Friday, February 12, 2010


 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.

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