Socialist Party of America Platform, 1904

From: The National Conventions And Platforms Of All Political Parties, 1789 To 1904 
Creator: Thomas Hudson McKee (editor) 
Date: 1904 
Publisher: The Friedenwald Company, Baltimore


Chicago, Ill., May 1–6,1904.

The chairmen of the convention were elected daily.

NOMINATED — For President, Eugene V. Debs, of Indiana. For Vice-President, Benjamin Hanford, of New York.

The following platform was adopted: —



We, the Socialist party, in convention assembled, make our appeal to the American people as the defender and preserver of the idea of liberty and self-government, in which the nation was born; as the only political movement standing for the program and principles by which the liberty of the individual may become a fact; as the only political organization that is democratic, and that has for its purpose the democratizing of the whole society.

To this idea of liberty the Republican and Democratic parties are utterly false. They alike struggle for power to maintain and profit by an industrial system which can be preserved only by the complete overthrow of such liberties as we already have, and by the still further enslavement and degradation of labor.

Our American institutions came into the world in the name of freedom. They have been seized upon by the capitalist class as the means of rooting out the idea of freedom from among the people. Our state and national legislatures have become the mere agencies of great propertied interests. These interests control the appointments and decisions of the judges of our courts. They have come into what is practically a private ownership of all the functions and forces of government. They are using these to betray and conquer foreign and weaker peoples, in order to establish new markets for the surplus goods which the people make, but are too poor to buy. They are gradually so invading and restricting the right of suffrage as to take unawares the right of the worker to a vote or voice in public affairs. By enacting new and misinterpreting old laws, they are preparing to attack the liberty of the individual even to speak or think for himself or for the common good.

By controlling all sources of social revenue, the possessing class is able to silence what might be the voice of the protest against the passing of liberty and the coming of tyranny. It completely controls the university and public school, the pulpit and the press, arts and literature. By making these economically dependent upon itself, it has brought all the forms of public teaching into servile submission to its own interests.

Our political institutions are also being used as the destroyers of that individual property upon which all liberty and opportunity depend. The promise of economic independence to each man was one of the faiths in which our institutions were founded. But under the guise of defending private property, capitalism is using our political institutions to make it impossible for the vast majority of human beings to ever become possessors of private property in the means of life.

Capitalism is the enemy and destroyer of essential private property. Its development is through the legalized confiscation of all that the labor of the working class produces, above its subsistence wage. The private ownership of the means of employment grounds society in an economic slavery which renders intellectual and political tyranny inevitable.

Socialism comes so to organize industry and society that every individual shall be secure in that private property in the means of life upon which his liberty of being, thought, and action depend. It comes to rescue the people from the fast increasing and successful assault of capitalism upon the liberty of the individual.


II. As an American Socialist party, we pledge our fidelity to the principles of International Socialism, as embodied in the united thought and action of the Socialists of all nations. In the industrial development already accomplished, the interests of the world’s workers are separated by no national boundaries. The condition of the most exploited and oppressed workers, in the most remote places of the earth, inevitably tends to drag down all the workers of the world to the same level. The tendency of the competitive wage system is to make labor’s lowest condition the measure or rule of its universal condition. Industry and finance are no longer national but international in both organizations and results. The chief significance of national boundaries, and of the so-called patriotisms which the ruling class of each nation is seeking to revive, is the power which these give to capitalism to keep the workers of the world from uniting, and to throw them against each other in the struggles of contending capitalist interests for the control of the yet unexploited markets of the world, or the remaining sources of profit.

The Socialist movement therefore is a world-movement. It knows of no conflicts between the workers of one nation and the workers of another. It stands for the freedom of the workers of all nations; and, in so standing, it makes for the full freedom of all humanity.


III. The Socialist movement owes its birth and growth to that economic development or world process which is rapidly separating a working or producing class from a possessing or capitalist class. The class that produces nothing possesses labor’s fruits, and the opportunities and enjoyments these fruits afford, while the class that does the world’s real work has increasing economic uncertainty, and physical and intellectual misery as its portion.

The fact that these two classes have not yet become fully conscious of their distinction from each other, the fact that the lines of division and interest may not yet be clearly drawn, does not change the fact of the class conflict.

This class struggle is due to the private ownership of the means of employment, or the tools of production. Wherever and whenever man owned his own land and tools, and by them produced only the things which he used, economic independence was possible. But production, or the making of goods, has long ceased to be individual. The labor of scores, or even thousands, enters into almost every article produced. Production is now social, or collective. Practically everything is made or done by many men — sometimes separated by seas or continents — working together for the same end. But this co-operation in production is not for the direct use of the things made by the workers who make them, but for the profit of the owners of the tools and means of production; and to this is due the present division of society into two distinct classes, and from it has sprung all the miseries, inharmonies, and contradictions of our civilization.

Between these two classes there can be no possible compromise or identity of interests, any more than there can be peace in the midst of war, or light in the midst of darkness. A society based upon this class division carries in itself the seeds of its own destruction. Such a society is founded in fundamental injustice. There can be no possible basis for social peace, for individual freedom, for mental and moral harmony, except in the conscious and complete triumph of the working class as the only class that has the right or power to be.


IV. The Socialist program is not a theory imposed upon society for its acceptance or rejection. It is but the interpretation of what is, sooner or later, inevitable. Capitalism is already struggling to its destruction. It is no longer competent to organize or administer the work of the world, or even to preserve itself. The captains of industry are appalled at their own inability to control or direct the rapidly socializing forces of industry. The so-called trust is but a sign and form of this developing socialization of the world’s work. The universal increase of the uncertainty of employment, the universal capitalist determination to break down the unity of labor in the trades unions, the widespread apprehension of impending change, reveal that the institutions of capitalist society are passing under the power of inhering forces that will soon destroy them.

Into the midst of the strain and crisis of civilization, the Socialist movement comes as the only saving or conservative force. If the world is to be saved from chaos, from universal disorder and misery, it must be by the union of the workers of all nations in the Socialist movement. The Socialist party comes with the only proposition or program for intelligently and deliberately organizing the nation for the common good of all its citizens. It is the first time that the mind of man has ever been directed toward the conscious organization of society.

Socialism means that all those things upon which the people in common depend shall by the people in common be owned and administered. It means that the tools of employment shall belong to the creators and users; that all production shall be for the direct use of the producers; that the making of goods for profit shall come to an end; that we shall all be workers together, and that opportunities shall be open and equal to all men.


V. To the end that the workers may seize every possible advantage that may strengthen them to gain complete control of the powers of government, and thereby the sooner establish the co-operative commonwealth, the Socialist party pledges itself to watch and work in both the economic and the political struggle for each successive immediate interest of the working class;

  • for shortened days of labor and increase of wages;
  • for the insurance of the workers against accident, sickness, and lack of employment;
  • for pensions for aged and exhausted workers;
  • for the public ownership of the means of transportation, communication, and exchange;
  • for the graduated taxation of incomes, inheritances, and of franchise and land values, the proceeds to be applied to public employment and bettering the condition of the workers;
  • for the equal suffrage of men and women;
  • for the prevention of the use of the military against labor in the settlement of strikes;
  • for the free administration of justice;
  • for popular government, including initiative, referendum, proportional representation, and the recall of officers by their constituents;
  • and for every gain or advantage for the workers that may be wrested from the capitalist system, and that may relieve the suffering and strengthen the hands of labor.

We lay upon every man elected to any executive or legislative office the first duty of striving to procure whatever is for the workers’ most immediate interest, and whatever will lessen the economic and political powers of the capitalist and increase the like powers of the worker.

But, in so doing, we are using these remedial measures as means to one great end — the Co-operative Commonwealth. Such measures of relief as we may be able to force from capitalism are but a preparation of the workers to seize the whole powers of government, in order that they may thereby lay hold of the whole system of industry, and thus come into their rightful inheritance.

To this end we pledge ourselves, as the party of the working class, to use all political power, as fast as it shall be intrusted to us by our fellow-workers, both for their immediate interests and for their ultimate and complete emancipation. To this end we appeal to all the workers of America, and to all who will lend their lives to the service of the workers in their struggle to gain their own, and to all who will nobly and disinterestedly give their days and energies unto the workers’ cause, to cast their lot and faith with the Socialist party. Our appeal for the trust and suffrages of our fellow-workers is at once an appeal for their common good and freedom, and for the freedom and blossoming of our common humanity. In pledging ourselves, and those we represent, to be faithful to the appeal which we make, we believe that we are but preparing the soil of the economic freedom from which will spring the freedom of the whole man.