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SYNDICALISM, 1876-1884

The Nationalised International. Preliminary union conference of all socialist organisations, 269. The Union Congress, 270. The Workingmen's party of the United States, 270. Resolution on political action, 270. Plan of organisation, 270. “Trade union" and "political" factions, 270. Phillip Van Patten, 272. New Haven experiment with politics, 272. Chicago election, 273. Factional differences, 273. Struggle for the Labor Standard, 274. Douai's effort of mediation, 275. Effect of the great strikes of 1877 on the factional struggle, 276. Part played by the socialists in the strike movement, 277.

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Rush Into Politics. Election results, 277. Newark convention, 277. Control by the political faction, 278. Socialist Labor party, 278. Strength of the trade union faction in Chicago, 279. Success in the Chicago election, 279. Failure in Cincinnati, 279. Van Patten's attitude towards trade unions, 280. Workingmen's military organisations, 280. Autumn election of 1879, 282. Chicago — the principal socialist centre, 282. Influence in the state legislature, 283. Chicago municipal election of 1879, 284. Persistent pro-trade union attitude of the Chicago socialists, 284. Effect of prosperity, 284. National convention at Alleghany City, 284. Differences of opinion on a compromise with the greenbackers, 285. National greenback convention, 285. The "socialist" plank in the platform, 286. The double revolt: the "trade union" faction, and the revolutionists in the East, 287. Attitude of the New Yorker Volkszeitung, 287. Referendum vote, 288. Decrease in the greenback vote, 289. Struggle between the compromisers and non-compromisers in the socialist ranks, 289.

Evolution Towards Anarchism and "Syndicalism." Chicago and New York, 291. The national convention of the revolutionary socialists, 291. Affiliation with the International Working People's Association in London, 291. Attitude towards politics and trade unionism, 292. August Spies, 291. Proposed form or organisation, 292. Political action in Chicago once more, 292. Reorganisation in Chicago along revolutionary lines, 292. Johann Most and his philosophy, 293. The Pittsburgh convention and the Manifesto, 293. Crystallisation of a syndicalist" philosophy in Chicago, 296. Attitude towards the state, trade unionism, politics, and violence, 294. A model "syndicalist" trade union, 296. The Red International. 298. Burnette G. Haskell and Joseph R. Buchanan, 298. Ebb of the Socialist Labor party, 300.


ALTHOUGH the Pittsburgh convention of 1876 refused to endorse socialism, it proved a potent agency in favour of

socialist unity. The same joint conference, which decided upon a common programme of action at the convention, drew up the articles of fusion. The preliminary terms were a victory for the International since they embodied their attitude on trade unionism and politics, and, besides provided for an international council to maintain permanent connection with the labour organisations of Europe.2

The conference appointed a committee of two to serve as an intermediary between the organisations until the final settlement at a Union Congress to be held in Philadelphia. The congress met July 19, 1876, with the following delegates: F. A. Sorge and Otto Weydemeyer, from the International; Conrad A. Conzett, from the Labor party of Illinois; Charles Braun, from the Social Political Workingmen's Society of Cincinnati; and A. Strasser, A. Gabriel, and P. J. McGuire, from the Social Democratic party. The platform of the united party, called the Workingmen's party of the United States, contained a Declaration of Principles, taken from the General Statutes of the International, and a list of demands adopted from the platform of the Social Democratic party. However, with regard to political action and trade unionism, the platform unequivocally took the position of the International. It said:

"The political action of the party is confined generally to obtaining legislative acts in the interest of the working class proper. It will not enter into a political campaign before being strong enough to exercise a perceptible influence, and then in the first place locally in the towns or cities, when demands of purely local character may be presented, providing they are not in conflict with the platform and principles of the party.

"We work for the organization of trades unions upon a national and international basis to ameliorate the condition of the working people and seek to spread therein the above principles."

In the matter of the form of organisation, a concession was

1 The following organisations were represented at the conference: the International with 635 members, the Labor party of Illinois with 593, the Social Democratic party with 1,500, and the Social-Political Workingmen's Society of Cincinnati (German) with 250 members.

2 Chicago Vorbote, Apr. 21, 1876.

3 In this respect it resembled the platform adopted by the German socialist congress in 1875 at Gotha at which there took place a fusion of the Lassalleans and the Marxists. The fusion in Germany was a factor in accelerating the fusion in America.

4 Labor Standard, Feb. 24, 1877.

made to the Social Democratic party, which demanded a national organisation instead of an international. The constitution provided for an Executive Committee and a Board of Control. Chicago was elected the seat of the former and Newark the seat of the latter. A further concession to the Lassalleans was made in a resolution put forward by McGuire and opposed by Sorge, Strasser, Weydemeyer, and Conzett, empowering the executive committee to allow local sections to enter political campaigns when circumstances were very favourable. The Vorbote in Chicago and the Sozial-Demokrat in New York were declared official organs, the name of the latter being changed to the Arbeiterstimme. The English organ of the Social Democratic party, the Socialist, was treated likewise. Its name was changed to Labor Standard and McDonnell of the United Workers was selected editor.

In order not to endanger union any further, the referendum vote of the membership on the resolutions of the congress was dispensed with, and the Workingmen's Party of the United States was launched immediately after the Congress.

The unification of the socialist factions in 1876 did not do away with the differences within the movement. The two opposing factions, the Internationalist and the Lassallean, continued to exist as before. However, their differences became more crystallised and were reduced, as it were, to their bare essence. The fundamental difference, that between trade unionism, emphasised by the International, and political action, advocated by the Lassalleans, was no longer hidden beneath other distinctions lying nearer the surface. The Internationalists had conceded to the Lassalleans that the labour movement must become nationalised in order to succeed; the Lassalleans, on their part, had conceded that the emancipation of labour might come through agencies different from co-operative societies with state credit. Similarly, the old terms "Lassallean" and "Internationalist" gradually gave way to the simpler ones, "political" socialist and "trade union" socialist, which served to convey a better and more exact impression of the actual difference. The victory won by the "trade union" element in the negotiations for unity had been due mainly to the fact that the necessity for capturing the National Labor Convention had made its

leadership imperative. The lasting predominance of the "trade union" element was therefore far from being assured.

This came to light soon after the selection of a National Executive Committee, which, in accordance with the constitution, was made by the sections in Chicago, the Union Congress having chosen that city as the seat of the board. The New Haven sections, numbering about a hundred members, decided by a majority of two votes to petition the board for permission to nominate candidates for the legislature. The Labor Standard and the Vorbote opposed it, but through the efforts of the national secretary, Phillip Van Patten, permission was finally granted." Van Patten was a native American, coming from the middle class and was a leading figure in the socialist movement from 1876 to 1884. His sympathies from the very beginning were apparently with the political rather than with the trade union faction.

The outcome of the New Haven experiment was quite favourable, the ticket polling 640 votes. It naturally tended to encourage the political faction throughout the country, so that the question of immediate political action became the foremost one in the party and the party organs. The example was followed in February, 1877, by the Cincinnati sections. In Milwaukee, where Gustav Lyser, a former Lassallean, edited a paper, the sections formed a Social Democratic party with the object of taking part in the spring election. Even in Chicago, the centre of the trade union faction, the pressure in favour of participating in the next election became so strong that it could no longer be resisted.8

The political faction in Chicago was represented by former Lassalleans and by a group of English-speaking socialists. The former had their own organ, called first the Sozialist and later changed to the Chicagoer Volkszeitung. Knowing that the trade union faction, the Vorbote and its followers, would agree to enter politics only under extreme pressure, they called a mass meeting. This was attended by 600 or 700 people, and put through a resolution declaring for entry in the political campaign in the spring, irrespective of whether the national execu

5 New York Arbeiterstimme, Nov. 26, 1876. 6 Ibid.

7 Ibid., Feb. 25, 1877.

8 Chicago Vorbote, Mar. 10, 1877.

tive permitted it or not. Prominent in this action were Karl Klinge, Kraus, and Winnen (former Lassalleans), and Albert R. Parsons, who had recently joined the English-speaking section. The Vorbote group, or the trade union faction, desiring to avoid a split in the party, reluctantly gave in, and Parsons was nominated at a general meeting of the sections as candidate for alderman in the Fifteenth ward on a platform demanding municipal ownership of public utilities, the abolition of the contract system on city works, fair hours and fair wages for city employés, and similar measures. 10

The result of the election proved encouraging. Parsons polled one-sixth of the total vote cast in his ward.11 In Milwaukee the socialist ticket polled 1,500 votes and elected 2 aldermen, 2 supervisors, and 2 constables. 12 In Cincinnati the socialist vote reached 3,900, one-tenth of all the votes cast.

This success helped further to strengthen the political faction in its discontent with the restrictions imposed by the Union Congress. Already, in February, 1877, the German section in New York had requested the German section in Newark to support a proposal that a party convention should be called at an early date. The Newark section, which belonged to the trade union faction, flatly refused, declaring that the status established by the Union Congress needed no change.

The situation was described in the correspondence which appeared in April, 1877, in the Sozial-Demokrat, the central organ of the social democracy in Germany:


"The unification of both socialist factions in America, which was accomplished with enormous difficulty, is still in danger. . . . The Lassalleans, and with them the younger immigrants, who are yet novices in the labour movement, desire to enter the political arena so as to acquire influence, by means of universal suffrage, first in the municipality, then in the several states, and are consequently very much dissatisfied with the decision of the Union Congress, which prohibits the sections from participating in local elections before they can feel certain of success, and even then only on a platform of purely labour demands. The Internationalists and the older and more experienced immigrants, on the other hand, foresee nothing.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid., Mar. 17 and 24, 1877.

11 Ibid., Apr. 14, 1877.

18 Ibid., Feb. 28, 1877.

14 Reprinted in the Chicago Vorbote, May 19, 1877.

12 New York, Arbeiterstimme, Apr. 15, 1877.

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