Manifesto of the Socialist Party of North America (1911)

In 1910, several branches of the Socialist Party of Canada, located in Toronto and Southern Ontario, split away to form the Socialist Party of North America. The SPNA was strongly influenced by the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and a former SPGB member, Moses Baritz, played a key role in its founding. As the title of its Manifesto indicates, the party took a strong position against any support for reforms.

“Emancipation not Palliation”

Socialism vs. Capitalism

To understand socialism, one must necessarily understand the present social system; i.e., capitalism.

Under capitalism, society is divided into hostile classes: an owning capitalist class, whose members have ownership of the various parts of the instruments of wealth production.

This includes: The land, the factories, the railroads, the mines, and steamships, etc., upon which the whole of the people are dependent for their existence.

A working class, whose members possess nothing but their labor power, which is useless to the worker unless he can have access to the raw material and the machinery of production, which is owned by the capitalist class.

This being so, the worker, in order to live, must sell his labor power to the capitalist or capitalist concern.

This labor power that the worker sells to his employer is used for the production of wealth, for which the worker receives what is termed wages.

Wages are the price of labor power; that is to say, the capitalist will have to return to the worker the amount of necessities he must consume while exerting his labor power. This amount will vary with the value of these necessities and the standard of living, but it will invariably be less than the amount of goods his labor power produces. This is a necessity, not alone of this system, but of any social system of wealth production in which only a part of the members of society are actually engaged in useful labor; so that when a man sells his labor power a number of hours for a certain wage, the amount of necessaries to produce his wages is always smaller than the amount of labor which the employer receives from him, the difference between what the worker receives as wages and what his labor power produces during his working time, constitutes the sole source of unearned income, i.e., capitalist profits. Here we see laid bare the secret and mysterious source of the wealth of those, who, without producing themselves, obtain possession of the wealth of society.

Capitalism had its beginnings in the development of industry and commerce. With the application of machinery to productive industry, a tremendous change has followed in the whole superstructure of society. With the development of the hand tool into the machine, the independent mechanic has been forced into the factory, divorced from the means of production, a dependent on the machine owner.

As the machinery increases in size and cost, so does it squeeze out the weaker capitalist, whilst the stronger ones unite into combines and trusts; so that we see competition increasing among the workers, whilst among the capitalists combination is the rule.

Thus does capitalism go steadily onward; first an individual competitive state, then on to collectivism, less and less competitive. Surely this cannot last for ever! A point is reached where it becomes unbearable for the workers. Collective labor and increasing competition among them clash with the collective capitalism and increasing combination of the capitalist. The contradiction must be abolished. The expropriators must be expropriated, the workers who collectively use the tools of production must also collectively own them. Classes in society abolished and a new order of society inaugurated in which poverty may give place to comfort, privilege to equality and slavery to freedom.

How will this transformation from capitalism to socialism be accomplished, and who will bring it about?

Socialists maintain that social progress since written history has always been through the struggle of classes with opposing interests. These interests to-day are represented by the capitalists, who are the rulers and the workers who are the ruled.

Hence, the next step in social progress must lie in the victory of the workers.

The capitalists, however, are powerfully entrenched behind the state, which is the powers of government; this includes the legal, civil, and armed forces; this is the political power controlled by the capitalists in their interests, viz., to preserve their ownership in the means of wealth production. But in the hands of the class conscious workers these would be used as an instrument for their emancipation.

Therefore, to accomplish their universal freedom, the workers must be organized into a political party of their class with a full knowledge of their conditions, and the meaning of the momentous act it is called upon to accomplish, viz., the emancipation of the workers from slavery and establishment of a new order of society based upon the ownership of the means of wealth production, by and in the interest of the whole community. With this object in view, we solicit the support of all members of the working class. Our slogan must be: “Workers of the world, unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains, a world to gain.”

Declaration of Principles

The Socialist Party of North America has for its object:

The emancipation of the workers from slavery and establishment of a new order of society based on the ownership of the means of wealth production, by and in the interest of the whole community.

We hold:

That society as at present constituted is divided into two classes, the capitalist class and the working class.

The capitalist class are the owners of property in the means of wealth production: land, factories, transportation, etc.

The working class in this respect are the propertyless class, and are, therefore, dependent upon the capitalist class for their existence.

That this ownership of the machinery of production tends, with the development of industry, to greater accumulation of wealth to the capitalist and a more precarious subsistence for the worker.

This creates an antagonism of interest between owners and non-owners, capitalist and wage worker, resulting in a constant struggle over the division of the wealth produced. The basis of the class struggle, therefore, lies in the economic foundations of society.

The title to capitalist ownership is vested in the state, and all the powers of government are used by the ruling class to protect their interests and legalize their encroachments.

All class struggles are therefore political struggles, and the workers must organize consciously and politically to gain control of the machinery of government (including the legal, civil, and armed forces) in order to abolish the capitalist form of private property in the means of production and convert it into the common property of the community, with democratic control. This is the revolutionary proposition.

Therefore, the first step in the revolution of the working class is to raise itself to the position of the ruling class, that it may lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, convert this instrument of oppression and domination into an agent for the emancipation of all mankind from wage slavery for ever.

The Socialist Party of North America, therefore, enters the field of political action determined to wage war against all other political parties, whether alleged labor or avowedly capitalist, and calls upon the members of the working class of this country to muster under its banner to the end that a speedy termination may be wrought to the system which deprives them of the fruits of their labor, and that poverty may give rise to comfort, privilege to equality, and slavery to freedom.

Socialist History Project