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Meyer London

LONDON, MEYER (1871–1926), U.S. lawyer and Socialist leader. London was born in Gora Kalvaria, Poland, and followed his father to New York City in 1891. He was immediately drawn into radical politics, in large measure because of his father's involvement with anarchist and Socialist groups. Initially an adherent of the Socialist Labor Party, he joined the opposition to its leader, Daniel *De Leon, in 1897, and ultimately became a member of the Socialist Party of America.

London had a significant influence on the needle trades unions of New York City in their formative period prior to World War I. Admitted to the bar in 1898, he served as legal counsel for a multitude of unions and union members. London was intensely pragmatic in labor matters, and despite his Socialist ideology, he helped to formulate the Protocol of 1910, which attempted to establish collective bargaining and arbitration in the women's cloak trade. London resisted the argument of some Socialists that such agreements substituted mutuality of interest for class struggle. He favored unemployment insurance, the abolition of child labor, and other social-reform legislation designed to improve the conditions of life and labor for the worker.

In 1914, after repeated attempts at elective office, London won election to the House of Representatives as a Socialist from a largely immigrant Jewish district on the Lower East Side in New York City; he was reelected in 1916 and 1920. Although he was a moderate Socialist, he endured the full brunt of bitter anti-Socialist attacks.

As a congressman he was active and argued strongly for reform. He voted against restrictive immigration and the Fordney tariff and actively supported nationalization of the coal industry. One bill of his became law: an act protecting the employees of bankrupt firms.

Although he strongly opposed American entrance into World War I and fought efforts to curb the civil liberties of opponents of the war, London refused to resist all wartime activities without qualification. This position alienated him from many of his friends and associates in American radicalism. He also had little sympathy for Zionism, believing that the emancipation of the Jew had to be accomplished not through nationalism but by uplifting the working class. London died as the result of a car accident.


H. Rogoff, East Side Epic: Life and Work of Meyer London (1930); A. Gorenstein, in: AJHSP, 50 (1961), 202–38; M. Epstein, Profiles of Eleven (1965), index.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.