|Socialist Labor Party of America|
|Party Chairman||Robert Bills|
|Political position|| Fiscal: |
At about the same time, another similarly-named organization, the Workingman's Party was formed in San Francisco, California under the leadership of drayage proprietor Dennis Kearney. The main purpose of this group was summed up by the slogan, "No Property, No Religion and No Chinese". It was featured in a contemporary stage play "The Chinese Must Go!". In 1881 a radical anarchist-oriented section left the party and formed the Revolutionary Socialist Labor Party. RSLP was at one point larger than SLP. Neither of these two groups were affiliated with the New Jersey Workingmen's Party or the Socialist Labor Party.
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. De Leon concisely articulated the SLP's concept of socialism: Socialism "is that social system under which the necessaries of production are owned, controlled and administered by the people, for the people, and under which, accordingly, the cause of political and economic despotism having been abolished, class rule is at end. — That is socialism, nothing short of that."
Ever since, the SLP has adhered to the form of orthodox Marxism known as DeLeonism. One of the reforms that DeLeon was responsible for was the establishment of English as the official language of the Party — German had previously been the majority language. De Leon was famously approvingly referred to by V. I. Lenin. The Socialist Labor Party fielded its first slate of Presidential Electors in 1888, winning 2,068 votes. Simon Wing, the SLP's first nominee for President (1892) received 21,163 votes.
Although it was often condemned as sectarian, the SLP carried out work in the trade 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 unskilled workers, who made up the vast majority of the working class. This lack of organization led De Leon to call for "Socialist Industrial Unions" which he speculated would not only defend the working class but form part of the future socialist society. To this day, the Socialist Industrial Union is at the heart of the Socialist Labor Party's program.
Perhaps the greatest impact of De Leon and the SLP was their help in founding the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905. Before too long, however they had a falling out with the element that they termed 'the bummery,' and left to form their own rival union, also called the Industrial Workers of the World, based in Detroit. De Leon died in 1914, and with his passing this organization lost its central focus. This body was renamed the Workers International Industrial Union (WIIU) and declined into little more than SLP members. The WIIU was wound up in 1924.
The party experienced two growth spurts in the twentieth 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" which was well-received. 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.
They recently have been having trouble funding their newspaper, The People. Publication frequency was changed from monthly to bi-monthly in 2004, but continued. Due to lack of funds, the paper has been suspended as of 31 March 2008. The SLP itself continues to exist and hopes to resume publication of The People later in 2008.
Famed author Jack London was an early member of the Socialist Labor Party, joining in 1896. He left in 1901 but remained a Socialist.