|TR’s Last War:
Theodore Roosevelt, The Great War,
and a Journey of Triumph and Tragedy
|From Lyons Press,
an imprint of Globe Pequot
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Jessica Plaskett 203.458.4511
|SOCIALIST PARTY PLATFORM - 1916
Socialist Platform of 1916
In the midst of the greatest crisis and bloodiest struggle of all history the socialist
party of America re-affirms its steadfast adherence to the principles of
international brotherhood, world peace and industrial democracy.
The great war which has engulfed so much of civilization and destroyed millions of
lives is one of the natural results of the capitalist system of production.
The socialist party, as the political expression of the economic interests of the
working class, calls upon them to take a determined stand on the question of
militarism and war, and to recognize the opportunity which the great war has given
them of forcing disarmament and furthering the cause of industrial freedom.
An armed force in the hands of the ruling class serves two purposes: to protect and
further the policy of imperialism abroad and to silence by force the protest of the
workers against industrial despotism at home. Imperialism and militarism plunged
Europe into this world war. America's geographical and industrial situation has kept
her out of the cataclysm. But Europe's extremity has been the opportunity of
America's ruling class to amass enormous profits. As a result there is a surfeit of
capital which demands the policy of imperialism to protect and further investments
abroad. Hence the frenzy of militarism into which the ruling class has made every
attempt to force the United States.
The workers in Europe were helpless to avert the war because they were already
saddled with the burden of militarism. The workers of the United States are yet
free from this burden and have the opportunity of establishing a working class
policy and program against war. They can compel the government of the United
States to lead the way in an international movement for disarmament and to
abandon the policy of imperialism which is forcing the conquest of Mexico and
must, if carried out, eventually plunge the United States into a world war.
The working class must recognize the cry of preparedness against foreign invasion
as a mere cloak for the sinister purpose of imperialism abroad and industrial tyranny
at home. The class struggle, like capitalism, is international. The proletariat of the
world has but one enemy, the capitalist class, whether at home or abroad. We must
refuse to put into the hands of this enemy an armed force even under the guise of a
"democratic army," as the workers of Australia and Switzerland have done.
Therefore the socialist party stands opposed to military preparedness, to any
appropriations of men or money for war or militarism, while control of such forces
through the political state rests in the hands of the capitalist class. The socialist
party stands committed to the class war, and urges upon the workers in the mines
and forests, on the railways and ships, in factories and fields, the use of their
economic and industrial power, by refusing to mine the coal, to transport soldiers,
to furnish food or other supplies for military purposes, and thus keep out of the
hands of the ruling class the control of armed forces and economic power,
necessary for aggression abroad and industrial despotism at home.
The working class must recognize militarism as the greatest menace to all efforts
toward industrial freedom, and regardless of political or industrial affiliations must
present a united front in the fight against preparedness and militarism.
Hideous as they are, the horrors of the far-stretched battle field of the old world
are dwarfed by the evil results of the capitalist system, even in normal times.
Instead of being organized to provide all members of society with an abundance of
food, clothing and shelter, and the highest attainable freedom and culture,
industry is at present organized and conducted for the benefit of a parasite class.
All the powers of government and all our industrial genius are directed to the end
of securing to the relatively small class of capital investors the largest amount of
profits which can be wrung from the labor of the ever-increasing class whose only
property is muscle and brain, manual and mental labor power.
The dire consequences of this system are everywhere apparent. The workers are
oppressed and deprived of much that makes for physical, mental and moral well-
being. Year by year poverty and industrial accidents destroy more lives than all the
armies and navies in the world.
To preserve their privilege and power is the most vital interest of the possessing
class, while it is the most vital interest of the working class to resist oppression,
improve its position and struggle to obtain security of life and liberty. Hence there
exists a conflict of interests, a social war within the nation, which can know neither
truce nor compromise. So long as the few own and control the economic life of the
nation the many must be enslaved, poverty must coexist with riotous luxury and
civil strife prevail.
The socialist party would end these conditions by reorganizing the life of the nation
upon the basis of socialism. Socialism would not abolish private property, but
greatly extend it. We believe that every human being should have and own all the
things which he can use to advantage, for the enrichment of his own life, without
imposing disadvantage or burden upon any other human being. Socialism admits the
private ownership and individual direction of all things, tools, economic processes
and functions which are individualistic in character, and requires the collective
ownership and democratic control and direction of those which are social or
collectivistic in character.
We hold that this country cannot enjoy happiness and prosperity at home and
maintain lasting peace with other nations so long as its industrial wealth is
monopolized by a capitalist oligarchy. In this, as in every other campaign, all special
issues arising from temporary situations, whether domestic or foreign, must be
subordinated to the major issue—the need of such are organization of our economic
life as will remove the land, the mines, forests, railroads, mill and factories, all the
things required for our physical existence, from the clutches of industrial and
financial freebooters and place them securely and permanently in the hands of the
If men were free to labor to satisfy their desires there could be in this country
neither poverty nor involuntary unemployment. But the men in this country are not
free to labor to satisfy their desires. The great industrial population can labor only
when the capitalist class who own the industries believe they can market their
product at a profit. The needs of millions are subordinated to the greeds of a few.
The situation is not unlike that of a pyramid balanced upon its apex. Oftentimes this
pyramid tumbles and industrial depression comes. There was such a crash in 1907. If
the capitalist owners had been willing to get out of the way, industry could have
been revived in a day. But the capitalist owners are never willing to get out of the
way. Their greeds come first—the people's needs, if at all, afterwards. Therefore,
business did not quickly revive after the industrial depression in 1907. Mr. Taft was
elected to bring good times, but in four years failed to bring them. Mr. Wilson was
elected to bring good times, but not all of the measures he advocated had the
slightest effect upon industry. The European war has brought to this country
tremendous orders for military supplies and has created a period of prosperity for
the few. For the masses of the people there is but an opportunity to work hard for
a bare living, which is not prosperity, but slavery. As against the boast of the
present national administration that its political program, now fully in force, had
brought prosperity to the masses, we call attention to the statement of the federal
public health service that $800 is required a year to enable a family to avoid
physical deterioration through lack of decent living conditions, that more than half
of the families of working men receive less than that amount, that nearly a third
receive less than $500 a year, and that one family in twelve received less than $300
The capitalist class for a great many years has been trying to saddle upon this
country a great army and a greater navy. A greater army is desired to keep the
working class of the United States in subjection. A greater navy is desired to
safeguard the foreign investments of American capitalists and to "back-up"
American diplomacy in its efforts to gain foreign markets for American capitalists.
The war in Europe, which diminished and is still diminishing the remote possibility
of European attack upon the United States, was nevertheless seized upon by
capitalists and by unscrupulous politicians as a means of spreading fear throughout
the country, to the end that, by false pretenses, great military establishments
might be obtained. We denounce such "preparedness" as both false in principle,
unnecessary in character and dangerous in its plain tendencies toward militarism.
We advocate that sort of social preparedness which expresses itself in better
homes, better bodies and better minds, which are alike the products of plenty and
the necessity of effective defense in war.
The socialist party maintains its attitude of unalterable opposition to war.
We reiterate the statement that the competitive nature of capitalism is the cause
of modern war and that the co-operative nature of socialism is alone adapted to the
task of ending war by removing its causes. We assert, however, that, even under
the present capitalist order, additional measures can be taken to safeguard peace,
and to this end we demand:
Measures to Insure Peace
1. That all laws and appropriations for the increase of the military and naval forces
of the United States shall be immediately repealed.
2. That the power be taken from the president to lead the nation into a position
which leaves no escape from war. No one man, however exalted in official station,
should have the power to decide the question of peace or war for a nation of a
hundred millions. To give one man such power is neither democratic nor safe. Yet
the president exercises such power when he determines what shall be the nation's
foreign policies and what shall be the nature and tone of its diplomatic intercourse
with other nations. We, therefore, demand that the power to fix foreign policies
and conduct diplomatic negotiations shall be lodged in congress and shall be
exercised publicly, the people reserving the right to order congress, at any time, to
change its foreign policy.
3. That no war shall be declared or waged by the United States without a
referendum vote of the entire people, except for the purpose of repelling invasion.
4. That the Monroe doctrine shall be immediately abandoned as a danger so great
that even its advocates are agreed that it constitutes perhaps our greatest single
danger of war. The Monroe doctrine was originally intended to safeguard the peace
of the United States. Though the doctrine has changed from a safeguard to a
menace, the capitalist class still defends it for the reason that our great Capitalists
desire to retain South and Central America as their private trade preserve. We
favor the cultivation of social, industrial and political friendship with all other
nations in the western hemisphere, as an approach to a world confederation of
nations, but we oppose the Monroe doctrine because it takes from our hands the
peace of America and places it in the custody of any nation, that would attack the
sovereignty of any state in the western world.
5. That the independence of the Philippine Islands be immediately recognized as a
measure of justice both to the Philippines and to ourselves. The Filipinos are
entitled to self-government, we are entitled to be freed from the necessity of
building and maintaining enough dreadnoughts to defend them in the event of war.
6. The government of the United States shall call a congress of all neutral nations to
mediate between the belligerent powers in an effort to establish an immediate and
lasting peace without indemnities or forcible annexation of territory and based on a
binding and enforcible international treaty, which shall provide for concerted
disarmament on land and at sea and for an international congress with power to
adjust all disputes between nations and which shall guarantee freedom and equal
rights to all oppressed nations and races.
As general measures calculated to strengthen the working class in its fight for the
realization of its ultimate aim the co-operative commonwealth, and to increase its
power of resistance against capital oppression, we advocate and pledge ourselves
and our elected officers to the following program.
1. Unrestricted and equal suffrage for men and women.
2. The immediate adoption of the so-called "Susan B. Anthony amendment" to the
constitution of the United States granting the suffrage to women on equal terms
3. The adoption of the initiative, referendum and recall and of proportional
representation, nationally as well as locally.
4. The abolition of the senate and of the veto power of the president.
5. The election of the president and the vice-president by direct vote of the
6. The abolition of the present restriction upon the amendment of the constitution
so that that instrument may be made amendable by a majority of the voters in the
7. The calling of a convention for the revision of the constitution of the United
8. The abolition of the power usurped by the Supreme Court of the United States to
pass upon the constitutionality of legislation enacted by congress. National laws to
be repealed only by act of congress or by a referendum vote of the whole people.
9. The immediate curbing of the power of the courts to issue injunctions.
10. The election of all judges of the United States courts for short terms.
11. The free administration of the law.
12. The granting of the right of suffrage in the District of Columbia with
representation in congress and a democratic form of municipal government for
purely local affairs.
13. The extension of democratic government to all United States territory.
14. The freedom of press, speech and assemblage.
15. The increase of the rates of the present income tax and corporation tax and the
extension of inheritance taxes, graduated in proportion to the value of the estate
and to nearness of kin—the proceeds of these taxes to be employed in the
socialization of industry.
16. The enactment of further measures for general education in useful pursuits.
The bureau of education to be made a department.
17. The enactment of further measures for the conservation of health and the
creation of an independent department of health.
18. The abolition of the monopoly ownership of patents and the substitution of
collective ownership, with direct rewards to inventors by premiums or royalties.
1. The collective ownership and democratic management of railroads, telegraphs
and telephones, express service, steamboat lines and all other social means of
transportation and communication and of all large-scale industries.
2. The immediate acquirement by the municipalities, and the states of the federal
government of all grain elevators, stock yards, storage warehouses and other
distributing agencies, in order to relieve the farmer from the extortionate charges
of the middlemen and to reduce the present high cost of living.
3. The extension of the public domain to include mines, quarries, oil wells, forests
and water power.
4. The further conservation and development of natural resources for the use and
benefit of all the people:
(a) By scientific afforestation and timber protection.
(b) By the reclamation of arid and swamp tracts.
(c) By the storage of flood waters and the utilization of water power.
(d) By the stoppage of the present extravagant waste of the soil and the products
of mines and oil wells.
(e) By the development of highway and waterway systems.
5. The collective ownership of land wherever practicable, and, in cases where such
ownership is impracticable, the appropriation by taxation of the annual rental value
of all lands held for speculation or exploitation.
6. All currency shall be issued by the government of the United States and shall be
legal tender for the payment of taxes and impost duties and for the discharge of
public and private debts. The government shall lend money on bonds to counties
and municipalities at a nominal rate of interest for the purpose of taking over or
establishing public utilities and for building or maintaining public roads or highways
and public schools—up to 25 per cent of the assessed valuation of such counties or
municipalities. Said bonds are to be repaid in twenty equal and annual installments,
and the currency issued for that purpose by the government is to be canceled and
destroyed seriatim as the debt is paid. All banks and banking institutions shall be
owned by the government of the United States or by the states.
7. Government relief of the unemployed by the extension of all useful public
works. All persons employed on such work to be engaged directly by the
government under a work day of not more than eight hours and at not less than the
prevailing union wages. The government also to establish employment bureaus; to
lend money to states and municipalities without interest for the purpose of carrying
on public works; to contribute money to unemployment funds of labor unions and
other organizations of workers, and to take such other measures within its power as
will lessen the widespread misery of the workers caused by the misrule of the
The conservation of human resources, particularly of the lives and well-being of the
workers and their families:
1. By shortening the work-day in keeping with the increased productiveness of
2. By securing to every worker a rest period of not less than a day and a half in each
3. By securing the freedom of political and economic organization and activities.
4. By securing a more effective inspection of workshops, factories and mines.
5. By forbidding the employment of children under eighteen years of age.
6. By forbidding the interstate transportation of the products of child labor and of
all uninspected factories and mines.
7. By establishing minimum wage scales.
8. By abolishing official charity and substituting a non-contributory system of old
age pensions, a general system of insurance by the state against invalidism, and a
system of compulsory insurance by employers of their workers, without cost to the
latter, against industrial diseases, accidents and death.
9. By establishing mothers' pensions.