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The Socialist Labor Party of America
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Platform of the Social Democratic Workingmen’s Party of North America.  Platform of one of the earliest international socialist organizations in the United States, the Social Democratic Workingmen’s Party of North America (established in 1874) — later one of the constituents of the Workingmen’s Party of the United States, which became the Socialist Labor Party. The organization declares the primacy of politics over trade unionism, stating the need of “obtaining possession of political power as the prerequisite for the solution of the labor question.” A united organization of all workingmen is sought and “strict subordination of the individual under the laws framed for the general benefit.” A 13 point minimum program is included, featuring demands for the franchise for those 20 or older, establishment of a unicameral legislature, ratification of all legislation by the people, and the abolition of monopolies and indirect taxation, among other things.
"Constitution for the Social Labor Party: Adopted at Pittsburgh, April 1876.” In April 1876 the Social Democratic Workingmen’s Party of North America changed its name to the Social Labor Party. Three months later, it would join at a “Union Congress” as one of the constituent organizations back of the new Workingmen’s Party of the United States — which would in turn change its name to the Socialistic Labor Party at the end of 1877. This is the constitution of that constituent pre-SLP organization. The primary party unit of the Social Labor Party was the “Branch” of 10 or more party members in one place, governed by a “National Executive Committee” of 7 members residing in a single headquarters city, whose actions were in turn checked by a “Board of Supervision” of 9. Annual National Conventions were to the supreme authority of the organization. All of these organizational forms are traceable into the Socialist Labor Party and from there to the Socialist Party of America.
“Constitution of the Workingmen’s Party of the United States: Adopted by its Union Congress, Philadelphia, July 19-22, 1876." The first constitution of the Socialist Labor Party of America, albeit under its first organizational name. The familiar three institutional model later emulated by the Socialist Party of America was put into place here, with supreme authority vested in a bi-annual “Congress,” decision-making authority between Congresses granted to a 7-member “Executive Committee,” the actions of which were subject to the control of a 5-member “Board of Supervision.” The primary party unit was called a “Section.” The Congress was to specify the locales of the Executive Committee and the Board of Supervision and the Sections of those cities were to themselves elect the executive officers of the organization. Both official party and non-party papers were permitted under the constitution, with editors of the official press selected by the Executive Committee. Sections were to consist of at least 10 individuals “speaking the same language and being wages-laborers.” Monthly dues were set at a minimum of 10 cents per member per month, 5 cents of which was to be sent to the Executive Committee to cover the operational costs of the organization. The only paid functionary specified in the constitution was the “Chief Editor” of the official organ, who was to receive a salary of between $15 and $20 per week.
“The Ballot Box: Resolution of the Workingmen’s Party of the United States Adopted at its Union Congress, July 19-22, 1876." This resolution was passed by the Philadelphia “Union Congress” that established the Workingmen’s Party of the United States — an organization better known as the Socialist Labor Party of America. The organization clearly starts from the perspective of Marxism rather than Lassalleanism when it declares that “only in the economical arena the combatants for the Workingmen’s Party can be trained and disciplined” and asserts that in America “the ballot box has long ago ceased to record the popular will, but only serves to falsify the same in the hands of professional politicians.” Therefore supporters of the new organization are invited “to abstain from all political movements for the present and to turn their back on the ballot box.”
“ Report of Proceedings of the Executive Committee of the Workingmen’s Party of the US,” by Philip Van Patten [August 6, 8, 11, 18, 1876] Minutes of the governing Executive Committee of the newly-organized Workingmen's Party of the United States, forerunner of the Socialist Labor Party. The group determined to keep its minutes in parallel in English and German. The proportion of these language groups in the fledgling organization is indicated by the decision to print up 10,000 constitutions and membership cards — 70% of which in German, 30% of which in English. First pamphlets of the group were printed in a ratio of 2/3 German to 1/3 English.
“Workingmen’s Party of the United States: Address of the Executive,” by Philip Van Patten & Conrad Pfeiffer." [Aug. 25, 1876] One of the most enigmatic figures in the history of American radicalism was Philip Van Patten, first Executive Secretary of the Socialist Labor Party of America — a man who “suddenly disappeared” from his post in April 1883 (in the words of historian Ira Kipnis) to take a position in the federal government bureaucracy. This document emphasizes Van Patten’s primacy from the time of foundation of the organization, being the first address of the 7 member Executive Committee to the membership of the organization. English-speaking “Corresponding Secretary” Van Patten and German-speaking “Recording Secretary” Conrad Pfeiffer collaborated on the preparation of this particular piece, which declares the party’s mission to be convincing the “suffering millions” being crushed by the ongoing financial crisis that “their oppression is the result of unjust distribution instead of overproduction.” The electorally-oriented Van Patten lends lip service to the party’s abstention from use of the ballot, admitting its uses “as a means of redress for our wrongs is the result of bitter experiences in the political campaigns” against the corrupt forces of “United Capital.” Nevertheless, the pair opine that “our policy should be to work faithfully and earnestly in the cause until we can march up to the polls in united bodies in a manner calculated to inspire respect, and by means of proper guards we may be certain that our votes will be received and counted.” The pair wave the banner on behalf of the emancipation of women, declaring the necessity of “establishing the independence of the worker and equalizing women’s wages with those of men” for the achievement of that end.
“Workingmen’s Party of the United States: To the Workingmen of All Countries,” by Philip Van Patten & Conrad Pfeiffer [Sept. 8, 1876] A second official pronouncement by the Socialist Labor Party of America under its first moniker, published over the signature of Corresponding Secretary Philip Van Patten, although perhaps written in conjunction with Recording Secretary Conrad Pfeiffer. Van Patten announces to the European socialist movement that a “complete and successful union” at a July convention had ended the “lamentable absence of harmony” among the American movement, marked as it had been by a number of small rival organizations. The goal of government, provision of “the greatest good to the greatest number,” is proclaimed by Van Patten to be “most effectively and infamously prevented by the inhuman system of competition.” Van Patten proclaims: “We will struggle not in a spirit of envy or misanthropy, not with feelings of revenge or desire for anarchy, but with the earnest determination to secure justice to all, to relieve men’s lives from the degrading and unnatural competition for bread, the chief cause of the evils of society, and to make true merit and worth the measure of greatness, instead of riches wrung from the necessities of others.” Correspondence from European socialist parties is invited.
Platform of the Socialistic Labor Party Platform Adopted by the the National Congress of the Workingmen’s Party of the United States, Newark, N. J. December 26 – 30, 1877.
“The Social Revolutionists,” by Philip Van Patten [circa January 20, 1881] With the anarchist movement gaining size and strength in the early 1880s, centered in the city of Chicago, electorally-oriented members of the Socialist Labor Party began to make inquiry as to whether adherents of so-called “Social Revolutionism” was compatible with party membership. With regards to a specific January 17 question from Philadelphia whether membership in the “Socialist Revolutionary Club” was permitted of SLP members, the NEC replies here that “Members of our Party have a perfect right to belong to any association, of whatever nature, provided that the principles, public declarations, official actions, and the Constitution of such association do not conflict with the Platform, Constitution, and Resolutions of the Socialistic Labor Party.” As for the inquiry at hand, “whether or not the so-called Socialist Revolutionary Club is an organization hostile to our Party, we are not prepared to positively state.” Van Patten notes that such organizations in New York and Philadelphia had “favored military organization and the study of revolutionary tactics, as opposed political action” and therefore indicated “a tendency contrary to the policy of our Party.” But decisive action against subversion by the forces of anarchism was not forthcoming, with Van Patten declaring that “Not having seen the platform or constitution of either club, we have not the official information to justify decisive action by our Committee.” Despite this inaction, Van Patten intimates that the “capitalistic enemies” were engaged installing extremist provocateurs within the ranks of the SLP “to shout revolution and clamor for blood.”
“Platform of the Socialistic Labor Party of North America: Adopted at the 5th National Convention of the SLP, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 5-8, 1885.” The program of the SLP, which states that given the endemic transgressions resulting from capitalist production, socialism is essential for the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Includes a list of “Demands for the Immediate Amelioration of the Condition of the Working People,” both social and political. Among these demands is one for the abolitiion of the institutions of President, Vice-President, and Senate and the substitution of an “Executive Board” selected by and serving at the pleasure of a unicameral House of Representatives. “And to realize our demands, we strive by all proper means to gain control of the political power,” the platform notes.
“ List of Delegates to the 1885 Convention of the Socialist Labor Party of North America”. The convention was held in Cincinnati, OH, from October 5-8, 1885, and was attended by 31 delegates, representing 41 Sections of the SLP and the NEC. HTML document.
“Constitution of the Socialistic Labor Party: Adopted at the 5th National Convention of the SLP, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 5-8, 1885.” Organizational regulations of the SLP, which bases the structure of the organization around the parallel institutions of a nine member National Executive Committee in one Section (which itself selects Secretaries for domestic and international affairs, Financial and Recording Secretaries, and two auditors) and a nine member Board of Supervisors in another Section, with tasks of supervision of the NEC and handling of appeals of the decisions of that and lower bodies. Of note is the lack of a National Executive Secretary under this particular variant of the SLP’s conception of dual power.
“Socialism and Anarchism: Antagonistic Opposites.” Text of a pamphlet published in English in New York by the National Executive Committee of the Socialistic Labor Party differentiating Marxian Social Democracy from the Anarchist movement. Anarchism was characterized as a utopian antipode of Marxism founded upon the notion of extreme individualism; Social Democracy portrayed as a byproduct of the scientific study of the evolution of the family into the tribe into the modern exploitative state. This modern capitalist state was said to be inevitably proceeding towards its own doom in the form of ever-worsening financial crises and the growing immiseration of the dispossessed majority. It was Capitalism and its unregulated production and inequitable distribution that was anarchic, not Socialism, this pamphlet charged. While there was little hope for an entirely peaceful renewal of society under collectivism, “that war must be forced upon us” and the change might well be brought about “without very violent and bloody convulsions” in a democratic society with freedoms of speech, press, assembly, organization, and universal suffrage assured. “...We shall be revolutionists only when forced into being such by legislation and persecution withholding from us the means of a peaceable propaganda,” it was asserted.
“Labor and Work,” by Adolf Douai [April 23, 1887] A rare English language article by Marxist pioneer Dr. Adolf Douai of Texas, best remembered as the father of the kindergarten movement in America. Douai attempts a distinction between “labor,” a commodity corresponding to the capitalist process, with “work,” voluntary activity for oneself and for the benefit of society. Every people around the globe dislikes the former—the performance of labor for others—but “likes” self-employment and “voluntary activity for useful and necessary purposes,” Douai asserts. So-called “wage labor” is equally “against human nature” as was slave labor before it, the change in form initiated merely to boost the productivity of labor for the benefit of the ruling class, according to Douai. Douai hails the day “in the near future” when wage labor will be abolished and human beings will no longer be subjected to “labor of the most uniform, mind-killing, disgusting, and brutalizing kind” as slaves to the machine.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Sixth National Convention, at Buffalo, N. Y., September 1887, and approved by a general vote of the party’s membership.
“ Dr. Adolph Douai: The Gifted and Tireless Agitator Dead: A Proletarian Who Lived for the Good of Others: His Autobiography." [Jan. 28, 1888] On January 21, 1888, Dr. Adolph Douai, one of the pioneers of socialism in America, died just shy of his 69th birthday of unspecified “throat trouble” (cancer seems to be implied). In tribute, the English-language official organ of the Socialist Labor Party printed this “slightly condensed” version of Douai's autobiography. “The New York Volkszeitung has lost heavily in Dr. Douai’s death, as he was continually engaged with the editor-in-chief in the editorial department,” the Workmen's Advocate editorialist notes.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Seventh National Convention, at Chicago,Ill., October 12 – 15, 1887.
“The Socialistic Labor Party in 1886.” by Edward Bibbins Aveling and his wife Eleanor Marx Aveling. This snippet was first published in 1891 as part of a book called The Working-Class Movement in America, published in London by Sonn Sonnenschein & Co., a prominent left-wing publisher. Eleanor Aveling was the daughter of Karl Marx. The speaking tour around America which she and her husband undertood proved something of a fiasco, but the pair did nevertheless get a glimps of the state of the American situation.
1891, November – What is the SLP? In the process of writing his book Horace Greeley and Other Pioneers of American Socialism, Charles Sotheran posed three questions to former Bellamy Nationalist-turned-Socialist Labor Party leader Daniel DeLeon, publishing his replies in full. Of particular interest is DeLeon’s analysis of the Anarchist movement, which he reduces to three main tendencies: 1. “ Bona fide Anarchists” or “ impatient Socialists,” whom DeLeon considers akin the mainline socialists exactly as the “ John Brown wing” were to the “ main body of Abolitionists or Republicans.” 2. “ Mala fide Anarchists,” headed by Benjamin Tucker, who sought abolition of the state, but who in practice would install the power of a single individual, a chairman with the ability “ to make rulings from which there is no appeal,” with the members left “ only the cold comfort...that they can secede.” 3. “ Innocents,” who sought to neither use violence nor install new forms of systematic authority, but who thereby ignored the question of governance and thereby the experience of human history that “ where no arch is provided for by statute it is superimposed by the fist or the bayonet, as the case may be.” “ We believe in liberty, therefore, in Democracy,” DeLeon declares.—Tim Davenport
“1891 Annual Report of the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Labor Party of America." [Dec. 18, 1891] A year-in-review report by the governing National Executive Committee of the Socialist Labor Party, as published in the party press. The NEC notes that 1891 was a year of growth for the party, with 23 new English-language, 19 new German, 6 new Yiddish, 1 new Scandinavian, and 1 new Hungarian Section of the party established, less a loss of 2 English and 5 German sections dissolved. The more rapid growth of English sections compared to the German is regarded as a “most encouraging sign” by the NEC. The establishment of The People as a new English language organ is noted, with the paper launched by the New York Volkszeitung Publishing Association. Foundation of the paper enabled the party to terminate its money-draining English-organ, the Workmen’s Advocate, in favor of a sponsored party page in the new publication over which the SLP retained full control. This shift in economic burden made possible the salvation of the party's pamphlet printing and literature distribution arm, the New York Labor News Co., which had been reduced to “very verge of dissolution” by its deficits, which the SLP had been virtually unable to cover. The resignation of National Secretary Benjamin Gretsch and his replacement by Henry Kuhn is noted.
“Why Workman Are Unemployed? An Answer to a Burning Question,” by Alexander Jonas.” [March 1894] Jonas, a co-founder of the New Yorker Volkszeitung and one of the leading figures in the pre-DeLeon period of the SLP, here offers his workingman audience the reason for their misery in the then-current economic crisis—private ownership, the parasitic profit system, and systemic underconsumption that resulted from workers being paid insufficient wages to purchase all the products which they produced. The political elite of the country—lawyers, capitalists, and rich farmers—had neither an understanding of the needs of labor nor a willingness to ameliorate the unemployment crisis through public works. Only a movement of the workers to unite behind the Socialist Labor Party could spur this out-of-touch elite into action, Jonas stated, “for there is no other means whereby emancipation from industrial slavery can be achieved, but political action.”
“The Situation in New York City.” [Published May 1, 1899] First statement of the Socialist Labor Party’s National Executive Committee to the membership of the SLP on the factional fight brewing in New York between party regulars surrounding the English weekly The People and German weekly Vorwaerts (on the one hand) and an insurgent SLP Right connected with the New Yorker Volkszeitung and its publisher, the Socialistic Cooperative Publishing Association (on the other). This conflict had its root in the SLP’s turn to dual unionism in 1896—with related themes of party discipline and centralized control of the party press. This fight would rage throughout 1899, ending in a permanent split of the SLP. (The SLP Right would later become one of the main components of a faction of the Social Democratic Party in 1900 and subsequently of the new Socialist Party of America in 1901).
“Correspondence Between the SLP and SCPA, May 1899.” These three letters exchanged between ths National Executive Committee of the Socialist Labor Party and the Board of Directors of the Socialistic Cooperative Publishing Association detail the issues of press centralization and party discipline that were part and parcel of the 1899 SLP split. This exchange outlines the situation from the perspective of the SCPA, who answers specific complaints of the National Executive Committee with a historical overview of the relationship between the Association and its publicatons with the party.
“Proceedings of the General Committee of Section New York of the Socialist Labor Party of America, May 27, 1899.” Rather terse account of the governing body of the Socialist Labor Party in New York City, which met May 27, 1899 and voted after long and heated debate 47-20 to accept a report of the NEC of the SLP harshly critical of New Yorker Volkszeitung Editor-in-Chief Schlueter for failing to lend sufficient support in the pages of that paper for the Socialist Trade & Labor Alliance and its strike actions in Allegheny, PA and New Bedford, MA. Schlueter is also criticized for failing to condemn the new phenomenon of “Haverhillism”—the recent victory of the rival Social Democratic Party of America in Haverhill, MA, including the election of a mayor of that town. The main content of this document is the full text of the report of the NEC—said to have been “suppressed” from the pages of the Volkszeitung. The perspective of 6 witnesses is expounded in some detail, including the lead speaker for the anti-Schlueter forces, Daniel DeLeon. The document hints that the primary issue for the SLP dissidents was the freedom to distance themselves from the unpopular “dual union,” the ST&LA; for the SLP Regulars, the main issue being the ability of the party to control the content of its ostensible German-language official organ. “The press is the most important agency of the Party and the party must control its press or the press will control the Party. An association that has control of the Party press thereby has control of the Party itself, unless the association recognizes itself as subject to the control of the Party,” the NEC report to the New York General Committee states.
“Ruskin Colony’s Collapse: The Rise and Downfall of the Latest Utopian Scheme: Colonists Appealing for Fifteen Thousand Dollars,” by Julian Pierce [May 28, 1899] Antipathy between the Socialist Party and the Socialist Labor Party had deep roots. This is a SLP perspective of the spectacular collapse of the Ruskin Cooperative Association, the utopian socialist publishing venture started in rural Tennessee by The Coming Nation publisher J.A. Wayland. Pierce outlines the development of the concept of “utopia” in the creative imagination of Thomas More in the 16th Century and notes that “the colony scheme, in its various forms, has been the heaven of the utopian.” Pierce accuses Wayland of having acted in bad faith by promising to turn over his printing plant to the colony but ultimately only selling it to the group when he himself departed. The colonists published a series of false financial statements, Pierce indicates, failing to declare outstanding mortgage debts as liabilities. A number of colonists—including editor of The Social Democrat A.S. Edwards—are upbraided for hypocrisy by declaring the colony’s finances sound in the pages of The Coming Nation while simultaneously swearing in court that the project was insolvent. “The People averred that the colony had not been started to make any experiments in Socialism, but rather that it had been started, and was being run, by a lot of clever rascals whose only object was to prey on the unwary and rope in the credulous,” Pierce claims. The project was never socialist, he asserts, as the colonists were forced by outside economic circumstances to buy cheaply and sell dear like ever other profit-making concern. “Socialism is broader than a colony. It is broader than a municipality. It is broader than a state. The nation itself is the smallest unit for the proper development of the Cooperative Commonwealth; for the nation is supreme,” Pierce declares.
“To the Membership of the SLP from its NEC”. [June 6, 1899]. This is the Natonal Executive Committee’s reply to the late May letter of the Socialistic Cooperative Publishing Association. The NEC argued that the SCPA was misrepresenting its true relationship to the party in its assertion of ownership and control over the content of The People and Vorwaerts. The May 1899 Correspondence between the SLP and the SCPA (document above) and this reply were sent to the sections and members of the party as background information along with a call for the membership to decide the issue with a vote.
“The Party Press,” by A.M. Simons [June 17, 1899] Editor of the Chicago Socialist Labor Party weekly The Workers’ Call Algie Simons announces the controversy which was sweeping the SLP over control of the party’s official organs, The People and Vorwaerts. The apparent seizure of control by the Socialist Cooperative Publishing Society announced in the pages of The People “practically amounts to defying the party in its control of its most vital organ—the party press,” Simons states. The NEC had put forward a referendum on the matter, and all sections of the SLP were instructed to vote on the matter and pass along the result of the vote to the National Secretary by Aug. 1, 1899. Simons comes out strongly against the Insurgent Right, arguing that “Under these conditions there is but one thing to do. It is not a question of taxation or of trades unionism, but simply one of shall the party control its press or shall the national organs be at the disposal of some irresponsible and perhaps directly hostile body of persons. If the mailing lists of the party press are to be used to disseminate the opinions of individuals, then it is time they were taken from the individuals’ control. This is the point under discussion and all other questions that may have previously arises are now beside the point.”
“The Party Crisis: Resolution of Section Chicago Relative to the Present Party Situation—July 18, 1899.” “So far as the party organization is concerned a state of anarchy is practically in existence,” declared Section Chicago SLP. Rather than make a choice between the Insurgent Right faction of the SLP which had seized the two central organs of the party press or the New York-based NEC headed by Executive Secretary Henry Kuhn, which fought the takeover tooth and nail, Section Chicago threw a pipe wrench into the faction fight by refusing to vote on the resolution of the NEC. Instead, it demanded that both factions immediately communicate to the membership three new referenda for membership vote: (1) removing the NEC from New York City; (2) selecting a new location for the NEC of the party; and (3) calling an emergency convention of the party, to be held not later than March 15, 1900. Voting was to be completed by Sept. 1, 1899, and the result transmitted to both parties in New York, the SLP Board of Appeals in Cleveland, and to The Workers’ Call for publication. This action of Section Chicago ultimately did nothing to clarify the waters or to peacefully resolve the split between the Insurgent Right and the NYC Regular factions of the SLP.
“Chronological Recapitulation of the Volkszeitung Conflict.” [Aug. 20, 1899] Published in the SLP official organ, The People, this is a highly tendentious blow-by-blow account of the battle between the SLP regulars loyal to Daniel DeLeon (including Henry Kuhn and Lucien Sanial, among others) and the SLP Right faction around the New Yorker Volkszeitung and its publisher, the Socialistic Cooperative Publishing Association. Interesting for its tone and useful for its provision of the critical dates in the conflict.
“Daniel DeLeon and the 1899 Split of the SLP,” by Morris Hillquit. This is a section from Morris Hillquit’s 1934 memoir, Loose Leaves from a Busy Life. Hillquit, a member of the SLP from 1888, was a leader of the so-called “Kangaroos” associated with the New Yorker Volkszeitung, a group which broke with the SLP over the issues of dual unionism and the perception of a dictatorial internal regime within the SLP. This insurgent SLP Right fought a pitched battle for the name and property of the party before losing in court to party regulars loyal to Daniel DeLeon.
“Report of the National Executive Committee to the 10th (Regular) Convention of the SLP,” by Henry Kuhn. [June 1900] The full text (37 pages, 292 k.) of the report of SLP National Secretary Henry Kuhn to the (regular) 10th Convention of the Socialist Labor Party, held in New York from June 2 to 8, 1900. Kuhn recounts the 1899 split with the SLP Right in exhaustive detail, including a state-by-state rundown of the party situation. The definitive account of the 1899 SLP split from the point of view of the SLP “regular” faction associated with the New York City NEC and the English language party organ, The People, edited by Daniel DeLeon.
1896 and 1900 Constitutions of the Socialist Labor Party.” Parallel texts of the 1896 and 1900 national constitutions of the SLP, illustrating organizational structure before and after the 1899 split of the SLP Right (the so-called “Kangaroos”). Useful for assessing the legality (or lack thereof) of various tactics employed by the New York-based “regular” NEC in the bitter 1899 factional struggle and the structural changes which it deemed necessary in the aftermath.
“Territorial Expansion,” by Lucien Sanial . Full text of a pamphlet published in 1901 by the New York Labor News Co. This is an early Marxist analysis of the phenomenon of imperialism written by one of the leading figures in the Socialist Labor Party of America. Sanial states that “the time comes when the capitalists of such a country as the United States, where this capitalistic phenomenon of a rapidly growing difference between Product and Wages is most accentuated, are confronted on all sides by an accumulation of commodities, which, ever so small as compared with the stupendous but unused forces of production at their command, challenges their power of exchange or waste.They are actually, then, ‘smothering in their own grease.’” In response, Sanial notes, “they must expand abroad or burst.” At first the capitalists seek only commercial expansion, Sanial states, but at a certain point “other means” are inevitably devised “to enlarge the foreign outlet”—territorial expansion. In the United States, the growth of surplus value production had grown by an incredible rate through the implementation of new labor-saving production technology and “American capitalism has reached that point of ‘suffocation by wealth,’” Sanial states.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Eleventh National Convention, at New York City., July, 1904, and approved by a general vote of the party’s membershp.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Twelth National Convention, at New York City., July, 1908, and approved by a general vote of the party’s membershp. This Natioal Platform is the same as he 1904 National Platfom .
“The Socialist Labor Party and the Socialist Party: The Fundamental Differences Between the Two Organizations,” by Mary Rantz [Sept. 25 1911] While the American radical movement in the decade of the 1910s was dominated by the electorally-oriented Socialist Party of America, that organization never had a monopoly on the political field. The rival Socialist Labor Party maintained a radical critique. This open letter by a Socialist Labor Party activist from pages of the group’s weekly press emphasizes the ideological and tactical differences between the two principle organizations of the American socialist movement. The roots of the divergence came 12 years earlier, Rantz notes, when “the Socialist Labor Party of America, after years of valuable experience, came to the correct conclusion that the only hope for a peaceful solution to the Labor Problem in America was the industrial organization of the workers on the economic field to supplement and give power to the revolutionary ballot of the workers.” This provoked the division of the movement by a “renegade element” men “who had interests, material and otherwise, in the American Federation of Labor.” Rantz notes the divergent views of the organizations towards the efficacy of the ballot: “The Socialist Party claims that the ballot and politics alone are sufficient to usher in the Socialist Commonwealth, and then it proceeds towards this goal ’a step at a time,’ these ’steps’ being issues which drain the energy, time, and money of the workers, without containing one benefit for them. The Socialist Labor Party states the correct position, THAT THE BALLOT ALONE is AN EMPTY, FUTILE thing, and can have no effect but the absolute demoralization of the working class, unless it has behind it the REVOLUTIONARY ORGANIZATION of the workers in the ECONOMIC FIELD."
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Thirteenth National Convention, at New York City., April 10, 1912, and approved by a general vote of the party’s membershp.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Fourtheenth National Convention, Held at Assembly Hall, New York City., April 29 – May 3, 1916.
The Socialist Movement: Brief Outline of its Development and Differences in This Country.” Text of a 1915 three cent pamphlet published by the Socialist Labor Party detailing that organization’s differences with the Socialist Party of America. Five specific areas of difference are identified: Trade Union policy, Party Press Ownership, State Party Autonomy from the Center, Taxation Policy, and Immigration Policy. The SLP’s vision of “industrial government” is outlined and contrasted to the program of the SPA, which is characterized as “anti-Socialist and bourgeois.”
History Repeats Itself,” by Sam J. French [June 16, 1918] As was the case with the Socialist Party, the Russian Revolution exerted a strong influence upon the thinking of a certain section of the membership of the Socialist Labor Party, which sought to take a more assertive line in advancing the revolutionary Socialist cause with a view to great gains in the immediate future—a rebellion against the perceived dogmatic conservatism of Secretary Arnold Petersen, Henry Kuhn, and others on the SLP’s National Executive Committee. This article from the official organ of the SLP by a loyalist to Petersen and the NEC, casts the new inner-party opposition in the role of repeaters of the history of the 1898-99 split of the so-called “Kangaroos” from the SLP over tactical differences. French, a long-time member of Section Cook County, SLP, cites the recent battle between (NEC loyalist) Adolph S. Carm and (insurgent) Caleb Harrison as indicative of the mood. Although Carm won the balloting for Section Organizer, he was disqualified on a technicality. In the discussion around this election, Harrison is said to have sounded off against various members of the SLP’s governing NEC, remarks quoted in detail in this article. French foresees the development of a situation in the SLP closely paralleled by the revolt of the so-called “Kangaroos.” French says of the proto-insurgency: “They see the world in the turmoil of a great crisis; they vaguely realize the possibilities of the future; their sentimental desire to see the workers develop into a determining factor in the affairs of the immediate future prompts them to see people ‘coming our way’ in every group of discontented SP-ites, repentant ‘wobblies,’ or ‘progressive radicals,’ thus conjuring to their unstable minds the wonderful things that could be done if only our policy were less rigid, and we had more tolerance of variegated opinions. Hence their immature display of impatience with anything that smacks of the ‘orthodoxy’ of deliberate reasoning which calmly looks ahead and figures out the possible outcome of any particular line of tactics rather than impatiently rushing into what seems to be good at the moment.” These tactics French likens to “piling sails on an unballasted ship”—speedy in fair weather, but destined for disaster come the first storm.
“Raids and Riot,”; by Olive M. Johnson [Nov. 15, 1919] In November 1919, a major offensive was launched by the Department of Justice and various law enforcement agencies against the Russian radical movement in America centered in the Union of Russian Workers, an anarchist organization. This is a Socialist Labor Party perspective on the wave of persecution, characterized as a struggle between the “’upper’ and ‘lower’ strata of anarchy.” Editor Johnson notes that “But the crazed manifestations of anarchy, cries for ‘mass action,’ ‘mass strike,’ ‘red guard armies,’ ‘dictatorship of the proletariat,’ and the like in the ‘lower’ stratum are no more ominous than the purely anarchic manifestations, the utter disregard for decency, law, and order from the powers that be in government or industry and their official, semi-official, or self-appointed henchmen.... Armed with clubs, the police raiders broke into peaceful meetings.... Men and women were clubbed and their shrieks resounded through the neighborhood. Celebrations, concerts, jollifications, even a little package party, given to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the Russian Revolution, were invaded and broken up. More than a thousand people in New York City alone were dragged into the police stations only to find that there were no charges whatsoever upon which they could be held.” Johnson observes that the intent of the raid did not seem to be to actually apprehend criminal anarchists but rather to deliberately “provoke anarchy than to stem the tide.” Anticipating the Palmer Raids that were to take place 6 weeks later, she concludes “ what the powers that rule are after is less to apprehend, punish, or deport a few really criminal anarchists, than to cause a sensation and a scare which will prepare “public opinion” for some greater move in the future.”
“The Labor Party Convention,” by A.S. Carm [events of Nov. 22-24, 1919] In November of 1919, approximately 1,000 delegates representing trade unions from around the country gathered in Chicago to form the Labor Party of the United States. This is the account of the gathering from the pages of the official organ of the Socialist Labor Party. Max Hayes, former member of both the SLP and the Socialist Party, was elected permanent chairman of the gathering and delivered the keynote address. Carm indicates that many of the the delegates were members of the AF of L officialdom or past or present members of the Socialist Party of America. Outstanding figure in the organization is said to be Chicago Federation of Labor leader John Fitzpatrick, also a key figure in the effort to organize American steelworkers into an industrial union. Carm provides no evidence that anything of import was accomplished by the gathering, which from his account seems to have been dedicated largely to speeches from fraternal delegates and socializing amongst the delegates.
”Whippersnapper or Agent-Provocateur?” by Arnold Petersen [Dec. 6, 1919] Socialist Labor Party Executive Secretary Arnold Petersen unleashes a torrent of nasty ad hominem invective against Louis C. Fraina in reply to a recent article in The Communist (CPA) which had “the temerity to point the finger of reproof at the SLP.” The 34 year old Petersen shamelessly plays the age card against the 27 year old “Master Fraina” calling him a “precocious lad,” “little boy wonder of The Communist,” a “flippant whippersnapper,” “the male edition of Daisy Ashford (the girl wonder who wrote a book at 9 years of age),” the “boy wonder and Protean model,” and a “silly youngster.” Aside from Petersen’s insipid name calling, a case is made against the Communist ideological concept of “mass action,” which is characterized as an idea which “can result in nothing else than anarchy and is indeed the very essence of anarchy.” The mob in the street—at any moment but the final overthrow of capitalism—contains within it not only unthinking workers, but also a certain percentage of agent-provocateurs, Petersen argues, the ill-conceived or insidious action of whom would provoke the crushing of the workers’ movement with state violence. “The Constitution of the United States, defective as it is in other respects, possesses this redeeming feature, a feature that distinguishes it from other documents of class society: it provides for its own amendment even to the point of complete rejection,” Petersen states. Noting that only the SLP “represents true revolutionary Socialism in America,” Petersen cautions rank and file Communists: “Beware of the fellow who talks or suggests by innuendo force and violence. He is either an ignorant dangerous fool, or he is a scheming, and still more dangerous, agent of capitalism.... Repent in time. Repudiate your “mass action” and veiled advocacy of violence, cast out the ignorant whippersnapper and the agent-provocateur, and join the only organization that holds high the beacon light, and whose sturdy hammering of the capitalist armor has never for an instant ceased.”
“Letter to Boris Reinstein in Moscow from Henry Kuhn in New York, Dec. 9, 1919.” In this letter Henry Kuhn of the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Labor Party attempts for a second time to make contact with Buffalo druggist Boris Reinstein, the SLP’s representative to Europe who was a founding delegate of the Communist International in March 1919 despite his lack of a party mandate for any such purpose. Kuhn informs Reinstein about the strikes of coal miners, steel workers, and longshoremen in the United States as well as the split of the Socialist Party into three organizations—“the old SP, a Communist Labor Party, and a Communist Party minus any qualifying adjective.” Kuhn indicates that “the two latter formations came about largely because of rival leadership; there is little else to divide them. Their present attitude is one of leaning Bummery-ward—a more or less open advocacy of physical force.” This advocacy of force had given the state a pretext to exert force of its own, Kuhn believes, writing that “we are passing since the war (and during the war) through a period of reaction such as never experienced. The scarcely-veiled physical force attitude of the SP offshoots was water on the mill of the reactionists and relentless persecution resulted.” This reaction had impacted the SLP, whose paper had lost its second class mailing privilege, many of whose members faced deportation, and whose St. Louis headquarters had been subject of a police raid. Nevertheless, the SLP was growing, particularly among its language federations, Kuhn indicates.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Fifteenth National Convention, Held at Chataeu Hall, 86th Street, New York City., April 29 – May 5 – 10, 1920.
Letter from Arnold Petersen to N. Lenin.” January 15, 1921. Text of a massive (26 page) letter from the National Secretary of the Socialist Labor Party to V.I. Ulianov (N. Lenin) in Russia from a copy in the Comintern archive. As might be expected, Petersen is harshly critical of all other groups in the American left—the Socialist Party of America (reformist practitioners of a “species of fraud”), the Communist Parties (“Burlesque Bolsheviki” with a “predilection for repeating meaningless and undefined phrases because of their ‘revolutionary’ sound”), the IWW (“infested with police spies” and “in a state of decay”), and the AF of L (“officered by agents of the bourgeoisie”). Petersen defiantly defends the SLP’s dual unionism and militant hostility against the AF of L (“there is not the slightest reason to believe that any outside influence, however powerful, is going to make the SLP throw away the fruits of its toil of a quarter of a century”) as well as the use of the ballot as the main mechanism for revolutionary change (“not everything that has arisen during capitalism is a sham and a delusion”). Regardless of these differences, Petersen calls the existence of the Soviet Republic an “inspiration” and pledges that the SLP will do its utmost to bring about a revolutionary industrial republic in the United States.
“How I Became a Rebel,” by William Ross Knudsen [June 1922] One delegate to the 4th World Congress of the Comintern was a member of the Socialist Labor Party, William Ross Knudsen. This brief memoir by Knudsen from the monthly magazine of the Trade Union Educational League recalls his process of radicalization, in which as a young man just out of high school he was slugged in the jaw by a policeman for wearing a red necktie during a radical free speech campaign in San Diego. He was soon hauled in for being in a radical hall during a police raid, when the good spirit of his fellow detainees contrasted with the brutality of the police, who turned a fire hose on the prisoners, providing the fuel for further reading and radical discovery.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Sixteenth National Convention, Held at the Broadway Central Hotel, 667 Broadway, New York City., April 29 – May 10 – 13, 1924.
The Workers Party vs. The Socialist Labor Party,” by Joseph Brandon. Article from the Aug. 1, 1925, Weekly People that was reproduced as a five cent pamphlet. In this work Brandon contrasts the “ridiculous” principles and tactics of the Workers Party of America with the “100 percent perfect, all down the line” position of the SLP. Divergences noted by Brandon include the blind advocacy of the WPA to a Soviet-style “transition program” to socialism via the “dictatorship of the proletariat” (regarded as ahistorical and unnecessary in developed capitalist society); a refusal of the WPA to endorse new revolutionary industrial unions in favor of exclusive use of the tactic of “boring from within” existing unions (regarded as an impossible tactic that in practice meant little more than kowtowing to established labor leaders); and the WPA’s celebration of general labor political success abroad from its partners in the “united front” (gains characterized as reformist and anti-revolutionary by Brandon). Finally, the Workers Party’s advocacy of violence is depicted as playing right into the hands of the capitalist class, a policy advocated only by one who is “either a lunatic or a police spy.”
The Party’s Work,” by Verne L. Reynolds. Text of a pamphlet written by the Socialist Labor Party’s 1924 Vice Presidential candidate, published and distributed for free to the entire party membership in 1925 as a pocket guidebook to organization. Extensive discussion of how to promote speakers, to generate publication subscriptions and new party members, to delegate work within party sections, and to develop the speaking abilities of party members. Particular attention is paid to the handling of new party members—building party discipline and keeping expectations for organizational growth reasonable without dampening the enthusiasm of the new convert.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Seventeenth National Convention, Held at the Broadway Central Hotel, 667 Broadway, New York City., May 12 – 14, 1928.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Eighteenth National Convention, Held at the Cornish Arms Hotel, 311 West 23rd Street, New York City., April 30 – May 2, 1932.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Nineteenth National Convention, Held at the Cornish Arms Hotel, 311 West 23rd Street, New York City., April 25 –28, 1936.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Twentieth National Convention, Held at the Cornish Arms Hotel, 311 West 23rd Street, New York City., April 27 – 30, 1940.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Twenty-First National Convention, Held at the Cornish Arms Hotel, 311 West 23rd Street, New York City., April 29 – May 2, 1944.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Twenty-Second National Convention, Held at the Cornish Arms Hotel, 311 West 23rd Street, New York City., May 1 – 3, 1948.
The Socialist Labor Party,” by Nathan Dershowitz [Summer 1948] (Graphic pdf)Attack piece from the magazine Politics on the Socialist Labor Party, whose 1600 members are said to have been “systematically milked to the tune of about $200,000 per year” to support a costly National Office headed by National Secretary Arnold Petersen and his “clique.” Any research by the membership into remuneration of the National Office staff is forbidden, Dershowitz indicates. Dershowitz calls the party’s internal regime “a particularly ruthless totalitarian body.” Free communication and discussion between party members is banned, information from the center is subject to “an all but military censorship,” and expelled members of the organization are subjected to systematic shunning, Dershowitz notes. Internal dissidents are said to be subjected to “totalitarian invective” coming from the National Office in New York. Individual members in the various Sections are first “propagandized” by the center, then instructed to conduct expulsions by the center, Dershowitz states, under the shadow of expulsion of the entire Section en masse for “disruption.” Dershowitz concludes: “It’s quite evident that the SLP of Daniel DeLeon died a long time ago. What now passes for it is a grotesque caricature, an imposition on the American working class.... If DeLeonism is ever to gain the hearing of the American workers, it will not be through the fraud that today calls itself the Socialist Labor Party.”
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Twenty-Third National Convention, Held at the Henry Hudson Hotel, 361 West 57th Street, New York City., May 3 – 5, 1952.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Twenty-Fourth National Convention, Held at the Henry Hudson Hotel, 361 West 57th Street, New York City., May 5 – 7, 1956.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Twenty-Fifth National Convention, Held at the Henry Hudson Hotel, 361 West 57th Street, New York City., May 7 – 9, 1960.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Twenty-Sixth National Convention, Held at the Henry Hudson Hotel, 361 West 57th Street, New York City., May 2 – 4, 1964.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Twenty-Seventh National Convention, Held at the Towers Hotel, 25 Clark Street, New York City., May 4 – 7, 1968.
“National Platform” Platform Adopted by the Twenty-Eighth National Convention, Held at the Detroit Hilton Hotel, 1565 Washington Blvd., Detroit, Mich, April 8 – 22, 1972.
“National Platform” Re-adopted by the Twenty-Ninth National Convention, Held at Stouffer’s Northland Inn, 1565 Washington Blvd., Southfield, Mich, July 18 – 23, 1976.
“National Platform” Adopted by the Thrity-Sixth National Convention, Held at the Univerity of Akron, Akron, Ohio, July 18 – 23, 1983.
“National Platform” Adopted by the Forty-Fourth National Convention, Held at the Biltmore Hotel, Santa Clara, California, April 9 – 12, 1991.
“National Platform” Adopted by the Forty-Fifth National Convention, Held at the Biltmore Hotel, Santa Clara, California, June 4, 2001.
“National Platform” Adopted by the Forty-Sixth National Convention, Held 2005.