The Single Tax and the Labor Movement
Peter Alexander Speek
[A Bulletin of the University of Wisconsin, No. 878,
1917, pp. 90-108]
The Central Labor Union Campaign Committee met on November 4 and
discussed plans for a permanent political organization of labor. It
was decided to call a meeting of the district organizers on November
9, at which a date was to be set for a primary election of delegates
to a county convention.
The political leaders of the campaign, closest to Henry George,
called a mass meeting at Cooper Union on November 6. In the call no
counsel was taken of the trades, either collectively or individually.
At this meeting was adopted a resolution prepared by Henry George and
presented by Rev. John W. Kramer, in which it was proposed to name the
new political organization the "Progressive Democracy,'' and
which ran, in part, as follows:
"Since the Republican party had outlived the days of
its usefulness and the Democratic party was become but a corrupt
we hereby declare that time has come for an
organization which shall be in the true sense Republican and in the
true sense Democratic -- of a real party of the people, of a
Progressive Democracy which shall revive and carry out the
principles of Thomas Jefferson.
We call upon the Central Labor
Union to which is due the credit of taking the initiative in this
great movement, to issue an address to organized workingmen of other
cities, looking to cooperation by similar movements in their own
This resolution called upon all who held the principles of the
Clarendon Hall platform:
"To form themselves throughout the whole country
into associations for the purpose of carrying on the work of
propagating truth by means of lectures, discussions, and the
dissemination of literature so that the way may be prepared for
political action in their various localities and for the formal
organization at the proper time of a national party."
A temporary central committee of three, consisting of John McMackin,
Father Edward McGlynn, and Professor David B. Scott, was appointed to
carry out the organization work. This committee chose G. Barnes, a
publishing agent, as the executive secretary, in preference to Daniel
De Leon, who was another candidate for that position. McMackin was the
only labor representative in the Central Committee. After the first
meeting, Professor Scott retired on account of ill health and James
Redpath, managing editor of the North American Review, took
his place. Barnes in the capacity of executive secretary, on his own
motion, changed the name of the organization from the "Progressive
Democracy" to that of the "Land and Labor Committee."
The initiation of this meeting, the method of the call, and the
character of the appointments, attracted the attention of some of the
labor leaders, especially of the Socialists, who considered the
meeting as the beginning of the "side-tracking" of the labor
movement. The Leader said afterwards: "At this point
began the work of side-tracking the movement from the whole issue of
Labor to the one question of a single land tax.'' The Socialists
even went so far as to explain the appointment of Barnes, a publishing
agent, to the office of executive secretary by personal interests of
Henry George. According to The Leader: "An extensive
system of advertising the George books accompanied and was part of the
appeals issued by the Cooper Union Committee." Apparently this
was done not for the material interests of Henry George but for the
sake of principles advocated in his books.
Though there was much talk about the meeting and its results in labor
circles, no open criticism or protest was made at that time. The
people were enthusiastic and everything went on smoothly. The new
central organization continued its work, especially in organizing land
and labor clubs. It also worked out a constitution and by-laws, which
were adopted on December 1,1886, and which remained in force until the
county convention on January 6, 1887. The Laws Committee of the
Central Labor Union was recognized as the Laws Committee of the United
Labor party at the same time. This committee worked out the "provisions
of the Constitutional Convention and other measures of importance to
the workingmen and the party of United Labor."
According to the call of the Political Committee of the Central Labor
Union, the district organizers met on November 9 at Central Labor
Union Hall. The meeting did not favor the name of "Progressive
Democracy." The motion made by Barnes to name the new
organization the "Land and Labor Party" was defeated, and
the name "United Labor" was adopted. At the same time it was
decided to call a county convention on January 13, 1887, in which each
assembly was to be represented by one delegate for each 200 votes cast
on November 2, altogether 340 delegates. Meanwhile, each assembly
district was to be reorganized. The call for a county convention was
issued and after that the reorganization of districts and election of
delegates went on energetically.
Two kinds of local organizations were formed: (1) District
Associations of the United Labor Party, and (2) Land and Labor Clubs.
Both considered themselves belonging to the United Labor party and in
harmony with the Clarendon Hall Platform, but they differed as to
their constituents and constitution. The Land and Labor Clubs were
organized upon the initiative and with the help of the committee of
three, elected at the Cooper Union meeting. Secretary Barnes
especially agitated for those clubs. They were distinctly singletax
clubs with a membership composed of mixed elements under the
leadership of intellectuals. On the other hand, the district
associations grew up spontaneously from the temporary election
organizations under the leadership of district organizers, mostly
labor leaders. The majority of their constituents were wage-earners.
Thus began the separation of the political or party organization from
the economic or trade organization of labor, and, furthermore, two
different types of local organizations of the party appeared.
The County Convention met on January 6, 1887, in Clarendon Hall. All
340 delegates were present. McMackin was elected chairman, Frank
Ferrell vice-chairman, and J. P. Archibald secretary.
The election of the committees on constitution and organization ended
the work of the first session of the convention, in which participated
almost all the prominent reformers and leaders representing different
political beliefs and schools of thought at that time.
A report of the
Leader described some of them in the following way:
"Honorable Gideon J. Tucker - a delegate
from the 16th Assembly District; W. Lloyd, old, graybearded
Greenback veteran, as a spectator from the platform, among the host
of the younger crusaders in the holy war with oppression and
corruption, was a sight full of inspiration; Jeremiah Murphy
-- the erstwhile prominent president of the freight-handlers in
their palmy days; James Magie -- the rising leader of the
Empire Protective Association; William McCabe -- the
war-horse of other-day labor politics; Phil. Scandell --
whose prominence and valuable services in K. of L. work a couple of
years ago were still fresh in the minds of most of these there last
night; Henry Emrich -- the Furniture-Workers' National Secretary
and one of the Central Labor Union permanent pillars; B. J.
Hawkes -- a trade unionist of experience of both sides of the
ocean and the present trusty treasurer of the County Organization;
Joseph Wilkinson -- the veteran secretary of the Journeymen
Tailors; George K. Lloyd -- who helped to rock the Central
Labor Union in its cradle; Wm. Conclin -- painter, one of
the solid timbers of the 15th A. D.; Wm. Wallace -- chairman
of the "tony" seventh, and a strong link in 49's (K. of
L.) long chain; editor J. W. Sullivan -- one of the
best-posted men present on labor history, political economy, and
social statics; S. Sanial -- chairman of the 24th A. D., a
veteran labor journalist; Patrick Doody -- one of the best
known and most sterling champions of every honest reform; Thomas
Moran -- the most sagacious and finished debater of the
Excelsior Labor Club; Ch. M. Maxwell -- a respected
president of the Omulet Association, touched elbows and grasped
hands in last night's remarkable ensemble of fraternity."
The second session of the county convention was held on January 13 in
Clarendon Hall. The committee on permanent organization was elected as
follows: John McMaekin as chairman, Frank Ferrell as first
vice-chairman, Henry Emrich as second vice-chairman, A. G. Johnson as
first secretary, and Dr. Wm. Gottheil as second secretary. The
proposal to name the new party the "Land and Labor Party"
was defeated, leaving the name of the party unsettled till the next
The temporary central committee formed at the Cooper Union meeting
remained in existence. It bore the name of Land and Labor Committee
and was mainly in charge of the above-mentioned clubs. Thus were
formed not only two types of local organizations, but also two
parallel central committees in the same party. This duality of
organization was due, first, to the conscious intention of the leaders
closest to Henry George, to separate entirely the new party from labor
organizations, and, second, to the existence of a non-labor element in
the party. Henry George and his followers wanted to organize every "honest
citizen '' who accepted their principles. As the radical intellectuals
and merchants and other capitalists who "worked by their heads"
did not belong to organized labor, they, accepting the singletax
theory, joined the clubs more readily than the ordinary district
associations in which the wage-earner element prevailed. The Land and
Labor Clubs, being free from class distinction and having the
singletax for their main issue, were especially favored by the Standard.
Henry George, urging their formation, said:
"In every state headquarters will be opened for the
formation of Land and Labor Clubs.
Land and Labor Clubs are
organizing about thirty a week.
When a sufficient number of
these clubs have been organized to allow a full representation in
all sections of the country, a national convention will be called.
convention will choose the name of the party, will make a platform,
and will decide whether to nominate or not.
The third and last session of the county convention was held on
January 20. The main business of this session was the discussion and
adoption of a platform, rules and regulations for the new party. The
committee on platform, through its chairman, Professor Daniel De Leon,
introduced a resolution which was adopted. It reaffirmed the Clarendon
Hall Platform, emphasized currency reform more emphatically, made a
considerable concession to the Socialists and unionists, calling the
whole economic system "perverse", depriving "the man of
his birth right (land)" and robbing "the producer of a large
share of the fruits of his labor."
On the recommendation of the same resolution the name of the United
Labor party was adopted. This name was not favored by Henry George and
his followers, because it stamped the movement with a class
characteristic. They agreed, however, to accept it temporarily. An
investigation made by the New York Volkszefltung showed that
out of the 340 delegates to the county convention, 320 were
wage-earners and only 20 belonged to other industrial classes. Quoting
the Volkszeitung, the Standard said: "In view of
this statement the name that was adopted last week, 'The United Labor
Party,' seems well chosen.''
The new party organization consisted of: Election district
organizations, assembly district organizations, assembly executive
committee, a county general committee, and a county executive
In the proposed constitution were the following clauses:
"No resident of an Election District shall be
eligible to membership of the corresponding Election District
he has severed all connection with all
other political parties, organizations and clubs." Art. I. Sec.
Further is the statement --
"The County General Committee shall have the power
to amend or alter this constitution subject to a general vote of the
Assembly D. Organization".
Art. IV, Sec. 4.
And still further --
"Twenty-second Ass. D. Organization shall in view of
its exceptional circumstances, be authorized to create an advisory
board on which the various nationalities shall be represented In
proportion to the number of enrolled members in the club of each
Art. VI, Sec. 2."
Thus the permanent county organization of the United Labor party was
completed. It remained only to develop it.
The process of organizing locals and educating the masses went on
smoothly. Aside from New York County, local organizations of the party
were formed in Kings (Brooklyn), Albany, Erie (Buffalo), and other
counties in the state. Small Land and Labor Clubs, though many of them
existed only on paper, appeared here and there. In the city of New
York alone, fifteen such clubs were organized.
On May 5, 1887, a call for a state convention of the United Labor
party to be held at the city of Syracuse on August 17, was issued.
This call was signed by the members of the committee on state
convention, of the general committee, United Labor party, Kings
County; of the committee on state convention of the general committee.
United Labor party, New York County; and of the general committee Land
and Labor. The representation was to be: Three delegates and three
alternates from each assembly district, and one delegate from each
Land and Labor club in districts not regularly organized. In the call,
prepared mainly by Henry George, the following issues were set forth:
(1) The taxation of land values; (2) Demand for currency reform in the
spirit of Greenbackism; (3) Government ownership of railroads and
telegraphs, the private ownership of which while failing adequately to
supply public needs, impoverishes the farmer, oppresses the
manufacturer, hampers the merchants
" The call ended
with a condemnation of the Democratic and Republican parties as "hopelessly
and shamelessly corrupt" and affiliated with monopolies. Labor
demands were entirely omitted from the call; it avoided class
distinctions and appealed to all the people, except landlords and
The dissatisfaction with the general attitude of Henry George and his
followers toward the movement became more intense among the
Socialists. The Leader, describing this history of the
movement afterwards said:
"The call for a state convention (Syracuse, Aug. 17,
1887) was mainly framed by Mr. George and proved to be a very
skillful rhetorical evasion of the main issue between capital and
labor upon which organized labor stands. The rupture grew. Mr.
George for the first time took a serious interest in the party which
he had captured for his plans and policy.
The Socialists began to feel that the philosophy of the Singletaxers
was not a "partial socialism" at all but something opposite,
out of harmony altogether with the Socialist doctrines. Neither did
the tactics of the Singletaxers appeal to the Socialists. The
Singletaxers denied that there was any real conflict of interests
between labor and capital, and that the movement in its nature was a
class movement of labor.
There was also a practical reason why the Singletaxers opposed the
Socialists, their doctrines and tactics. It was explained by Henry
George in an interview with the editor of the Leader before
the Syracuse convention. During this interview, Henry George expressed
his "highest esteem for the personal character, the
self-sacrifice and the honesty of purpose of the Socialists, but said,
on the other hand, that in order not to frighten away the country
votes, the party ought to disclaim all connections with Socialistic
doctrines." Furthermore, Henry George complained that the
Socialists were continuously attacking the singletax theory, trying to
impress their own views upon the new party. Not long before the
Syracuse convention the Standard reported Henry George as
have been persistent in the
attempt to undermine the platform of the party.
they say, 'that the burning social question is not a land tax but
the abolition of all private property in the instruments of
' Very well, then
there is no place for
them in the new party."
Thus arose the contest of supremacy in the political labor movement.
Each of the rival schools honestly and sincerely believed in the
all-curing power of its doctrines and methods and tried to capture
labor by means of agitation, education, and organization. The
Singletaxers, however, had two advantages. First, they already had
established themselves in the movement, and second, they had a strong
popular leader, which the Socialists lacked. The main advantage of the
latter consisted of their compact organization and unity of action.
In the beginning of this struggle the Singletaxers were put on the
defensive. It was only somewhat later that they decided to become
The other schools in the movement had no ambition to capture it.
Greenbackism was declining, while the Knights of Labor and
Trade-Unionists, having their own organizations for their own ends,
did not care much to enforce any definite philosophy or policy of
their own upon the new political party, except that they were quite
firm in the immediate labor demands. So the struggle began between the
Singletaxers and the Socialists.
CAPTURE OF THE LEADER BY THE SOCIALISTS
Leader was the recognized organ of the Central Labor Union and
the United Labor party, being edited from its beginning and during the
political campaign of the fall of 1886 in the spirit of the singletax
and Henry George's policy, the membership of its editorial staff being
his followers and Louis F. Post its editor-in-chief. Shortly after the
fall campaign the Socialists at a general meeting of the shareholders
of the Leader received a large majority of votes and elected
Sergius E. Shevich, a Socialist and former editor of the Volkszeitung,
to the position of editor-in-chief of the Leader. This
apparently sudden victory of the Socialists may be explained, first,
by the fact that the Leader was supported chiefly by the
radical, especially German element, and, second, the Socialists and
their sympathizers had foresightedly distributed their shares more
extensively among themselves, which meant more votes in their favor at
the general meetings of the company, for the voting was exercised upon
the principle of one man, one vote, irrespective of the number of
shares held. The total number of the shares was 900. Out of this
amount only 300 shares were owned by the Socialists. The majority
of the remaining 600 shares were owned by the Central Labor Union and
other individual unions. A considerable number of shares belonged also
to the Greenbackers, the Singletaxers, and individuals not affiliated
with any specific organization or school of thought.
At first the new editor did not attack the singletax theory directly.
Indirectly, however, he criticized it, emphasizing the labor side of
the movement and publishing articles on class conflict which were out
of harmony with the singletax theory.
At the general meeting of the shareholders of the Leader
Company on March 5, 1887, S. E. Shevich was reflected and John
McMackin and James P: Archibald were respectively chosen chairman and
treasurer of the company for the next year.
When the conflict between the Singletaxers and the Socialists in the
locals of the party became acute, the Leader took open stand
against the theory and tactics of the Singletaxers. On June 23, the
Leader commented editorially on the question of the future
policies to be followed by the United Labor party : Restoration of
land to the people, just remuneration of the toilers for their labor,
the shortening of the hours of labor, the public ownership of the
means of transportation and communication were advocated. The Leader
stated also that there existed a conflict between capital and labor,
taking both in the sense of industrial classes and calling those "fools"
and "knaves" who denied the existence of the conflict.
The editorial of the next day stated "that the 'theory' known as
the 'Henry George's' had been promulgated by John Stuart Mill."
Then followed a quotation from the chapter on taxation in Mill's Elements
of Political Economy, in which Mill advocates the taxation of "unearned
appendage." Criticizing Mill, the editorial concluded: "We
suggest to the boodle press that before attacking Henry George it
would be well to pulverize John Stuart Mill." In another
editorial the Leader criticized the Physiocrats and showed
that they had arrived at the same conclusion that Henry George reached
afterwards. In consequence of this attack upon the singletax
theory by the Leader, McMacMn, chairman of the Leader Company
resigned in the beginning of August. Thus even the business
management of the Leader went into the hands of the
Socialists. Their control over the party's organ was now complete.
Almost as an answer to the capture of the
Leader by the Socialists came, at the end of November, 1886,
the announcement by Henry George of his intention to start a weekly
paper of his own under the title of the Standard, the first
copy of which actually appeared on January 8, 1887. Its editorial
staff was as follows: Henry George, proprietor and editor-in-chief;
William T. Croasdale, managing editor; Louis F. Post, editorial and
special writer; Rev. John W. Kramer; J. W. Sullivan, labor editor; W.
B. Scott; and Henry George, Jr.
In his introductory statement Henry George said that he hoped to make
this paper the worthy exponent and advocate of a great party yet
unnamed that was to be formed. The paper was carefully edited.
Much space in it was given to the controversy with the Catholic
Church, to the McGlynn ease, to the explanation of the singletax
theory, and to the agitation in favor of the United Labor party.
Thus each side had its own organ: The Socialists had the Leader,
and the Singletaxers the Standard, both papers being the
organs of the party.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONFLICT WITH THE AUTHORITIES OF THE
The success of the political campaign of organized labor, headed by
Henry George opposing the private ownership in land values, greatly
alarmed the authorities of the Catholic church. Archbishop Corrigan
issued a pastoral letter which was read in the Catholic churches and
published in the newspapers on Nov. 21, 1886. It was mainly directed
against the political uprising of labor, and against the singletax
doctrines, although this was not openly stated in the letter. The
archbishop defended private property in land as being in accordance
with God's laws and economic necessities. For the benefit of the poor
he advocated charity and recalled that Christ proclaimed "the
poor blessed," and bade "them hope for the reward of eternal
Now, who does not see that this is the best way of
settling the struggle of long standing between the poor and the rich."
A criticism of this letter was made by Fr. McGlynn in an interview
with a reporter of the New York
Tribune. For this criticism the archbishop suspended McGlynn
for the remainder of the year and sent a letter to the Cardinal
Prefect of the Propaganda, laying the case before him. Soon after,
McGlynn was ordered to proceed to Rome. However, he refused to obey
this order on account of ill health (he had heart trouble) reaffirming
his adherence to the singletax doctrines: "I would bring about
instantly, if I could, such change of laws all the world over as would
confiscate private property in land, without one penny of compensation
to the miscalled owners." As an answer to this, the
archbishop suspended McGlynn until such time as the highest authority
of the Catholic Church should act.
On September 29, 1886, Henry George made a personal visit to the
archbishop to vindicate McGlynn, having an introductory letter from
the latter in which he said: "It seems to me a providential
occurrence for which we should be thankful, that the labor
organizations have chosen for their leader BO wise and conservative a
man, and one BO utterly opposed, as all his writings show, to
Socialism, communism and anarchy, as Mr. George is."
The visit was a short and a most formal one. It did not accomplish
its purpose. On the next day Henry George wrote a private letter to
the bishop in which he stated that the hostility of the church
authorities "could but give point to the assertions of those who
are striving to alienate workingmen from the church, by declaring that
its authorities have always exerted their power against any attempt to
In answer to the pastoral letter of the archbishop of November 21,
1886, Henry George published an open letter on December 7, 1886, in
which he stated that the pastoral letter places the Catholic Church "in
the attitude of a champion of private property in land." Then
he defended his singletax theory on the same grounds on which the
archbishop attacked it, that is, God's law and natural laws.
When McGlynn was ordered to Rome, Henry George published a strong
article in the first issue of the Standard in which he
vigorously attacked the actions of the Catholic Church. This
article created a sensation and two extra editions of the Standard,
in all 75,000 copies, were issued. From now on Henry George gave a
large space in the Standard to the conflict with the Catholic
Church, which grew to international importance. In the next issue of
the Standard he wrote:
"It is notorious that in New York the Catholic
church has a long series of years been more or less allied with
Tammany, and that this Influence, for which a quid pro quo
has been paid by grants of public property and lavish appropriations
of public money.
And this is significant, that Archbishop
Corrigan had no objections to Dr. McGlynn making any number of
speeches for a candidate by Tammany."
The newspapers of the old parties approved of the archbishop's action
when he, in the middle of January, removed McGlynn from his pastorate.
Even many Protestant. Church authorities, actually in conflict with
those of the Catholic Church, took the side of the latter in the
At the beginning of May, Cardinal Simeoni summoned McGlynn to Rome,
giving him forty days to go, under pain of excommunication. As McGlynn
could not obey this order, he was excommunicated from the Catholic
Church by Archbishop Corrigan on July 3, 1887.
At the end of March, McGlynn addressed a very large audience,
composed mainly of Catholics and his former parishioners, in the
Academy of Music, on the theme of "The Cross of the New Crusade"
against poverty. This address was repeated by him at various times and
places, even outside of New York. At the end of April he addressed the
Brooklyn people. Describing this meeting, Henry George wrote: "On
last Wednesday it was Brooklyn's turn to do honor to Rev. McGlynn. A
big audience collected in the Academy of Music to hear the famous
divine deliver his lecture on The Cross of the New Crusade . . . "
The beginning of these lectures of McGlynn coincided with the
creation of an organization known as the Anti-Poverty Society, the
idea of which was originated by Thomas McCready of the
Standard staff. A militant society to fight poverty, to arouse
the New York slums in the tenement sections by educating the masses to
the idea of the singletax, was to be formed.
On March 26, 1887, a small meeting took place in the office of the
Standard at which the first organization under the name of the
Anti-Poverty Society suggested by McCready was called into life.
MeGlynn was appointed president; Henry George, vice president;
Benjamin Urner, a merchant, treasurer; and M. Clark, a member of the
editorial staff of the Irish World, secretary.
The first formal meeting of the new society was called on May 1 in
Chickering Hall. The attendance at this meeting was so large that many
people had to be turned away. The chief speakers were McGlynn and
Henry George. The latter said in part:
"The simple words, 'Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be
done on earth as it is In heaven,' as they fell from the
lips of a Christian priest who proclaims the common fatherhood of
God and the common brotherhood of man
have in them the power
with which Christianity conquered the world . . . ."
The enrollment of the members for the new society was large. Women
and men of various religious denominations and walks of life joined
the society. Everyone signed a card on which the object of the society
was printed and paid an entrance fee of one dollar. Most of the
Socialists kept away from the society on account of its religious
spirit. A considerable number of McGlynn's former parishioners, mostly
Irish wage-earners, joined the Anti-Poverty Society, which served as a
good propaganda organization for the singletax theory among the masses
and thereby helped along the general movement.
THE CONFLICT OVER THE TERM "LABOR" IN THE PARTY'S NAME
Although the county convention adopted the name of the United Labor
party and Henry George and his followers halfheartedly agreed to it
for the time being, they were always dissatisfied with this name and
at no time, during the whole career of the party, did they succeed in
getting rid of it. The
Standard opened its pages for the discussion on the party's
name. Henry George favored the name of either Free Soil or Free Land
party. He rejected the term "labor," because "it
has narrow associations and would handicap the new party with the
notion that it is merely a class movement." At the same time
the labor unionists and especially the Socialists vigorously defended
the adopted name of the "United Labor party and particularly the
term Labor in it. The Leader said: "In the word 'Labor'
are crystallized the noblest aspirations, the grandest and broadest
ideas of our century." The followers of Henry George
suggested many different names for the party. For example:
Anti-Monopolists, Nationalists, Federalists, Christian, the People's
Rights, Anti-Poverty, etc. At the end of 1887 Henry George wrote
"It was said over and over again during the
campaigning (The state campaign of 1887) that the United Labor party
is not a 'labor' party in the ordinary meaning of the term. It has
no more claim on the votes of the wage-earners, than on those of the
farmers or any other class of people."
Henry George continued to favor the name of the Free Soil party.
McGlynn favored the title of the Commonwealth party.
This outspoken opposition of the Singletaxers to the term ''labor"
in the party's name gave their opponents, the Socialists, a strong
argument in attacking the Singletaxers for "side-tracking"
the labor movement. The Singletaxers themselves hardly gained anything
by it; they were not in position to shift the movement from the
organized labor to that of all classes of the people as they wished
DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CENTRAL ORGANIZATIONS
The central organizations of the party at the beginning of July,
1887, consisted of the county general committee, of which McMackin was
chairman. It met at Clarendon Hall on the first Thursday of each
The county executive committee had a room at 28 Cooper Union and was
composed of twenty-four members, one from each assembly district. John
McMackin was chairman.
The election of delegates to the state convention in the assembly
districts began in the month of July. Here and there appeared
instructions to the delegates to defend the term "labor" in
the party's name, to emphasize "labor demands" in the
platform, to nominate a "straight labor ticket," etc. The
Singletaxers attributed such instructions to the influence of the
Socialists. To a certain degree this was true. In the middle of July
rumors that the Socialists would be ousted from the United Labor party
on the ground that they belonged to another political party, namely,
the Socialist Labor party, began to circulate. At the same time
conflicts between the Singletaxers and the Socialists in several of
the assembly districts, especially in the tenth, began. The Socialists
insisted that the County Executive Committee issue a ruling on the
eligibility of the Socialists for membership in the United Labor
party. On July 24 the Committee met and passed unanimously the
"Resolved, that it is the sense of the County
Executive Committee that membership in the Socialist Labor party
does not disqualify a citizen for membership in the United Labor
This resolution encouraged the Socialists in their attack on the
policies of the Singletaxers in the party. In the election of
delegates to the state convention, they tried to push ahead their
candidates and to insert their views in the instructions to the
delegates. These actions of the Socialists evoked from the press of
the old parties the opinion that, as in the ease of the Leader,
the Socialists were endeavoring to capture the United Labor party for
their own purposes. These rumors and the energetic agitation by the
Socialists in behalf of their views and philosophy led the
Singletaxers to a definite decision to oust the Socialists from the
United Labor party.
The County General Committee met on August 5. One of the questions to
be considered was the above quoted resolution of the County Executive
Committee on the eligibility of the Socialists to the United Labor
party. After discussing the report of the County Executive Committee,
delegate August Mayer of the tenth assembly district rose and
moved to approve the report save that part of it which contained the
above resolution. This motion created much confusion. Some demanded
its adoption, some wanted to reject it, but most loud were the voices
of those who were calling for a ruling by the chairman. When
comparative order was restored, Chairman McMackin ruled as follows: "If
I am compelled to, I shall have to rule that, according to the
constitution, all parties which have nominated and run candidates are
political parties, and are comprehended by the letter of the section."
He based his ruling on the following arguments: The Socialist party
was certainly a political party; the Greenbackers had been admitted
because they dismembered their party and came in as individuals -- the
Socialists ought to do likewise. In summing up his arguments, he
concluded: ''We cannot afford to tolerate Greenback, Irish, German or
Socialist factions here. We must stand for American ideas as American
citizens." A vote was then taken and the chair was sustained
by a considerable majority. Thus the Socialists were ruled out of the
United Labor party by its highest authority in existence at that time.
On the second day, the Leader, in an article entitled "A
Fatal Mistake", replied to the decision of the County General
Committee. The arguments of the Leader were that the Socialist
Labor party had never been a political party; that where it had
nominated candidates for office, it had done so purely and solely for
purposes of propaganda; that if the bare fact of nomination qualified
that organization as a political party, then the Central Labor Union
was also a political party, for it had repeatedly nominated
candidates; that the Socialists (members of the Socialist Labor party)
had been accepted by the Central Labor Union at the beginning of the
political movement, in the fall campaign of 1886 and by the County
Convention of the United Labor party; and that in the discussion of
the constitution of the new party, it was definitely stated that the
Socialist Labor party did not come under Article I, Section 2;
furthermore, in a letter written by the chairman of the party, John
McMackin, to August Mayer of the tenth assembly district, a fortnight
before, and in the resolution of the County Executive Committee, it
was expressly stated that membership in the Socialist Labor party did
not disqualify a citizen for membership in the United Labor party.
The Socialists did not want to be ousted; they were quite firmly
against an open split. They considered the United Labor party as an
organization very favorable for the propaganda of their ideas and
philosophy. Furthermore, organized labor, in their eyes, was in danger
of being "side-tracked" by the Singletaxers. The Socialists
thought that they could more effectively prevent this by staying
within the party.
Thus the struggle between the two philosophical schools in the new
party began almost in its cradle.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
- Public, Nov. 3, 1911,
- The Leader, Nov. 8,
1887, p. 3. The Central Labor Union at once issued a call to
organized labor throughout the United States asking it to form
political associations preliminary to the national convention of
the new party. -- Standard, Jan. 8, 1887, p. 7.
- Leader, Oct. 30, 1887,
- Leader, Oct. 30, 1887,
- Appendix II.
- Appendix III.
- Leader, Jan. 7, 1887,
- Standard, Jan. 15,
1887, p. 3.
- Standard, Jan. 22,
1887, p. 6.
- Standard, Jan. 22,
1887, p. 6.
- Leader, Jan. 22, 1887,
p. 3, col. 2.
- Leader, May 6, 1887,
- Leader, May 5, 1887,
- Leader, Oct. 30, 1887,
- Leader, Aug. 17, 1887,
- Standard, Aug. 13,
1887, p. 1.
- S. E. Shevich was a Russian
nobleman employed in the diplomatic service. He became a follower
of Ferdinand Lassalle in Germany, and was forced to leave not only
his diplomatic position but his native country. At the end of the
seventies he migrated to the United States and began to take
active part in the Socialist movement. He was a well-read man,
spoke several languages and possessed oratorical abilities. He was
one of those who were instrumental in bringing about, in the
middle eighties, a change in the tactics of the Socialist Labor
party -- from independent political action to educational methods.
- New York World, Sept.
8, 1887, p. 2.
- Standard, March 12,
1887, p. 3.
- Leader, June 23, 1887,
- Leader, June 24, 1887,
- Leader, July 14, 1887,
- Standard, Aug. 13,
1887, p. 1.
- Standard, Jan. 8,
1887, p. 1.
- George-Hewitt Campaign,
Louis F. Post and Fred C. Leubuscher, New York, 1886, 139.
- Standard, Feb. 5,
- Standard, Jan. 8,
1887, p. 1.
- George-Hewitt Campaign,
- Standard, Jan. 8,
1887, p. 1.
- Standard, Jan. 15,
1887, p. 1. McGlynn made speeches in behalf of the candidacy of
Cleveland, 1882; no objections to his speeches were made by the
- Standard, Apr. 30,
1887, p. 1.
- Standard, May 7, 1887.
- Standard, June 18,
- Standard, July 30,
1887, p. 1.
- Leader, July 30, 1887,
- Standard, Dec. 3,
1887, p. 1.
- Leader, Aug. 5, 1887.
p. 2; Standard, Aug. 13, 1887, p. 1.
- A former "walking
delegate" for the American Fresco-Painters' Union.
- Leader, Aug. 5. 1887,
p. 2 ; Standard, Aug. 13, 1887, p. 1.