Workers Party of the United States

Workers Party of the United States

A number of parties have gone by differing versions of the name "Workers Party". The Workers Party of the United States, also called the U.S. Workers Party, formed in December 1934. At that time the American Workers Party (AWP) led by A.J. Muste merged with the Trotskyist Communist League of America led by James P. Cannon forming the U.S. Workers Party.

When the two groups came together a youth group was also formed called the Spartacus Youth League.


The formation of the U.S. Workers Party was the fusion of two revolutionary socialist organizations that had both successfully led two militant strikes to victory. The Communist League of America had led the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934 and the American Workers Party helped lead the 1934 Toledo Auto-lite Strike to victory.

These strikes, along with the 1934 West Coast Longshore Strike (led by the Communist Party USA), were important victories after years of union defeats led by class collaborationist union bureaucrats. As such they served as catalysts for the rise of industrial unionism in the 1930s, much of which was organized through the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Speaking of the role of vanguard parties leading the 1934 strike wave James P. Cannon said, “It has been the lack of precisely this element, which only a Marxist party can supply, that condemned the insurgent labor movement of the past to futility and defeat. Lacking a class theory of its own, which can come into the labor movement in no other way than through the Marxist party, the American workers, with all their militancy and capacity for sacrifice, fell victim to all kinds of quackery and treason and landed in a blind alley every time.” []

It was also these strikes that led to the fusion of the two organizations.

In 1933 the American Workers Party had initially formed as a separate organization from the Trotskyist Communist League of America (CLA) partly out of the concern that the CLA did not have a strong base in American politics. The origins of the CLA was a split from the Communist Party USA over the deep theoretical differences between Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin and how those differences related to building the world communist movement.

Yet after both the CLA and AWP had successfully led important strikes in 1934 James P. Cannon declared, “We, on our part, venture to say that the work of the League in the Minneapolis strikes helped convince the members of the AWP that we also are able to “speak American"; that our internationalism is not an abstraction but a guide to action on the national field. Joint work of the two organizations in practical work, limited though it has been, has demonstrated in practice an ability to work out a common policy and to cooperate loyally in advancing it.” []

Entry Into The Socialist Party

Many members of that U.S. Workers Party, in turn, decided to join the Socialist Party of America in 1936 to propagate their views inside that party. The Socialist Party had developed a leftwing and the party had declared itself open to other tendencies. As members of the Socialist Party the Trotskyists of the U.S. Workers Party continued to exist as an independent tendency and continued publishing their own newspapers, "Socialist Appeal" and ‘’Labor Action’’.

One of the big public campaigns that the former Workers Party members led inside the Socialist Party was to expose what they saw as the injustices of the Moscow Trials, trials that were being supported by the Communist Party USA. As the Trotskyists saw it, these show trials were a propaganda tool being used by Joseph Stalin to justify the fact that he was murdering the original Bolshevik Party that had led the 1917 October Revolution in order to firmly establish the power of Stalin’s brutal bureaucratic clique over the USSR.

The work done by the Trotskyists helped expose the farce of the Moscow Trials and recruited more members of the Communist Party to Trotskyism.

In an attempt to silence the growing influence of the revolutionary Trotskyists within the party, the reformist leadership of the Socialist Party of America decided to ban Trotskyist publications as well as banning the passing of resolutions on international questions by branches.

Entire branches refused to follow the orders of the Socialist Party leadership and were expelled. The entire youth group of the Socialist Party, the Young Peoples Socialist League, then also broke with the Socialist Party and joined expelled Trotskyists. The Trotskyists of the U.S. Workers Party, and those they had recruited to Trotskyism, were now once again outside of the Socialist Party of America.

An Expanded Trotskyist Party

On New Years Day 1938 those who were expelled formed a new party that they named the Socialist Workers Party (United States) by combining the names of the two parties that they had come from.

Today the Socialist Workers Party no longer says that it is Trotskyist, but still claims this early history as their own. In addition other Trotskyist groups that later emerged from splits from the Socialist Workers Party also claim this history. These groups include the Internationalist Group, Spartacist League (modern), the Freedom Socialist Party, Socialist Action (US), Socialist Organizer, and the International Bolshevik Tendency.


* [ James P. Cannon, For Fusion With The AWP!]
*James P. Cannon. History of American Trotskyism. 1944. Pathfinder Press. NY, NY.
* [ Writings of James P. Cannon]
* [ History Of The American Trotskyist Movement]
* Constance Ashton Myers. "The Prophet's Army: Trotskyists in America." Greenwood, 1977.
* Alan Wald. "The New York Intellectuals." University of North Carolina, 1987.

*Dobbs, Farrell, Teamster Bureaucracy, New York: Monad Press, 1977. 304 pp.
**Teamster Politics, New York: Monad Press, 1975. 256 pp.
**Teamster Power, New York: Monad Press, 1973. 255 pp.
**Teamster Rebellion, New York: Monad Press, 1972. 190 pp.

External links

* [ On The 1934 Toledo Auto-Lite Strike, by Ted Selander, a participant in the historic strike]
* [ Street Fighting Man, A Look at the 1934 Auto-Lite Strike]

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