To celebrate the 4th of July, and for the sake of posterity, I want to share my favorite policy platforms from America’s history. (For the sake of variety, I will limit it to one per party.) I may not agree with all, or in some cases even most of the propositions contained therein, but they each have a few good ideas which inspired me in my own political opinions. To continue this series, here is the platform which Daniel De Leon ran on in 1896, free of any commentary or editorializing. The only alterations I’ve made to the text are limited to adjusting the formatting so it’s easier to follow.
Reaffirmed at New York City,
July 4, 1896
The Socialist Labor party of the United States, in convention assembled, reasserts the inalienable right of all men to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
With the founders of the American republic we hold that the purpose of government is to secure every citizen in the enjoyment of this right; but in the light of our social conditions we hold, furthermore, that no such right can be exercised under a system of inequality essentially destructive of life, of liberty and of happiness.
With the founders of this republic we hold that the true theory of politics is that the machinery of government must be owned and controlled by the whole people; but in the light of our industrial development we hold, furthermore, that the true theory of economics is that the machinery of production must likewise belong to the people in common.
To the obvious fact that our despotic system of economics is the direct opposite of our democratic system of politics, can plainly be traced the existence of a privileged class, the corruption of government by that class, the alienation of public property, public franchises and public functions to that class and the abject dependence of the mightiest nations upon that class.
Again, through the perversion of democracy to the ends of plutocracy, labor is robbed of the wealth which it alone produces, is denied the means of self-employment, and by compulsory idleness in wage slavery, is even deprived of the necessaries of life.
Human power and natural forces are thus wasted, that this plutocracy may rule.
Ignorance and misery, with all their concomitant evils, are perpetuated, that the people may be kept in bondage.
Science and invention are diverted from their humane purpose to the enslavement of women and children.
Against such a system the Socialist Labor party once more enters its protest. Once more it reiterates its fundamental declaration that private property in the natural sources of production and in the instruments of labor is the obvious cause of all economic servitude and political dependence; and
Whereas, The time is fast coming when, in the natural course of social evolution, this system, through the destructive action of its failures and crimes on the one hand and the constructive tendencies of its trusts and other capitalistic combinations on the other hand, shall have worked to its own downfall; therefore be it
Resolved, that we call upon the people to organize with a view to the substitution of the co-operative commonwealth for the present state of planless production, industrial war and social disorder; a commonwealth in which every worker shall have the free exercise and full benefit of his faculties, multiplied by all the modern factors of civilization.
We call upon them to unite with us in a mighty effort to gain by all practicable means the political power.
In the meantime, and with a view to immediate improvement in the condition of labor, we present the following demands:
1. Reduction of the hours of labor in proportion to the progress of production.
2. The United States shall obtain possession of the railroads, canals, telegraphs, telephones and all other means of public transportation and communication; but no employee shall be discharged for political reasons.
3. The municipalities to obtain possession of the local railroads, ferries, water works, gas works, electric plants and all industries requiring municipal franchises; but no employee shall be discharged for political reasons.
4. The public lands to be declared inalienable. Revocation of all land grants to corporations or individuals the conditions of which have not been complied with.
5. Legal incorporation by the states of the local trades unions which have no national organization.
6. The United States to have the exclusive right to issue money.
7. Congressional legislation providing for the scientific management of forests and waterways and prohibiting the waste of the natural resources of the country.
8. Inventions free to all; the inventors to be remunerated by the nation.
9. Progressive income tax and tax on inheritances; the smaller incomes to be exempt.
10. School education of all children under 14 years of age to be compulsory, gratuitous and accessible to all by public assistance in meals, clothing, books, etc., where necessary.
11. Repeal of all pauper, tramp, conspiracy and sumptuary laws. Unabridged right of combination.
12. Official statistics concerning the condition of labor. Prohibition of the employment of children of school age and of the employment of female labor in occupations detrimental to health and morality. Abolition of the convict labor contract system.
13. Employment of the unemployed by the public authorities (county, city, state and nation).
14. All wages to be paid in lawful money of the United States. Equalization of women’s wages with those of men where equal service is performed.
15. Laws for the protection of life and limb in all occupations, and an efficient employers’ liability law.
1. The people to have the right to propose laws and to vote upon all measures of importance, according to the referendum principle.
2. Abolition of the veto power of the executive (national, state and municipal) wherever it exists.
3. Municipal self-government.
4. Direct vote and secret ballots in all elections. Universal and equal right of suffrage without regard to color, creed or sex. Election days to be legal holidays. The principle of proportional representation to be introduced.
5. All public officers to be subject to recall by their respective constituents.
6. Uniform civil and criminal law throughout the United States. Administration of justice to be free of charge. Abolition of capital punishment.
I saw absolutely nothing of value in the ideas of this political party. Again it seems to expand government power instead of finding more ways to limit it. I distrust labor Unions and giving them more power seems very frightening. This platform came out at a time when capitalism was shortening work hours and raising the standard of living of working people. No wonder this party couldn’t get much popular support.