Early American Marxism: Document Download Page by Year: 1906

Early American Marxism

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“Rand School of Social Science: Important Auxiliary for Socialist Movement: The Work of the School to Begin on Oct. 1—Systematic Instruction of Social Sciences and Training of Speakers and Writers the Objects in View.” [May 19, 1906] This first press announcement from the New York Worker details the forthcoming establishment of the Rand School of Social Science and Library in New York City. The will of Elizabeth D. Rand, mother of Carrie Rand Herron, bequeathed an endowment for a school of social science, which was to be “an auxiliary to the Socialist Party,” the article notes. The American Socialist Society, a New York group founded back in 1901, was chosen as the operating body under state law. The American Socialist Society had leased a large residence building located at 112 E 19th Street, and was to take possession on July 1, 1906. Ground floor rooms were to be made into a library, reading room, archive, office, and book shop, and the rooms of the second floor were to be made into class rooms. A sum of $1,000 had been made available for the purchase of socialist books and pamphlets, and SPA members were called upon to make additional loans and donations of rare and out of print materials to the library, for which a planned opening date of July 15 was scheduled. A list of planned courses was also announced and is listed here, with instruction slated to commence on Oct. 1, 1906. Officers of the American Socialist Society were Algernon Lee, President; Morris Hillquit, Treasurer; and W.J. Ghent, Secretary; with additional directors Leonard D. Abbott, John C. Chase, Benjamin C. Gruenberg, T. Levene, and Hermann Schlueter.


“The IWW and DeLeonism: Letter to the Editor of The Worker,” by A.M. Simons [May 22, 1906] At the end of 1905 and during the first half of 1906 there was a strong movement on the part of the Left Wing of the Socialist Party to forge organic unity with the rival Socialist Labor Party. The formation of the radical Industrial Workers of the World, endorsed both by the SP Left and the Socialist Labor Party, had seemingly reduced the ideological differences between the two feuding organizations to a negotiable level. The move to unite with Daniel DeLeon’s SLP was a red flag, so to speak, to those like Algie Simons, who had formerly been active members in the SLP and who had fought a bitter political and legal war in 1899-1900 for control of the organization against DeLeon and the SLP Regulars. In this lengthy article to The Worker Simons professes allegiance to the IWW and its tactics and slams Daniel DeLeon, calling DeLeonism “the worst enemy of the IWW.” Distrust of DeLeon based upon his history of “tricky dishonesty in the labor and Socialist movement” was putting off many solid unionists from joining the fledgling IWW and stilting the organization’s growth, Simons claims. DeLeon had craftily “fastened himself upon the IWW” in order to add “a few new dupes...to those select few who still cling to him,” Simons asserts, and this clique was attempting to make loyalty to DeLeon a prime component of IWW doctrine. “Anyone who refused to do this was at once assaulted by all the mud batteries at the command of the Professor of Lying and Vilification,” Simons declares. Simons provides an extensive and historically valuable account of the 1899-1900 split from the perspective of insurgent Section Chicago, in which he indicates that Daniel DeLeon in his role of editor of The People suppressed party communications for factional reasons. Simons is scornful of the movement among the SPA’s Left for establishment of a “party-owned press” (a central tenet of DeLeon), declaring “It speaks poorly for the intelligence of some members of the SP that they have bit at such thinly disguised gudgeon bait.”



“As to Unity with the SLP: Letter to the Editor of The Worker,” by Ben Hanford [July 21, 1906] Former and future Socialist Party Vice Presidential nominee Ben Hanford adds his voice to those in opposition to the drive for unity between his party and the Socialist Labor Party guided by party editor Daniel DeLeon. Hanford bitterly notes that for the previous 7 years since the 1899 party split “the SLP has at all times, so far as it had power of expression by print or speech, denounced, anathematized, and vilified the trade union movement of the United States” and had heckled propaganda meetings and leafleted against the Socialist Party. “Year after year the members of the Socialist Party have had to devote almost as much of their effort and their slender means to meeting the attacks of the SLP as we did to the battle with the capitalist class,” Hanford declares. Hanford believes that the two organizations are based upon fundamentally different sets of tactics: “Briefly stated, the Socialist Party allows its individual members and its constituent organizations to work for Socialism in their own way, only resorting to disciplinary measures when they pursue a way or resort to means that stultifies the end. On the other hand, the editor of the Party-Owned Press, by printing what he desires them to know and omitting those things of which he wants them to remain ignorant, decides what is the best way to work for Socialism in the Socialist Labor Party and then uses the party machinery to make others work HIS way.” Hanford notes that he favors unity with all genuine Socialists, for whom the door to the Socialist Party of America remains open, but a forced unity on the basis of the New Jersey Unity Manifesto would mean “we would only unite to fight and divide”—in short, a new split would inevitably result and that no lasting unity with DeLeon and the SLP was possible.


“The Socialist Party and the Trade Unions: Contribution to a Symposium in The Worker,” by Eugene V. Debs [July 28, 1906] Eugene Debs responds to a set of questions issued by the New York Worker on the question of industrial unionism with this lengthy definition and analysis. For Debs, industrial unionism is more than simple “unification of all the industrial workers within one comprehensive organization, divided and subdivided into departments corresponding to their various industries;” it also implies a revolutionary ideological content. “Industrial unionism is class-conscious in character and revolutionary in aim, its mission being not only to mitigate the ills of the workers, but to abolish the wage-system and achieve complete emancipation. Without this character and ultimate end in view the mere solidarity of the trade amounts to nothing more than “pure and simpledom,” and cannot properly be called industrial unionism,” Debs declares. Debs reject the charge that the IWW are dual unionists starting new rival organizations, noting that the members of the IWW are, “as a rule, seasoned old unionists; they did not drop from the skies, nor come up out of the seas; they are not interlopers nor new beginners, but they are of the very heart and marrow of the labor movement, and I think their records as fighters and builders in point of time and character of service will compare favorably with those of their reactionary critics; and when credit is claimed for what has been done in the past let it be remembered that the members of the IWW figured in it all and are entitled to their full share of it.” He adds that it is “better a thousand times that labor is divided fighting for freedom than united in the bonds of slavery.” Debs additionally weighs in strongly in favor the SPA Left Wing’s campaign for unity—economically in the IWW and political through unification with the Socialist Labor Party. “Let us pursue the straight course and stick without wavering to the clear-cut revolutionary movement, and hew to the line of industrial and political unity for the overthrow of wage slavery,” Debs declares.



“No Impossibilism for Us!” by Victor L. Berger [September 1906] A succinct philosophical manifesto of the “constructive” Socialist political philosophy, originally published as an editorial in the Social-Democratic Herald by that paper’s editor, Victor L. Berger. Berger declares war upon “IWW element of our party,” of which he says that “most of whom are as ignorant as they are fanatical and hypocritical .” The AF of L for all its shortcomings is in every way preferable to the IWW, Berger contends. Berger states that a great deal has been done “for the working class and for humanity” within present society, with much more to be achieved or “Socialism will never be possible.” Berger says that “we believe in a policy of steady change very much in the social system per se, unless economic conditions (besides also the education and enlightenment of the people) are favorable towards a complete change. Otherwise, we might simply change masters.” A “moral, physical, and intellectual strengthening of the proletariat” is called for, as well as the formation of a “class alliance with farmers”—in this way society can “grow into” Socialism. In conclusion, Berger advocates the arming of the whole people: “Not for the sake of ‘revolution,’ but for the sake of peace and progress. An armed people are always a free people. Even the demagogues then would have a great deal less to say than they have today. An armed people is always a strong people.” Step-by-step constructive action is called for and “impotent and good for nothing REVOLUTIONARY PHRASES and holy words” are held in the lowest regard by Berger in this biting manifesto.