History of the socialist movement in the United States

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Socialism in the United States began with utopian communities in the early 19th century and later became closely tied to the Socialist Labor Party (founded in 1876) and the Socialist Party of America (formed in 1901). Influenced by revolutionary European thinking and gaining momentum from distraught workers and oppressed peoples, the Socialist Party managed to successfully run hundreds of candidates for various positions around the nation for several decades. However, it faced severe government repression and eventually broke apart and declined in the 1920s. The Socialist Labor Party never attracted the numbers the Socialist Party did in the early decades of the 20th century, but the SLP continued to exist until the late 20th century.


Utopian communities

Utopian socialism was the US's first Socialist movement. Utopians attempted to develop model socialist societies to demonstrate the virtues of their brand of beliefs. Most Utopian socialist ideas originated in Europe, but the US was most often the site for the experiments themselves. Many Utopian experiments occurred in the 19th century as part of this movement, including:

New Harmony as envisioned by Owen

Robert Owen was a wealthy, Welsh industrialist who turned to social reform and socialism. In 1825 he founded a communitarian colony called New Harmony in southwestern Indiana. The group fell apart in 1829, mostly due to conflict between Utopian ideologues and non-ideological pioneers.

Transcendentalist Utopians founded Brook Farm in 1841. The community was founded on Frenchman Charles Fourier's brand of socialism. Both Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson were members of the short-lived community. The group had trouble reaching financial stability, and many members left as their leader, George Ripley turned more and more to Fourier's doctrine. All hope for its survival was lost when the expensive, Fourier-inspired main building burnt down while under construction. The community dissolved in 1847.

The North American Phalanx

Fourierists also attempted to establish a community in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The North American Phalanx community built a Phalanstère, Fouriers concept of a communal living structure, out of two farmhouses and an addition that linked the two. The community lasted from 1844 to 1856, when a fire destroyed the community's flour and saw mills and several workshops. The community had already begun to decline after an ideological schism in 1853.

Another French socialist, Étienne Cabet, had American followers who attempted to establish a community in Nauvoo, Illinois after the Mormons left the city.

Utopian socialism reached the national level, fictionally, in Edward Bellamy's 1888 novel Looking Backward, a Utopian depiction of a socialist United States in the year 2000. The book sold millions of copies and became one of the best selling American books of the nineteenth century. By one estimation, only Uncle Tom's Cabin surpassed it in sales.[1] The book sparked a following of "Bellamy Clubs" and influenced socialist and labor leaders including Eugene V. Debs.[2]

Early American Socialism and its leaders

The Socialist Labor Party was officially founded in 1876 at a convention in Newark, New Jersey. The party was made up overwhelmingly of German immigrants, who had brought Marxist ideals with them to North America. So strong was the heritage, that the official party language was German for the first three years. In its nascent years the party encompassed a broad range of various socialist philosophies, with differing concepts of how to achieve their goals. Nevertheless, there was a militia, the Lehr und Wehr Verein affiliated to the party. When the SLP reorganised as a Marxist party in 1890, their philosophy became solidified and their influence quickly grew, and by around the start of the 20th century the SLP was the foremost American socialist party.

American Socialism was based on an ideology known today as "democratic socialism." The eventual goal of the movement was to give control of the means of production to the working class, and, in particular, to transfer ownership of major industries to their respective employees, relinquishing "capital to those who create it." Democratic socialists wish to achieve their goals by winning elections (rather than organizing a revolution or a general strike, as other socialists wish to do). Thus the Socialist Party strongly advocated universal suffrage, in order to politically empower the [oppressed] working class, or "proletariat."

Bringing to light the resemblance of the American party’s politics to those of Lassalle, Daniel De Leon emerged as an early leader of the Socialist Labor Party. He was also an adamant supporter of unions, but critical of the collective bargaining movement within America at the time, favoring a slightly different approach.[3] The resulting disagreement between De Leon’s supporters and detractors within the party led to an early schism. De Leon's opponents, led by Morris Hillquit, left the Socialist Labor Party in 1901 and fused with Eugene V. Debs's Social Democratic Party and formed the Socialist Party of America.

Eugene V. Debs

Eugene V. Debs, as the new leader of the Socialist movement, quickly gained national recognition as a charismatic orator. He was often inflammatory and controversial, but also strikingly modest and inspiring. He once said, "I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else… You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition." Debs lent a great and powerful air to the revolution with his speaking. “There was almost a religious fervor to the movement, as in the eloquence of Debs".[4]

The Socialist movement became coherent and energized under Debs. It included "scores of former Populists, militant miners, and blacklisted railroad workers, who were… inspired by occasional visits from national figures like Eugene V. Debs".[5]

Socialism's ties to Labor

Socialists in Union Square, N.Y.C. on May 1st 1912

The Party formed strong alliances with a number of labor organizations, because of their similar goals. In an attempt to rebel against the abuses of corporations, workers had found a solution–or so they thought–in a technique known as collective bargaining. By banding together into "unions" and refusing to work, or “striking,” workers would halt production at a plant or in a mine, forcing management to meet their demands. From Daniel De Leon’s early proposal to organize unions with a Socialist purpose, the two movements became closely tied. One major ideal they had in common was the spirit of collectivism: both in the Socialist platform and in the idea of collective bargaining.

The most prominent unions of the time were the American Federation of Labor, the Knights of Labor, and the Industrial Workers of the World. Uriah S. Stephens founded the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor around secrecy and a semireligious aura to "create a sense of solidarity".[6] The Knights was, in essence, “one big union of all workers.[7] In 1886, a convention of delegates from twenty separate unions formed the American Federation of Labor, with Samuel Gompers as its head. It peaked at 4 million members. The Industrial Workers of the World (or "Wobblies") was formed along the same lines as the Knights, to become one big union. The IWW found early supporters in De Leon and Debs.

The Socialist movement was able to gain strength from its ties to labor. "The [economic] panic of 1907, as well as the growing strength of the Socialists, Wobblies, and trade unions, speeded up the process of reform."[8] However, corporations sought to protect their profits, and took steps against unions and strikers. They hired strikebreakers and pressured the government to call in the national militia when workers refused to do their jobs. A number of strikes dissolved into violent confrontations.

Artist's depiction of the Haymarket Square riot.

In May 1886, the Knights of Labor were demonstrating in the Haymarket Square in Chicago, demanding an eight-hour day in all trades. When police arrived, an unknown person threw a bomb into the crowd, killing one person and injuring several others. “In a trial marked by prejudice and hysteria,” seven anarchists, six of them German speaking, were sentenced to death with no evidence linking them to the bomb.[9]

Strikes also took place that same month (May 1886) in other cities, including Milwaukee, where seven people were killed when Wisconsin Governor Jeremiah M. Rusk ordered state militia troops to fire upon thousands of striking workers who had marched to the Milwaukee Iron Works Rolling Mill in Bay View, on Milwaukeee's south side.

In early 1894, a dispute broke out between George Pullman and his employees. Debs, then-leader of the American Railway Union, organized a strike. United States Attorney General Olney and President Grover Cleveland took the matter to court and were granted several injunctions preventing railroad workers from “interfering with interstate commerce and the mails”.[10] The judiciary of the time denied the legitimacy of strikers. Said one judge, "[neither] the weapon of the insurrectionist, nor the inflamed tongue of him who incites fire and sword is the instrument to bring about reforms".[10] This was the first sign of a clash between the government and Socialist ideals.

In 1914, one of the worst labor conflicts in American history took place at a mining colony in Colorado called Ludlow. After workers struck with grievances ranging from requests for an eight-hour day to allegations of subjugation, the National Guard was called in by Colorado governor Elias Ammons. That winter, Guardsmen made 172 arrests.[11][12]

The strikers began to fight back, killing four mine guards and firing into a separate camp where strikebreakers lived. When the body of a strikebreaker was found nearby, the National Guard’s General Chase ordered the tent colony destroyed in retaliation.[12]

"On Monday morning, April 20, two dynamite bombs were exploded, in the hills above Ludlow... a signal for operations to begin. At 9 AM a machine gun began firing into the tents [where strikers were living], and then others joined."[12] One eyewitness reported, “The soldiers and mine guards tried to kill everybody; anything they saw move".[12] That night, the National Guard rode down from the hills surrounding Ludlow and set fire to the tents. Twenty-six people, including two women and eleven children, were killed.[13]

Union members were now afraid to strike. The military, which saw strikers as dangerous insurgents, intimidated and threatened them. This compounded with a public backlash against anarchists and radicals. As public opinion of strikes and unions was soured, the Socialists often appeared guilty by association. They were lumped together with strikers and anarchists under a blanket of public distrust.

Political oppression

Aside from the military, the Socialists would meet harsh political opposition as well when exercising their First Amendment right. On April 7, 1917, the day after the United States entered World War I, an emergency convention of the Socialist party was held in St. Louis. They declared the war “a crime against the people of the United States"[14] and began holding anti-war rallies. Socialist anti-draft demonstrations drew as many as 20,000.[15]

President Woodrow Wilson

In June 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Espionage Act,[16] which included a clause providing prison sentences for up to twenty years for “Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty… or willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment of service of the United States”.[15] The Socialists, with their talk of draft dodging and war-opposition, found themselves the target of persecution. Scores were convicted of treason and jailed.

After visiting three Socialists imprisoned in Canton, Ohio, Eugene V. Debs crossed the street and made a two-hour speech to a crowd in which he condemned the war. "Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder… The master class has always declared the war and the subject class has always fought the battles," Debs told the crowd.[17]

He was immediately arrested and soon convicted under the Espionage Act. During his trial, he did not take the stand, nor call a witness in his defense. However, before the trial began, and after his sentencing, he made speeches to the jury: "I have been accused of obstructing the war. I admit it. Gentlemen, I abhor war… I have sympathy with the suffering, struggling people everywhere…" He also uttered what would become his most famous words: "While there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison,[18] stripped of his citizenship, and disenfranchised for life.

During the war, the Socialists were wracked by assaults on their right to free speech. "The patriotic fervor of war [was] invoked. The courts and jails [were] used to reinforce the idea that certain ideas, certain kinds of resistance, could not be tolerated".[19]

The government crackdown on dissenting radicalism paralleled public outrage towards opponents of the war. Several groups were formed on the local and national levels to silence dissent. The American Vigilante Patrol, a subdivision of the American Defense Society, was formed with the purpose “to put an end to seditious street oratory".[20] The United States Department of Justice sponsored an organization known as the American Protective League, which kept track of cases of “disloyalty.” It eventually claimed it had found 3,000,000 such cases.[20] "Even if these figures are exaggerated, the very size and scope of the League gives a clue to the amount of ‘disloyalty'."[20]

The press was also instrumental in spreading feelings of hatred against dissenters:

In April of 1917, the New York Times quoted (former Secretary of War) Elihu Root as saying: ‘We must have no criticism now.’ A few months later it quoted him again that ‘there are men walking about the streets of this city tonight who ought to be taken out at sunrise tomorrow and shot for treason’… The Minneapolis Journal carried an appeal by the [Minnesota Commission of Public Safety] ‘for all patriots to join in the suppression of anti-draft and seditious acts and sentiment’.[20]

Two steps back, one forward

Meanwhile, corporations pressured the government to deal with strikes and other disruptions from disgruntled workers. The government felt especially pressured to keep war-related industries running. "As worker discontent and strikes… intensified in the summer of 1917, demands grew for prompt federal action… The anti-labor forces concentrated their venom on the IWW."[21] Soon, “the halls of Congress rang with denunciations of the IWW" and the government sided with industry; "federal attorneys viewed strikes not as the behavior of discontented workers but as the outcome of subversive and even German influences".[21]

On September 5, 1917, at the request of President Wilson, the Justice Department conducted a raid on the Industrial Workers of the World. They stormed every one of the 48 IWW headquarters in the country. "By month’s end, a federal grand jury had indicted nearly two hundred IWW leaders on charges of sedition and espionage" under the Espionage Act.[22] Their sentences ranged from a few months to ten years in prison. An ally of the Socialist party had been practically destroyed.

However, Wilson did recognize a problem with the state of labor in America. In 1918, he created the National War Labor Board in an attempt to reform labor practices. The Board included an equal number of members from labor and business, and members of the AFL. The Board was able to “institute the eight-hour day in many industries… to raise wages for transit workers… [and] to demand equal pay for women…"[23] It also required employers to bargain collectively, effectively making unions legal.

Internal strife and public prejudice

But the next year, internal strife would cause a schism. After Vladimir Lenin’s successful revolution in Russia, he invited the Socialist Party to join the Communist Third International. The debate over whether to align with Lenin caused a major rift in the party. A referendum to join Lenin’s "Comintern" passed with 90% approval, but the moderates who were in charge of the Party expelled the extreme leftists before this could take place. The expelled members formed the Communist Labor Party and the Communist Party of America. The Socialist Party ended up, with only moderates left, at one third of its original size.

In addition, a wave of prejudice swept the country after the war. The nation indulged in anti-immigrant and anti-Communist sentiment. “After the Russian Revolution of 1917, America’s ruling class became almost obsessed with Communism."[24] This was known as the first Red Scare.[25] Anarchists had sent a number of mail-bombs to prominent businessmen and government leaders. However, “Little distinction was made between working-class Communists and the suspected anarchists."[24]

Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer

Attorney General Palmer, after he himself received a bomb in the mail, set out to stop the “Communist conspiracy” that he believed was operating inside the United States. “Foreigners and labor unions were his prime targets."[26] He created a secret organization, the General Intelligence Division, led by J. Edgar Hoover.[27] Hoover soon amassed a card-catalogue system with information on 150,000 individuals and 60,000 groups and publications.[26] Palmer and Hoover both published press releases and circulated anti-Communist propaganda. Then, on January 2, 1920, the Palmer Raids began.

In Manhattan, the target was the Russian People’s House, where 183 men were initially arrested… The arrests were particularly brutal. Some people were hurled down the stairs of the Russian People’s House. Others were beaten. Drunk with the success of the raid, Palmer went to Congress a week later to ask that a peacetime sedition act be passed... [Congress] cheered Palmer in the halls of the Capitol.[26]

On that single day in 1920, Palmer’s agents rounded up 6,000 people.[26] In the subsequent trials, the Labor Department ruled that mere "membership in a Communist organization was sufficient ground for the deportation of aliens".[26] However, it later ruled that the incarcerations and deportations were illegal,[28] halting Palmer’s raids

The Red Scare was over, but Americans' xenophobia remained.

Americans feared that the millions of new immigrants would take jobs from the native-born. America’s capitalists had long been blaming the labor unrest of previous decades on radical dissidents among the immigrants… Americans seemed willing to transform their war-time fear of Germans to a post-war fear of the... immigrant industrial worker.[29]

Congress soon passed the Johnson-Reed Immigration Act, heavily restricting immigration from [typically Communist] eastern and southern Europe.

Conservative rhetoric

Since the late 19th century conservatives have used the term "socialism" (or "creeping socialism") as a means of dismissing spending on public welfare programs which could potentially enlarge the role of the federal government, or lead to higher tax rates. In this sense it has little to do with government ownership of the means of production, or the various Socialist parties. Thus William Allen White attacked presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan in 1896 by warning that, "The election will sustain Americanism or it will plant Socialism."[30][31] Barry Goldwater in 1960 called for Republican unity against John F. Kennedy and the "blueprint for socialism presented by the Democrats."[32] Ronald Reagan often quoted Norman Thomas, the perennial Socialist nominee for president in the New Deal era, as saying, "The American people would never knowingly vote for Socialism, but that under the name of liberalism, they would adopt every fragment of the socialist program."[33]

The decline of popular socialism

"When the twenties began… the IWW was destroyed, the Socialist party falling apart. The strikes were beaten down by force, and the economy was doing just well enough for just enough people to prevent mass rebellion".[34] Thus the decline of the Socialist movement during the early 20th century was the result of a number of constrictions and attacks from several directions:

The Socialists had lost a major ally in the Wobblies, and their free speech had been restricted, if not denied. Immigrants, a major base of the Socialist movement, were discriminated against and looked down upon. Eugene V. Debs—the charismatic leader of the Socialists—was in prison, along with hundreds of fellow dissenters. Wilson’s National War Labor Board and a number of legislative acts had ameliorated the plight of the workers.[35] Now, the Socialists were regarded as being "unnecessary", the “lunatic fringe,” and a group of untrustworthy radicals. The press, courts, and other establishment structures exhibited prejudice against them . After crippling schisms within the party and a change in public opinion due to the Palmer Raids, a general negative perception of the far left, and attribution to it of terrorist incidents such as the Wall Street Bombing, the Socialist party found itself unable to gather popular support.

The Party would reach its peak in 1912. At one time, it boasted 33 city mayors, many seats in state legislatures, and two members of the US House of Representatives.[36] When running for President in 1912, Eugene V. Debs won 6% of the popular vote.

According to Werner Stombart, socialism had failed to make a widespread impact on American society because of the supposedly higher standard of living that Americans had compared to their European counterparts, arguing that socialism in America had foundered upon the shoals of “roast beef and apple pie.”[37]


In 1919, John Reed, Benjamin Gitlow and other Socialists formed the Communist Labor Party, while Socialist foreign sections led by Charles Ruthenberg formed the Communist Party. These two groups would be combined as the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA).[38] The Communists organized the Trade Union Unity League to compete with the AFL and claimed to represent 50,000 workers.[39]

In 1928, following divisions inside the Soviet Union, Jay Lovestone, who had replaced Ruthenberg as general secretary of the CPUSA following his death, joined with William Z. Foster to expel Foster's former allies, James P. Cannon and Max Shachtman, who were followers of Leon Trotsky. Following another Soviet factional dispute, Lovestone and Gitlow were expelled, and Earl Browder became party leader.[40]

Cannon, Shachtman, and Martin Abern then set up the Trotskyist Communist League of America, and recruited members from the CPUSA.[41] The League then merged with A. J. Muste's American Workers Party in 1934, forming the Workers Party. New members included James Burnham and Sidney Hook.[42]

By the 1930s the Socialist Party was deeply divided between an Old Guard, led by Hillquit and younger Militants, who were more sympathetic to the Soviet Union, led by Norman Thomas. The Old Guard left the party to form the Social Democratic Federation.[43] Following talks between the Workers Party and the Socialists, members of the Workers Party joined the Socialists in 1936.[44] Once inside they operated as a separate faction.[45] The Trotskyists were expelled from the Socialist Party the following year, and set up the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the youth wing of the Socialists, the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL) joined them.[46] Shachtman and others were expelled from the SWP in 1940 over their position on the Soviet Union and set up the Workers Party. Within months many members of the new party, including Burnham, had left.[47] The Workers Party was renamed the Independent Socialist League (ISL) in 1949 and ceased being a political party.[48]

Some members of the Old Guard formed the American Labor Party (ALP) in New York State, with support from the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The right wing of this party broke away in 1944 to form the Liberal Party of New York.[49] In the 1936, 1940 and 1944 elections the ALP received 274,000, 417,000, and 496,000 votes in New York State, while the Liberals received 329,000 votes in 1944.[50]

1950s and 1960s: Civil Rights, the War on Poverty and the New Left

In 1958 the Socialist Party welcomed former members of the Independent Socialist League, which before its 1956 dissolution had been led by Max Shachtman. Shachtman had developed a Marxist critique of Soviet communism as "bureaucratic collectivism", a new form of class society that was more oppressive than any form of capitalism. Shachtman's theory was similar to that of many dissidents and refugees from Communism, such as the theory of the "New Class" proposed by Yugoslavian dissident Milovan Đilas (Djilas). Shachtman's ISL had attracted youth like Irving Howe, Michael Harrington,[51] Tom Kahn, and Rachelle Horowitz.[52][53][54] The YPSL was dissolved, but the party formed a new youth group under the same name.[55]

Picture of A. Philip Randolph.
Socialist A. Philip Randolph led the 1963 March on Washington at which Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his speech "I have a dream".

Kahn and Horowitz, along with Norman Hill, helped Bayard Rustin with the civil-rights movement. Rustin had helped to spread pacificism and non-violence to leaders of the civil rights movement, like Martin Luther King. Rustin's circle and A. Philip Randolph organized the 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King delivered his I Have A Dream speech.[56][57][58][59]

Michael Harrington soon became the most visible socialist in the United States when his The Other America became a best seller, following a long and laudatory New Yorker review by Dwight Macdonald.[60] Harrington and other socialists were called to Washington, D.C., to assist the Kennedy Administration and then the Johnson Administration's War on Poverty and Great Society.[61]

Shachtman, Michael Harrington, Kahn, and Rustin argued advocated a political strategy called "realignment," that prioritized strengthening labor unions and other progressive organizations that were already active in the Democratic Party. Contributing to the day-to-day struggles of the civil-rights movement and labor unions had gained socialists credibility and influence, and had helped to push politicians in the Democratic Party towards "social-liberal" or social-democratic positions, at least on civil rights and the War on Poverty.[62][63]

Harrington, Kahn, and Horowitz were officers and staff-persons of the League for Industrial Democracy (LID), which helped to start the New Left Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).[64] The three LID officers clashed with the less experienced activists of SDS, like Tom Hayden, when the latter's Port Huron Statement criticized socialist and liberal opposition to communism and criticized the labor movement while promoting students as agents of social change.[65][66] LID and SDS split in 1965, when SDS voted to remove from its constitution the "exclusion clause" that prohibited membership by communists:[67] The SDS exclusion clause had barred "advocates of or apologists for" "totalitarianism".[68] The clause's removal effectively invited "disciplined cadre" to attempt to "take over or paralyze" SDS, as had occurred to mass organizations in the thirties.[69] Afterwords, Marxism Leninism, particularly the Progressive Labor Party, helped to write "the death sentence" for SDS,[70][71][72][73] which nonetheless had over 100 thousand members at its peak.

In the 1960s there was a renewed interest in anarchism, and some anarchist and other left-wing groups developed out of the New Left. Anarchists began using direct action, organizing through affinity groups during anti-nuclear campaigns in the 1970s.


In 1972, the Socialist Party voted to rename itself as Social Democrats, USA (SDUSA) by a vote of 73 to 34 at its December Convention; its National Chairmen were Bayard Rustin, a peace and civil-rights leader, and Charles S. Zimmerman, an officer of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU).[74] In 1973, Michael Harrington resigned from SDUSA and founded the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC), which attracted many of his followers from the former Socialist Party.[75] The same year, David McReynolds and others from the pacifist and immediate-withdrawal wing of the former Socialist Party formed the Socialist Party, USA.[76]

Bayard Rustin was the national chairperson of SDUSA during the 1970s. SDUSA sponsored a biannual conference[77] that featured discussions, for which SDUSA invited outside academic, political, and labor-union leaders. These meetings also functioned as reunions for political activists and intellectuals, some of whom worked together for decades.[78] SDUSA also published position papers.

1980s and 1990s

From 1979–1989, SDUSA members like Tom Kahn organized the AFL–CIO's fundraising of 300 thousand dollars, which bought printing presses and other supplies requested by Solidarnosc (Solidarity), the independent labor-union of Poland.[79][80][81] SDUSA members helped form a bipartisan coalition (of the Democratic and Republican Parties) to support the founding of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), whose first President was Carl Gershman. The NED publicly allocated 4 million USD of public aid to Solidarity through 1989.[82][83]

Because of their service in government, Gershman and other SDUSA members were called "State Department socialists" by Massing (1987), who wrote that the foreign policy of the Reagan administration was being run by Trotskyists, a claim that was called a "myth" by Lipset (1988, p. 34).[84] This "Trotskyist" charge has been repeated and even widened by journalist Michael Lind in 2003 to assert a takeover of the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration by former Trotskyists;[85] Lind's "amalgamation of the defense intellectuals with the traditions and theories of 'the largely Jewish-American Trotskyist movement' [in Lind's words]" was criticized in 2003 by University of Michigan professor Alan M. Wald, who had written a history of "the New York intellectuals" that discussed Trotskyism and neoconservatism.[86] SDUSA and allegations that "Trotskyists" subverted the foreign policy of the G. W. Bush have been mentioned by "self-styled" paleoconservatives (conservative opponents of neoconservatism).[87][88]

Contemporary social-democratic and socialist groups

After 1960 the Socialist Party also functioned "as an educational organization".[89] Members of the Debs–Thomas Socialist Party helped to develop leaders of social-movement organizations, including the civil-rights movement and the New Left.[90][91] Similarly, contemporary social-democratic and democratic-socialist organizations are known because of their members' activities in other organizations.

Social Democrats, USA (SDUSA)

Social Democrats, USA has a history dating back to Debs. SDUSA sponsored a biannual conference[77] that featured discussions and debates over proposed resolutions, some of which were adopted as organizational statements. For these conferences, SDUSA invited a range of academic, political, and labor-union leaders. These meetings also functioned as reunions for political activists and intellectuals, some of whom worked together for decades.[78] SDUSA also published a newsletter and occasional position papers.

As of 2011, SDUSA is essentially inactive. In 2008, a group centered around Pennsylvania members of SDUSA emerged, determined to re-launch the organization. A re-founding convention was held in May 2009, at which a National Executive Committee was elected. Owing to factional disagreements, the Pennsylvania-based group and the newly elected NEC parted company, with the former styling itself as the "Social Democrats USA – Socialist Party, USA" and the latter as "Social Democrats, USA."

Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)

DSA and SPUSA members leading march Occupy Wall Street on September 17, 2011

Michael Harrington resigned from Social Democrats, USA early in 1973. He rejected the SDUSA (majority Socialist Party) position on the Vietnam War, which demanded an end to bombings and a negotiated peace settlement. Harrington called rather for an immediate cease fire and immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam.[92] Even before the December 1972 convention, Michael Harrington had resigned as an Honorary Chairperson of the Socialist Party.[74] In the early spring of 1973, he resigned his membership in SDUSA. That same year, Harrington and his supporters formed the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC). At its start, DSOC had 840 members, of which 2 percent served on its national board; approximately 200 had been members of Social Democrats, USA or its predecessors whose membership was then 1,800, according to a 1973 profile of Harrington.[93]

DSOC became a member of the Socialist International. DSOC supported progressive Democrats, including DSOC member Congressman Ron Dellums,[94] and worked to help network activists in the Democratic Party and in labor unions.[95] With roughly six thousand members, it is the largest contemporary democratic-socialist or social-democratic organization in the United States.

In 1982 DSOC established the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) upon merging with the New American Movement, an organization of democratic socialists mostly from the New Left.[96] Its high-profile members included Congressman Major Owens and William Winpisinger, President of the International Association of Machinists.

Socialist Party USA (SPUSA)

In the Socialist Party before 1973, members of the Debs Caucus opposed endorsing or otherwise supporting Democratic Party candidates. They began working outside the Socialist Party with antiwar groups such as the Students for a Democratic Society. Some locals voted to disaffiliate with SDUSA and more members resigned; they re-organized as the Socialist Party USA (SPUSA), while continuing to operate the old Debs Caucus paper, the Socialist Tribune, later renamed The Socialist. The SPUSA continued to run local and national candidates. In 1972 they supported the presidential campaign of Benjamin Spock of the People's Party. Their 2000 candidate for president was David McReynolds.[97] In 2000 SPUSA stated that it had 1,000 members.[citation needed]

World Socialist Party of the United States (WSPUS)

The "Socialist Party of the United States" (SPUS) — its name inspired by co-thinkers in the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) and the Socialist Party of Canada (SPC) — was established on July 7, 1916 by 42 defecting members of Local Detroit of the Socialist Party of America (SPA). The WSPUS applauded the Bolshevik's withdraw from the first World War, but felt that the new Soviet regime could only be state capitalist and hence should not be supported. In 1947 the party's name was changed to the present World Socialist Party of the United States, companion party of World Socialist Movement. It has stood against all wars fought since its inception on the grounds that they always represent the economic interests of the owning class, and never those of the working class. Unlike much of the left, it does not take sides in wars, e.g. not calling for a victory for the Vietnamese against America.

Socialism today

An April 2009 Rasmussen Reports poll, conducted during the Financial crisis of 2007–2010 (which many believe resulted due to lack of regulation in the financial markets) suggested that there had been a growth of support for socialism in the United States. The poll results stated that 53% of American adults thought capitalism was better than socialism, and that "Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided".[98]Bernie Sanders, current U.S. Senator from Vermont, has described himself as a democratic socialist. Sanders served as the at-large representative for the state of Vermont before being elected to the senate in 2006.[99]

See also


  1. ^ Auerbach, Jonathan. "'The Nation Organized': Utopian Impotence in Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward." American Literary History 1994 6(1):24.
  2. ^ Auerbach, 24.
  3. ^ The difference between De Leon’s ideal union situation and the one being practiced at the time is minute and necessitates a comparison between Anarcho-Syndicalism and DeLeonism. This complex economic discussion is outside the scope of this article
  4. ^ Zinn, 1980, p. 333.
  5. ^ Zinn, 1980, p. 332.
  6. ^ Tindall et al., 1984, p. 827.
  7. ^ Tindall et al., 1984, p. 828.
  8. ^ Zinn, 1980, p. 342.
  9. ^ Tindall and Shi, 1984, p. 829.
  10. ^ a b Dubofsky, 1994, p. 29.
  11. ^ As the conflict dragged on, the state of Colorado was unable to pay the salaries of many National Guardsmen. As enlisted men dropped out, mine guards took their places, their uniforms, and their weapons
  12. ^ a b c d Kick et al., 2002, p. 263.
  13. ^ Kick et al., 2002, p. 264.
  14. ^ Zinn, 1980, p. 355.
  15. ^ a b Zinn, 1980, p. 356.
  16. ^ This Act is still on the books today and has been repeatedly used in peacetime. Officially, since the Korean War in the 1950s, the United States has been in a constant “state of emergency. Zinn, 1980, p. 356.
  17. ^ Zinn, 1980, 358.
  18. ^ Debs served 32 months of his sentence until President Warren G. Harding pardoned him.
  19. ^ Zinn, 1980, p. 367.
  20. ^ a b c d Zinn, 1980, p. 360.
  21. ^ a b Dubofsky, 1994, p. 67.
  22. ^ Dubofsky, 1994, p. 69.
  23. ^ Dubofsky, 1994, p. 73.
  24. ^ a b Axelrod and Philips, 1992, p. 254.
  25. ^ This is also known as the "Palmer Raids". Senator Joseph McCarthy, directly following the Second World War, orchestrated the second, more famous Red Scare. It found the same targets in Communists and foreigners.
  26. ^ a b c d e Axelrod et al., 1992, p. 256.
  27. ^ At this time, J. Edgar Hoover was working as Palmer’s special assistant in the Justice Department.
  28. ^ "Since the Communist Labor Party accepted the possibility of change through Parliamentary action, it could not be considered an advocate of violent revolution". Axelrod et al., 1992, p. 256.
  29. ^ Axelrod et al., 1992, pg. 265.
  30. ^ William Safire, Safire's political dictionary (2008) pp. 18, 157
  31. ^ Donald T. Critchlow, The conservative ascendancy: how the GOP right made political history (2007) p. 43
  32. ^ Lawson Bowling (2005). Shapers of the Great Debate on the Great Society: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood. p. 137. http://books.google.com/books?id=H0J5i01JnEQC&pg=PA137.
  33. ^ Tom Kemme (1987). Political Fiction, the Spirit of Age, and Allen Drury. Popular Press. p. 12. http://books.google.com/books?id=sN8xe2k8LVwC&pg=PA12.
  34. ^ Zinn, 1980, p. 373.
  35. ^ By around the start of the 20th century, the states had passed over 1,600 acts relating to working conditions. Tindall et al., 1984, p. 888.
  36. ^ Tindall et al., 1984, p. 838.
  37. ^ Democratic Socialism: A Global Survey Donald F. Busky
  38. ^ Ryan, p. 16.
  39. ^ Ryan, p. 35.
  40. ^ Ryan, p. 36.
  41. ^ Alexander, pp. 765-767.
  42. ^ Alexander, p. 777.
  43. ^ Alexander, p. 784.
  44. ^ Alexander, p. 786.
  45. ^ Alexander, p. 787.
  46. ^ Alexander, p. 792-793.
  47. ^ Alexander, pp. 803-805.
  48. ^ Alexander, p. 810.
  49. ^ Stedman and Stedman, p. 9
  50. ^ Stedman and Stedman, p. 33
  51. ^ Isserman, The other american, p. 116.
  52. ^ Drucker (1994, p. 269):

    Drucker, Peter (1994). Max Shachtman and his left: A socialist's odyssey through the "American Century". Humanities Press.

  53. ^ Horowitz (2007, p. 210)
  54. ^ Kahn (2007, pp. 254–255): Kahn, Tom (2007) [1973], "Max Shachtman: His ideas and his movement" (pdf), Democratiya (merged with Dissent in 2009) 11 (Winter): 252–259, http://www.dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/docs/d11Khan.pdf
  55. ^ Alexander, p. 812-813.
  56. ^ Jervis Anderson, A. Philip Randolph: A Biographical Portrait (1973; University of California Press, 1986). ISBN 978-0-520-05505-6
  57. ^
    • Anderson, Jervis. Bayard Rustin: Troubles I've Seen (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997).
    • Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 (New York: Touchstone, 1989).
    • D’Emilio, John. Lost Prophet: Bayard Rustin and the Quest for Peace and Justice in America (New York: The Free Press, 2003).
    • D'Emilio, John. Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004). ISBN
  58. ^ Horowitz (2007, pp. 220–222):

    Horowitz, Rachelle (2007). "Tom Kahn and the fight for democracy: A political portrait and personal recollection". Democratiya (merged with Dissent in 2009) 11 (Summer): 204–251. http://www.dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/article_pdfs/d11Horowitz.pdf.

  59. ^ Saxon, Wolfgang (1 April 1992). "Tom Kahn, leader in labor and rights movements, was 53". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1992/04/01/nyregion/tom-kahn-leader-in-labor-and-rights-movements-was-53.html.
  60. ^
  61. ^ Isserman, Maurice (2009-06-19). "Michael Harrington: Warrior on poverty". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/books/review/Isserman-t.html?_r=1.
  62. ^ Isserman, The other american, pp. 169–336.
  63. ^ Drucker (1994, pp. 187–308)
  64. ^ Miller, pp. 24–25, 37, 74-75: c.f., pp. 55, 66-70 : Miller, James. Democracy is in the Streets: From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1994 ISBN 978-0-674-19725-1.
  65. ^ Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS, pp. 22-25.
  66. ^ Miller, pp. 75-76, 112-116, 127-132; c.f. p. 107.
  67. ^ Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS, p. 105.
  68. ^ Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS, pp. 25–26
  69. ^ Gitlin, p. 191.

    Todd Gitlin. The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (1987) ISBN .

  70. ^ Sale, p. 287.

    Sale described an "all‑out invasion of SDS by the Progressive Labor Party. PLers—concentrated chiefly in Boston, New York, and California, with some strength in Chicago and Michigan—were positively cyclotronic in their ability to split and splinter chapter organizations: if it wasn't their self‑righteous positiveness it was their caucus‑controlled rigidity, if not their deliberate disruptiveness it was their overt bids for control, if not their repetitious appeals for base‑building it was their unrelenting Marxism". Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS, pp. 253.

  71. ^ "The student radicals had gamely resisted the resurrected Marxist-Leninist sects ..." (p. 258); "for more than a year, SDS had been the target of a takeover attempt by the Progressive Labor Party, a Marxist-Leninist cadre of Maoists", Miller, p. 284. Miller describes Marxist Leninists also on pages 228, 231, 240, and 254: c.f., p. 268.
  72. ^ Gitlin, p. 191.

    Todd Gitlin. The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (1987) p. 387 ISBN .

  73. ^ Sale wrote, "SDS papers and pamphlets talked of 'armed struggle,' 'disciplined cadre,' 'white fighting force,' and the need for "a communist party that can guide this movement to victory"; SDS leaders and publications quoted Mao and Lenin and Ho Chi Minh more regularly than Jenminh Jih Pao. and a few of them even sought to say a few good words for Stalin". p. 269.
  74. ^ a b Anonymous (31 December 1972). "Socialist Party now the Social Democrats, U.S.A.". New York Times: p. 36. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F00B16FC3E5A137A93C3AA1789D95F468785F9. Retrieved February 8, 2010.
  75. ^ Isserman, p. 311.
  76. ^ Isserman, p. 422.
  77. ^ a b Social Democrats, USA (1973), The American challenge: A social-democratic program for the seventies, New York: SDUSA, http://www.archive.org/details/TheAmericanChallengeASocial-democraticProgramForTheSeventies
  78. ^ a b Meyerson, Harold (2002). "Solidarity, Whatever". Dissent 49 (Fall): 16. http://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/?article=552.
  79. ^ Horowitz, Rachelle (2007). "Tom Kahn and the fight for democracy: A political portrait and personal recollection". Democratiya (merged with Dissent in 2009) 11: 204–251. http://www.dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/article_pdfs/d11Horowitz.pdf.
  80. ^ Shevis (1981, p. 31):

    Shevis, James M. (1981). "The AFL-CIO and Poland's Solidarity". World Affairs (World Affairs Institute) 144 (Summer): 31–35. JSTOR 20671880.

  81. ^ Opening statement by Tom Kahn in Kahn & Podhoretz (2008, p. 235):

    Kahn, Tom; Podhoretz, Norman (2008). Sponsored by the Committee for the Free World and the League for Industrial Democracy, with introduction by Midge Decter and moderation by Carl Gershman, and held at the Polish Institute for Arts and Sciences, New York City in March 1981. "How to support Solidarnosc: A debate". Democratiya (merged with Dissent in 2009) 13 (Summer): 230–261. http://www.dissentmagazine.org/democratiya/docs/d13Whole.pdf.

  82. ^ "The AFL–CIO had channeled more than $4 million to it, including computers, printing presses, and supplies" according to Horowitz (2009, p. 237).
  83. ^ Puddington (2005):

    Puddington, Arch (2005). "Surviving the underground: How American unions helped solidarity win". American Educator (American Federation of Teachers) (Summer). http://www.aft.org/newspubs/periodicals/ae/summer2005/puddington.cfm. Retrieved 4 June 2011.

  84. ^ "A 1987 article in The New Republic described these developments as a Trotskyist takeover of the Reagan administration" wrote Lipset (1988, p. 34).
  85. ^ Lind, Michael (7 April 2003). "The weird men behind George W. Bush's war". New Statesman (London). http://www.oss.net/dynamaster/file_archive/030408/d431cc57ce9014da63b65ea39c1fd657/8%20Apr%2003%20The%20weird%20men%20behind%20George%20W%20Bush.doc.
  86. ^ Wald, Alan (27 June 2003). "Are Trotskyites Running the Pentagon?". History News Network. http://hnn.us/articles/1514.html.
  87. ^ King, William (2004). "Neoconservatives and 'Trotskyism'". American Communist History (Taylor and Francis) 3 (2): 247–266. doi:10.1080/1474389042000309817.

    King, Bill (22 March 2004). The question of 'Shachtmanism'. "Neoconservatives and Trotskyism". Enter Stage Right: Politics, Culture, Economics 2004 (March): 1 2. http://www.enterstageright.com/archive/articles/0304/0304neocontrotp1.htm.

  88. ^ Muravchik (2006). Addressing the allegation that SDUSUA was a "Trotskyist" organization, Muravchik wrote that in the early 1960s, two future members of SDUSA, Tom Kahn and Paul Feldman

    "became devotees of a former Trotskyist named Max Shachtman—a fact that today has taken on a life of its own. Tracing forward in lineage through me and a few other ex-YPSL’s [members of the Young Peoples Socialist League] turned neoconservatives, this happenstance has fueled the accusation that neoconservatism itself, and through it the foreign policy of the Bush administration, are somehow rooted in 'Trotskyism.'

    I am more inclined to laugh than to cry over this, but since the myth has traveled so far, let me briefly try once more, as I have done at greater length in the past, to set the record straight.[See "The Neoconservative Cabal," Commentary, September 2003] The alleged connective chain is broken at every link. The falsity of its more recent elements is readily ascertainable by anyone who cares for the truth—namely, that George Bush was never a neoconservative and that most neoconservatives were never YPSL’s. The earlier connections are more obscure but no less false. Although Shachtman was one of the elder statesmen who occasionally made stirring speeches to us, no YPSL of my generation was a Shachtmanite. What is more, our mentors, Paul and Tom, had come under Shachtman’s sway years after he himself had ceased to be a Trotskyite.

  89. ^ Hamby (2003, p. 25, footnote 5): Hamby, Alonzo L. (2003). "Is there no democratic left in America? Reflections on the transformation of an ideology". Journal of Policy History 15: 3–25. doi:10.1353/jph.2003.0003.
  90. ^ Aldon Morris, The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change (New York: The Free Press, 1994)
  91. ^
  92. ^ Drucker (1994, pp. 303–307):

    Drucker, Peter (1994). Max Shachtman and his left: A socialist's odyssey through the "American Century". Humanities Press. ISBN 0-391-03816-8.

  93. ^ O'Rourke (1993, pp. 195–196):

    O'Rourke, William (1993). "L: Michael Harrington". Signs of the literary times: Essays, reviews, profiles, 1970-1992'. The Margins of Literature (SUNY Series). SUNY Press. pp. 192–196. ISBN 978-0-7914-1681-5. http://books.google.com/books?id=5iUJfPxlTCcC&pg=PA195. Originally: O'Rourke, William (13 November 1973). "Michael Harrington: Beyond Watergate, Sixties, and reform". SoHo Weekly News 3 (2): 6–7. http://books.google.com/books?id=5iUJfPxlTCcC&pg=PA197&dq=%22Socialist+Party%22+OR+%22Social+Democrats%22,+%22Michael+Harrington%22,+%22New+York+Times%22&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q=Michael%20Harrington&f=false.

  94. ^ Maurice Isserman. "A Brief History of the American Left". Democratic Socialists of America. http://www.dsausa.org/about/history.html.
  95. ^ Isserman, pp. 312–331: Isserman, Maurice (2001) The Other American: The Life of Michael Harrington. New York: Perseus Books.
  96. ^ Isserman, p. 349: Isserman, Maurice (2001) The Other American: The Life of Michael Harrington. New York: Perseus Books.
  97. ^ Busky, pp. 164-165
  98. ^ Rasmussen Reports http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/april_2009/just_53_say_capitalism_better_than_socialism , accessed 23/10/09
  99. ^ Mark Leibovich (January 21, 2007). "The Socialist Senator". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/21/magazine/21Sanders.t.html?_r=1.


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Further reading

External links