- Socialist Party of America
Infobox Historical American Political Party
party name= Socialist Party of America
party articletitle= Socialist Party of America
active= 1901ndash 1973
ideology= American Socialism,
preceded by= Social Democratic Party
Socialist Labor Party
Socialist Party USA
Democratic Socialists of America
colors = RedThe Socialist Party of America (SPA) was a socialist
political partyin the United States. It was formed in 1901 by a merger between the three-year-old Social Democratic Party and a wing of the older Socialist Labor Party. It flourished in numerous ethnic enclaves from 1904 through 1912, with Eugene V. Debsas its presidential candidate. It splintered over World War Iand Russia's 1917 October Revolutionand was a minor political movement after 1920, often nominating Norman Thomasfor president.
From 1901 to the onset of
World War I, the Socialist Party had numerous elected officials. There were two Socialist members of Congress, Meyer Londonof New York Cityand Victor Bergerof Milwaukee(a part of the sewer socialismmovement); over 70 mayors, and many state legislators and city councilors. Its voting strength was greatest among recent Jewish, Finnish and German immigrants, coal miners, and former Populist farmers in the Midwest. [Shannon (1951)]
Early political perspectives ranged from radical socialism to social democracy, with New York party leader
Morris Hillquitand Congressman Berger on the more social democratic or right wing of the party and radical socialists and syndicalists, including members of the Industrial Workers of the World(IWW) and the party's frequent candidate, Eugene V. Debs, on the left wing of the party. As well there were agrarianutopian-leaning radicals, such as Julius Waylandof Kansas, who edited the party's leading national newspaper, " Appeal To Reason" along with trade unionists; Jewish, Finnish, and German immigrants; and intellectuals such as Walter Lippmannand the Black activist/intellectual Hubert Harrison.
The party had a hostile relationship with the
American Federation of Labor(AFL). The AFL leadership was strongly opposed to the SPA, but moderate Socialists like Berger and Hillquit urged cooperation with the AFL in hopes of eventually forming a broader Labor Party. Their leading ally in the AFL was Max Hayes, president of the International Typographical Union. These efforts were bitterly spurned, however, by the majority of the Socialist Party, who held to either the IWWview or the Wayland view.
The party's opposition to
World War Icaused a sharp decline in membership. An increase in the membership of its language federations from areas involved in the Bolshevik Revolution proved illusory, since these members were soon lost to the Communist Labor Party. The party also lost some of its most prominent members, who had been in favor of America's entry into World War I, including Walter Lippmann, John Spargo, George Phelps Stokes, and William English Walling. They briefly formed an outfit called the National Party, in an unrealised hope of merging with the remnants of Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party and the Prohibition Party.
In June 1918 the Party's best-known leader,
Eugene Victor Debsmade an anti-war speech [ Eugene V. Debs, "The Canton, Ohio Speech, Anti-War Speech", delivered June 16, 1918, first published 1918 in "The Call", [http://marxists.org/archive/debs/works/1918/canton.htm online at Marxists.org] , accessed 11 August 2006.] calling for draft resistance; he was arrested under the Sedition Act of 1918, convicted and sentenced to serve ten years in prison. He was pardoned by President Warren G. Hardingin 1921.
Expulsion of Bolshevists
In January 1919
Vladimir Lenininvited the communistwing of the Socialist Party to join in the founding of the Communist Third International, the Comintern.
The Bolshevists held a conference in June 1919 to plan to regain control of the party by bringing delegations from the sections of the party that had been expelled to demand that they be seated. However, the language federations, eventually joined by
Charles Ruthenbergand Louis Fraina, broke away from that effort and formed their own party, the Communist Party of America, at a separate convention in Chicago on September 2 1919.
Meanwhile plans led by John Reed and
Benjamin Gitlowto crash the Socialist Party convention went ahead. Tipped off, the incumbents called the police, who obligingly expelled the Bolshevists from the hall. The remaining Bolshevist delegates walked out and, meeting with the expelled delegates, formed the Communist Labor Partyon September 1, 1919. The Communist Labor Party merged with the Communist Party of America in 1921 to form the predecessor of the Communist Party USA.
Expulsion of Socialists from the New York Assembly
In 1920, the
New York State Assemblyexpelled five Socialist members on the grounds that being a member of the Socialist Party constituted as disloyalty. These members included Louis Waldman, Samuel Orr, Charles Solomon, August Claessens and Sam Dewitt. This case was brought before the Supreme Court, and the members were permitted back into the Assembly.
From 1904 to 1912, the Socialist Party ran
Eugene Debsfor President at each election. The best showing ever for a Socialist ticket was in 1912, when Debs gained 901,551 total votes, or 6% of the popular vote. In 1920 Debs ran again, this time from prison, and received 913,693 votes, 3.4% of the total.
The Socialist Party did not run a presidential candidate in 1924, but supported Senator
Robert M. La Follette, Sr.and his ad-hoc Progressive Party. LaFollette's party disbanded after his death in 1925.
In 1928, the Socialist Party returned as an independent electoral entity under the leadership of
Norman Thomas, a Protestant minister in New York City. Thomas repeatedly ran as the party's presidential candidate through 1948.
A turn to the left
The party experienced a major growth spurt during the
Great Depression, primarily among youth. These youth leaders, however, were quickly won over to the proposition of reconciliation and reunification with the Communist Party, in keeping with new Popular Front policy of the Comintern. Leaders of the United Front faction included Reinhold Niebuhr, Andrew Biemiller, Daniel Hoan, and Gus Tyler. Most of these figures went on to become the founders of Americans for Democratic Action(ADA), a key Cold War liberal organization.
The "militants", as they were called, were triumphant at the Socialist Party's national convention in Detroit in June 1934, which precipitated the exodus of the opposing "old guard"—led by
Louis Waldmanand David Dubinsky—which favored the formation of a national Farmer-Labor Partythat would have been likely led by Huey Long. Fact|date=February 2007 After this fell through, in 1936 the old guard leaders formed the Social Democratic Federation and reluctantly endorsed Franklin Roosevelt.
By this time, however, the militants as well were on the Roosevelt bandwagon, in keeping with the dictates of the
Popular Front. The party was then buttressed by the mass entry of the American followers of Leon Trotskyfrom the U.S Workers Party in keeping with the so-called French Turn, by which Trotskyists recruited to their revolutionaryperspectives. The revolutionary perspectives of the Trotskyists caused enough havoc, however, that they were expelled by 1938. The Socialist Party's youth group, the Young People's Socialist League, left with the Trotskyists.
By 1940, only a small committed core remained in the party which opposed
Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal. In 1940 Norman Thomas was the only presidential candidate opposed to a pro-Soviet foreign policy. This also led Thomas to serve as an active spokesman for the isolationist America First Committeeduring 1941.
Thomas led his last presidential campaign in 1948, after which he became a critical supporter of the postwar liberal consensus. The party retained some pockets of local success, in cities such as
Milwaukee, Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Reading, Pennsylvania. In New York City, they often ran their own candidates on the Liberal Party line. In 1956, the party reconciled and reunified with the Social Democratic Federation.
In 1958 the party admitted to its ranks the members of the Independent Socialist League led by
Max Shachtman. Shachtman's young followers were able to bring new vigor into the party and helped propel it to play an active role in the civil rights movement as well as the early events of the New Left. Shachtman, however, successfully blocked merger of the party with the Jewish Labor Bundon account of that organization's historical anti-Zionism. [cite web
authorlink=Socialist Party of Rhode Island
title= A Short History of the Socialist Party USA
By the late 1960s the most powerful figures in the Socialist Party of America were Max Shachtman and
Michael Harrington, who agreed upon a parallel strategy of maintaining the Socialist Party as an independent third party that fielded its own candidates, and acting as a pressure group within the Democratic Party. The party itself had become divided into three caucuses. One was the Debs Caucus led by David McReynolds, which wanted to pursue the traditional position of the Socialist Party as an independent political party and held the most strongly "leftist" position within the group. Another was the "centrist" Coalition Caucus led by Michael Harrington, which also had a leftist orientation, but wanted to work within the Democratic Party to pull it to the left. Finally, the "rightist" Unity Caucus led by Max Shachtman were strong supporters of the Lyndon Johnson/ "Scoop" Jacksonwing of the Democratic Party that supported hawkish anti-Communismabroad and civil rightsand the Great Societyprogram domestically.Socialist Party of Rhode Island. (2000). [http://sp-usa.org/spri/sp_usa_history.htm A Short History of the Socialist Party USA] (web page). Accessed: June 13, 2006.] Drucker, Peter. (1994). Max Shachtman and His Left: A Socialist's Odyssey Through the "American Century". Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press. 346 p. ISBN 0-391-03815-X]
This split was reflected in party members opinions about the
Vietnam Warand the New Left– Shachtman and his followers increasingly supported the war and greatly distrusted the New Left, Harrington was strongly opposed to the war, but was nevertheless suspicious of the New Left, while the Debs Caucus opposed the war and embraced the New Left. Conversely, of all the three groups, the Shachtmanitesmaintained the strongest tendency to Marxist orthodoxy (or their version of it) and democratic centralism, while the other two caucuses were more eclectic in their approach to socialism. This division manifest most strongly during the 1968 Democratic Convention, in which members of the Debs Caucus were among the protesters outside of the convention, while members of the Coalition and Unity Caucuses were among the convention delegates.
By 1972, the party was even more deeply divided, with the party newspaper, "
New America", running opposing articles on practically every issue. During the 1972 presidential election, each caucus supported a different candidate; the Debs Caucus supported the independent candidacy of Benjamin Spock, the Coalition Caucus supporting the liberal Democratic nominee George McGovern, and the Unity Caucus supporting the Democratic primary run of Henry M. "Scoop" Jackson, then declaring their neutrality between McGovern and Richard Nixonwhen Jackson failed to win the nomination.
The Debs Caucus finally broke with the party in 1972 to form the Union for Democratic Socialism. (David McReynolds had left the party in 1970, but rejoined the breakaway group.) The UDS became the
Socialist Party USAin 1973 when all other factions had abandoned the name "Socialist Party". The Socialist Party USA developed into a small third party in U.S. politics, which now has about 1,000 members in good standing and regularly runs candidates for public office, though often these are more educational campaigns than they are serious attempts to win. [ [http://sp-usa.org/ncminutes/1006nc.html Minutes] of October 2006 Socialist Party National Committee meeting.]
Michael Harrington and the Coalition Caucus left the party soon after. They became the
Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee(later the Democratic Socialists of America), which worked within the Democratic Party but in support of its left wing.
This left Shachtman and the Unity Caucus in unopposed control of the party (though Shachtman himself died very soon after). In 1973, this group renamed it the
Social Democrats USA. It evolved into more of a think tank than a political organization, with many of its members later holding important governmental offices in both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Eugene V. Debsand Job Harriman(87,945 votes, 0.6%)
* 1904ndash Eugene V. Debs and
Ben Hanford(402,810 votes, 3.0%)
* 1908ndash Eugene V. Debs and Ben Hanford (420,793 votes, 3.8%)
* 1912ndash Eugene V. Debs and
Emil Seidel(901,551 votes, 6.0%)
Allan L. Bensonand George Kirkpatrick(590,524 votes, 3.2%)
* 1920ndash Eugene V. Debs and
Seymour Stedman(913,693 votes, 3.4%)
Norman Thomasand James H. Maurer(267,478 votes, 0.7%)
* 1932ndash Norman Thomas and James H. Maurer (884,885 votes, 2.2%)
* 1936ndash Norman Thomas and
George A. Nelson(187,910 votes, 0.4%)
* 1940ndash Norman Thomas and
Maynard C. Krueger(116,599 votes, 0.2%)
* 1944ndash Norman Thomas and
Darlington Hoopes(79,017 votes, 0.2%)
* 1948ndash Norman Thomas and
Tucker P. Smith(139,569 votes, 0.3%)
* 1952ndash Darlington Hoopes and
Samuel H. Friedman(20,065 votes, <0.1%)
* 1956ndash Darlington Hoopes and Samuel H. Friedman (2,044 votes, <0.1%)
Victor L. Berger
Allan L. Benson
Ella Reeve Bloor*
James P. Cannon*
Eugene V. Debs
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn*
William Z. Foster*
Maynard C. Krueger
Theresa S. Malkiel
Mary E. Marcy
Kate Richards O'Hare
Mary White Ovington
A. Philip Randolph
Rose Pastor Stokes*
Frank P. Zeidler†
:(*) Left with founding of the
Communist Party USA:(†) Went on to join the Socialist Party USA
* Bell Daniel. "Marxian Socialism in the United States."
Princeton University Press, 1967.
* Harrington, Michael. "Socialism" 1970.
* Robert Hyfler; "Prophets of the Left: American Socialist Thought in the Twentieth Century"
Greenwood Press. 1984.
* Ira Kipnis; "The American Socialist Movement, 1897-1912"
Columbia University Press, 1952. Reprinted Haymarket Books. 2004.
* Laslett John M., and Lipset, Seymour Martin, eds. "Failure of a Dream? Essays in the History of American Socialism." 1974.
* Lipset, Seymour Martin and Gary Marks, "It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States?" New York: Norton, 2000.
* H. Wayne Morgan; "Eugene v. Debs: Socialist for President". Greenwood Press, 1973
* Miller, Sally M. "Victor Berger and the Promise of Constructive Socialism, 1910-1920". Greenwood, 1973.
* Quint, Howard. "The Forging of American Socialism." 1953.
* Nick Salvatore. "Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist" (2007), the standard scholarly biography
* David A. Shannon. "The Socialist Party Before the First World War: An Analysis" "
The Mississippi Valley Historical Review," Vol. 38, No. 2. (Sep., 1951), pp. 279-288. [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0161-391X%28195109%2938%3A2%3C279%3ATSPBTF%3E2.0.CO%3B2-B in JSTOR]
* Shannon, David A. "The Socialist Party of America." 1967.
* Swanberg W. A. "Norman Thomas: The Last Idealist." 1976
* Weinstein James. "The Decline of Socialism in America: 1912-1925." 1969.
* [http://www.burnedbookspublishing.com George Ross Kirkpatrick's WAR - WHAT FOR? (1916)] attacking World War I.
* [http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/06/21/1410236&mode=thread&tid=25 "The Last Socialist Mayor"] . Frank Zeidler, Mayor of
Milwaukee(1948-1960). Interviewer, Amy Goodman. Democracy Now!. Monday, June 21 2004. Retrieved May 12 2005.
* [http://www.theorganizer.org/LP/USHistory/Bridgeport1.html "Book Review: Bridgeport's Socialist New Deal, 1915-1936 by Cecelia Bucki, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2001"] . Published by
Socialist Organizer. Retrieved August 27, 2006.
* [http://www.cresswellslist.com/ballots2/reading.htm Excerpts from the Reading Eagle, November 1911 and November 1935] . Articles on the
Reading, PennsylvaniaSocialist Party.
* [http://www.marxisthistory.org/subject/usa/eam/socialistparty.html Socialist Party chronology] in [http://www.marxisthistory.org/subject/usa/eam/index.html Early American Marxism Archive] . Retrieved August 23, 2006.
* [http://www.marxisthistory.org/subject/usa/eam/documentdownloads.html SPA Downloadable Documents 1897 - 1930] on Marxist Internet Archive. Retrieved
April 20 2005.
* [http://www.marxisthistory.org/subject/usa/eam/spapubs.html Lists of SPA Publications 1897 - 1930] on Marxist Internet Archive. Retrieved
April 20 2005.
* [http://www.marxisthistory.org/subject/usa/eam/spaofficials.html Lists of SPA Officials 1897 - 1936] . Retrieved May 29, 2006.
* [http://www.marxisthistory.org/subject/usa/eam/spamembership.html List of SPA Membership figures 1899 - 1946] . Retrieved May 29, 2006.
* [http://www.cresswellslist.com/sp_auctions/referenc.htm Socialist Party Reference Material] . Guide to campaign buttons and iconography of the SPA.
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