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Socialist Labor Party of America
The party was founded in Newark, New Jersey, in 1876 as the Workingmen's Party of America. Renamed in 1877, the SLP was a confederation of small Marxist parties from throughout the United States, becoming the first nationwide Socialist party. The SLP is the second oldest of the so-called "third parties" (the Prohibition Party being the oldest).
In 1890, the SLP came under the leadership of Daniel De Leon, a lawyer who lectured at Columbia Law School until he quit to devote himself full time to the SLP. Since then, the SLP has adhered to the form of Marxism known as DeLeonism. De Leon was famously approvingly referred to by Lenin.
De Leon's opponents, led by Morris Hillquit, left the SLP in 1901 and fused with Eugene V. Debs' Social Democratic Party and formed the Socialist Party of America. In a dispute concerning the entry of the French socialist Millerand into the French government and the possibility of winning reforms by through parliamentary action that took place in the Second International the SLP firmly opposed the supporters of reformism. Therefore they and others in a similar position became known as Impossibilists. Today the term is still sometimes used with reference to the SLP and the Socialist Party of Great Britain although the two parties differ politically on a number of issues and have no connection.
Despite often being condemned for its supposed sectarianism the SLP carried out work in the trades unions and its members were active in the Knights of Labor. With the collapse of the Knights SLP members were instrumental in setting up a small union federation in opposition to the American Federation of Labor in part because the AFL refused to organise many sections of the working class. This led to De Leon writing as to the need for what he called Socialist Industrial Unions which he speculated would not only defend the working class but would form part of the future socialist society.
Perhaps the greatest impact the SLP and De Leon had was when they took part in the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905. However before too long they had fallen out with the element that they termed 'the bummery' and left to form their own rival Industrial Workers of the World based in Detroit. This body would soon be renamed the Workers Industrial Union and declined into very little.
Always critical of both the Soviet Union and of the Socialist Party's "reformism," the SLP has been isolated from the majority of the American Left, and that isolation seems to be ever-increasing. In 1976, the SLP nominated its last Presidential candidate and has run few campaigns since then. They recently have been having trouble funding their newspaper, The People.
In 1980, members of the SLP in Minnesota, claiming that the party had become bureaucratic and authoritarian in its internal party structure, split from the party and formed the New Union Party.
- 1892 - Simon Wing
- 1896 - Charles H. Matchett
- 1900 - Joseph F. Malloney
- 1904 - Charles H. Corregan
- 1908 - August Gillhaus
- 1912 - Arthur E. Reimer
- 1916 - Arthur E. Reimer
- 1920 - William W. Cox
- 1924 - Frank T. Johns
- 1928 - Verne L. Reynolds
- 1932 - Verne L. Reynolds
- 1936 - Joan W. Aiken
- 1940 - Joan W. Aiken
- 1944 - Edward A. Teichert
- 1948 - Edward A. Teichert
- 1952 - Eric Hass
- 1956 - Eric Hass
- 1960 - Eric Hass
- 1964 - Eric Hass
- 1968 - Henning A. Blomen
- 1972 - Louis Fisher
- 1976 - Jules Levin
Socialist Labor Party, 1876-1991: A Short History by Frank Girard and Ben Perry 108 pages Publisher: Livra Books (May 1, 1991) ASIN 0962931500.
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