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New Jersey. The party held its first convention in New York in the beginning of July following, at which the Lassallean philosophy predominated. Not only was it fully agreed that the workingmen must centre their efforts upon political action, but the platform included a plank demanding the "abolition of all monopolies in transportation, commerce, industry, mining and agriculture, and their operation by democratically constituted co-operative associations with the aid of the credit and .supervision of the state." 67 Two men, who later achieved the greatest prominence in the trade union movement, were chosen national officers of the party: Adolph Strasser, cigar maker, was made national secretary, and P. J. McGuire, carpenter, member of the executive board.
Strasser's defection to the Social Democratic party might be interpreted as a repudiation of the principles of the International. In reality, however, he never had forsaken the trade union tenets of the International, but doubtless was driven into the arms of the Lassalleans by many considerations, some of them of a positive, others of a negative character. His practical mind certainly could not help tracing the incessant internal strife within the International to its true source, namely, its nearly complete isolation from American life. He must have felt that, above all, the movement needed to be Americanised: first, in order that it might be restored to a normal life and, second, and by far the more important consideration, that it might be made attractive to the American wage-earners. His allies, the Lassalleans, starting out from their philosophy of political action, were just as keenly alive, if for a different reason, to the necessity for nationalising the movement. Consequently, they were in perfect agreement as far as first steps were concerned. Furthermore, since Strasser was firmly convinced that the need for trade unions was inevitably dictated by the exigencies of American working-class life, it is not at all un
67 New York Sozial-Demokrat, Nov. 28, 1874.
68 Ibid., Dec. 12, 1874.
Peter J. McGuire was born in New York City in 1852, of Irish parents. He received an education above an average workingman's, having studied nights in the Cooper Institute and also in an evening high school. In 1867 he became ap
prenticed to a wood-joiner and in 1872, joined the union of his trade. Here the able young Irishman fell under the intellectual influence of the German-speaking socialists and started on his remarkable career as one of the small circle of leaders to whom the American Federation of Labor owes its life and success. He died in 1914.
likely that he felt certain of his ability to convert the Lassalleans to trade unionism by compromising with them on the question of political action.
P. J. McGuire was but a young man of twenty-two, when he joined the Lassalleans, and was only learning his first lessons about the labour movement. The fact that at this time he became affiliated with a political party which held a negative attitude towards trade unionism does not particularly call for a reconciliation with his later purely trade union career.
Soon, however, the party's attitude on the crucial questions of trade unionism and politics began to give trouble. Dr. G. C. Stiebeling was the spokesman for the Internationals. He stated his point of view in the Sozial-Demokrat, the official party organ, appearing in New York, as follows: We possess here complete freedom of speech, press and meeting; consequently, we may carry on our agitation untrammelled. Let us Germans set the good example. Let us organise a political party and try, in accordance with our means, to draw our English-speaking brethren with us." So far all agreed, but there was no such general agreement upon what he further proceeded to say: "At present we have an official organ and an executive committee, which is elected by the membership of the Social Democratic party. If, however, this will have to be changed when the trade unions will become more numerous and better organised, then the movement will be absolutely directed from the Central Committee of the Amalgamated Trade Unions.” 69
The executive board was pro-trade union, although the convention had passed the question by in complete silence. October 27, 1874, it passed a resolution asking the trade unions for their close co-operation with the party.70 On the other hand, the editor of the paper, Gustav Lyser, was a dogmatic Lassallean and hostile to trade unions. Lyser's position became untenable from the standpoint of the party when it at last succeeded in establishing friendly relations with the National Furniture Workers' Union," and he was in consequence removed by the executive board in March, 1875. The paper changed under the new management from hostility toward trade unions
69 Ibid., Jan. 8, 1875.
To Ibid., Dec. 12, 1874.
71 The New York Sozial-Demokrat be
came the official organ of the union after
to friendliness, but the essentially Lassallean overtures for the political support of the small property owners continued as before.
The next convention met in July, 1875. Delegates came from New York, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Newark, Williamsburg, Cleveland, Detroit, and Evansville. The convention adopted a positive trade union policy in the following words: "The convention declares that under the present conditions the organisation of working people into trade unions is indispensable, and that each party member is obliged to become a member of the union of his trade or to aid in establishing a trade union, if none exists." 72 Furthermore, the convention expelled Lyser from the party in punishment for his attack on trade unionism in the Milwaukee Sozialist, of which he had in the meantime become editor. The convention also decided to found an English paper as soon as possible and to choose a Marxian, Dr. Otto Walster, of Dresden, as permanent editor of the Sozial-Demokrat.73
Thus, by the middle of 1875, the secessionist movement, both in Chicago and the East, had travelled a considerable distance back to the original ideas of the International. The time was ripening for a reunion of the factions of the socialist movement.
Attempts at unification began during 1875. In Chicago, this was practically accomplished between the sections of the International and the Labor party of Illinois as early as the middle of 1875, and the union committee of that city tried repeatedly to crown its work by bringing about union on a national scale. In New York, general conferences were held between the International, the United Workers, and the Social-Democratic party.
The International and its English-speaking branch, the United Workers, desired to maintain an international form of organisation while the Social-Democratic party contended that no advantage was to be derived from international affiliations.74 Again this difference was caused by a more fundamental difference of opinion on the question of labour tactics. The International, primarily bent on building up strong trade unions, wished to establish an organisation that would do for them pre
72 New York Sozial-Demokrat, July 25, 1875.
74 Chicago Vorbote, Dec. 25, 1875.
cisely what the old International had done for the trade unions in England; that is, protect them from the international competition of cheaper labour. On the other hand, the majority among the Social Democrats for the present continued to think in terms of the Lassallean philosophy on the question of labour politics and aimed at immediate political action. Consequently, they found that a strictly national form of organisation would better suit their purpose. No agreement could be reached, and the fusion of the organisation would probably have been postponed, had it not been for the approaching national labour convention in Pittsburgh. The good prospect of a socialist victory at that convention impelled the contending sides to unite in order to force an entering wedge for socialism into the English-speaking labour movement. The Sozial-Demokrat 75 proposed that the united socialists should offer for acceptance by the congress a strictly Lassallean platform, but, at a joint conference which was held in Pittsburgh several days before the opening of the convention, a programme of action as advocated by the International gained the upper hand.
75 Feb. 20, 1876.
ATTEMPTED UNION-THE PITTSBURGH
CONVENTION OF 1876
The preliminary convention at Tyrone, Pennsylvania, and the two reports on a platform, 235. Discontinuity of the Pittsburgh convention from all preceding labour conventions, 236. The socialist draft of a platform, 237. The Greenback draft by the committee on resolutions, 237. Victory of the greenbackers and the withdrawal of the socialists, 238. Other planks in the platform, 238. Negative attitude towards politics, 238. Recommendation to organise secretly, 239. Failure to establish a permanent national federation of all labour organisations, 239.
THE national convention met at Tyrone,1 Pennsylvania, on December 28, 1875, as specified in the call issued by the Junior Sons of '76. It was well attended, 132 delegates being present. The spokesman of the socialists was P. J. McGuire, of Connecticut, while George Blair, of New York, appeared for the Knights of Labor. But apparently nearly all the delegates came from Pennsylvania and all of the elected officers, notably the chairman, John M. Davis, a Knight of Labor, and editor of the National Labor Tribune, were from that State. This probably explains why it was that the committee on amalgamation recommended the calling of a second convention to be held in Pittsburgh, April 17, 1876, to which "all organisations having for their object the elevation of labor" should be invited. To this all consented, but it was nevertheless decided to adopt a platform. The committee on platform presented two reports. The text of the minority report did not appear in the proceedings, but, as it was written by McGuire, it can safely be presumed that it was imbued with the socialist spirit. The majority report was drafted in the phraseology of the platform of the Junior Sons, yet it differed materially from the latter. The financial plank was comprehensive; it included the scheme of
1 Official Proceedings are given in the Pittsburgh National Labor Tribune, Jan. 8, 1876.
2 They claimed in a resolution to represent 120.000 organised workingmen, which doubtless was a gross exaggeration.