the present Political State with all its trappings and machinery must die out or be abolished, while its place is taken by an industrial government, a government of things instead of men. It is plain that the political ballot would have no further function. The industrial ballot would take its place. The voting would be done on the basis of industry and industrial employment, and, accordingly, could be exercised by workers only. But, Sir, as private ownership in the means of production would naturally cease, there would remain no way of exploitation, no profits, no windfalls, no bonuses, no stock-gambling, and, therefore, in order to live, each and every able-bodied person of proper age would be forced to perform some kind of useful labor. Therefore, as soon as useless folks learned, probably from necessity that 'he who will not work neither shall he eat,' they would hasten to obtain useful employment and become members and voters in the Industrial Commonwealth.... The modern wage working-class, that is to say, the intelligent portion of it, in every country and clime, is Socialist or at least 'Socialistic.' The world is on the verge of a social revolution. The Socialist believes, and believes intensely, that your class, Sir, the capitalist class, has fulfilled its mission in human history and that willingly or unwillingly it will have to step aside and give place to the next class on the social ladder. It is for this social change, this revolution, that we Socialists of the Socialist Labor Party agitate....
"Now we come to another phase of the matter. We stated at the outset that the name of the Socialist Labor Party has been closely coupled with the Soviet Republic of Russia, and, of course, you have already perceived that our revolutionary program for the reconstruction of society on industrial, instead of the present political, lines, bears a close resemblance to the constructive program of the Soviet Republic. Perhaps you have already made up your mind that all revolutionary relations of that 'murderous crew' of Russia, the S. L. P., must be ' stamped out ' at once. But we claim your indulgence for yet another moment, Sir. We have determined to speak frankly, and we shall hide nothing. If it is real 'American Bolshevism' which you are interested to trace out and to investigate, honored Sir, it is the Socialist Labor Party you will have to investigate first and last. In a public address during January, 1918, Nicolai Lenin paid tribute to Daniel De Leon of the Socialist Labor Party of America, and showed that the governmental construction on the basis of industry, such as outlined by the Socialist Labor Party, fits admirably into the Soviet construction of the state. In an interview with the artist, Robert Minor, reported in the New York "World" of Feb. 4, 1919, Lenin said: 'The American Daniel De Leon first formulated the idea of a Soviet government, which grew up on his idea. Future society will be organized along Soviet lines. There will be Soviet rather than geographical boundaries for nations. Industrial unionism is the basic thing. That is what we are building.'
"The idea of constructive Industrial Unionism, the conception that such a union is the germ of the future Industrial Government, the discovery and amplification of the idea belongs to the American Daniel De Leon, a member and the acknowledged leader of the Socialist Labor Party from the time he became connected with the Labor Movement in the late eighties until his death in 1914. This is S. L. P. ism or, what all our opponents in the Labor Movement have scoffingly designated, 'De Leonism.'
"But, we hear you say, if the Socialist Labor Party are the original 'Bolshevists,' and they appear to be proud of it, what is the use of that Party trying to dodge behind the American Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, of talking about 'civilized methods' and 'orderly procedure?' That 'vicious crew,' the Russian Bolshevists, not only belive in physical force tactics, but they have used and are using them in no uncertain manner. Dear Sir, kindly note that as far as revolutionary tactics are concerned, we have not presumed to lay down any general law. We are not Utopians. We have spoken of American conditions, the only ones we as a Party have to deal with. We have spoken of, and we advocate, what we consider the hest and most expedient tactics under American political democracy. As for general revolutionary tactics and methods we have no creed. We are Socialists and revolutionists, and as such we will and must adopt such tactics as will bring about the revolution and insure order in the new social structure in the quickest and most expedient manner. This has ever been the case in history. As to the Russian Bolsheviki we have nothing to do or to say about their tactics ; we have no reliable information as to what has actually taken place ; and as to whether the Russian revolutionists have adopted the best possible methods under their trying circumstances, or whether they have committed blunder upon blunder which has cost hundreds or thousands of lives, not we, Mr. Senator, but future history alone has the right and power to judge. We are Americans, and Americans, above all people, should be tolerant with those who may be forced, as the American revolutionists were forced, to suffer privation, to starve, and to die, to organize armies and fight their own flesh and blood for the cause they hold dear — a cause which means the happiness of the future. Such moments in history, Sir, are occasions for sackcloth and ashes, not for rash condemnation and harsh judgment."
The attitude of the party towards this country is further illustrated by a statement which appears in the report of the national secretary, Arnold Petersen, published in the American Labor Year Book, 1917-18, at page 364:
"When in 1916, therefore, we at the very outset commenced our campaign on the burning question of the hour -- 'preparedness' -- basing our arguments on the principle that the workers have no interests in militarism in any form, having no interest in defending a country in which they as yet owned nothing, and whose political institutions had largely outlived their usefulness, we did so in line with our previous pronouncements."
As a typical example of the expression of sympathy which this organization holds for the Russian Soviet regime, we quote from a resolution adopted at the meeting of the National Executive Committee of the party on May 4, 1919, which appears in the May 10, 1919, issue of the "Weekly People :"
"When, on November 7, 1917, the Workers, Soldiers and Poor Peasants of Russia, by a revolutionary act, put an end to the painful attempt on the part of the Russian bourgeoisie to assume the heritage of czarism, and when, as a result of that act, the power in that vast realm passed over to the hitherto disinherited and oppressed, a thrill of delight went through the hearts of the revolutionary workers the world over.
"Here at last, they experienced the first visible triumph of the class struggle, the first fruit of the world war which, unlike all its others, was wholly acceptable and was of corresponding bitterness to the capitalist foe.
"... And we declare that, with all the power that in us lies, we shall assist them in their struggle by incessant revolutionary propaganda in order to awaken America's proletariat and, by unflagging efforts, to organize that proletariat into a class-conscious, militant body on both the political and the industrial field, bent upon ending capitalist misrule on this side of the Atlantic; and . . . Resolved, that we condemn all military intervention in the territories of these countries and insist upon adherence to a policy of absolute non-interference with the affairs of the people of these countries now engaged in the work of building the only real democracies the world has ever seen; and be it further
"Resolved, That we denounce and condemn the vicious campaign of slander and vituperation carried on by the capitalist plunderbund against Soviet Russia, a campaign conducted with such brazen mendacity and utter disregard of the dictates of common decency -- to say nothing of common sense -- as to throw into bold relief the strumpet character of capitalist society. We view with disgust the spectacle of a committee of the United States Senate permitting itself to be made the depository of foul tales about the nationalization of Russian women, but we realize that, in its anger and its fright, the capitalist class, when hawking these prurient tales, is only revealing its debauched inner self -- repeating history as it were, by imitating a profligate Roman patriciate which habitually charged the early Christians with their own moral decay."
Owing to the dogmatic stand taken by the leaders of this party, it plays no very significant part in the general revolutionary movement in this country.
The national headquarters of this organization are located at 45 Rose street, New York City.
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