As to Politics

Daniel De Leon

As to Politics

“The Trades Union should never be connected with, nor made dependent upon a political party, if the former is to fulfill its task. The moment that is done, the death-blow is dealt to it. The Trades Union is the school for Socialism, In the Trades Union the workingmen are trained into Socialists, because there the struggle with capital is daily carried on under their very eyes. All political parties, whatever their complexion may be, and without exception, warm up the working class only for a season, transitorily. The Trades Union, on the contrary, captures the mass of the workingmen permanently. Only the trades union is capable of setting on foot a true political party of labor, and thus raise a bulwark against the power of capital.” Karl Marx,


The contents of this pamphlet is a discussion that took place in the columns of The People, under the head As to Politics, during the months of November and December, 1906, and January and February, 1907.

The discussion consisted in letters written to The People by correspondents who advocated the dropping of political action altogether, and reliance exclusively upon revolutionary, class-conscious Industrial Unionism; and The People’s answers. The letters are published in this pamphlet together with the answers given to each by The People, combating the error. An important part of the discussion consisted in a number of questions asked and answers to them by The People. These are also included, closing with an editorial from The People entitled Supplemental to the subject, and answering the last question put.

The subject-matter of the discussion, besides being of deep interest, is timely. True to the Marxian observation that, contrary to the law of bourgeois revolutions, the law, obedient to which the revolutionary movement of the proletariat acts, is to criticize itself constantly; constantly to interrupt itself in its own course; to come back to what seems to have been accomplished, in order to start over anew; to scorn with cruel thoroughness the half measures, weaknesses and meannesses of its first attempts; to seem to throw down its adversary only in order to enable him to draw fresh strength from the earth, and again to rise up against it in more gigantic stature; to constantly recoil in fear before the undefined monster magnitude of its own objects until, finally, that situation is created which renders all retreat impossible, until the conditions themselves cry out:

“Hic Rhodus, hic salta !” true to that Marxian observation, the Labor Movement of America is to-day thoroughly criticizing itself. No more important subject of criticism can there be than half-measures one time purely of physical force, another time purely of political action which the movement has, in previous years, pursued. No more important a subject to be clear upon than the proper tactics of the movement. Means and ends supplement, they even dovetail into each other. No clearness, as to ends, is well conceivable without correctness of means; no correctness of means can well be hit upon without clearness as to ends. This principle is peculiarly applicable to the ends and the means thereto of the Socialist or Labor Movement.

The publication, in pamphlet form, of the discussion conducted during those four months in The People is intended to furnish in compact form the information whereby to arrive at the correct tactics wherewith to reach the goal of the Socialist Commonwealth.

New York, July 8, 1907.