Daniel De Leon, leader of the Socialist Labor Party of America from 1890 until 1914, died on this date in that year at age 61. De Leon was born in Curaçao to Dutch Jewish parents, his father a military surgeon who died when his son was 12. De Leon spent his teen years in Europe and became fluent in several languages, including German, Dutch, French, English, ancient Greek and Latin, in addition to his family’s Spanish. Between 1872 and 1874 he emigrated to New York with his wife and mother and became a language instructor at Columbia College as well as an attorney. The 1886 mayoral campaign of Henry George drew De Leon into the Socialist Labor Party, and he became editor of its newspaper, grew in stature rapidly, and served as the party’s perennial candidate for governor of New York. Within the SLP, De Leon was on the left, a Marxist who was highly critical of the American labor movement’s craft orientation and self-isolation. He was also harshly critical of the “bummery” of the IWW (the Wobblies), the “one big union” he co-founded with Eugene Debs and Big Bill Haywood in 1905.
“[T]he establishment of a social system such as we are ripe for, and in which the land and instruments of production should be held by the organized people and not by individuals for competitive strife, would transform us from mutual enemies into citizens; from a wild mob into a nation.” -Daniel De Leon