Daniel De Leon - American socialist newspaper editor

The meaning 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."

From the editorial "Industrialism", Daily People, January 23, 1906

Class struggle

"You have seen that the wages you live on, and the profits the capitalist riots in, are the two parts into which is divided the wealth that you produce. The workingman wants a larger and larger share, and so does the capitalist. A thing cannot be divided into two shares so as to increase the share of each."

From What Means This Strike?

"Between the working class and the capitalist class there is an irrepressible conflict, a class struggle for life. No glib-tongued politician can vault over it; no capitalist professor or official statistician can argue it away; no capitalist parson can veil it; no labor faker can straddle it; no reform architect can bridge it over. It crops up in all manner of ways, as in this strike, in ways that disconcert all the plans and all the schemes of those who would deny or ignore it. It is a struggle that will not down, and must be ended only be either the total subjugation of the working class, or the abolition of the capitalist class."

From What Means This Strike?

The wage system

"Under capitalism, the workingman being a merchandise, his price (wages) does not depend upon the quantity of good things in existence, but upon the quantity of him in the labor market. The same as, regardless of the quantity of money there may be in the money market, pork chops will fetch a smaller price if the pork chop market is overstocked, so will the merchandise labor fetch a smaller price, however much money there may be, if the labor market is overstocked. And capitalism does that very thing. Privately-owned improved machinery, and concentration of plants, ruthlessly displace labor and overstock the labor market."

From The Burning Question of Trades Unionism

"The reason why the wage-worker must put up with so small a return is that, under this system, he is not treated as a human being, Christianity to the contrary notwithstanding. The capitalists are refined cannibals; they look at the workingman in no other light than a horse; in fact, in a worse light. They will take care of a horse, but let the workingmen die. Labor is cheap, and it is treated that way under capitalism. Under socialism, standing upon that high scientific plane, we see a higher morality. We see that labor should not be treated as a commodity; it should not be treated as shoes, and potatoes, and hairpins, and cast-off clothing, but as human beings capable of the highest intellectual development. So treating him, the wageworker of today becomes a part owner in the machinery of production, and, being part owner of the machinery of production, he gets the full return of his labor. He is then free from the shackles that compel him to accept wages. He becomes the boss of the machine, whereas today he is its appendage."

From Reform or Revolution


"Great as education is, it is no 'open sesame.' Under the present industrial system, where not the masses but the few control the means of production, it can lift up the individual only so long as his education is superior to his fellows'. As soon as all are equally well educated, all become again equally poor."

From the editorial "Seeing Past One's Nose", Daily People, January 30, 1911


"Whenever a change leaves the internal mechanism untouched, we have reform; whenever the internal mechanism is changed, we have revolution."

From Reform or Revolution

"You will find the reformer ever flying off at a tangent, while the revolutionist sticks to the point."

From Reform or Revolution

"Of all revolutionary epochs, the present draws sharpest the line between the conflicting class interests. Hence, the organizations of the revolution of our generation must be the most uncompromising of any that yet appeared on the stage of history. The program of this revolution consists not in any one detail. It demands the unconditional surrender of the capitalist system and its system of wage slavery; the total extinction of class rule is its object.

From Reform or Revolution

The state

"Capitalist governments are the committees of the ruling wing of the capitalist class. Law is but the club that such bodies use only when it can be used against others; it is left alone, or is thrown aside, when it interferes with the ruling set's interests."

Editorial in The Daily People, December 9, 1903

"Law is a reflex of dominant interests. Under class rule, the law is dictated by the ruling class. The law, under such circumstances, naturally rises and is raised to the category of a mysticism, clothed in sacredness. It is of the essence of class rule law that it be venerated by the ruled. The rulers know better than to venerate; they know how their law was concocted. They treat it the way pagan priests treat the pagan deity with which it is their function to benumb the masses."

Editorial in The Daily People, August 10, 1913

"The shops, the yards, the mills, in short, the mechanical establishments of production, now in the hands of the capitalist class - they are all to be 'taken', not for the purpose of being destroyed, but for the purpose of being 'held'; for the purpose of improving and enlarging all the good that is latent in them, and that capitalism dwarfs; in short, they are to be 'taken and held' in order to save them for civilization. It is exactly the reverse with the 'political power.' That is to be taken for the purpose of abolishing it."

From Socialist Reconstruction of Society


"'Individuality' is a deity at whose shrine the capitalist worships, or affects to worship. In point of fact, capitalism robs of individuality, not only the working class, but capitalists themselves. The action of any one of the lot compels action by all. Like a row of bricks, the dropping of one makes all the others drop successively."

From What Means This Strike?

"Capitalist society rolls the steam-roller of the capitalist class ruthlessly over the classes below, crushing them into one amorphous pulp, and annihilating the differences of individuality that flow from different capabilities."

From Fifteen Questions About Socialism


"Competition is an evil. Like slavery, which was harmful to the slave-holder and the slave alike, competition injures him who practices it, and him upon whom it is practiced."

From Abolition of Poverty

"Open any law book, whatever the subject be - contract, real estate, aye, even marital relations, husband and wife, father and son, guardian and ward - you will find that the picture they throw upon the mind's canvas is that of everyone's hands at everyone's throat. Capitalist law reflects the material substructure of capitalism. The theory of that substructure is war, conflict, struggle."

From The Burning Question of Trades Unionism

Socialist industrial unionism

"The majority of the voters are workingmen. But even if this majority were to sweep the political field on a classconscious, that is, a bona fide labor or socialist ticket, they would find the capitalist able to throw the country into the chaos of a panic and to famine unless they, the workingmen, were so well organized in the shops that they could laugh at all shut-down orders, and carry on production."

From The Burning Question of Trades Unionism

"The mission of unionism is not to act as rear guard to an army defeated, seasoned in defeat, habituated to defeat, and fit only for defeat. The mission of unionism is to organize and drill the working class for final victory - to take and hold the machinery of production, which means the administration of the country."

From Socialist Reconstruction of Society

The ballot

"Watch the capitalist closely, and see whether the social question is exclusively an economic one, or whether the political wing is not a very necessary one. The capitalist rules in the shop. Is he satisfied with that? Watch him at election time, it is then he works; he has also another workshop, not an economic one - the legislatures and capitols in the nation. He buzzes around them and accomplishes political results. He gets the laws passed that will protect his economic class interests, and he pulls the wires when these interests are in danger, bringing down the strong arm of political power over the heads of the striking workingmen, who have the notion that the wages or social question is only an economic question. Make no mistake: The organization of the working class must be both economic and political. The capitalist is organized upon both lines. You must attack him on both."

From Reform or Revolution

"The rose on the stalk of 'political action' is the posture it enables a man to hold by which he can preach revolution without having to do so underground; in other words, by which he can teach the economics and sociology of the Social Revolution in the open, where the masses can hear, and not in the dark, where but few can meet."

From As To Politics

"Among the valuable things that capitalism has introduced is the idea of peaceful methods for settling disputes. In feudal days, when lords fell out, production stopped; war had the floor. The courts of law have become the main fields of capitalist, at least internal capitalist battle, and production continues uninterfered with. It matters not how corrupt the courts have become, or one-sided against the working class. The jewel of civilized or peaceful methods for settling disputes is there, however incrusted with slime. Capitalism, being a step forward, as all socialists recognize, can not help but be a handmaid, however clumsy, to civilized methods. Of a piece with the court method for the peaceful settlement of disputes is the political method. The organization that rejects this method and organizes for force only, reads itself out of the pale of civilization, with the practical result that, instead of seizing a weapon furnished by capitalism, it gives capitalism a weapon against itself."

From As To Politics

The industrial form of government

"Civilized society will know no such ridiculous thing as geographic constituencies. It will only know industrial constituencies. The parliament of civilization in America will consist, not of Congressmen from geographic districts, but of representatives of trades throughout the land, and their legislative work will not be the complicated one which a society of conflicting interests, such as capitalism, requires but the easy one which can be summed up in the statistics of the wealth needed, the wealth producible, and the work required - and that any average set of workingmen's representatives are fully able to ascertain, infinitely better than our modern rhetoricians in Congress."

From The Burning Question of Trades Unionism

"The central administrative organ of the Socialist Republic - exactly the opposite of the central power of capitalism, not being the organized power of a ruling class for oppression, in short, not being political, but exclusively administrative of the producing forces of the land - its constituent bodies must be exclusively industrial."

From Socialist Reconstruction of Society


"Lecture rooms on mineralogy, on astronomy, on the differential calculus, on law, on electricity, on anatomy, on all of these and similar subjects, are not liable to become centers from which mental corruption radiates. True, there may be, as there often is, corruption in the appointment of the professors in these, as in all other, branches - but the corruption ends there. The reason is obvious. There is no motive for misdirecting instruction. There may be lack-of-uptodateness; there may be even ignorance; a set purpose to corrupt and mislead is not likely. It is otherwise with regard to the social sciences. Some indirectly, most of them directly, bear upon the class struggle. Indeed, it would go hard to pick out one branch of the social sciences that is not begotten of the palpitations of the class struggle. Where the class struggle palpitates, material interests are at stake. It is an established principle that the material interests of a ruling class, in part, promote immorality. To promote incapacity to reason upon the domain of sociology is one of the corrupt practices of ruling class material interests."

From a letter to Charles H. Chase, 1913

Last page revision: March 4, 2004