Prophets of the Left: American Socialist Thought in the Twentieth Century

By Robert Hyfler | Go to book overview
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3
De Leon and Labor Accommodationism: Two Poles of the Working-Class Movement

In June 1905, an odd collection of working-class trade unionists and social activists assembled in Chicago to lay the groundwork for the formation of the Industrial Workers of the World. While united in their disapproval of the policies of Gompers and the AFL, those present differed on numerous other issues--from the role of the political party and the industrial union to the nature and purpose of political action. Present were Daniel De Leon, the guiding force of the Socialist Labor Party (which was eager to establish a political labor organization to carry on the work of its own unsuccessful Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance); Western labor leader William Haywood, wary of ballot-box socialism; and Eugene Debs, prepared to follow almost any tactic in pursuit of the cooperative commonwealth as long as it was militant, class-conscious, and effective.

Within two years, De Leon would return to isolation within the Socialist Labor Party and his own ( Detroit) IWW; Debs would dissolve his ties with the Wobblies while continuing to agitate for any and all labor and socialist struggles; and Haywood would find himself defending militant working-class socialism against both his conservative comrades within the Socialist Party and the "syndicalist" -oriented, antipolitics crowd within the IWW. That these three strains of left socialist thought in America would have found it difficult to remain under one organizational roof is understandable, given the philosophical differences that existed between them. As shall be seen, De Leon's

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