Friday, February 12, 2010

The Task For American Social Democrats


Thanks to Comrades King and Holland for the inspiration for this piece.

Social Democracy began as the a political extension of Labour Movement in rest of the world. Trade union federations such as the Canadian Labour Congress associated with the Canada's social democratic New Democratic Party yo form Labour/ Labor parties. Despite numerous attempts, labor and farmer-labor parties have never gained much traction in the United States. Even with the lack of an actual labor party in USA, there remained what socialist author and activist, Michael Harrington called "a hidden social democracy". This was, as Harrington described it, the action of trade unions and their allies politically. Until, the 1980's the American welfare sate was not far behind that in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and well beyond that in most of Latin America.

In the Reagan-Thatcher era there was a very serious effort across the globe to dismantle all social democratic gains. In the U.S. the effort to undo the gains of the New Deal and Great Society was incredibly successful. Much of the safety net in America was done away with. The conservative movement worldwide was brutally successful in its war on workers and the poor. The assault on the working class did not cease with end of Reagan-Thatcher era. After the conservatives were finally dislodged from office, they were followed by the Neo-liberals, who continued to gut the welfare state.

Labor is in a new era. Unions are trying to rally their members at the grassroots level on things like health care, the Employee Free choice Act, and renegotiating trade treaties to treat workers fairly. At one time Labor joined mass coalitions which were run by people that were not directly on the union payroll. Groups like the Citizen Labor Energy Coalition, Project Vote, Progressive Agenda, The Citizen Action Network, various state Public Interest Coalitions and Democratic Agenda all received hefty sums of Labor money. With the decline in membership, the money simply is not there to fund outside groups and unions learned to do the community organizing work in-house.

The problem is actually motivating unionists at the grass roots. It used to be fairly easy. The unions just paid their "volunteers". Whether it was voter registration, or political campaign work, or picketing, Labor volunteers were paid well. I made 30 dollars in one night distributing leaflets for the Pennsylvania Association of Fire Fighters when I was twelve. Thirty bucks was a great deal of money in 1968. My parents were always paid to work the polls by the Central Labor Council and when I got older, so was I. This created a culture where the idea of doing anything, even in one's own interest, without being paid, is foreign to many union members.

The former Social Democrats, USA leadership lost interest in the SD when no one would pay them to be social democrats, and shell out for those pleasant jaunts to the meetings of the Socialist International. Neither Labor, nor US intelligence was paying the bills, so our former leaders bugged out with all our records, bank accounts, etc, including the membership list. .

Unions have started enlisting activists regardless of their union affiliation. The AFL-CIO began Working America, an effort to begin actual chapters in cities of Labor issue activists. See: Many state and local Labor federations have there own similar efforts. Labor also helps support Americans for Democratic Action' Working Families Win program. See:,

Some unions like the United Steelworkers of America have created an associate membership category. See: This will get you lots of email on workers' issues, as will the United Automobile Workers email list. See: .

At one time the political task of social democrats was to organize the unorganized. Now most unfortunately, it is to organize the organized. Here is a fairly easy way to become a member of your Central; Labor Council. You can join the National Writers Union for as little as $120 a year. You can then ask to affiliate as a one person shop. Pay the per capita and your now a labor council member. For more information on the writer union see: and As a branch of my former employer. the United Automobile Workers Union, I am proud to be a member. For those of you who play music its worth checking out Local 1000 of the American Federation of Musicians, which is a great group for the folk, punk rock, and alternative musician. See:

For nostalgia and just pure hell raising fun, I am also a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. See:

So, after you become a union member it is time to form your very own Labor Party. First you invite every one you think might be interested to a meeting of the local Hubert Humphrey Democratic Club. You have already gathered the resource material and depending on the turn out, you pick some issues to work on. You scan this years election returns for your county and see if there were any uncontested races that one of your members could contest as Labor candidate. Try either by running for committee person, or just asking the chairperson for a seat, to become a member of the Democratic Committee. of either the county or the locality were you live Then form a Labor caucus. Congratulations! You are not Karl Kautsky yet, but you are now a real social democrat. You are a labor organizing, politician that can talk to real people about social democracy/ democratic socialism.

I realize this was fairly brief overview. So feel free to call 814 410 2542, email or write to Social Democrats, USA; PO Box 5307; Johnstown. PA. for more details. As we will be launching the first Humphrey Democratic Club this weekend, more details will follow.

Below are links to two books available from Amazon that deal with Social Democracy and Unionism.

Every social democrat should be reading Social Europe:

The blog is currently off do to being hacked, but Harry's Place is seminal place for a " decent left" read. Here is the Wikipedia entry:

Also the Euston Manifesto blog is essential, the article on What Next For A Decent Left. is well worth reading:

Here is my favorite American blog:

And of course the SD's own blog:

There you have lots of information and we will gladly send you more. Social Democracy is not a spectator sport. Get busy.


Gabriel McCloskey-Ros

The Democratic Party Is Neither.....

 Here are a few thoughts on the Democratic Party. First, the Democratic Party is neither democratic, nor is it a political party. The only more oxymoronic title, I can think of is the Holy Roman Empire. After Charlemagne, that kingdom had little to do with Rome, it was never very holy, and, for most of its history, was by no stretch of the imagination an empire. It was more of a federated alliance of Germanic dukes and other minor nobility.

In the same way "the" Democratic Party is a loosely allied confederation of semi-autonomous organizations. I have been a registered Democrat since my 18th birthday and have yet to receive a membership card. That's thirty five years of waiting in vain, folks. I am just about to give up. Also, I have never been invited to a local meeting or a national convention. I even had a hard time finding out when Cambria County Democratic County Committee meetings were when I was a committeeman. I did attend one national convention as a delegate. That is a very, very convoluted story for another time. I am beginning to think that many of the tiny few who actually are paid by the DP don't like socialists much. They don't seem big on democracy either. Well, that is their problem. We did get two comrades nominated in Cambria County for local office twenty-five years ago and one of them actually won. The guy who won unfortunately died, before taking office. Actually the guy that lost died as well, and that was very unfortunate, too. Their early 50's was not the time to lose these friends and comrades. But, we still have two local former office holders active in Laurel Highlands chapter of the Social Democrats, USA. who are very much alive. Hey, you are going to die any way. You might as well leave a more colorful obituary and run for office!

The DP has still never sent me its manifesto (It did does not actually have one and its platform is a waste of good trees) Thankfully, I have never been asked to pay Democratic Party dues. Maybe I am complaining too much. The PA voter registration form asks "In which Party do wish to be enrolled". The DP in fact has no members in PA. The DP enrollees are only people who choose for that election cycle to vote in the DP primary. As Cde. Michael Marino pointed out, that makes the individual States the roster keeper for all "political parties". The State decides who is a member of my Party, outrageous. This jest is every bit as true today as when Will Rodgers said it, "I am not a member of any kind of organized political party; I'm a Democrat!"

The term "political party" means something different to people outside this country. Our political parties are huge catch-all electoral coalitions. In other countries, members of a political party are required to express substantial agreement with the party's programme(Generally a 200 page book), pay dues (generally substantial ones), and participate in electoral campaigns. The British Labour Party, one of the parties with which I regularly have contact, has less than 200,000 members. Yet, it governs a nation of more than 80 million. The same structure exists in nearly all the member parties of the Socialist International. Dues paying members choose the party's candidates for office, not those who become members "du jour" of the party on primary election day. My cousin, Larry and his wife, Liz are among those 200,000 members of Brirish Labour Party. That is 27 pounds a month for the two of them. They both have dual citizenship. Liz, is an Aussie, and is bombarded with Australian Labor Party emailings and regular mail. Larry, a Yank, never hears from Democrats Abroad, except during presidential elections. It is just a guess, but I bet Democrats Aboard has a bigger budget than the national Australian Labor Party. Of course, if Liz dropped her membership in the "down under" Labor party she would likely have a freer inbox. Fortunately, she has not done so. God bless her! And, I have not misspelled "Labor" in this context.

Socialist author and Democratic Party activist, Michael Harrington, was fond of saying, "The Democratic Party contains some of the worst and most of the best people in American politics." He also pointed out that small left wing sects, like the Socialist Workers' Party, have more people on national staff than the Democratic Party does in non-presidential election years.
The national Democratic Party only exists once every four years. It holds a convention and then, mercifully, it hibernates for three years. Harrington, was also fond of saying the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in non-presidential years has less people on staff than the Socialist Workers' Party. The idea that there is the massive top down machine called the Democratic Party is a joke.

If there was a Democratic Party in Congress health care reform would have already happened. In any parliamentary democracy the party whip would demand a party line vote on cloture of debate. A member would either vote the party line or "cross the aisle" to join another party. Only Winston Churchill ever survived the next election for the Commons after crossing the aisle in the British Parliament. If there was a party line vote on health care in the U.S. Senate on health care, the Dems and their two allied independents have a 60 seat majority. As the Republicans would still be a minority, they could not guarantee the seniority of six or so defectors from the Democratic Caucus. No senator would risk every committee appointment, and hence all power and fund raising ability, to defect to the Republicans. However, the Democrats are not a disciplined parliamentary party and real health care reform is still a dicey proposition. Can we all agree Joe Lieberman is not a Churchillian figure? If the Democratic Senate Causus cannot hold together as a national entity, why would anyone assume any national membership party could?

The "national Democratic Party" does not run presidential or state campaigns. That is left to independent organizations like Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or D, triple C, for short. The D, triple C, has only a very tenuous relationship with the DNC. It raises money for the local Democratic congressional nominees. Yet, the D,triple C's relationship with local campaigns is generally only a loose advisory one. There is another operation for the Senate campaigns and still another for presidential campaigns. To top off all that there are the College Democrats and the Young Democrats which are loosely tied to the DNC.

The DP nationally and locally does little training for its committee people, Young and College Democrats leaders, even its county chair people. In many areas of the nation, the local Democratic County Committee expects donations from Democratic nominees, rather than providing donations to the candidates. In most counties in the U.S. the DP in all its incarnations has no full time staff. It is a totally volunteer effort. So, those who volunteer control the local Party.

The question arises, isn't the Republican Party in the same fix? Yes and no. The hardcore right wing has a stake in Republicans and trade unions in the Democrats, or at least that is how they see it. Once you get elected you need to form the government with someone. I will pass on working with the Sarah Palin fan club. I will go one step further. If the national Democratic Party platform were neutral on abortion, there would not be a Republican Party in most of PA's 66 counties. The Commonwealth would be a one Party state. I am not at all sure if that would be good or bad, but it would be the facts on the ground. In PA, the Democratic pols are by and large pro-lfe and pro-Second Amendment and the Republican Party pols are survivalists, religious fanatics, and radical economic libertarians, conspiracy buffs, and Richard Mellon Scaife's family and employees.

The problem is definitely not that the structure of the Democratic Party has no room for socialists, liberals and progressives. There is all the room we need, or what "independent social space" as Antonio Gramsci might put it, in the DP. The problem is that groups who have tried to enter the DP lack discipline themselves. The Labor Movement provides about half the people for Congressional and larger races within the DP. Labor could certainly force non-negotiable demands on the DP from the county to the national level. If Labor were united, that is. We don't even have a single all encompassing Labor federation in the U.S. Since, Labor doubts its own strength to do more than, "help its friends and punish its enemies," as Sam Gompers put it, there can be no national "labor party" no matter how much we socialists might want one.

The problem has always been that groups that enter the Democratic Party with a message end up worried about the back room politics of the DP. This was true of the black Civil Rights Movement of the 60's, the Peace Movement, and it has been true for the Communist Party. The CP,USA has made the most disciplined effort at "entryism" into the DP of any group so far. Unfortunately, until the advent of the 21st century the CP's tactics were tied to what was going on or had gone on in the Soviet Union.

Some level of the DP can always offer a promising young activist a good job or perphaps an elected position. The offer usually comes just as an activist is maturing and realizing she or he cannot live on movement wages. Barack Obama comes to mind here. So does John Conyers, Bella Abzug, Gary Hart, John Lewis, Julian Bond and hundreds of others. Gay activists have been less co-opted, probably because their struggle remains so intense. Yet, don't expect to see Rep. Barney Frank speaking at many Gay Rights rallies, or even opposing "don't ask, don't tell".

So what can be done? Socialists need to build a movement which "speaks its own name" and works in the Democratic Party. Working in the DP to me does not mean joining or forming letter head coalitions or email list organizations. I am on the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) mailing list, which I guess makes me a member. The same is true of Democracy for America and 21st Century Democrats and every other group I can join for free. I even pay to belong to Americans for Democratic Action. I don't really see the sense of taking over an email list organization in a few counties across the country as the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism is doing with PDA. There is nothing wrong with coalition building, but why give life to an organization that can then take credit for your hard work? The old Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee worked in the DP as very "in your face socialists". Alas, DSA today has no such goals or resources.

However, every candidate is his or her on coalition. Everybody can't be Fiorello La Guardia and be "his own balanced ticket". But every candidate who runs has people who will get involved for just her or him. These might be friends, workmates, family, etc. There are hundreds of winnable offices at the municipal level that self described democratic socialists can win. In early November the national chair of the Social Democrats, USA, Richard D'loss will be elected to the Carnegie,PA borough council. Rick has won both the Republican and Democratic nominations. Rick will join Bernie Sanders as the only publicly self identified socialists in public office come January. As Sanders is not a member of either the Democratic Party or DSA, that will mean the SD,USA has the most currently elected officials among its ranks of any socialist party or group in the United States.

Sorry about the commercial above. Oh, the hell, I am. The home team is winning. Hurray!

I certainly don't see Rick D'Loss as borough president of Carnegie, PA ending poverty, war and injustice. He can however, call hearings using the municipal building on unemployment, health care, even the environment, or the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as long as he relates the hearings to Carnegie. All the substantial progressive political forces in the Pittsburgh, PA area could at least get their messages out at such hearings and perphaps get some wider publicity besides. It is certainly the beginning of a "long march". But what's the alternative? The police went nuts during the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh. For everybody except those of us who were manhandled and especially those still facing charges it is all but forgotten. Well, I personally will always remember the Long Rang Acoustic Device (LARD). It was kind of like having your head stuck in the tweeter speaker at a Slip Knot concert. Well only having one working ear for the last month means I have heard only half as many stupid things.

Despite the myth, Eugene Debs was not the turn of the century Socialist Party of America all by himself. There were Socialists elected to congress, state legislatures, and city councils across the land. The SPA was destroyed by the combination of the Palmer Raids and the defection / expulsion of the Communists. When the Socialist Party, USA, as it was then called, stopped running third party candidacies in the early 60's, it then reached its second zenith of influence. The Civil Rights Movement of the early 60's was lead by Socialists. After the Party broke in three the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee/ Democratic Socialists of America once counted three members of Congress, the mayors of New York City and Chicago and dozens of other office holders in its ranks. Michael Harrington's death was a heavy blow, but it should not have crushed the organization. Mike's strategy was not dependent on Mike. That is especially true as idea did not originate with Harrington. DSOC members were elected to the school board in Ann Arbor, MI, the state legislature in Maine and North Dakota, and numerous city councils across the land. They won with help of their locals and not the national DSOC/DSA. The same is true of the committee people elected in NY state, Virgina, PA, and elsewhere.

Einstein said that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results was the definition of insanity. If that be true, isn't not doing what has worked repeatedly, like running local socialist candidates insane? Isn't pursuing schemes that have never worked, like creating a nationwide third party, a truly pervasive form insanity? Or, maybe it is just feel good politics. Let me say this again, the Democrats and Republicans with all that corporate money have never been anything remotely akin to national political parties. The issue is distance, not determination, or resources.

The "independent politics" socialist says, "I ran for Senator, traveled all over the state and got .005 percent of the vote and I am revolutionary!" Sorry, no. At best, most people will see you as an also ran and more likely as a nut.I got a chance to catch folksingers David Rovics and Anne Feeney's show the other night. Please view Dave's "I'm a Better Anarchist Than You" for more on this topic. Winning is not built on losing. To wield power, one must be elected. With no resources and the established media firmly against us, we need to win. So pick a race you can win.Then run. As Michael Moore says you can't screw it up worse than the person currently in that office.

I will gladly walk you through all the steps from filing, fund raising, door to door canvassing, etc. You can win. I know. I have done it. The help is free. There are a few conditions. Please pick a race where you can actually do some good. If you have never sought elective office, don't start with the state legislature. Run as an open and proud socialist / social democrat. Try the Democratic ballot line. Vermont is very different than most parts of the U.S. politically. If you can't win a primary you can't win a general election. When you get elected encourage others to run. Get a member of your personal coalition to run. If, like Bernie Sanders, you keep saying. "I am a democratic socialist", the invitation from the moneyed interests will never come to join the fat cat club. That's about all the party discipline we need. If this sounds like a great deal of very hard work, it is.

I will close with the prayer attributed to moral theologian and Socialist Party member, Reinhold Niebuhr,

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference".

A Biography Of David McReyonlds

David McReynolds:Socialist Peacemaker

By Paul Buhle

Armed Forces Day Parade, 1979. Photo: Grace Hedemann.
A quiet tradition exists (and persists) within the larger and louder traditions of pacifist and socialist movements, crossing boundaries and creating a unique space between them. Call it socialist-pacifism or pacifist-socialism, if you like. Whatever you call it, David McReynolds has been the torchbearer on these shores for forty years (and counting!). In relating his career, it's worth reaching back into the historical context, out of which his politics developed.

One could easily enough go as far back as William Lloyd Garrison's 1838 appeal to abolish at once slavery and every military force, every appropriation, every celebration and even every war monument. But the Civil War, the mass strikes of the late 19th century and the phantom of a capitalist breakdown bringing socialism like the morning sun all helped to push the urgency of antimilitarism off the map. Apart from incredibly brave and highly personal appeals to U.S. soldiers in the Philippines to lay down their arms, the tradition awaited the outbreak of the First World War and the collapse of European Socialist movements.

Following the lead of Norman Thomas, young Christian pacifists around Devere Allen took up the international appeal of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, founded in Switzerland as the war began (and renamed International Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1919). A section of U.S. socialists, mostly intellectuals intrigued by their own promised role in President Woodrow Wilson's proclaimed new world order, abandoned socialism to support the war, but the bulk of the socialists stood firm. Within the largest socialist movement that the United States has ever seen, in the face of mass arrests, cancellation of public meetings, vigilante attacks, suppression of newspapers and jail terms, a new pacifism took definitive shape. Public sympathy gradually moved toward the pacifist position, and if not for the Red Scare and the Reds (the U.S. followers of Bolshevism who formed Communist organizations), a mixture of socialism and pacifism might have emerged stronger than ever from the war.

Thomas' Tomorrow'
It did not. But out of the horror of the war and popular revulsion againstit, the U.S. FOR milieu formed a wider circle around a new monthly magazine, The World Tomorrow (1921-34). Not only Norman Thomas-catapulted into fame as a voice for moderate socialism-but also famed Christian figures Sherwood Eddy (a leader of the global YMCA and of the Sherwood Eddy Seminars for ministers) and Kirby Page gave The World Tomorrow moral standing and liberal prominence far beyond socialist ranks.
Within a Socialist Party now badly reduced by the Red Scare, Norman Thomas and The World Tomorrow seemed almost larger than life. A Trotskyist lawyer joked, a bit later, that the Communists attracted industrial workers while the Socialists attracted the YMCA workers, and there was more than a little truth to the crack-except that neither attracted very many during the 1920s. In 1923, however, a small group of socialist pacifists including feminist professor Jessie Wallace Hughan founded a U.S. section of the year-old War Resisters International, the War Resisters League, where David would find his political home almost four decades later. Unlike FOR, WRL was explicitly secular; but it was not explicitly socialist. Over the next decades, both the Christian and secular socialist-pacifists highlighted the importance of Gandhi and the Indian movement for independence, the suffering of the Third World under U.S. as well as European domination and the importance of linking anti-imperialism (and anti-racism) with the ideals of nonviolence. More than a few old-time socialists (like Hughan and famed story-teller and editor of the Oklahoma Guardian, Oscar Ameringer) felt attracted to what these young folks had to contribute to the cause.
Conscientious Support

The Depression brought two more great moments of socialist-pacifism. The Socialists' Student League for Industrial Democracy spearheaded the massive campus strikes in the middle 1930s against militarism, a movement which petered out after the Communist-led American Student Union abandoned pacifism for anti-fascist "collective security." The Socialists reorganized in the Youth Committee Against War, whose relatively small following was magnified by the popularity of Norman Thomas, resolute against U.S. intervention until 1941. The Socialist Party itself had by this time collapsed again, more completely than before; hardly anything remained but the boosters of Thomas and a small pacifist following which bent itself upon support for conscientious objectors.

Enter David McReynolds, only gradually becoming aware of the grand tradition he had inherited. Member of the pro-United Nations World Fellowship Club in his Los Angeles high school and increasingly critical of early Cold War rearmament, McReynolds followed Yankee traditions (including mine) by first becoming a Prohibition Party agitator. The days of the feminist-socialist-prohibitionists were by then long gone. But the public speaking and popular writing that he learned would come in handy. In 1948, at UCLA, when he wrote for the college paper against the Cold War, the Socialist Party contacted him for its Luncheon Club: He was theirs.
Too bad the Socialists had so little to offer a promising young activist. For decades to come, the pacifist tail of World War I days would wag the socialist dog. Then again, socialism needed redefining after the Second World War, as capitalism recovered (to the Marxists' surprise and disappointment) with military outlays underwriting future economic development (surprising even conservative Republicans). Meanwhile, some of the most exciting developments of U.S. radicalism, like the new Pacifica radio stations (founded by WRL activist Lew Hill) or the politically orientd literary avant-gardists like Lawrence Ferlinghetti were pacifist and anarchistic rather than Popular Front-ish or social democratic.

The peacetime draft passed Congress in 1948 and the prospect of McReynolds himself being drafted grew likely. He had some hard thinking to do (and some scripture to read, if he were to claim a religious basis for conscientious objector status) before passing the first hurdle and being halted at the second (the redefinition of existing classifications). He escaped jail on a technicality, as it turned out, but the cloud hovered and educated, as it would the Vietnam War generation radicals down the road.
Bayard Rustin, although destined in later decades to become one of the great disappointments of socialist and pacifist movements, made a world of difference to young McReynolds. A son of West Indian immigrants, initially drawn to the Communists, Rustin had joined the FOR staff during World War II and publicly engaged in civil disobedience for well over a decade. Rustin was also an enormously attractive figure, singing with his guitar (a talent he honed while imprisoned for draft resistance), popularizing civil rights and peace tunes. In 1947 Rustin personally organized the famed Journey of Reconciliation, the first "freedom ride" testing the legality of segregated interstate bus service (members of WRL took part as well). He soon traveled to India that year to meet Gandhi, and learn the philosophy of nonviolence from the master.

No wonder, then, Rustin had an overwhelming impact upon McReynolds at a 1949 Los Angeles church meeting. For Rustin and now for McReynolds, nonviolence was the logical as well as moral way to deal with the necessary struggles against injustice and ultimately for an egalitarian society. The other ways had failed. The young man quickly evolved into a leadership role, squarely between socialism and pacifism, an articulate voice for Rustin's ideas among Los Angeles youths facing the Korean War draft.
Bohemian Pacifism

Perhaps, Reader, it's best to pause and take a breath for a moment here to be reminded about another side to the socialist and pacifist movement of the 1940s-50s. I can only remember the tail end of this era as seen from the provincial Middle West, but there was no doubt that the milieu was not only radical in politics, but also bohemian in culture and quietly non-judgmental in its personal life. Rustin-who would move to WRL in 1953 after the California arrest that ended his FOR career-Paul Goodman, Allen Ginsberg and McReynolds were among the many gay (and some lesbian) activists at home here. Deeply nonconformist, determinedly interracial, a happy alternative for artists and intellectuals of every sexual persuasion turned off by Cold War liberalism and the collapsing Marxist sects, it offered the best contemporary setting for personal growth. It probably saved our lives, and it certainly helped provide the bodies for the scattered anti-militarist protests by WRL and other groups of the early 1950s, as it secured white supporters for the civil rights movement of the South moving gradually north in campaigns against discrimination.

The founding of the WRL offshoot Liberation magazine in 1956 marked another major stage of thinking and mobilization. Goodman, Barbara Deming, Staughton Lynd, David Dellinger and A.J. Muste, among others, set out both to popularize pacifist ideas and to explore the political possibilities opening up with the Hungarian Uprising and the global movement (marked in the U.S. by the founding of SANE in 1955) for nuclear disarmament. The funny thing is, McReynolds came East in 1956 to take a job at Liberation and found it already filled. Happily, he stayed on anyway.

Pretty soon he did work for Liberation, but he also engaged in civil rights actions (under the guidance of Rustin and the legendary Ella Josephine Baker, among others) across the East Coast. In 1960 he joined Ralph DiGia, Jim Peck and Bayard Rustin in the WRL as Field Secretary at $70 per week, as the legend of those Beekman Street days goes (in this case, perfectly accurate). Much of the rest of the factual history will be known to long-time readers of this publication. But McReynolds has been extremely modest in describing his influence upon the antiwar movement and the assorted "new social movements" to follow, and to that subject I now turn.
It would be nearly impossible, even at this late date, to emphasize how greatly Liberation and the milieus around it contributed to what was new, positive and constructive for young people within the New Left. It is almost as difficult to describe how the undertow of Cold War Liberalism, its mentality and above all its institutions, especially the leadership of the AFL-CIO, quashed the revival of the socialist movement and exaggerated the destructive side of the New Left (and Black Power) movements.

Hippie Pacifism
The student movement and the associated underground press that emerged in 1965-66 mirrored Liberation and the WRL with a virtually instinctive pacifism, emphasizing and even exaggerating the bohemian element. WIN magazine, founded in 1966 as a joint project of WRL and the Committee for Nonviolent Action, went even further, consciously merging the new lifestyles and new politics. I don't wish to say that the WRL position paper on Vietnam drafted by McReynolds in 1964 and signed by A.J. Muste and others was universally read in campus circles. Its meaning was absorbed, however, in ways that historians have not yet analyzed. The notion that the U.S. had no moral choice but immediate and total withdrawal was understood perfectly by those facing a draft call. Older antiwar and antistate traditions of various kinds, ethnic and religious-some of them dormant for generations-flowed into the generational "make love not war" sentiment for which McReynolds had formulated and the WRL had broadcast the perfect phrases.
The same notion was understood just as well but perversely by labor leaders and influential veteran socialists who had come to view U.S. leadership as mandatory for orderly world progress. In these circles (and they soon included Bayard Rustin), the heresy of Immediate Withdrawal was proof of Communist sympathies, while "moderate" positions (bombing or fighting at somewhat reduced levels) offered the open sesame to apparently unprecedented prestige and further influence within the Democratic Party. The young people were overwhelmingly on McReynolds' side; the leadership of the Socialist Party, in which he had quietly participated since coming to New York, stood at the other extreme.

Heretic McReynolds went so far as to run for Congress on the Peace and Freedom line in 1968, with Eldridge Cleaver (how hrd it is to imagine now!) at the head of the ticket. That campaign offered a rare moment of true mass education through the electoral process, one vanishing all too quickly into the familiar bipartisan routines. In the 1972 election-the end game for the socialist coalition-the social-democratic hawks furiously boosted "the Senator from Boeing," Henry Jackson, before finally preferring Richard Nixon over George McGovern; the moderates led by Michael Harrington formed the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee to remain in coalition with McGovern and the Democrats; David McReynolds led a crew of independent-minded socialists for a distinct and independent Socialist Party. In 1980, he ran for president on the SP ticket (and incidentally, that's how I met David in person, during his swing through Providence), one of the most inviting third party figures of recent decades.

There is much more to tell, but many readers of this magazine know it better than I.. The need for a nonviolent, cooperative and ecological alternative to the New World Order with its perpetual arms race and its economic "race to the bottom" is more evident with each passing decade. Hardly anyone has been so clear on these subjects, so persistent with his ideas, so eager (and affable) to engage in difficult tactical and strategic discussions, so faithful to the ideals of his youth. David McReynolds, on behalf of the socialist traditions that I understand and pacifist traditions that I admire, thank you for being yourself, so very long and so cheerfully!

Paul Buhle is co-editor of the Encyclopedia of the American Left and of Images of American Radicalism (which includes a photo of David from a 1980 Pentagon demonstration) among many works on the radical tradition. He teaches at Brown University

The Evitablity[sic] of War, Revolution, Socialism

A fascinating look at American socialism by one of its leaders:
David McReyonlds' "Long Article".

I will reply at length. Thanks for permission to post, David.

Gabriel McCloskey-Ross

Two And A Half Camp


by David A. Hacker

The late James T. Burnett was the chair of the Young Peoples'Socialist League and he was also an activist in the 1964 Berkeley Free Speech Movement. Burnett was a National Committee member of both the orginal Socialist Party, USA and Social Democrats, USA. Jim was a mentor to many of us in the revived SD. Burnett was the editor of the "Appeal to Reason", named after the famous socialist newspaper in the early decades of the 20th Century. The Burnett's paper was published by the SD Local in San Francisco, beginning in 1974. It became an independent publication in 1982. Burnett was one of the first voices to support a reunification of the democratic socialist movement. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Burnett wrote the following statement that I believe is still the best declaration concerning the issue of the relevancy of the concept of socialism in today’s society and expresses where the revived SD,USA stands on this crucial issue and on the general orientation of our approach toward foreign policy issues:

"1. The Relevance of Socialism

The conventional wisdom these days is that the collapse of the Soviet empire represents the demise of Socialism. This is ridiculous. We never believed the identification of Stalinist totalitarianism with socialism during all of the decades when proclaimed by both Stalinists and right-wing reactionaries. Why should we believe it now?  We should reclaim the socialist ideal-- a just society, a society not based on invidiousness and narrow-minded "individualism". This is not the time for us to become traitors and cowards. The basis of Socialism  -- communism in its unfalsifiable sense -- remains as valid, even more valid, than ever. We want and need a society of collective justice where everyone gets food, shelter, health care, education, and the ability to actualize his or herself. Why not? We're civilized, aren't we? We will win our most valuable support by asserting an ideal, not by ambiguity and misdirected "moderation". We need a cadre before we can aspire to mass influence and few people of character or  intelligence have ever been able to get excited about moderation. I want to make a point about symbols. This is hardly something that would be taken up in an official document, but is important socially, I do not think we should give up the word "socialist, the term "comrade", the red flag, or the Internationale. They are symbols of a commitment and a brotherhood and sisterhood that is invaluable. There is no such thing as "only" a symbol. Our era has seen many outstanding champions of equity and freedom not the least have been Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Karl Kautsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Julius Martov, Eugene V. Debs, Norman Thomas, Max Shachtaman, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Michael Harrington, and the students of Tienanmen Square. I stand in their tradition".

2. Foreign Policy

“The collapse of the so-called “Communism” is both a victory and a challenge. It is a victory insofar as it removes (although not completely so far) a hateful and reactionary system that, worst of all, paraded under the name of socialism. Long ago, Max Shachtman, pointed out that if Stalinism was indeed a kind of socialism, then all of the worst criticisms that the enemies of socialism had ever made were true, and a thousand times over.

How things will settle down in the world is impossible to tell. Who could have told just a year ago how things would be now? Theory is not fortune-telling. It is a set of principles that can be used to guide action under probable conditions.

The idea that the end of the Soviet empire represents the triumph of capitalism is lunacy – understandable lunacy, but lunacy nonetheless. It is like a hangover. Sooner or later it will go away, probably sooner than later as the peoples of Eastern Europe find out what the so-called free market really means. We should call for what was valid in the basically-flawed communist ideal while inviting the “capitalist” reforms that are in the interest of the people. If we do not do so, others will. They already are.

a, The Importance of the Socialist International and SD,USA’s Membership in that Organization

“The Socialist International is a major organization in which people of our political tendency have exercised surprising political influence in spite of our ridiculously small numbers. This organization represents millions of workers and other people throughout the world. It is, in fact, the largest voluntary organization on the planet. We should be proud that our political comrades were the first to begin a mass-membership international group. Within the International, our main efforts should be:

-To oppose any remnants of romantic attraction to terrorist and totalitarian causes.

-To maintain the democratic socialist ideal.

-To encourage all possible aid to the emerging free labor and social-democratic movements in the former Stalinist countries and the developing world.

-To resolve trade and other economic conflicts on the basis of international labor solidarity.

-To promote greater international cooperation toward the ultimate aim of a world government under world law.

Above all, we should be proud to be members of the Socialist International and strive to maintain and expand our influence in it. We should propose that the document, “Aims and Tasks of Democratic Socialism” that was the basis for the re-foundation of the International at the end of World War II, be reviewed to meet the changing realities of the last half century, while retaining its fundamental values and emphases. {Since Burnett wrote this in 1992, the SI has revised this document.} It should become the basic statement of purpose of international social democracy/democratic socialism in the late twentieth century and now in the early twenty first century. We are entering an era where, with astute leadership, the lines of our anthem could become true: ‘The international working class shall free the human race.’ I even think that the words of the French original will come true: ‘L Internationale serait la genre humaine.’ {The provisional NC
of the revived SD,USA has voted to adopt the ten principles of the Party of European Socialism.}

b, How we view the role that the United States plays in the World

America is not the unique ill-doer in the world. Hardly anything, other than the direct sight of injustice in my own society, infuriates me more than the notion that all of the problems of the world can be blamed on the United States. The US has been guilty of enough crimes. Chief among them are our genocidal campaign against Native Americans, the enslavement of Africans and generations of unspeakable mistreatment of their descendents, our imperialist relations with Mexico. And this is just to name a few.

The United States has also been a friend of freedom. Without the US war effort, the world could probably not have defeated fascism. We condoned slavery, but we also overcame it, at the cost of much blood. We rebuilt Western Europe through the Marshall Plan. It is true that we had ulterior motives – stopping Communism –but who demands pure motives in the real world? Good motives are good enough. Could anybody really say that the US wanted to make Japan and Europe into its most formidable economic rivals now? No, we had altruistic motives as well.

At the same time, this does not mean that anything any American Administration does is OK. This is especially true now that the overriding concern about the ‘evil empire’ is gone. Incidentally, one of the greatest lessons of the post-cold-war period is that the two exploitative class societies can no longer use one another as excuses for their misdeeds. The eclipse of Stalinism represents a profound crisis for capitalism – a point too little recognized. The relationship between capitalism and the pseudo-socialist despotism and their mutual co-existence and their mutual termination are very important topics to be analyzed.

Another - actually the same – theme that requires consideration is epitomized by a remark made by a modern social democrat decades ago when he quoted a British Fabian to the effect that the French Reign of Terror and Napoleon had set back reform in England for a hundred years and opined that Soviet “socialism” had at least as reactionary effect in our times. I do not agree about the historic role of the French Revolution, but I do about the subsequent analogy."

Today, we can add to Burnett’s statement the new threat of totalitarian Islamism exemplified by the September 11, 2001 attack by Al Qaeda on the United States. We believe that only the development of a true democratic foreign policy for the United States can defeat terrorism. In fact, we advocate not merely containing international terrorism, but eliminating it at its roots. However, we maintain that it will only be a government that espouses the values of democratic socialism and the wider Democratic Left that can do this. We have seen the failure of the preceding right-wing American administration, which included some of our own former comrades, who have become neoconservatives ideologues, in their attempts to diminish and combat this threat. In fact, many of their own actions in the world have served as a recruiting call for totalitarian Islamism.

Specifically, the war on Iraq is an issue that invited dissent and I believe has critically harmed the effort against totalitarian Islamism (which should not be confused with the actual tenets of Islam.) This does not mean dissent about Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and malevolent intents, but about the appropriate means of dealing with him. To say that the “only correct” approach was military intervention or economic sanctions are equally simplistic. However, the facts are that the sanctions were working and the Administrations rational for going to war has been proven false. The initial justifiable NATO conflict against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan was neglected, with the effect that the totalitarian Islamists are gaining a resurgence in that embattled country. In the meantime, there has been the loss of hundred of thousands of Iraqis and over four thousand American lives in this war of choice in Iraq.

I believe that the Iraq war and the present economic conditions in the United States have illustrated the bankruptcy of the ideas of the conservative movement in this country. Similarly, as Comrade Burnett pointed out, back in 1992, to place “the collapse of the Soviet Union, into some kind of victories for the self-serving reactionary right in the United States would be an indictment of the intelligence of the democratic left in this country. Such imbecility is almost impossible to comprehend, no matter how many Republican press releases are sent out on its behalf.”

Combating so-called Islamofascism is not Right-Wing, as even our Third Camp Comrades, maintained in this article, "Only a Democratic Foreign Policy Can Combat Terrorism", by Thomas Harrison in the Winter 2002, edition of New Politics magazine.  While I have several differences with Comrade Harrison's position, a large portion of the revived SD,USA forthcoming statement on this issue will parallel his call for a new democratic foreign policy to combat Islamofascism.  We will not blindly follow a "Third Camp," approach, as certain aspects of Obama's foreign policy positions deserve our critical support.  Nevertheless, even here, our position will be broadly defined as being in support of democracy and religious pluralism vs. anti-democracy and religious fundamentalism.  In the anti-democratic camp are not only the remaining Communist regimes, right-wing dictatorships, and Islamic fundamentalist governments, but also multi-national corporations who have no
allegiances to any nation or creed except how to make the most profit. Thus, we have multi-national corporations dealings with China and Vietnam when those regimes have controlled work forces, government dominated trade unions, and imperial ties to Third World countries.

Therefore, the revived SDUSA's foreign policy program can be euphemistically be called a 2 and 1/2 camp position.  We do see Islamic extremism as one of the major dangers in the world today.  Thus, we will stand with the democratic West and moderate Muslims, vs. Islamic fundamentalism. We continue to affirm the best of bourgeois democracy, but we also recognize the imperialistic aspects resulting from its Capitalistic nature, particularly the activities of the multi-national corporations. Thus in the contest of the West against Islamic fundamentalism, we also still struggle against Western imperialism. Our support for democracy should not be confused with that of the neo-conservatives.  We do not make a fetish of Capitalist democracy and we do not believe that it can be militarily imposed from the outside.  Rather, we support all the authentic Democratic Left elements everywhere, including in the Muslim world.  We believe that U.S. foreign policy can
only be truly democratic if it becomes social democratic in nature.

Thus, as the new SDUSA continues to adhere to this position, no one will be able to confuse us with the old leadership and the neoconservatives. In future issues of the Torch & Rose and in our International Affairs resolution that will be approved at our forthcoming Re-foundation National Convention, we will further detail our concept of a 2 1/2 camp position

What the Revived Social Democrats, USA is Not:
Six Common Misconceptions that Our Critics still make about the SDUSA

by David A. Hacker

The Long Strange Posthumous Life of Leon Trotsky, by David McReyonlds

A very interesting piece by David McReynolds.  David is not and never has been a member of the SD, USA. He has done yeomen service for the cause.This reflects David's view of the split in the original Socialist Party, USA. We are thankful for his permission to post this article.  

(EdgeLeft is an occasional column by David McReynolds, it can
be circulated without further permission)

The Long Strange Posthumous Life of Leon Trotsky

Historically the Socialist Party USA had two major splits. The
first was after the Russian Revolution, when there
was an international split in all socialist parties between
those who accepted the leadership of Lenin's Third
International and those who didn't. In the US, Debs, who had
proclaimed himself "a Bolshevik from the tip of my head to
the tips of my toes" -- reflecting the overwhelming
international support for the Russian Revolution -- then led
the Socialist Party in rejecting Lenin's "21 demands".

There followed the split which led to the formation of the
Communist Party. The second major split - (actually two
in almost one year) - was the right wing split in 1936 by the
Social Democratic Federation which wanted to support
Roosevelt, breaking with Norman Thomas, and the split by the
Socialist Workers Party which, under James Cannon,
had entered the Socialist Party and then in 1937 split, taking
much of the youth of the Socialist Party with it.

By the 1960's (in fact even by 1951, when I joined the
Socialist Party) both the Socialist and Communist Parties were
shadows of the past, battered by various currents. The
Communist Party was never able to build a mass base here
after the Cold War began - Communism was seen not simply as
"radical" but as "treasonous". The Socialist Party, in no
small part because, fearful it might be accused of being
communist, spent too little time on what it favored,
and too much time making sure its skirts were clean. (There is
nothing simple about this - the Communist Party always
had internal dissent, and there was a serious left wing in the
Socialist Party, which I joined when I came into the SP).

Thus when we leap forward to the "final split" in the SP in
1972 we are talking about midgets. Max Shachtman took out
his people to form the Social Democrats USA (actually, he had
the majority at the 1972 convention, so for a brief moment
he was the SP - it is ironic that it is Shachtman's group
which has since totally vanished). Michael Harrington
finally broke with Shachtman and split to form the Democratic
Socialist Organizing Committee which morphed into
today's Democratic Socialists of America. The remnants of the
old Socialist Party, some on the left, some on the right,
regrouped under Frank Zeidler in 1973 to form what is today
the Socialist Party USA, and which is, pretty much, the
legitimate heir to the party of Debs and Thomas. (It is under
the banner of this group that I ran for President in
1980 and 2000).

In the real world nothing is static. The Socialist Party,
which has about 1,000 members, has attracted newer members
who are not aware of the history, and whose radicalism
includes an admiration to Lenin and Trotsky. The SP is
not anywhere near another split - only genuine Trotskyist
groups can split when they have less than a 1,000 members.
But I've been fascinated by this odd posthumous life of
Trotsky, and want to reflect on it here.

There really aren't any Leninists running around - there are
lots of people who belong to "Marxist/Leninist" groups, such
as the Communist Party, but there are simply not a dozen
different Marxist/Leninist groups in this country. There are
large numbers of socialists who are not even aware that there
was a Marxist tradition before Lenin, and independent
of Lenin. There must be a few Stalinist groups, I am sure I
could find them on google, but not even the
Communist Party today counts as Stalinist. Stalin has almost
no heirs. In fact, the interesting thing about
Stalin is that almost no one wanted to duplicate his politics.
The Japanese and Italian Communist Parties broke with
Moscow very early, not long after Tito had taken Yugoslavia
out of the "Communist Bloc". Mao (a man Stalin
once thought might best be "eliminated") defied Stalin almost
from the beginning. The Vietnamese were careful,
in taking aid from both China and the Soviet Union, not to
duplicate the Soviets in their own political patterns
(there were never any purge trials in Vietnam to equal those
in the Soviet Union). And Cuba stands almost in
its own tradition, bending to Russia when it depended of
Moscow's aid, but building on Cuba's own traditions.

It was as if everyone looked at Stalin and thought "there is a
lot there we don't want to repeat". Even the Soviets, to the
astonishment of the West, broke with their own "tradition"
when Stalin died, and, after the murder of Beria, allowed
a peaceful transfer of power to Khrushchev.

But Trotsky while dead, is still very much alive. Sometimes as
a ghost on the far right - Max Shactman became the first
true neo-conservative, embracing the system. His followers
took key positions in the Reagan Administration and in the
right wing of the Democratic Party. Younger readers may find
it hard to believe (I admit that even I do) that Shachtman,
who went into the Communist Party in its early years, traveled
to the Soviet Union, was a significant leader
of the American Communist Party, ended his life supporting the
US invasion of Cuba (the Bay of Pigs), the US
invasion of Indochina, shifted from a position critical of
Israel to one of fervent support of Israel. I knew Shachtman
well, and while I didn't like the man, or trust him, I would
never have thought he would have ended in the camp of the

The original Trotskyist movement in this country formed in the
late 1920's, headed by James Cannon and Max
Shachtman. It was authentically revolutionary, had an
honorable tradition of work in the trade union movement.
It reflected the international split, following Lenin's death,
between Stalin, the General Secretary of the Soviet
Party, and Trotsky, the brilliant, courageous military leader
of the Red Armies. Stalin insisted that a world
revolution was not in the cards history had dealt, that the
only hope was to build "socialism in one country".
Trotsky, by far the more revolutionary, and internationalist,
argued that "socialism in one country" would become
bureaucratic, militarized, and fatally "deformed". Both men
were right. There was to be no world revolution.
Germany, which had a powerful socialist movement, did not have
a revolution and could not rescue the young Soviet
Union. Trotsky was right, the Soviet Union became a police
state. There was one crucial shift, however, which
caused Trotsky to the end of his life to argue that the Soviet
Union had to be defended in any conflict with
the West - private property had been collectivized, and the
old class had been destroyed. Shachtman split over
the matter of the Soviet invasion of Finland, setting up what
would beome the Independent Socialist League, which
lasted until it merged into the Socialist Party in 1958.

Some contempoary Trotskyist groups, such as the ISO
(International Socialist Organization) represent what
might be called Shachtman's radical positions of the 1950's.
The official Trotskyist group, the Socialist Workers
Party, long since became a cult, focused on support of Cuba
largely ignoring its own Trotskyist past. There are
other groups which owe a debt to Trotsky - Solidarity, while
hardly an orthodox Trotskyist group,
comes out of that background. New Politics, founded by Julius
and Phyllis Jacobson (and a journal on which I was once a
member of the editorial board) had its origins in a kind of
"left Shachtmanite" position. I felt I served as
the "shabbas goy" on the editorial board, since I was
primarily a pacifist, and had never been a Trotskyist.
At one point - and perhaps the last intellectually significant
split in the Trotskyist movement - Bert Cochran formed
a new publication, the American Socialist, which had a brief
useful life but could not be sustained.These groups
have made real contributions to the American Left.

They made, for the most part, a very serious effort to uphold
the best of the Russian Revolution, while being
frank about the disaster of Stalin. Some of the Trotskyists
did finally face the problems inherent in Leninism,
the vanguard theory of change, the concept of democratic
centralism, and the fact Trotsky himself was not
really any nicer than Lenin. There are always apologies made
for the violent suppression of the workers
uprising at Kronstadt - and I wish the Trotskyists, and
Leninists, some of whom are now in the Socialist
Party, would realize that if one can justify mass murder
because the situation demanded it, they should be
much more hesitant in writing off the Socialist Parties in the
West because they, too, made compromises. I guess
my question to the Leninists is why are crimes and mistakes
acceptable if committed by the followers of Lenin,
but not if committed by the non-Communist left. (Thus far the
best answer I've heard is that in the name of the
revolution, murder, while regrettable, is defensible).

The Workers World Party, formed in 1956, when the Socialist
Workers Party had a split over the Hungarian
Revolution, (WWP supported the Soviet invasion of Hungary)
became a thorn in the side of many of us, with its
range of front groups - the International Action Center,
ANSWER, etc. In due time WWP had a split of its own,
the Party of Socialism and Liberation, which took ANSWER with
it. WWP still exists.

If one had time and the inclination, the list of those who
were in the Trotskyist movement, or touched by it, is truly
remarkable. Dwight Macdonald's Politics, Dissent Magazine, and
literally dozens of small Trotskyist groups.
My own primary mentor, A. J. Muste, was briefly - very briefly
- in the Trotskyist movement. The Trotskyist movement
has had one great advantage over the Communists - with very
few exceptions they never actually had power.
And thus they could be pure. All those who hold state power
will find that it forces compromises.

So much for this very too brief run down. I have read Trotsky,
and Lenin, and Stalin, and a number of others from
that period. I liked Lenin and still do - I just don't agree
with him. My own path led me to Gandhi. I liked Trotsky
a bit less, though I concede he was brilliant. Issac
Deutscher, in one of his three volumes on Trotsky, cites the
case where, in one of the inner-party fights, Trotsky felt he
had to make a temporary peace with Stalin. The price
which Stalin exacted was that Trotsky withdraw his support
from two of his own key allies. Which Trotsky did. Not
surprisingly, his allies, once abandoned, sided with Stalin in
the next round of in-fighting and helped seal Trotsky's

All of which brings me to a deeply flawed film I rented from
Netflix - Exile in Buyukada.Deeply flawed because
while showing Trotsky's arrival in Turkey, where he spent the
first period of his exile, the sound track, featuring a
narration by the wonderful actor, Vanessa Redgrave, is
"buried" under the music. There are occasional
sub-titles, but essentially the film is only worth watching
for the sense of that period. And it is to that sense that
I now want to turn my attention, (while, by pure chance,
listening to a new recording of a Shostakovitch work,
featuring the Internationale).

Let's leave aside the manipulations of Shachtman, the
betrayals of the Neocons, the chaos created by Workers
World . . . and turn back to the events in the Soviet Union.
That Trotsky would be expelled from the Communist
Party and sent into exile was unthinkable. He had been
essential to the revolution. He did not leave the young
Soviet Union as a dissident - he left it as a believer in the
revolution. He and his wife knew they faced death
wherever they went, from Stalin's agents (who did finally
murder him when he was in Mexico).

Trotsky had no allies within the socialist movement. He
despised the socialist parties of the West. The problem
was that he had no allies at all except for the opposition to
Stalin which, in the Soviet Union, could not be
expressed without risking certain death. In the West the
Trotskyist movement was a small splinter in the
side of the Communist movement, under steady ideological
attack as "agents of the State". To support Trotsky
was genuinely heroic - no one was going to pay you! You had no
chance at career advancement. You had
no allies in power anywhere in the world. The Communists would
check out books by Trotsky from public
libraries in order to destroy them (and I knew one
Shachtmanite who checked out those same books from
public libraries in order to save them from destruction -
theft in the name of love).

The Communists held power in the Soviet Union. Their parties
in Western Europe were strong. And strong even
as far away as Indochina, and China, and Japan.

So those of us who have basic disagreements with Trotsky -
essentially the same disagreements we have with
Lenin - should pay the history of Trotsky some respect. He was
no a democrat. It has been said, by one of those
in post-Soviet Russia, that if Trotsky had won the fight
against Stalin the outcome would have been just as
many executions - but with a far more literary flavor. The
sadness of Trotsky's life is that once the internal fight
in the Soviet Union had been decided, Trotsky was an heroic
but lost figure. His followers in the US ended
on the subversive list, were hounded from their jobs by the

But always and always, those who took Trotsky's side cannot
help but look back and think what the Soviet
Union might have been if only Stalin had lost that fight. I'm
very much among those who feel that American
socialists need to look to American history - not Russian or
Chinese or Cuban history - to chart our course.
But no one who has looked back at the early part of the 20th
century can fail to be thrilled
by that moment when it seemed as if the workers were actually
in control of history. It was this
painful memory Trotsky carried with him as he began the first
of his exiles in Turkey.

May I suggest - though my Trotskyist and Leninist friends will
not hear me - that the greatest honor one could
pay to Leon Trotsky would be to let him rest with the honor he
earned. And, as he broke with Stalin, so let us
break with all undemocratic efforts at revolution, which would
make human beings merely "means to the
end". Humanity - each life - is an end in itself. As A.J.
Muste said, "there is no way to peace - peace is
the way". So too, revolution begins now, as we empower
ourselves to think for our own time.

(David McReynolds worked for the War Resistes League for 39
years, retired in 1999, and lives with his two cats on the
Lower East Side. He is a former Chair of the War Resisters
International. He can be contacted at:

Michael Harrington's Legacy--A Book Review By Rob Tucker

Apostle of Lesser-Evilism

The Other American:
The Life of Michael Harrington
By Maurice Isserman

Review by R.W. Tucker

U.S. antiwar sentiment owes much to the Socialist Party. The SP steadfastly opposed World War I; its leader, Eugene Victor Debs, was jailed for his speeches against the war. In 1920 Debs ran for president from jail, his fifth try, and garnered about a million votes.

After he died a new leader emerged, Norman Thomas a pacifist, though he wavered for a while after World War II. Thomas ran for president six times, through 1948. In the 1960s, in his eighties, he barnstormed against the Vietnam War. By then he had become beloved far beyond his party's ranks. Unlikely U.S. leaders hailed him as the conscience of America.

Who would succeed him? The evident answer was Michael Harrington. He was a brilliant and extremely engaging speaker; he was a debater with few peers. And he had written an important best-seller, The Other America: Poverty in the United States, in which, in a clear, readable, unsentimental style, he discussed the fact that the poor had become mostly invisible and delineated their plight by categories. Everybody saw him as the next leading spokesperson for the Left.

It didn't happen. In the early'70s, the Socialist Party suffered a devastating three-way split. Harrington ended up heading one of the three successor organizations, the one now called Democratic Socialists of America. Thereafter for years he urged socialists to support Democrats in the name of lesser-evilism. (his term). His books on socialism are the modern standard, and at the time of his early death from cancer in 1989 he was honorary chairman of the Socialist International. But a great many socialists thought of him as a betrayer. This biography will greatly interest people who admired Harrington, and no less, those who were disappointed in him.

Realignment and Vietnam
Maurice Isserman has done a huge amount of research. He writes well, with an eye for the telling detail and many flashes of humor. The first hundred pages of The Other American narrate Harrington's claustrophobic Catholic upbringing, his education by the Jesuits and his time in the Catholic Worker movement. The Jesuits used to boast, Give us the boy and we will give you the man, and though Harrington in time abandoned pacifism, the Catholic Worker, and the Catholic Church itself, Isserman suggests that the Jesuit influence was pervasive: Harrington thought about Marxism in Jesuitical ways. In particular, he adopted and adapted Jesuit teachings about choosing the lesser evil.

In 1959, Max Shachtman, a Marxist ideologue and Harrington's mentor, began preaching Realignment. to his Socialist Party comrades. Socialists must go where labor is, he argued, and labor was in the Democratic Party. What America needed was not a third party, but a second party. The reactionary Southern Democrats must be driven to the Republicans, creating a true conservative-liberal choice. SPers bought this argument, and in 1960, for the first time, put up no presidential candidate. They had become discouraged by their ballot failures, and Shachtman had put a positive spin on withdrawing from the fray.

Harrington, though, bought Realignment with the fervor of a true believer. Thanks to the Realignment doctrine, he was free to join with aides to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson in working out details of the War on Poverty and the Great Society. The Other America was their Bible. Although, as Isserman shows, Harrington was uneasy about the Vietnam War, an attack on Johnson over the war would surely have ended his influence on the anti-poverty program. Others told him that the war was destroying the anti-poverty program, but for years he apparently couldn't see it. Realignment had also given the SP close ties with George Meany, the conservative head of the AFL-CIO, along with labor staff jobs for many SP members; going where labor is had turned out to mean going where the top labor bosses were and the labor bosses supported the war.

In 1962, Harrington lost a chance to play elder brother to the early New Left at the organizing meeting of Students for a Democratic Society, at Port Huron, MI. He hectored and bullied its early leaders for popular frontism. This he later apologized for. But he never apologized for his disgraceful behavior at the 1970 SP convention. As chairman, he presided over a spurious expulsion of the entire Wisconsin delegation, consisting of 22 antiwar delegates, and then bullied through a resolution on the war that in effect supported it. To those of us who knew his personal opinion of the war, his behavior was incredible.

Isserman says only that hundreds of members of the old party voted with their feet, as the party majority moved steadily rightward. This misstates what took place. Most of the state organizations, with the huge exception of New York, withdrew from the old party, which then changed its name to Social Democrats USA and more-or-less invented neoconservatism. Those who had withdrawn reconstituted the Socialist Party; they included almost all the pacifists, the older leadership, and pretty much the entire party as it had been in 1957.

The reconstituted SP came out against the war. Its members decided the Realignment strategy was bankrupt, so in 1976 they resumed running token candidates. Harrington might have been welcome among them had he come wearing sackcloth, but instead he called the reconstituted SP a sect, because it opposed Realignment. So when Harrington, in turn, could no longer stomach the Social Democrats pro-war policy, he formed his own group. He spoke of the total collapse of the Socialist Party and the need to start all over again, as if the renewed SP did not exist. A few months before his death, I asked him if there was any hope of the organizations reuniting, and he literally shuddered: Oh no, no, no, no. Isserman's failure to explore this attitude is a major flaw in his biography.

DSA in some ways became the most successful political organization on the Left. But it continues to be in Harrington's shadow. For instance, it was unable to take a position on the recent bombing of Serbia. Now it wanders in the wilderness, because all the goals of Realignment have been met, with the result that both major parties have moved rightward. Isserman has given us an object lesson in the perils of lesser-evil thinking.

R.W. Tucker worked closely with Michael Harrington from 1958 to 1962.

Marxism versus Leninism

From the Socialist Standard, March 1990.

Marx's theory of socialist revolution is grounded on the fundamental principle that "the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself". Marx held to this view throughout his entire forty years of socialist political activity, and it distinguished his theory of social change from that of both those who appealed to the princes, governments and industrialists to change the world for the benefit of the working class (such as Robert Owen and Saint Simon) and of those who relied on the determined action of some enlightened minority of professional revolutionaries to liberate the working class (such as Buonarotti, Blanqui and Weitling).

Conscious Self-emancipation

Marx saw that the very social position of the working class within capitalist society as a non-owning, exploited, wealth-producing class forced it to struggle against its capitalist conditions of existence. This "movement" of the working class could be said to be implicitly socialist since the struggle was ultimately over who should control the means of production: the minority capitalist class or the working class (i.e. society as a whole). At first the movement of the working class would be, Marx believed, unconscious and unorganised but in time, as the workers gained more experience of the class struggle and the workings of capitalism, it would become more consciously socialist and democratically organised by the workers themselves.

The emergence of socialist understanding out of the experience of the workers could thus be said to be "spontaneous" in the sense that it would require no intervention by people outside the working class to bring it about (not that such people could not take part in this process, but their participation was not essential or crucial). Socialist propaganda and agitation would indeed be necessary but would come to be carried out by workers themselves whose socialist ideas would have been derived from an interpretation of their class experience of capitalism. The end result would be an independent movement of the socialist-minded and democratically organised working class aimed at winning control of political power in order to abolish capitalism. As Marx and Engels put it in The Communist Manifesto, "the proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority".

This in fact was Marx's conception of "the workers' party". He did not see the party of the working class as a self-appointed elite of professional revolutionaries, as did the Blanquists, but as the mass democratic movement of the working class with a view to establishing Socialism, the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production.

Lenin's Opposing View

This was Marx's view, but it wasn't Lenin's. Lenin in his pamphlet What Is To Be Done?, written in 1901-2, declared:

"The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own efforts, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc. The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical and economic theories that were elaborated by the educated representatives of the propertied classes, the intellectuals" (Foreign Languages Publishing House edition, Moscow, pp. 50-51).

"Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside of the economic struggle, from outside of the sphere of relations between workers and employers" (Lenin's emphasis, p.133).

"The spontaneous working class movement by itself is able to create (and inevitably creates) only trade unionism, and working class trade unionist politics are precisely working class bourgeois politics" (pp. 159-60) .

Lenin went on to argue that the people who would have to bring "socialist consciousness" to the working class "from without" would be "professional revolutionaries", drawn at first mainly from the ranks of the bourgeois intelligentsia. In fact he argued that the Russian Social Democratic Party should be such an "organisation of professional revolutionaries", acting as the vanguard of the working class. The task of this vanguard party to be composed of professional revolutionaries under strict central control was to "lead" the working class, offering them slogans to follow and struggle for. It is the very antithesis of Marx's theory of working class self-emancipation.

The Bolshevik Coup

The implication of Marx's theory of working class self-emancipation is that the immense majority of the working class must be consciously involved in the socialist revolution against capitalism. "The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority in the interest of the immense majority".

The Bolshevik coup in November, 1917, carried out under the guise of protecting the rights of the Congress of Soviets, did not enjoy conscious majority support, at least not for socialism, though their slogan "Peace, Bread and Land" was widely popular. For instance, elections to the Constituent Assembly, held after the Bolshevik coup and so under Bolshevik government, gave them only about 25 per cent of the votes.

John Reed, a sympathetic American journalist, whose famous account of the Bolshevik coup, Ten Days That Shook The World, was commended in a foreword by Lenin, quotes Lenin as replying to this kind of criticism in a speech he made to the Congress of Peasants' Soviets on 27 November, 1917:

"If Socialism can only be realized when the intellectual development of all the people permits it, then we shall not see Socialism for at least five hundred years . . . The Socialist political party - this is the vanguard of the working class; it must not allow itself to be halted by the lack of education of the mass average, but it must lead the masses, using the Soviets as organs of revolutionary initiative…" (Reed's emphasis and omissions, Modern Library edition, 1960, p.15).

Compare this with a passage from the utopian communist, Weitling: "to want to wait . . . until all are suitably enlightened would be to abandon the thing altogether!" Not, of course, that it is a question of "all" the workers needing to be socialists before there can be Socialism. Marx, in rejecting the view that Socialism could be established by some enlightened minority, was merely saying that a sufficient majority of workers would have to be socialists.

Lenin's Legacy

Having seized power before the working class (and, even less, the 80 per cent peasant majority of the population) had prepared themselves for Socialism, all the Bolshevik government could do, as Lenin himself openly admitted, was to establish state capitalism in Russia. Which is what they did, while at the same time imposing their own dictatorship over the working class.

Contempt for the intellectual abilities of the working class led to the claim that the vanguard party should rule on their behalf, even against their will. Lenin's theory of the vanguard party became enshrined as a principle of government ("the leading role of the Party") which has served to justify what has proved to be the world's longest-lasting political dictatorship.

The self-emancipation of the working class, as advocated by Marx, remains on the agenda


 The former leadership of the Social Democrats, USA simply stopped functioning in 2005. Members of the SD,USA from across the country began reviving our organization almost immediately. Many of us were members back when we called ourselves the Socialist Party, USA. We wanted to renew the heritage of the Socialist Party. A merger between the Social Democratic Party and the Kangroo Faction of the Socialist Labor Party, in 1901, created the Socialist Party of America. We have no intention of ceding that heritage to self-styled anarchists and revolutionaries. The Social Democrats, USA kept the name Socialist Party for our political arm because we are the party of Eugene Debs, Mother Jones, Helen Keller, Carl Sandburg, Norman Thomas, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and thousands of people who worked to build the civil rights and trade union movements in this country. Many good folks gave their lives in these movements. We claim the history of the entire American social democratic movement with all its flaws and triumphs.

We respect the heritage of the SD,USA that was tied to organized Labor and which supported human rights at home and aboard. However, we reject the lurch toward neo-conservatism and militarism of some of the old guard. As we attempted to relaunch our group we were joined by many people who were never members of the SP, the SD or any other socialist group. We are now buoyed with new ideas environmental protection, and global initiatives to bring peace and end hunger and poverty.

Socialism is economic democracy. The members of the Social Democrats, USA reject a society in which discrimination by class, gender, or race is supported by law. Such a social order is profoundly undemocratic. Our movement has been in the forefront of the struggle for equal rights for women and minorities for more than a century. Equally undemocratic is a society in which giant multi-national corporations can displace thousands of workers and the communities in which they live to maximize profits. The resources of the world and our nation do not belong to a select few and the United States does not exist to serve the rich.

Socialists are committed to giving all citizens a democratic voice in the choices which profoundly effect them. These include government and corporate planning decisions, notjust partisan elections. Social democracy is that school of socialist thought dedicated to changing society by evolutionary rather than revolutionary means. We favor electoral campaigns, ballot initiatives, and demonstrations over bombs and assinations. The Social Democrats broke with the anarchists, Russian Bolsheviks, and others who saw violent revolution as both inevitable and desirable. The social democratic parties of the West created societies that cared for the most vulnerable members. Stalinism and its variants created police states that murdered tens of millions. Stalin, Mao, and Hitler all used the word socialist. Their disciples continue to use it to this day. They also use the words democracy, republic, and freedom. In short, they lie.

American social democrats always recognized this lie. Norman Thomas, the long time leader of the Socialist Party, USA said, "International Communism must be resisted with every means short of war." The Social Democrats, USA is the only group directly descended from the party of Norman Thomas. We have always recognized that totalitarianism is a threat to democracy and we have sought to combat it. We supported the Polish free trade union, Solidarity. In so doing, we helped to bring about the collapse of Soviet Communism. We aided trade unions that helped to destroy apartheid in South Africa. More recently, we called for a consumer boycott of the corporate sponsors of the "Genocide Olympics". The Communist Party of the Peoples' Republic of China has the worst domestic human rights record on the planet. It is occupying Tibet and is now supporting genocide in Burma and the Darfur region of the Sudan. However, American based multi-national corporations paid billions to the Chinese government to advertise during the Olympics. These companies thus supported more oppression and murder.

We are not apologists for the misguided militarism of our own government. Our members may disagree as to what should be done about American military involvement in Iraq today. However, we all recognize that the United States chose to go to war in Iraq. In doing so, we allowed the perpetrators of the crimes of 9-11 to escape. They have since plotted more attacks such as those carried out against civilians in London and Madrid. Some former members of the SD,USA joined the neo-conservative movement because they rejected a Democratic Party that seemed weak in the face of Soviet militarism and Islamic supremacism. If neo-conservatives, Communists, and neo-Nazis in this country all call themselves socialists, why do we? Because words have meaning. No matter how much truth is distorted by the disingenuous, truth exists. We are ready to take on the would be commissars, kommandants, and global "robber barons" within the forum that American democracy provides all citizens.


After the the 1956  presidential election, the Socialist Party--Social Democratic Federation (As the Socialist Party was called then. It would become the Socialist Party, USA in 1962), chose to stop running candidates of its own, except on rare occasion. We began to work in the Democratic Party. This is where our allies in the civil rights and trade union movement worked and continue to work politically. We are proud of what we helped accomplish within the Democratic Party, particularly the civil rights legislation and anti-poverty programs of the the 1960's. The struggle continues. The U.S. is woefully behind the rest of the world in providing health care to all its citizens. As a society, we all pay the cost. Health statistics make the USA look like a third world country. We have only the 47th highest life expectancy among nations. What country can be called a super power and not defend its citizens from preventable disease? We fail our young people by making higher education affordable only to the lucky. Perhaps most grievously, we fail our veterans and our senior citizens. Those who gave us so much are faced with cuts in the programs upon which they rely for survival.

When the banks and the auto industry were in chaos, they demanded and got a bailout. The Republican Party and the "Blue Dog" Democrats argue the cost of aiding the average family with health care, tuition, and housing is too expensive. It is Democratic legislators that we must influence, not to waste the stimulus monies, but to make a plan aids the home buyer and the worker instead of profligate mortage holder and industrialist. Our movement has been involved in the left wing of the Democratic Party since 1947. Socialist Party members helped found Americans for Democratic Action. ADA is this country's premiere "anti-Communist, liberal" organization. We are proud of our long relationships with Eleanor Roosevelt, Hubert Humphrey, and others. We look forward to forging a good working relationship with our fellow pro-labor, anti-totalitarian, left Democrats.

Whose Party?

The right wing accuses us of boring from within. They like the Norman Thomas' quote "The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened." When Thomas said this, liberals self-identified very publicly. Hubert Humphrey, for instance, wore the label proudly and worked closely with members of the Socialist Party. American liberalism is much akin to social democracy in protecting the most vulnerable and expanding opportunity. The political upheaval over the Vietnam war shattered the old liberal coalition in the Democratic Party into isolated single interest groups with no long range vision. America was the bulwark against both Fascism and Communism, those pretend socialists. Socialism seemed anti-American.

How American is socialism? Consider "The Pledge of Allegiance". The Pledge was written by the Rev. Francis Bellamy, a Christian pastor and Socialist Party member. Bellamy did not mention the Creator, because as a minister, he believed that blasphemous. He wrote the rest of the Pledge as we say it today.

The members of the Social Democrats, USA are proud of "our flag and the republic for which it stands." We are also internationalists. We work with democratic socialist, social democratic, and labour parties around the world. We will continue to workw ith the Socialist International and its member parties and affiliated groups like the Party of European Socialism, the Women's Socialist International and International Union of Socialist Youth. We will also work with the occasional political party outside the S.I. like the Workers' Party of Brazil. We will also work with inter-party groups like the Fabian Societies of the Britain and Australia. We continue our discussions with trade union and civil rights groups across the world. For us there is no abandonment of the socialist cause. Vice-president Hubert Humphrey sent Norman Thomas a telegram of congratulations on the latter's eightieth birthday. Our group was still called the Socialist Party in 1964. To many of us it will always be "the Party". The fact that we run local candidates in Democratic primaries should strengthen not erode organizational cohesiveness. We refuse to dessemble for temporary gain.

"Political party" means something different to people outside this country. Our political parties are huge catch-all electoral coalitions. Socialist author and Democratic Party activist, Michael Harrington, was fond of saying, "The Democratic Party contains some of the worst and most of the best people in American politics." He also pointed out that small left wing sects, like the Socialist Workers' Party, have more people on national staff than the Democratic Party does in non-presidential election years. In other countries, members of a political party are required to express substantial agreement with the party's programme, pay dues, and participate in electoral campaigns. The British Labour Party, one of the parties with which we work, has less than 200,000 members. Yet, it governs a nation of more than 80 million. The Social Democrats, USA insists that its members agree with our statement of principles, pay dues, and participate in the life of the organization. In this way, we remain a "Socialist Party."

The SD,USA does not generally favor third party candidacies. American politics makes the "two party system" a fixture. There are exceptions, but these are usually regional and temporary. We have learned from our allies in organized labor and the civil rights movement that we need to effect change now. Workers, the poor, and the victims of discrimination can't wait. We are not hiding in the Democratic Party. You will know us by the far reaching proposals we put forward for both the short and long term change. Despite what the right wing pundits say, the liberal movement has become tiny in America. The old liberal, pro-labor coalition needs reviving. We are working with our allies to do just that. You will find Social Democrats building unions and community groups. You may be working with us supporting excellent local candidates for public office. The economic elites want to either own our economy or let it be destroyed and the United States with it. We will fight back. Will you?

The Parties of the Second Part

A majority of delegates to the Socialist Party USA convention voted on New Year's Eve 1972, to officially change the name of the group to the Social Democrats, USA. It probably says something about these people that they were meeting on New Year's Eve. It says even more that the very small group of former Trotskyists not only won over the Socialist Party but became a major force in the broader American ideological debate. Not bad for a group that never had more than three hundred members. We need to remember why the Social Democrats came into existence. The 1960s had seen an explosion ofinterest-group politics. There were feminists, environmentalists, anti-waractivists, Black power advocates, young radicals, and a host of other groupings all vying for power within the Democratic Party.

This was what was called "the New Politics Movement". The SD rejected the New Politics in favor of the broad Labor-Liberal coalition which had governed the Democratic Party since 1932. This was the coalition of the New Deal and the Great Society. It was the coalition that won World War II and rebuilt Europe and Japan. It was the coalition of that passed civil rights legislation. This coalition was damaged by the Vietnam war and the resulting protests, but remained the credible voice of working people in America.

Two other groups emerged from that New Year's Eve conclave, in 1972. The larger was called the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. It sought to reach out to every variety of leftist and
left-liberal to create a broad, "big tent" organization. That actually workedfor a while. After the merger with the New American Movement, the new organization, the Democratic Socialists of America, grew to have 12,000 members by the early 1990's. Many of us were and reamain members of DSA. However, There was something very wrong in the merged organization. It wasn't that anyone was evil, or disingenuous, or unwilling to do his or her share of the work. It was that an attempt to blend two completely separate organizational cultures failed.

The New America Movement held a convention every summer of its ten year existence. At this convention generally six to seven hundred of the one thousand total members showed up and debated passionately. DSOC had 5,000 members by 1982 and likely never had more than 300 of them in any one place. That does not meanthat DSOC members were not as passionately involved as NAM members. DSOC members were union officers, union staff, elected officials, local committee people. In other words, they were busy doing real politics. DSOC created a coalition called
Democratic Agenda which seriously challenged the policies of a sitting Democratic president, Jimmy Carter, at both the 1978 mid-term and the 1980 Democratic conventions. At one time, three DSOC members held seats in the United States Congress. Other DSOC members were elected as the mayors of New York City and Chicago, while still others sat in political bodies ranging from the state legislatures, numerous city councils, boards of education and county committees.

Today, if any DSA member holds public office, even as a committee person, it is a closely guarded secret. DSA has perhaps thirty-five hundred paper members, two hundred of whom are active in some significant way. DSA has less than a dozen functionalchapters. Functioning is here defined as holding a general membership meeting at least once every three months. It used to be said that DSA was the socialist group that worked in the Democratic Party. Now DSA is the socialist group that talks about maybe someday in the future being the socialist element of a progressive group that works in the left fringe of Democratic Party.

The second group to emerge from the 1972 schism attempted to reconstruct the Socialist Party, USA. This group refers to itself as "revolutionary socialist".It now uses the name "Socialist Party of the United States of America". This organization was formed by people who left the old Socialist Party, USA when the later group changed its name to Social Democrats, USA to focus solely on working in the Democratic Party. The Social Democrats, USA never gave up the use of the name Socialist Party, USA and old leadership made this clear. Since 1995, the website banner read: "SD, USA is the successor to the Socialist Party, USA, the Party of Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas, and Bayard Rustin and is a member of the Socialist International".The older website is mirrored here, on the About Us page.

Dispite the fact that their constitutions dropped the name Socialist Party, USA in 1977 and that Party leadership sought to legally trademark the name "Socialist Party of the United States of America" in 2007, this group uses the initials SP, USA. Most members connected to the real Socialist Party, USA have passed away or resigned. It is a conceit for this group to claim any connection to the Party of Debs and Thomas. A political party is not an inheritence. The SP of the USA relies more on the ideas of Leon Trotsky than of Eugene Debs.

Recently, in an effort to become more like Daniel De Leon, the SP of the USA began expelling anyone suspected of having membership in SD,USA and hence the Democratic Party. This included the entire state of Pennsylvania, membership of more than one hundred. While having no formal ban on dual membership with this "party", whose national membership is less than 1,000, we have strong disagreements with them, particularly on the nature of democracy.

Many of us have strong personal ties with SP of the USA members. We endorsed SP of the USA, 2008 presidential candidate, Brian Moore, as "the best candidate running with no hope of influencing the outcome." Unfortunately Moore got less votes than the Party's 1976 presidential candidate even though the electorate has vastly expanded. The SD,USA is sad to see "that other Socialist Party" become just another psuedo-party, anti-American, left wing sect. Such groups abuse the word socialism every bit as much as the right wing pundits, Fascists, and Communists do.

We want to create over the next decade a Social Democrats, USA / Young Social
Democrats which has 5,000 members and a 1,000 activists, in twenty chapters around the country. Hopefully, we will have twicethat many involved with the our allied organizations, the Humphrey Democratic Caucus and the projects of League for Industrial Democracy. We will by then have a small group of elected officials as members and some "expert analysts" to make our critique credible. Most importantly we will have a core of activists dedicated to democratizing both economic and political life here and around the world. Perhaps you believe in America enough to join us in extending democracy to our economy before the "banksters" destroy the nation we all cherish.