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Socialist Labor Party of America

Socialist Labor Party of America
Founded July 15, 1876 (July 15, 1876)
Ideology Marxism–De Leonism
Political position Left-wing
Politics of the United States
Political parties

The Socialist Labor Party of America (SLP), established in 1876 as the Workingmen's Party, is the oldest industrial unions.

Organizational history

Forerunners and origins

In 1872, the [1]

In 1874, the members of the American-based International, led by cigarmaker Adolph Strasser and carpenter Peter J. McGuire joined forces with socialists from Newark and Philadelphia to form the ephemeral Social-Democratic Party of North America, the first Marxist political party in the United States.

The SLP does not seem to have used its distinctive arm-and-hammer logo until it appeared on the front page of The Workmen's Advocate in 1885.

Despite these organizational efforts, the socialist movement in America remained deeply divided over tactics. Newcomers from Germany often sought to follow the same parliamentary approach being employed by the Ferdinand Lassalle and fledgling Social Democratic Party of Germany, while longer term residents of America often tended to support a trade union orientation.[2] In April 1876, a preliminary conference took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania bringing together representatives of the union-oriented "Internationalists" and the electorally oriented "Lassalleans. The gathering agreed to issue a call for a Unity Congress to be held in July to establish a new political party.[3]

On Saturday, July 15, 1876, delegates from the remaining American sections of the First International gathered in Philadelphia and disbanded that organization.[4] The following Wednesday, July 19, the planned Unity Congress was convened, attended by seven delegates claiming to represent a membership of 3,000 in four organizations: the trade union-oriented Workingmen's Party of the United States (WPUS), and the native English-speaking Philip Van Patten was elected as the party's first "Corresponding Secretary," the official in charge of the day-to-day operations of the party.[5]

A number of socialist newspapers also emerged around this time, all privately owned, including Chicago Albert Parsons and G.A. Schilling maintained an active English-speaking section.[7]

In 1877 the Workingmen's Party met at Sozialistischen Arbeiter-Partei).[8] The SLP achieved its most notable electoral success in Chicago, where in 1878-79, its candidates won slots for a state senator, three state representatives, and four city aldermen.[9]

There was an upsurge of support for the new organization, reflected in the proliferation of the socialist press. Between 1876 and 1877, no fewer than 24 newspapers were established which either directly or indirectly supported the SLP.[10] Eight of these were English-language publications, including one daily, while 14 were in German, including seven dailies. Two more papers were published in Czech and Swedish, respectively.[10]

Just two years later, in the wake of an economic crisis, not one of the privately owned English newspapers still survived.[11] The party established its own English-language paper, The National Socialist, in May 1878 but managed to keep the publication alive only one year.[11] The year 1878 saw the establishment of another paper was established which proved to have considerably more longevity, the German-language New Yorker Volkszeitung (New York People's News). The Volkszeitung included material by the best and the brightest of the German-American socialist movement, including Alexander Jonas, Adolph Douai, and Sergei Shevitch, and Herman Schlüter and quickly emerged as the leading voice of the SLP during the last decades of the 19th Century.[11]

About this same time, the American anarchist movement began to gain strength, fueled by the economic crisis and strike wave of 1877. As socialist Frederic Heath recounted in 1900:

"The line between Anarchism and Socialism was not at this time sharply drawn in the Socialist organizations, in spite of the fact of their being opposites. Both being critics and denouncers of the present system, however, they were able to work together.

"As a result of the brutalities of the [12]

The SLP suffered its first split in 1878. Members who were displeased with the exclusively political actionist turn of the party who wanted the group to focus more on organizing workers formed the [13]

Amidst economic crisis and factional squabbling, membership in the SLP plummeted. As the 1870s drew to a close, the Socialistic Labor Party could count about 2,600 members — with at least one estimate substantially lower.[14] The party was on the ropes.

The SLP in the 1880s

The years 1880 and 1881 saw a new influx of political refugees from Germany, activists in the socialist movement who had been forced to flee during the crackdown on radicalism launched with the Anti-Socialist Laws of 1878.[14] This influx of new German members, coming during a time of low ebb of the English-speaking membership, extended Germanic influence in the SLP. Excluded from the voting booth by their lack of citizenship status, many of the newcomers had little use for electoral politics. An SLP German militia sued on Second Amendment grounds to keep and bear arms in Chicago parades. The Supreme Court ruled against them in Presser v. Illinois, however.

The splinter group was a newspaper called The Anarchist.[15]

In 1882, Johann Most, a former German Social Democrat turned Anarchist firebrand, came to America, further fueling the growth and militancy of the American anarchist movement. The SLP further shattered the next year when Marxist Paul Grottkau was forced by the anarchists to resign as editor of the Chicago daily, the Arbeiter Zeitung. In his place August Spies was installed, a man later executed as part of the anti-anarchist repression which followed the Haymarket affair of May 1886.[16]

After a brief honeymoon period in the late 1870s had run its course, the SLP saw the departure of most of its English-speaking members. The party's English-language organ, Bulletin of the Social Labor Movement, appeared monthly from Detroit in the shadow of the powerful Chicago German-language radical press until it was finally discontinued altogether at the end of 1883. The party was so thoroughly German that it published the stenographic proceedings of its 1884 and 1885 National Conventions only in that language.[17] From 1885 the official organ of the party was a German-language weekly, Der Sozialist. No English language SLP organ existed the demise of the Bulletin in 1883 to the establishment of the Workingmen's Advocate in 1886.

The party's membership situation was so dismal that the English-speaking Corresponding Secretary of the organization, Philip Van Patten, left a suicide note in April 1883 and mysteriously disappeared. He later surfaced as a government employee, a socialist oppositionist no more.[18] Membership in the organization atrophied to just 1,500 by 1883.[19] What growth there was among the American radical movement was experienced by the rival anarchist organization, the International Working People's Association (IWPA), also sometimes referred to as the International Workingmen's Association.[20]

A split between the electorally oriented SLP and the revolution-minded IWPA, which took with it a good portion of the SLP's left wing, including such prominent leaders as the English-speaking orator [22]

The issue of violence proved an insurmountable barrier to unity between the SLP and the anarchist movement, however, and as Paul Grottkau, Alexander Jonas, and their co-thinkers began to again forcefully espouse the Marxist point of view in 1884, the SLP began to rebound. In March 1884, the SLP consisted of 30 sections. Two years later, it had doubled.[23] Three new privately owned English-language newspapers were briefly established, although none could achieve the critical mass of subscribers and advertising revenue necessary for survival.[23]

The SLP attempted to again make a foray into American electoral politics despite its still heavily German composition, taking an active part in the 1886 Henry George. The party remained almost completely separated from the English-speaking workers movement, however, and longing for leaders who could traverse the seemingly insurmountable language barrier which limited the organization to a sort of Teutonic ghetto.

Throughout the decade of the 1880s, the SLP was based upon local "Sections" coordinated by a loose National Executive Committee based in New York City. It was not until 1889 that any move was made to establish intermediate state levels of organization.[24]

The SLP and the labor movement

The SLP did attempt to play an influence in the existing labor movement during the decade of the 1880s. As early as 1881, National Secretary Philip Van Patten joined the Order of the The People during 1891 the weekly affairs of the New York Central Labor Federation, the New York Central Labor Union, the Brooklyn Central Labor Federation, the Brooklyn Central Labor Union, the Hudson County, New Jersey (Jersey City) Central Labor Federation were covered in detail under the recurring headline "Parliaments of Labor." The doings of individual unions in the New York area and around the world were similarly covered in short summary.

Despite its active role as cheerleader and publicist, the SLP was unable to exert any sort of real influence in the Knights of Labor until it was already in steep decline, toward the start of the 1890s, when it won effective control of the New York District Assembly of the K of L in 1893.[25] In that same year, socialist delegates to the governing General Assembly of the K of L were largely responsible for the defeat of [25]

So great was the SLP's influence that the newly elected Sovereign promised to appoint a member of the party as editor of the Journal of the Knights of Labor.[25] When he recanted on this pledge, a bitter feud erupted, ending with the December 1895 General Assembly refusing to seat de facto SLP party leader [25]

The coming of DeLeon

Daniel DeLeon in 1902.

The year 1890 has long been regarded as a watershed by the Socialist Labor Party, as it marked the date when the organization came under the influence of Daniel DeLeon.[26] DeLeon, a native of the South American island of Curaçao, had been resident in the United States for 18 years before he began to play a leading role in the American socialist movement. DeLeon attended a Gymnasium in Hildesheim, Germany, in the 1860s, before studying at the University of Leyden, from which he graduated in 1872 at the age of 20.[27] DeLeon was a brilliant student — well versed in history, philosophy, and mathematics. He was also a linguist with few peers, possessing fluency in Spanish, German, Dutch, Latin, French, English, and ancient Greek, and a reading knowledge of Portuguese, Italian, and modern Greek.[28]

Upon graduation, DeLeon immigrated to the United States, settling in New York City. There he made the acquaintance of a group of Cubans who sought the liberation of their native land and edited their Spanish-language newspaper.[29] DeLeon paid the bills with a job teaching Latin, Greek, and math at a school in Westchester, New York.[30] This teaching job enabled DeLeon to finance his further education at Columbia Law School, from which he graduated with honors in 1878.[31] Thereafter, DeLeon moved to Texas, where he practiced law for a time, before returning to Columbia University in 1883 to take a position as a lecturer on Latin American diplomacy.[31]

DeLeon seems to have been further politicized by the 1886 workers' campaign for the [31] DeLeon participated in the first Nationalist Club in New York City, a group dedicated to advancing the socialist ideas expressed by Edward Bellamy in his extremely popular novel of the day, Looking Backward.[31] DeLeon was also deeply influenced by The Co-operative Commonwealth by Laurence Gronlund.[32]

The failings of the Nationalist Club movement to develop a viable program or strategy for winning political power left DeLeon searching for an alternative. This he found in the scientific determinism underlying the writings of Karl Marx.[33] In the fall of 1890, DeLeon abandoned his academic career to devote himself full-time to the SLP. He was engaged in the spring of 1891 as the party's "National Lecturer," traveling the entire country from coast to coast to speak on the SLP's behalf.[31] He was also named the SLP's candidate for Governor of New York in the fall of that same year, gathering a respectable 14,651 votes.[34]

As the historian Bernard Johnpoll notes, the SLP which Daniel DeLeon joined in 1890 differed little from the organization which had been born at the end of the 1870s — it was largely a German-language organization located in an English-speaking country. Just 17 of the party's 77 branches used English as their basic language, while only two members of the party's governing National Executive Committee spoke English fluently.[32] The arrival of erudite, well-read, multilingual university lecturer with English fluency was seen as a great triumph for the SLP organization.

In the spring of 1891, DeLeon was set to work as the National Organizer for the SLP. He pioneered for an English-speaking organization on a cross-country 6-week tour to the West Coast and back in April and May.[35]

In 1892, DeLeon was elected editor of The Weekly People, the SLP's English-language official organ.[30] He retained this important position without interruption for the rest of his life. DeLeon never assumed the formal role of head of the organization, National Secretary, but was always recognized — by supporters and detractors alike — as the leader of the SLP through his tight editorial control of the official party press.

While increasing the exposure and popularity of the organization among the American-born during his editorial tenure, Daniel DeLeon proved to be a polarizing figure among the Socialist Labor Party's membership during his editorial tenure, as historian Howard Quint notes:

"Even DeLeon's opponents were usually willing to concede that he possessed a tremendous intellectual grasp of Marxism. Those who had suffered under his editorial lashings looked on him as an unmitigated scoundrel who took fiendish delight in character assassination, vituperation, and scurrility. But most of DeLeon's contemporaries, and especially his critics, misunderstood him, just as he himself lacked understanding of people. He was not a petty tyrant who desired power for power's sake. Rather, he was a dogmatic idealist, devoted brain and soul to a cause, a zealot who could not tolerate heresy or backsliding, a doctrinaire who would make no compromise with principles. For this strong-willed man, this late nineteenth-century Grand Inquisitioner of American socialism, there was no middle ground. You were either a disciplined and undeviating Marxist or no socialist at all. You were either with the mischief-making, scatterbrained reformers and 'labor fakirs' or you were against them. You either agreed on the necessity of uncompromising revolutionary tactics or you did not, and those falling into the latter category were automatically expendable as far as the Socialist Labor Party was concerned."[36]

Early electoral politics

The Socialist Labor Party advocated a two-pronged attack against capitalism, including both economic and political components — trade unions and electoral campaigns.

The SLP ran candidates under its own name for the first time in the New York elections of 1886, in which it put forward a full ticket headed by J. Edward Hall as its gubernatorial nominee and Alexander Jonas as its candidate for Mayor of New York.[37] Fewer than 3,000 votes were cast for this ticket throughout the entire state of New York, a result so disheartening that the German language party paper the New Yorker Volkszeitung and some prominent party leaders advocated abandonment of electoral campaigns for the time being.[38] The National Convention of 1889 upheld the policy of political action, however, and the SLP was again active in the New York elections of 1890.[38]

In 1891, the party's electoral effort was led by the candidacy of Daniel DeLeon for Governor of New York. DeLeon polled a respectable 14,651 votes in the losing effort.[39]

The party nominated its first candidate for New York City,[40] despite the fact that the SLP's platform called for the abolition of the offices of President and Vice President. The party's ticket, featuring Boston camera manufacturer Simon Wing and New York electrician Charles H. Matchett, appeared on the ballot in just six states and drew a total of 21,512 votes.[41]

The number of votes gathered by the SLP ticket in 1892 constituted 0.18% of the national presidential vote that year. In percentage terms, the next two presidential elections, of 1896 and 1900, were the most successful for the party, as the SLP presidential candidate Charles H. Matchett received 0.26% of the national popular vote in 1896 and the party's candidate in 1900, Joseph Maloney, received 0.29% of the popular vote nationwide. The latter's run, however, was also the first time the SLP candidate was eclipsed by another Socialist, as Eugene Debs ran for the first time for the Socialist Party that year and received 0.6% of the national popular vote. Although SLP presidential candidates would go on to get higher vote totals in the mid-20th century, they would never again surpass 0.25% of the national vote.[42]

The Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance

To make sense of the further development of the Socialist Labor Party, we must understand the main ideological principle of the organization — revolutionary industrial unionism (also known as "socialist industrial unionism.")

A central axiom of Marxism is that the liberation of the working class must come at the hands of the working class itself.[43] That this premise has been advanced by an unending string of middle-class intellectuals ranging from the professor-without-portfolio Dr. Karl Marx to the college-educated lawyer V. I. Lenin to lawyer and university lecturer Daniel DeLeon may be characterized as either inevitable, ironic, or a major contradiction, depending on one's personal perspective. Be that as it may, Marxists have universally assumed that only conscious and concerted effort by the working class itself can lead to cause the revolutionary transformation of economy and society. The devil lies in the details — how best to motivate this state of understanding and drive to action among those who sell their labor-power to others, how best to achieve the transformation of state and society.

The early Socialist Labor Party, influenced by the father of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, Ferdinand Lassalle, argued that the wage gains and improvements of conditions achievable by trade unions were insignificant and ephemeral. Only the capture of the state through the ballot box would enable a restructuring of the economy and society in anything resembling a permanent manner. So long as capitalism existed, wage gains here would be offset by the pressure of wage cuts there and incomes would be driven down to a subsistence minimum through the inexorable pressure of the market. Thus the political campaign for the capture of the state — winning office for the sake of winning power to enact change — was considered paramount.

For the Marxists who had come to dominate the Socialist Labor Party by the 1890s, this idea was exactly backwards. So long as fundamental economic relations between workers and employers remained unchanged, any alteration of the personnel of the state apparatus would be short-lived and would fall to nothing due to the wealth of the employers and their desire to preserve the existing economic order. The employing class controlled press and school and pulpit, the Marxists believed, their ideas of the "natural" order of things stuffed the heads of their willing political servitors. Only through collective action, trade union activities, could the working class begin to achieve consciousness of itself, the nature of the world, and its purported historic mission.

But what sort of trade unions would instill in the working class the ideas and drive to action that would lead to a revolutionary restructuring of the economic order? This was the central question, over which the SLP ultimately divided. On the one hand there were those who advocated the policy of "boring from within" the already-existing unions, attempting to win their memberships over to the idea of socialist reorganization of society through the force of propaganda and practical example. Ultimately, it was believed, enough individual unions could be won over that the entire trade union movement could be moved in a socialist direction.

Others rejected the existing network of craft unions as hopelessly reactionary bureaucracies, sometimes outright criminal in their administration but never able to see beyond their own narrow and isolated concerns of wages, hours, recognition, and jurisdiction. A completely new, explicitly socialist industrial union structure was required, these individuals believed, an organization established on a broad basis uniting workers of different crafts in common cause. This new organization would gain the support of the working class when average workers at the bench witnessed the superiority of its form of organization and ideas in actual practice.

At the SLP's national convention of 1896, this issue came to a head with the formation of the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance, a party-sponsored industrial union federation founded to compete directly with the unions of the emerging American Federation of Labor and the declining Knights of Labor, which eventually became a part of the Industrial Workers of the World when that organization was founded in 1905.

The party split of 1899

National Secretary Henry Kuhn was the top political official of the SLP "regulars" in the faction fight of 1899.

De Leon's opponents, (primarily German-Americans, Jewish immigrants of various origins, and trade unionists led by Henry Slobodin and Morris Hillquit), left the SLP in 1899. They later merged with the Social Democratic Party, headed by Victor L. Berger and Eugene V. Debs to form the Socialist Party of America.

20th century

With the death of De Leon in 1914, the SLP, always critical of both the Soviet Union and of the Socialist Party's "reformism", has been isolated from the majority of the American Left, and that isolation became ever-increasing.[44] The party had always advocated what they consider purist socialism in its program, arguing that other parties have actually abandoned Marxism and become either fan clubs for dictators or merely a radical wing of the Democratic Party.

Arnold Petersen became national secretary for most of the 20th Century from the death of De Leon in 1914 to 1969.

The party experienced two growth spurts in the 20th century. The first occurred in the late 1940s. The presidential ticket, which had been receiving 15,000 to 30,000 votes, increased to 45,226 in 1944. Meanwhile, the aggregate nationwide totals for U.S. Senate nominees increased during this same period from an average in the 40,000 range to 96,139 in 1946 and 100,072 in 1948. The party's fortunes began to sag during the early 1950s, and by 1954 the aggregate nationwide totals for U.S. Senate nominees was down to 30,577.

Eric Hass became influential in the SLP in the early 1950s. Hass, the nominee for President in 1952, 1956, 1960, and 1964, played a major role in rebuilding the SLP. He authored the booklet "Socialism: A Home Study Course". Hass increased the party's nationwide totals and recruited many local candidates. His vote for President increased from 30,250 in 1952 to 47,522 in 1960 (a 50% increase). Although his total slipped to 45,187 in 1964, Hass outpolled all other third party candidates – the only time this happened to the SLP. Aggregate nationwide totals for U.S. Senate nominees increased throughout the late 1960s, hitting 112,990 in 1972.

The increased interest in the SLP in the late 1960s was not a permanent growth spurt. New recruits subscribed to the anti-authoritarian views of the time and wanted their voices to have an equal status with the old-time party workers. Newcomers felt that the party was too controlled by a small clique, resulting in widespread discontent. In 1976, the SLP nominated its last Presidential candidate and has run few campaigns since then. 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.

21st century

The SLP began having trouble funding their newspaper The People, so frequency was changed from monthly to bi-monthly in 2004. That did not save the paper from collapse, however, and it was suspended as of 31 March 2008. As of January, 2007, the party had 77 members-at-large, as well as seven sections of which four (San Francisco Bay Area, Wayne County, Cleveland and Portland) held meetings, with an average attendance of 3-6 members.[45] The SLP closed its national office on 1 September 2008.[46]


Perhaps the greatest impact of De Leon and the SLP was their help in founding the Workers International Industrial Union (WIIU) and declined into little more than SLP members. The WIIU was wound up in 1924.

Famed author Jack London was an early member of the Socialist Labor Party, joining in 1896. He left in 1901 but remained a Socialist.

The science fiction writer Mack Reynolds, who wrote one of the first Star Trek novels, was an active member of the SLP and his fiction often deals with socialist reform and revolution as well as socialist Utopian thought.


Convention Location Date Notes and references
Union Congress Philadelphia, PA July 19–22, 1876 1. Original edition of the proceedings. 2. The 1976 centennial edition edited and annotated by Philip S. Foner
National Congress Newark, NJ Dec. 26-31, 1877 Name changed to Socialistic Labor Party; Documents & Proceedings
2nd National Convention Allegheny, PA Dec. 26, 1879-Jan 1, 1880 Documents & Condensed Proceedings
3rd National Convention New York City Dec. 26-29, 1881 Proceedings, in German, from the New Yorker Volkszeitung
4th National Convention Baltimore, MD Dec. 26-28, 1883 Proceedings, in German, some pages blacked out
5th National Convention Cincinnati, OH Oct. 5-8, 1885 Proceedings, in German
6th National Convention Buffalo, NY Sept. 17-20, 1887 Proceedings
7th Nat. Conv. [regular] Chicago, IL Oct. 12-17, 1889 Upholds political action. Workmens AdvocateAccount of Proceedings in
7th Nat. Conv. [dissident] Chicago, IL Sept. 28- Oct. 2, 1889 Proceedings
8th National Convention Chicago, IL 2–5 July 1893 The PeopleProceedings as reported in
9th National Convention New York City July 4–10, 1896 Establishes ST&LA. Proceedings
10th Nat. Conv. [regular] New York City June 2–8, 1900 Reviews 1899 party split. Proceedings
10th Nat. Conv. [dissident] Rochester, NY Jan. 27-Feb. 2, 1900 No stenographic record published.
11th National Convention New York City July 1904 Microfilm of the typescript is available from the Wisconsin Historical Society.
12th National Convention New York City July 1908 No stenographic record published.
13th National Convention New York City April 1912 No stenographic record published.
14th National Convention New York City April 29-May 3, 1916 No stenographic record published. Platform.
15th National Convention New York City May 5–10, 1920 Proceedings
16th National Convention New York City May 10–13, 1924 Proceedings
17th National Convention New York City May 12–14, 1928 Proceedings
18th National Convention New York City April 30-May 2, 1932 Proceedings p. 1, Proceedings p. 2
19th National Convention New York City April 25–28, 1936 Proceedings p. 1, Proceedings p. 2
20th National Convention New York City April 27–30, 1940 Proceedings p. 1, Proceedings p. 2
21st National Convention New York City April 29-May 2, 1944 Proceedings
22nd National Convention New York City May 1–3, 1948 Proceedings
23rd National Convention New York City May 3–5, 1952 Proceedings
24th National Convention New York City May 5–7, 1956 Platform
25th National Convention New York City May 7–9, 1960 Proceedings
26th National Convention New York City May 2–4, 1964 Proceedings
27th National Convention Brooklyn, NY May 4–7, 1968 Proceedings
28th National Convention Detroit, MI April 8–11, 1972 Platform
29th National Convention Southfield, MI February 7–11, 1976 Proceedings
30th National Convention Chicago, IL May 28-June 1, 1977 Proceedings
31st National Convention Philadelphia, PA May 26–31, 1978 Proceedings; no pdf available.
32nd National Convention Milwaukee, WI July 1979 Proceedings; no pdf available.
33rd National Convention Milwaukee, WI June 27-July 1, 1980 Proceedings; no pdf available.
34th National Convention Milwaukee, WI July 1981 Proceedings; no pdf available.
35th National Convention Milwaukee, WI August 1982 Proceedings; no pdf available.
36th National Convention Akron, OH July 18–23, 1983 Proceedings; no pdf available. Platform.
37th National Convention Akron, OH July 1985 Proceedings; no pdf available.
38th National Convention Akron, OH July 27–31, 1987 Proceedings; no pdf available.
39th National Convention Santa Clara, CA April 29-May 3, 1989 Proceedings
40th National Convention Santa Clara, CA April 28–30, 1991 Proceedings
41st National Convention Santa Clara, CA May 1–4, 1993 Proceedings
42nd National Convention Santa Clara, CA July 15–18, 1995 Proceedings
43rd National Convention Santa Clara, CA May 2–5, 1997 Proceedings
44th National Convention Santa Clara, CA April 9–12, 1999 Proceedings
45th National Convention Santa Clara, CA June 1–4, 2001 Proceedings
46th National Convention Santa Clara, CA July 9–11, 2005 Proceedings
47th National Convention Santa Clara, CA July 14–16, 2007 Proceedings

Secretaries of the SLP

Name Tenure Title
Philip Van Patten July 1876 - April 1883 Corresponding Secretary
Schneider April–October 1883 Corresponding Secretary
Hugo Vogt October–December 1883 Corresponding Secretary
None. December 1883-March 1884 (Executive position abolished)
Wilhelm Rosenberg March 1884-October 1889 Corresponding and Financial Secretary
Benjamin J. Gretsch October 1889-October 1891 National Secretary
Henry Kuhn 1891–1906 National Secretary
Frank Bohn 1906–1908 National Secretary
Henry Kuhn 1908 (pro tem) National Secretary
Paul Augustine 1908–1914 National Secretary
Arnold Petersen 1914–1969 National Secretary
Nathan Karp 1969–1980 National Secretary
Robert Bills 1980-date National Secretary

Presidential tickets

Election Presidential Nominee Vice-Presidential Nominee Votes # of states
on ballot
1888 Slate of independent electors Slate of independent electors 2,068 1 (NY)
1892 Simon Wing Charles Matchett 21,173 5
1896 Charles Matchett Matthew Maguire 36,359 20
1900 Joseph F. Maloney Valentine Remmel 40,943 22
1904 Charles H. Corregan William Wesley Cox 33,454 19
1908 August Gillhaus Donald L. Munro 14,031 15
1912 Arthur E. Reimer August Gillhaus 29,324 20
1916 Arthur E. Reimer Caleb Harrison 15,295 17
1920 William Wesley Cox August Gillhaus 31,084 14
1924 Frank T. Johns Verne L. Reynolds 28,633 19
1928 Verne L. Reynolds Jeremiah D. Crowley 21,590 19
1932 Verne L. Reynolds John W. Aiken 34,038 19
1936 John W. Aiken Emil F. Teichert 12,799 18
1940 John W. Aiken Aaron M. Orange 14,883 14
1944 Edward A. Teichert Arla A. Albaugh 45,188 15
1948 Edward A. Teichert Stephen Emery 29,244 22
1952 Eric Hass Stephen Emery 30,406 23
1956 Eric Hass Georgia Cozzini 44,300 14
1960 Eric Hass Georgia Cozzini 47,522 15
1964 Eric Hass Henning A. Blomen 45,189 16
1968 Henning A. Blomen George Sam Taylor 52,589 13
1972 Louis Fisher Genevieve Gundersen 53,814 12
1976 Jules Levin Constance Blomen 9,566 10

All election results taken from Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections and Vote for presidential and vice presidential candidates of the Socialist Labor Party

Notable members

SLP press


  • Vorbote (The Warning) (1874–1924) —Chicago weekly. Predated the SLP, party organ 1876-1878. Broke with SLP for anarchism in the early 1880s.
  • Arbeiter Stimme (Worker's Voice) (1876–1878) —New York City weekly. Predated the SLP under the title Sozial-Demokrat. NYPL holds master negative film.
  • The Social Democrat (c. 1877) —New York daily.
  • The National Socialist (1878–1879)
  • Bulletin of the Social Labor Movement (1879–1883) —Published in Detroit and New York City.
  • Der Sozialist (1885–1892) —German-language; published in New York City.
    • Vorwärts (Forward) (1892–1932) —Published in New York City. Broke with SLP in 1899; became privately owned publication.
  • The Workmen's Advocate (1885–1891) —Originally published by the New Haven (CT) Trades Council. Official organ of SLP from November 21, 1886. Subscription list taken over by The People in 1891.
    • The People (1891–2008) —Published in New York City by New Yorker Volkszeitung on behalf of the SLP. Party-owned from 1899. Later moved to Palo Alto, CA.
  • Pittsburgher Volkszeitung (c. 1891) —German-language; Pittsburgh weekly.

Privately owned



Other languages


  • Rabotnicheska Prosveta (Workers' Enlightenment) (1911–1969) —Published in Granite City, IL and Detroit. Weekly.


  • Radnicka Borba (Workers' Struggle) (1907–1970) —Published in New York, Cleveland, and Detroit. Weekly, later semi-monthly.


  • Delnicke Listy (Voice of Labor) (c. 1877) —Cleveland weekly; predated SLP.
  • Pravda (SLP) (Truth) (1898) —New York City weekly.


  • Arbejderen (The Worker) (1898) —Chicago weekly.


  • A Munkás (The Worker) (1910–1961) —New York City weekly. New York Public Library holds master negative film.
  • Nepszava (People's Voice) (1898) —New York City weekly.



  • Den Nye Tid (The New Time) (c. 1877) —Chicago weekly.


  • Sila (The Force) (1898) —Buffalo weekly.


  • Arbetaren (The Worker) (1895–1928) —New York City weekly.



Sources: Proceedings of the National Congress, 1877, pp. 16-17; Hillquit (1903), pp. 225, 242; American Labor Press Directory (1925), pp. 22-23; Library of Congress "Chronicling America" database.


  1. ^ Frederic Heath, Social Democracy Red Book, (cover title: "Socialism in America.") Terre Haute, IN: Standard Publishing Co., 1900; pg. 32.
  2. ^ The division between German SDP-oriented newcomers and existing residents is mentioned in Heath, Social Democracy Red Book, pg. 33.
  3. ^ Frank Girard and Ben Perry, The Socialist Labor Party, 1876-1991: A Short History. Philadelphia, PA: Livra Books, 1991; pg. 3.
  4. ^ Girard and Perry, The Socialist Labor Party, pp. 3-4.
  5. ^ a b Girard and Perry, The Socialist Labor Party, pg. 4.
  6. ^ Heath, Social Democracy Red Book, pg. 33.
  7. ^ Heath, Social Democracy Red Book, pp. 33-34.
  8. ^ See, for example, the cover of the Platform und Constitution der Soz. Arbeiter-Partei published after the 1885 5th National Convention of the organization by the "National Executive Committee of the Socialistic Labor Party.
  9. ^ Dray, Philip (2010). There Is Power In A Union. New York: Doubleday. p. 128.  
  10. ^ a b Morris Hillquit, HIstory of Socialism in the United States. New York: Funk and Wagnall Co., 1903; pg. 225.
  11. ^ a b c Hillquit, HIstory of Socialism in the United States, pg. 227.
  12. ^ Heath, Social Democracy Red Book, pp. 34-35.
  13. ^ "International Labor Union" in Neil Schlager ed. St. James Encyclopedia of Labor History Worldwide Detroit : St. James Press/Gale Group/Thomson Learning, 2004. pp. 475-477.
  14. ^ a b Hillquit, History of Socialism in the United States, pg. 228.
  15. ^ Heath, Social Democracy Red Book, pg. 35.
  16. ^ Heath, Social Democracy Red Book, pg. 37.
  17. ^ See, for example: Offizielles Protokoll der 5. National-Konventin der Soz. Arbeiter-Partei von Nord-Amerika, abgehalten am 5., 6., 7. und 8. Oktober 1885 in Cincinnati, Ohio. New York: National Executive Committee of the Socialistic Labor Party, 1886.
  18. ^ Hillquit, History of Socialism in the United States, pg. 239.
  19. ^ Hillquit, History of Socialism in the United States, pg. 238.
  20. ^ For a contemporary example illustrating this confusing dual name for the largely German-language organization, see Richard T. Ely, Recent American Socialism. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University, 1886; pg. 21.
  21. ^ Ely, Recent American Socialism, pg. 26.
  22. ^ Hillquit, History of Socialism in the United States, pp. 240-241.
  23. ^ a b Hillquit, History of Socialism in the United States, pg. 242.
  24. ^ "State Organization: Circular of the New York City Committee of the SLP," Workmen's Advocate [New York], vol. 5, no. 25 (June 22, 1889), pg. 1.
  25. ^ a b c d e Hillquit, HIstory of Socialism in the United States, pg. 293.
  26. ^ During the Arnold Petersen administration, the SLP passionately disavowed its history of the period before the arrival of DeLeon, going so far as to publish a glossy illustrated "Golden Jubilee" volume celebrating the party's 50th anniversary in 1940. The pre-1890 SLP was sneeringly referred to as the "Socialistic Labor Party" (emphasis his) by Petersen in his party history contained in that volume. See: Socialist Labor Party: Golden Jubilee, 1890-1940 (cover title). New York: Socialist Labor Party, 1940.
  27. ^ Howard Quint, The Forging of American Socialism: Origins of the Modern Movement: The Impact of Socialism on American Thought and Action, 1886-1901. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1953; pp. 142-143.
  28. ^ Olive M. Johnson, "Daniel DeLeon — Our Comrade," in Daniel DeLeon: The Man and His Work: A Symposium. New York: National Executive Committee of the Socialist Labor Party, 1919; pg. 88. Johnson acknowledges the 1904 pamphlet The Party Press as the source of much of her biographical information.
  29. ^ Historian Howard Quint refers to the nature of the unnamed paper as "revolutionary," which seems rather doubtful. See: Quint, The Forging of American Socialism, pg. 143.
  30. ^ a b Johnson, "Daniel DeLeon — Our Comrade," pg. 89.
  31. ^ a b c d e f Quint, The Forging of American Socialism, pg. 143.
  32. ^ a b Bernard Johnpoll with Lillian Johnpoll, The Impossible Dream: The Rise and Demise of the American Left. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981; pg. 250.
  33. ^ Quint, The Forging of American Socialism, pg. 144.
  34. ^ Quint, The Forging of American Socialism, pg. 145.
  35. ^ DeLeon spoke in the new state of Washington, in Portland, Oregon, and four times in California. On his return trip, DeLeon spoke in Denver, Topeka, Kansas City, St. Louis, Evansville, Indianapolis, Dayton, Pittsburgh, Scottsdale, Connellsville, Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, and Camden over the course of a three-week period. See: "Socialist Labor Party," The People, vol. 1, no. 3 (April 19, 1891), pg. 5; and "Socialism in California," The People, vol. 1, no. 4 (April 26, 1891), pg. 5.
  36. ^ Quint, The Forging of American Socialism, pp. 145-146.
  37. ^ Morris Hillquit, History of Socialism in the United States, pg. 281.
  38. ^ a b Hillquit, History of Socialism in the United States, pg. 282.
  39. ^ The People [New York], November 29, 1891, cited in Quint, The Forging of American Socialism, pg. 145.
  40. ^ Hillquit, History of Socialism in the United States, pg. 283.
  41. ^ Quint, The Forging of American Socialism, pp. 149-150.
  42. ^ Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections,
  43. ^ This principle was stated most forcefully as Rule 1 of the International Workingmen's Association (First International): "That the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves, that the struggle for the emancipation of the working classes means not a struggle for class privileges and monopolies, but for equal rights and duties, and the abolition of all class rule..." Karl Marx, "Provisional Rules of the Association," in The General Council of the First International, 1864-1866: The London Conference, 1865: Minutes. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1964; pg. 288.
  44. ^ a b Kenneth T. Jackson, The Encyclopedia of New York City. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995; pg. 1083.
  45. ^ Forty-Seventh National Convention, Socialist Labor Party, July 14–16, 2007, Minutes, Reports, Resolutions etc, p.22,
  46. ^ "Socialist Labor Party Closes Office", Ballot Access News, 31 December 2008 (accessed 14 March 2009)

Further reading

  • Seán Cronin, "The Rise and Fall of the Socialist Labor Party of North America," Saothar, vol. 3 (1977), pp. 21–33. in JSTOR.
  • Nathan Dershowitz, "The Socialist Labor Party," Politics [New York], vol. 5, no. 3, whole no. 41 (Summer 1948), pp. 155–158.
  • Frank Girard and Ben Perry, Socialist Labor Party, 1876-1991: A Short History. Philadelphia: Livra Books, 1991.
  • Howard Quint, The Forging of American Socialism: Origins of the Modern Movement: The Impact of Socialism on American Thought and Action, 1886-1901. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1953.
  • L. Glen Seratan, Daniel Deleon: The Odyssey of an American Marxist. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979.

See also

External links

Primary documents

  • Bulletin of the Social Labor Movement, Vol 1, No. 14 (Dec. 1880-Jan. 1881). Full issue of rare official organ.
  • "1891 Report of the NEC of the SLP." December 18, 1891.
  • SLP Documents Downloads, Early American Marxism website. Index for assorted SLP documents in pdf format.
  • Report of the Proceedings of the National Convention of the Socialistic Labor Party. Index for pdfs of proceedings of SLP, 1878-1887.
  • Daniel DeLeon Online, Socialist Labor Party. Extensive collection of editorials and writings by Daniel DeLeon in pdf format.

Links relating to the historic SLP

  • SLP Publications, Early American Marxism website. Partial but lengthy list of official publications of the SLP.
  • Early American Marxism website. Includes extensive party history.
  • "DeLeon — A Sketch of His Socialist Career", Socialist Labor Party. Official party history of the SLP's most notable leader.
  • Papers of the Socialist Labor Party of America: Records of the Socialist Labor Party of America; guide to a microfilm edition. User guide to the microfilm collection filmed by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

Contemporary SLP links

  • Socialist Labor Party of America, official party website.
  • The People, index of issues available in pdf, 1999-2008.


  • Socialist Labor Party Seattle Section Records. 1930-1962. 2.73 cubic feet (7 boxes).
  • George E. Rennar Papers. 1933-1972. 37.43 cubic feet. Contains ephemera on the Socialist Labor Party.
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