Charles Zueblin to Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot, July 1913 Also known as: A Progressive Labor Policy

An Open Letter to Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot

The labor question is the supreme question of the moment in America, but the Progressive Party has evaded the labor question. There is nothing in the organic character of the Progressive Party to warrant a special position on the Navy. The significance of Conservation to the Progressive Party is due to the accident that the original friends of Conservation were the organizers of the Party. It is well to be emphatic, to be watchful, to lead, but difficult as it has been the path of Conservation its course is now clear and hopeful.

The distinctive reasons justifying the permanent existence of the Progressive Party have been its contribution to the questions of monopoly and federal authority. It has boldly admitted monopoly and undertaken to grapple with it as it is, without turning back the hands of the clock. To deal with monopoly requires greater power to the Federal Government, and this is promised if the Progressive Party is successful.

The new federalism (or nationalism) is, however, the greatest claim to a distinct and permanent function for the Party. It professes to the Party of the whole people, not of any class conscious economic, geographical or social section of it. Home rule for such division of the Nation from the community to the Federal Government, giving to each mature intelligence the right of expression regarding the function of each geographical area, is the corner stone of this new structure.

Why has the voice of the Progressive Party been uncertain on the question of labor? It was organized by a group of people whose sympathies were broad, but whose economic philosophy was not unified. They were thrown together in protest against oppression, and, like the fathers of our country, expressed their agreements and glossed over disagreements.

The country is now in the throes of the greatest labor conflict in its history and no party is prepared to tackle it because no party has an adequate economic philosophy. The Socialist Party is organized on the basis of a class conscious demand that the laborer shall have the full product of his labor.  The Socialist Party will split on the application of that doctrine into syndicalists and State Socialists. The Democratic Party has flirted with trade unions but would be in hopeless division if it came to act. The Republican Party does not date to leave obscure platitudes on the subject. [page 2]

Why should the Progressive Party halt? It not only has a scientific basis for dealing with the question, but its very life depends on its immediate and fearless action. The Progressive Party is the Party of the whole people, and economic justice can only be secured by the action of the whole people, viz: the consumers. The consumers pay all the bills, public and private. The consumers' interests are supreme and their responsibility extends to every economic act and organization.

New England stands helpless today in the presence of repeated railroad wrecks, with the pot calling the kettle black. The corporation is manifestly unfit and tries to excuse itself by laying blame on the trade unions. The only power capable of solving the question is the power to which the Progressive party must appeal -- the whole body of consumers. Why should capital have authority over labor? Why should both continue to take advantage of the consumer? If a corporation needs a franchise, why does not a union? If one is responsible to the consuming public why is not the other? Chiefly because the public has had no adequate representation and no source of education.

The Progressive Party has the opportunity of adding to its program of social legislation -- admirable but paternalistic -- a democratic labor policy giving every worker a voice in his own economic affairs, every consumer the control over all of its integral parts, the insurance of industrial peace instead of industrial war.

The new political alignment is not yet complete. Many of the best progressive, democratic federalists are still in the Democratic, Republican and Socialist Parties. If the Progressive Party will save itself and save the nation it will authorize a committee immediately to formulate a democratic, scientific, labor policy.

Charles Zueblin,

Winchester, Massachusetts.