De Leonism

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Developed by Daniel De Leon, Marxism-Deleonism is a form of Marxism.

De Leon combined the rising theories of Syndicalism in his time with orthodox Marxism. According to DeLeonist theory, militant Industrial Unions are the vehicle of class struggle. Industrial Unions serving the interests of the "proletariat" (working class) will bring about the change needed to establish a socialist system. How this differs from Anarcho-Syndicalism is that, according to DeLeonist thinking, a revolutionary political party is also necessary to fight for the proletariat on the political field.

According to the De Leonist theory, workers would simultaneously form Socialist Industrial Unions in the workplaces, and form a socialist political party which would organize in the political realm. Upon achieving sufficient support for a victory at the polls, the political party would be voted into office, giving the De Leonist program a mandate from the people. It is assumed that at that point, the Socialist Industrial Unions will have attained sufficient strength in the workplaces for workers there to take control of the means of production. The De Leonist victory at the polls would be accompanied by a transfer of control of the factories, mines, farms and other means of production to workers councils organized within the industrial unions. De Leonists distinguish this event from the general strike to take control of the workplaces advocated by anarcho-syndicalists, and refer to it instead as a general lockout of the ruling class, although in reality the two concepts are very similar.

The existing government would then be replaced with a government elected from within the Socialist Industrial Unions, and the newly elected socialist government would quickly enact whatever constitutional amendments or other changes in the structure of government needed to bring this about. Workers on the shop floor would elect local shop floor committees needed to continue production, and representatives to local and national councils representing their particular industry. Workers would also elect representatives to a central congress, called an All-Industrial Congress, which would effectively function as the national government. These representatives would be subject to a recall vote at any time. De Leonism would thus reorganize the national government along industrial lines with representatives elected by industry, not by geographic location.

De Leonism lies outside the Leninist tradition of communism. De Leonists are generally opposed to the policies of the former Soviet Union, China, and other Communist Bloc countries and do not consider them socialist, but rather state capitalist. The highly decentralized and democratic nature of the proposed De Leonist government is in contrast to the democratic centralism of Marxism-Leninism and what they see as the dictatorial nature of the former Soviet Union. De Leonists believe their proposed system of government, not the vanguardism of Marxism-Leninism, is the true representation of what Marx meant by a "dictatorship of the proletariat." Lenin initially acknowleged the influence of Daniel De Leon's theories during the setting up of Soviets (workers councils) after the Russian Revolution, but also criticized De Leonism as one of several left communist tendencies which he considered unworkable (see, for example, Lenin's book Left Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder.)

The success of the De Leonist plan depends on achieving majority support among the people both in the workplaces and at the polls, in contrast to the Leninist notion that a small vanguard party should lead the working class to carry out the revolution. De Leonism is criticized by some other Marxists for this reason, and the term "impossibilists" has sometimes been applied to De Leonists, implying that their chance of success is nil.

De Leonist political parties have also been criticized for being overly dogmatic and sectarian. Despite their rejection of Leninism and vanguardism, De Leonism also lies outside the democratic socialist tradition. Daniel De Leon and other De Leonist writers have issued frequent polemics against democratic socialist movements, especially the United States Socialist Party, and consider them to be "reformist" or "bourgeois socialist." De Leonists have traditionally refrained from any activity or alliances viewed by them as trying to reform capitalism, such as social justice movements, preferring instead to concentrate solely on the twin tasks of building support for a De Leonist political party and organizing Socialist Industrial Unions. They have had little success at either, and De Leonist political parties remain quite small.

DeLeonist Political Parties

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