Socialist Party USA

Socialist Party USA
Socialist Party USA
Chairman Billy Wharton
Stephanie Cholensky
Founded January 1, 1973 (January 1, 1973)
Preceded by Socialist Party of America
Headquarters 339 Lafayette St. Suite #303
New York, NY 10012
Youth wing Young People's Socialist League
Membership  (2011) 1,000[1]
Ideology Democratic socialism, Socialist feminism[2]
International affiliation None
Official colors Red
Political position Fiscal: Left-wing
Social: Left-wing
Seats in the Senate
0 / 100
Seats in the House
0 / 435
0 / 50
State Upper Houses
0 / 1,921
State Lower Houses
0 / 5,410
Politics of the United States
Political parties

The Socialist Party USA (SPUSA) is a multi-tendency democratic-socialist party in the United States. The party states that it is the rightful continuation and successor to the tradition of the Socialist Party of America, which had lasted from 1901 to 1972.

The party is officially committed to left-wing democratic socialism. The Socialist Party USA, along with its predecessors, has received varying degrees of support, when its candidates have competed against those from the Republican and Democratic parties. Some attribute this to the party having to compete with the financial dominance of the two major parties, as well as the limitations of the United States' legislatively[3][4] and judicially[5] entrenched two-party system. The Party supports third-party candidates, particularly socialists, and opposes the candidates of the two major parties.

Opposing both capitalism and "authoritarian communism", the Party advocates bringing big business under public ownership and democratic workers' self-management. It does not advocate the unaccountable bureaucratic control of Soviet communism.[6]



In 1958, the Independent Socialist League led by Max Shachtman dissolved to join the Socialist Party of America. Shachtman [7] had written that Soviet communism was a new form of class society, bureaucratic collectivism, in which the ruling class exploited and oppressed the population, and therefore he opposed the spread of communism.[8][9] Shachtman also argued that democratic socialists should work with activists from labor unions and civil-rights organizations to help build a social-democratic "realignment" of the Democratic Party. He died on 4 November 1972.[8]

In its 1972 Convention, the Socialist Party changed its name to "Social Democrats, USA" by a vote of 73 to 34.[10] The change of name was supported by the two Co-Chairmen, Bayard Rustin and Charles S. Zimmerman (of the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union, ILGWU),[11] and by the First National Vice Chairman, James S. Glaser; these three were re-elected by acclamation.[10]

Renaming the party as SDUSA was meant to be "realistic". The New York Times observed that the Socialist Party had last sponsored Darlington Hoopes as its candidate for President in the 1956 election, who received only 2,121 votes, which were cast in only six states. Because the party no longer sponsored candidates in presidential elections, the name "party" had been "misleading"; "party" had hindered the recruiting of activists who participated in the Democratic Party, according the majority report. The name "Socialist" was replaced by "Social Democrats" because many American associated the word "socialism" with Soviet communism.[10] Also, the Party wished to distinguish itself from two small Marxist parties.[12]

The Convention elected a national committee of 33 members, with 22 seats for the majority caucus, 8 seats for Harrington's coalition caucus, 2 for the Debs caucus, and one for the "independent" Samuel H. Friedman,[13] who also had opposed the name change.[10]

The convention voted on and adopted proposals for its program by a two-one vote, with the majority caucus winning every vote.[13] On foreign policy, the program called for "firmness toward Communist aggression". However, on the Vietnam War, the program opposed "any efforts to bomb Hanoi into submission" and to work for a peace agreement that would protect Communist political cadres in South Vietnam from further military or police reprisals. Harrington's proposal for an immediate cease fire and an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces was defeated.[13] Harrington complained that, after its previous convention, the Socialist Party had endorsed George McGovern with a statement of "constructive criticism" and had not mobilized enough support for McGovern.[12]

Frank Zeidler, the Socialist Party's first national chair and candidate for the office of the President

After their defeat at the Convention, members of two minority caucuses helped to found new socialist organizations. At most 200 members of the Coalition Caucus joined Michael Harrington in forming the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee,[14] which later became the Democratic Socialists of America.[15][16]. At its start, DSOC had 840 members, of which 2 percent served on its national board in 1973 when SDUSA stated its membership at 1,800, according to a 1973 profile of Harrington.[14] Second, many members of the Debs Caucus joined David McReynolds in founding the "Socialist Party of the United States of America" also in 1973.[17]


The Debs Caucus formed the Union for Democratic Socialism, which in 1973 incorporated the Socialist Party of the United States of America,[17] (Socialist Party USA).[18][Third-party source needed] Many activists from the local and state branches of the old Socialist Party, including the party's Wisconsin, California, Illinois, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. organizations, participated in the reconstitution of the Socialist Party USA.[16][Third-party source needed]

After its founding, the party promoted itself as the legitimate heir of the Socialist Party of America.[19] Former Mayor of Milwaukee, Frank Zeidler, was elected the first national chairperson of the party. Zeidler also helped re-organizing the party structure during its early years. He was later nominated as the party's candidacy for the presidential office, with Zeidler believing the party would be able to collaborate with other socialist parties nationwide to spread the message of socialism.[20]

Since 1989, a member of the party was elected to the city council of Iowa City and several members have won tens of thousands of votes when losing elections for statewide offices. In 1992, Socialist Iowa City Councilwoman Karen Kubby won her re-election with the highest vote in a contested election in the history of the Iowa City Council, and was re-elected until retiring from the Council in 2000.[21] In 2000 Socialist Wendell Harris received 19% of the vote for Mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.[22] In 2008, Socialist Jon Osbourne pulled in 22% of the vote for Rhode Island's 34th District State Senate seat, while listed on the ballot under the Socialist Party USA label.[23] During the 2010 United States Senate elections Dan La Botz of the Socialist Party of Ohio received 25,368 (0.68%) votes in Ohio.[24] In 2011, Socialist Matt Erard was elected to a three year term on the city of Detroit’s Downtown District Citizens’ District Council. [25]


According to the party's first chairman, Frank Zeidler, the party had around 500 members nationwide in 1975.[20] The Socialist Party experienced substantial growth during the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s, expanding from only around 600 dues-paying members to around 1,700.[26] In 2008, WMNF claimed that the party had around 3,000 paying members.[27] However, in 2010 a CommonDreams article suggested that the organization had only 1,000 members with party members claiming it to be an increase in the amount of members.[28] A New York Times article in May 2011 stated that the party has "about 1,000 members nationally." [1] However, neither the CommonDreams or New York Times articles clarify whether the 1,000 figure represents an overall membership tally, or the number of dues paying members.



While some SP members favor a more gradual approach to socialism, most others envision a more sweeping or revolutionary transformation of society from capitalist to socialist through the decisive victory of the working class in the class struggle.[6] Some SP members also advocate revolutionary nonviolence or pacifism, while some consider armed struggle a possible necessity. The Party's Statement of Principles rejects equating socialism with a "welfare state" and calls for democratic social revolution from below.[6] The party is strongly committed to principles of socialist feminism and strives to further embody such commitment in its organizational structure. Its national constitution requires gender parity among its national co-chairs and co-vice chairs, its national committee members and alternates, and seated members of its branch- and region-elected delegations to the Party's biennial national conventions.[6][29][30] The Socialist Party also rejected the new healthcare reform law of 2010 approved by the Obama administration, with SP National Co-Chair Billy Wharton claiming it to be "a corporate restructuring of the health insurance industry created to protect the profit margins of private insurance companies".[31]

During his campaign, the Socialist Party candidate for president, Brian Moore, was very vocal against the idea that Barack Obama was a socialist of any kind.[32] He further commented on the issue, saying it was "misleading of the Republicans" to spread that message.[33] In a later statement about Obama's policies, Wharton called Obama's 2010 State of the Union Address a "public relations ploy". He concluded with; "The time for slick public relations campaigns has ended - the time for building our grassroots movements is more urgent than ever. The Socialist Party USA stands ready to join in such a political revitalization".[34]

International affairs

The Party's National Action Committee condemned the Israeli actions during the Gaza War. The party demands that the Federal government of the United States cease providing military aid to the State of Israel as a precondition for peace. The party also seeks to begin an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.[35] During the 2008 election, the Socialist Party continued to place a strong emphasis on its full-scale opposition to U.S. wars abroad, with Brian Moore, the presidential candidate, claiming the war was destroying small communities throughout the country. He also criticized what he called "pressure on the local governments" by the Bush administration.[36] The Socialist Party of Connecticut denounced Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan, claiming that the president was throwing away much needed resources the country needed to get pulled out of the financial crisis. After denouncing him, the state affiliate organized a protest in front of the federal building in Hartford.[37]


SP candidates, such as 2009 New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Greg Pason have also emphasized immediate public service demands, such as socializing the U.S. health care system, a steeply graduated income tax, universal rent control, and the elimination of all educational debts and tuition fees.[38] In 1997, Pason called auto insurance "a regressive tax against working people".[39] Moore was also vocal of his support for public healthcare and socialized medicine.[40] Moore believes that capitalism is a system based on both exploitation and selfishness, which operates to serve the interests of corporations and the ruling class, at the expense of workers and the poor. During his presidential campaign he claimed that the lack of available remedy to collapsing economic conditions stems from the capitalist system's foundation upon "greed", and advocated its replacement with a new system founded upon economic democracy through social ownership and worker-control of our reigning industrial and financial institutions.[32]

Presidential tickets

Year Results Candidates Ballot
Votes Percent for President for Vice President
1976 6,038 0.1% Frank Zeidler J. Quinn Brisben 13 [41][42]
1980 6,898 0.01% David McReynolds Diane Drufenbrock 10 [43][44]
1984[‡] 72,161 0.08% Sonia Johnson Richard Walton 19 [45][46]
1988 3,882 0.0% Willa Kenoyer Ron Ehrenreich 11 [47][48]
1992 3,057 0.0% J. Quinn Brisben Barbara Garson [49]
1996 4,764 0.0% Mary Cal Hollis Eric Chester 5 [50][51]
2000 5,602 0.01% David McReynolds Mary Cal Hollis 7 [52][53]
2004 10,822 0.01% Walt Brown Mary Alice Herbert 8 [54][55]
2008 6,581 0.01% Brian Moore Stewart Alexander 8 [56][57]
2012 Stewart Alexander Alejandro Mendoza [58]

† In each line the first note refers to candidates and results, the second (if any) to ballot access
(the number of state and district ballots, out of 51, on which the Socialist Party candidates appeared)
^ Endorsed the Citizens Party's candidates in 1984.

See also

State affiliates:


  1. ^ a b Berger, Joseph (May 22 2011). "Workers of the world, please see our web site". New York Times. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Winger, Richard. "Institutional Obstacles to a Multiparty System," in Multiparty Politics in America, Paul S. Herrnson and John C. Green, eds. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1997)
  4. ^ Ansolabehere, Stephen and Gerber, Alan. "The Effects of Filing Fees and Petition Requirements on U.S. House Elections," Legislative Studies Quarterly 21 no. 2 (1996)
  5. ^ Fitts, Michael A. "Back to the Future: Enduring Dilemmas Revealed in the Supreme Court's Treatment of Political Parties", in The U.S. Supreme Court and the Electoral Process (2nd ed.) David K. Ryden, ed. Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2002 ISBN 9780878408863 pp. 103-105 and passim
  6. ^ a b c d "Socialist Party USA: Statement of Principles". Socialist Party USA. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  7. ^ 2008, pp. 63.
  8. ^ a b Drucker (1994):

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

  9. ^ Beichman, Arnold (July 28, 2002). "Communism to anti-communism in lives of two rival editors (review two ISI books, James Burnham and the struggle for the world: A life by Daniel Kelly and Principles and heresies: Frank S. Meyer and the shaping of the American conservative movement by Kevin J. Smant)". The Washington Times. Retrieved 14 July 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c d The New York Times reported on the Convention for other days, e.g.,
  11. ^ Gerald Sorin, The Prophetic Minority: American Jewish Immigrant Radicals, 1880-1920. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985; pg. 155.
  12. ^ a b Anonymous (December 27, 1972). "Young Socialists open parley; to weigh 'New Politics' split". New York Times: p. 25. 
  13. ^ a b c Anonymous (January 1, 1973). "'Firmness' urged on Communists: Social Democrats reach end of U.S. Convention here". New York Times: p. 11. 
  14. ^ a b 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 079141681X. ISBN-13: 9780791416815. 

    Originally: O'Rourke, William (November 13, 1973). "Michael Harrington: Beyond Watergate, Sixties, and reform". SoHo Weekly News 3 (2): 6–7.,+%22Michael+Harrington%22,+%22New+York+Times%22&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q=Michael%20Harrington&f=false. 

  15. ^ Mitgang, Herbert (August 2, 1989). "Michael Harrington, Socialist and Author, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2009. 
  16. ^ a b Busky 2000, pp. 164.[Third-party source needed]
  17. ^ a b "Constitution of the Socialist Party of the United States of America". 
  18. ^ Busky 2000, pp. 165.[Third-party source needed]
  19. ^ "Socialists Pick '76 candidate". St. Petersburg Times. September 3, 1975.,976309&dq=socialist+party+usa+socialist-party-usa&hl=en. Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  20. ^ a b "Socialists pick ex-mayor for presidency". The Modesto Bee. September 2, 1975.,359326&dq=socialist+party+usa+socialist-party-usa&hl=en. Retrieved February 8, 2010. 
  21. ^ Lowenstein, Adam (May 26, 1999). "Kubby won't run again for City Council". The Gazette. Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  22. ^ "Norquist, Watts Win Mayoral Primary Election in Milwaukee" St. Paul Pioneer Press February 16, 2000; p. 2B
  23. ^ "2008 General Election Results - Senator in General Assembly District 34". State of Rhode Island: Board of Election. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  24. ^ "State of Ohio 2010 General Election November 2, 2010 Unofficial Results". Ohio Secretary of State. November 2, 2010. Retrieved November 6, 2010. 
  25. ^ "SOCIALIST CANDIDATE ELECTED TO CITY OF DETROIT DOWNTOWN CITIZENS DISTRICT COUNCIL". Detroit's Downtown District Citizens’ District Council. April 16, 2011. Retrieved August 11, 2011. 
  26. ^ Herbst, Moira (May 22, 2009). "Socialism? Hardly, Say Socialists". Business Week. Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  27. ^ Kinane, Sean (June 13, 2008). "Brian Moore – Socialist Party USA Presidential Candidate". WMNF. Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  28. ^ Kenning, Chris (March 1, 2010). "Socialists Get Newfound Attention as 'Red-Baiting' Draws Interest From Youth". CommonDreams. Retrieved March 24, 2010. 
  29. ^ "2010-2011 Platform". Socialist Party USA. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  30. ^ "Constitution of the Socialist Party USA". Socialist Party USA. Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  31. ^ Mcauliff, Michael (March 22, 2010). "Tea Party Head Spinner: Socialists Oppose Health Bill". New York Daily News. Retrieved March 28, 2010. 
  32. ^ a b Harrington, Elizabeth (October 29, 2008). "Socialist Party Candidate Visits U. Tampa". CBS News. Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  33. ^ "Socialist Moore: Obama’s not a socialist". Independent Political Report. October 25, 2008. Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  34. ^ Altimari, Daniela (January 28, 2010). "Socialist Party response to Obama's state of the union speech". Hartford Courant. Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  35. ^ "End the Massacre in Gaza – No Solution Through Violence". January 1, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  36. ^ Jackson, Tom (September 4, 2007). "Likeable Guy Brandishes Loony Ideas". The Tampa Tribune. 
  37. ^ Altimari, Daniela (December 1, 2009). "If Obama's a socialist, his comrades aren't happy". Hartford Courant. 
  38. ^ "Voter Guide / Other third-party candidates for governor". The Press of Atlantic City. November 1, 2009. Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  39. ^ Preston, Jennifer (September 14, 1997). "On Politics; Hearing From the Seven Who Are Seldom Heard". The Press of Atlantic City. Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  40. ^ Kinane, Sean (June 13, 2008). "Brian Moore – Socialist Party USA Presidential Candidate". WMNF. Retrieved October 30, 2009. 
  41. ^ "1976 Presidential General Election Results". US Election Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  42. ^ 1991, pp. 150.
  43. ^ "1980 Presidential General Election Results". US Election Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  44. ^ Smallwood 1983, pp. 56.
  45. ^ "1984 Presidential General Election Results". US Election Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  46. ^ "United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. - 829 F.2d 157". Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  47. ^ "1988 Presidential General Election Results". US Election Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  48. ^ Freeman 2008, pp. 96.
  49. ^ "1992 Presidential General Election Results". US Election Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  50. ^ "1996 Presidential General Election Results". US Election Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  51. ^ "President - U.S. - 1996". US Election Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  52. ^ "2000 Presidential General Election Results". US Election Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  53. ^ Winger, Richard. "President - U.S. - 2000". Ballot Access News. Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  54. ^ "2004 Presidential General Election Results". US Election Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  55. ^ Richardson, Darcy G. (October 14, 2004). "The Other Progressive Candidate: The Lonely Crusade of Walt Brown". CounterPunch. Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  56. ^ "2008 Presidential General Election Results". US Election Retrieved February 7, 2010. 
  57. ^ Richardson, Darcy (November 2, 2008). "Socialist Candidate Names Prospective Cabinet". OpEdNews. Retrieved February 13, 2010. 
  58. ^ "Socialist Party Taps Stewart Alexander for President". Uncovered Retrieved October 16, 2011. 


External links

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