Critics & Crusaders: A Century of American Protest

By Charles A. Madison | Go to book overview

DANIEL DE LEON


APOSTLE OF SOCIALISM

IN 1918, shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution, several American correspondents reported that Lenin had expressed his warm admiration of Daniel De Leon's writings. John Reed, on his return from Russia later that year, declared before the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Labor party:

Premier Lenin is a great admirer of Daniel De Leon, considering him the greatest of modern Socialists -- the only one who had added anything to Socialist thought since Marx. It is Lenin's opinion that the Industrial State as conceived by De Leon will ultimately have to be the form of government in Russia.

Lenin apparently nowhere wrote down his opinions on De Leon; there is no evidence that any of De Leon's ideas were incorporated into Lenin's theories and practices; and neither the Communist International nor the American Communist party reprinted any of De Leon's pamphlets. Yet Lenin's reported words recalled an outstanding American Socialist from undeserved obscurity. For by 1918, four years after his death, time had already relegated De Leon to the oblivion reserved for leaders of lost causes. Wholly the intellectual and man of inflexible principle, devoted to ideas and disdaining compromise, caustic and intolerant, he failed to impress his views upon the mass of American workers. His theoretical soundness became affected by the rigidity of orthodox dogma; his acute exegesis of socialism was blurred by polemical wrangling. As a Marxian disciple, however, he towered over his fellow American socialists.

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