Eugene V. Debs

On the Death of Daniel De Leon

Source: The Weekly People (New York) Vol. XXIV, No. 15. Saturday July 11, 1914
Online Version: E.V. Debs Internet Archive, 2006
Transcribed/HTML Markup: Robert Bills for the Socialist Labor Party of America and David Walters, May, 2006

[The below article was sent to us by Eugene V. Debs with this explanation:

“The enclosed tribute to Daniel De Leon was written for the National Rip-Saw and should have appeared in the issue just off the press, but unfortunately I was not present when the paper was made up and now I find to my great regret that it was inadvertently left out. I shall see to it that it goes into the next issue without fail; but as that will not appear for another month it will seem rather tardy and so I am sending it to you asking that you kindly give it space in an early issue of the Weekly People.”]

The death of Daniel De Leon, editor of the New York People and leader of the Socialist Labor Party, marks the passing of a striking figure and an extraordinary character from the stage of revolutionary activity. For a full quarter of a century, De Leon has been a leader of socialism in the United States, head and front of the Socialist Labor Party, making a name for himself that is known throughout the world. Gifted with a mind of unusual depth and brilliancy and educated in the leading colleges both here and abroad, he was fitted, as perhaps no other American Socialist, for great work in the educational propaganda of the socialist movement.

Daniel De Leon was a true disciple of Marx and Engels and one of their ablest and most brilliant interpreters. His editorials in The People covered the whole range of economics, sociology, politics, history and philosophy, and his versatile genius appears at its best in these columns.

He was an uncompromising champion of economic and political organization, believing that only through their economic and political solidarity could the workers emancipate themselves from wage slavery. He fought the craft unions in and out of season, exposing without mercy their weakness and impotency, and he stood with equal insistence for revolutionary industrial organization. He was bold and pointed in his criticism, persistent in arguing his convictions, and tireless in fighting for what he believed to be right.

The speeches and writings of De Leon evince keen insight and rare powers of analysis, clear thinking and lucid expression. He had, in a remarkable degree, the faculty of making the most involved and abstruse propositions clear and understandable to his readers. As an editorial writer of clarity, brilliancy and force he had no equal on the American socialist press and no superior anywhere. His versatility, range of mind and felicity of treatment were, indeed, unsurpassed, and his death leaves a vacancy that never can be filled.

There is not a doubt that Daniel De Leon, with all his wealth of intellectual endowment and his classical education and high culture, could and would have ranked high in any profession he might have chosen. But when the light of socialism came into his life it determined his destiny and he plunged into the propaganda with a vigor and zeal which never abated until his vital powers were exhausted and death put an end to his activities. When the prodigious amount of work he did is taken into account, such as translating the classics of socialism and other standard works, addressing propaganda meetings, holding debates and making speaking tours, in addition to his editorial work on the Daily and Weekly People, it is not strange that he broke down prematurely and that, sad to tell, he literally worked himself to death.

Whatever fault may be found with De Leon, his personality, his methods or his tactics, it cannot be gainsaid that his zeal, his energy, his very heart and soul were all with the working class, and that with a singleness of purpose as exalted as it was inspiring, he consecrated himself to their emancipation. He had his faults, as all men have, but these will fade away in the light of his monumental services to the cause. He fought the good fight to the end without flinching, and left the world a heritage of light and hope and inspiration that will keep his name bright and his fame secure, through the coming ages.

With deep regret and with sincere appreciation of his masterly services and his loyal devotion to the cause, we note the passing of our valiant comrade from the field of conflict to the realm of rest, and to his stricken widow and family we tender our heartfelt sympathy in their great bereavement.