Centennial of the death of Daniel De Leon

  1. May 11, 2014 is the centennial of the death of Daniel De Leon (1852-1914), the prominent North American socialist of his era.

    Born on the Dutch-owned island of Curacao near Venezuela, and educated in Europe, De Leon settled in New York City, teaching law at Columbia College (now Columbia University). He resigned from the college to become the editor of The People, the first English language socialist periodical in the Western hemisphere, published by the Socialist Labor Party of America, and established in 1891. In addition to writing over 4,000 editorials, he was the party's most popular orator and candidate for elected office.

    De Leon is regarded by some Marxists as the primary writer to add significantly to Marxian theory since the death of Marx and Engels. Some of the significant principles associated with the De Leonist interpretation, which are not found in all branches of Marxism, are:

    * Organization of the working class into a single workplace-based organization must establish socialism as well as provide the initial structure of socialism. He wrote in 1913: "Industrial unionism is the socialist republic in the making; and the goal once reached, the industrial union is the socialist republic in operation."

    * Wherever the political system provides for its own fundamental restructure when the majority desire it, as in the amendment clause of the Constitution of the United States, the political process allows revolutionary change to be, in De Leon's words, "peaceful" and "civilized." The ballot must deliver the mandate to enact the transfer of the industries to the workers' organizations.

    * Reforms of capitalism, even if they improve the conditions of life, do not form steppingstones in the direction of socialism. A system of workers' self-management must be planned and installed directly by workers' organizations. A socialist political party program must not be diluted by a list of demands for legal reforms that imply the continuation of capitalism.
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