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Daniel De Leon

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Daniel De Leon (December 14, 1852May 11, 1914) was born in Curaçao. He was educated in Germany and the Netherlands and arrived in the United States in 1874.

De Leon settled in New York, studying at Columbia University. He became a committed socialist and in 1890 joined the Socialist Labor Party (SLP), becoming the editor of its newspaper, The People. He quickly grew in stature inside the party and in 1891 he ran for the governorship of the state of New York, winning 13,000 votes in the process.

De Leon was a Marxist and argued for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, trying to divert the SLP away from its Lassallian outlook. However, his famous polemic with James Connolly shows him to have been an advocate of Lassalle's Iron Law of Wages.

De Leon was highly critical of the trade union movement in America and described the craft-oriented American Federation of Labor as the American Separation of Labor. At this early stage in De Leon's development there was still a considerable remnant of the general unionist Knights of Labor in existence, and the SLP worked within it until driven out. This resulted in the formation of the Socialist Trade and Labor Alliance (STLA) in 1895, which was dominated by the SLP.

By the early 20th century the SLP was declining in influence, with first the Social Democratic Party and then the Socialist Party of America becoming the leading leftist political force in America. However, De Leon remained an important figure in the US labor movement, and in 1905 he helped found the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

De Leon lost control and the ability to influence the organisation to what he called disparagingly 'the bummery' and left the IWW to form a rival Detroit-based IWW, which was soon renamed as the Workers' International Industrial Union. He died in New York in 1914.

Daniel De Leon proved hugely influential to other socialists, also outside the USA. For example, in the UK, a Socialist Labour Party was formed.

De Leon's brand of Marxism is known as Marxism-Deleonism or simply as De Leonism.

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