Socialist Party of America

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The Socialist Party of America (SPA or SP) was a democratic socialist political party in the United States, formed in 1901 by a merger between the three-year-old Social Democratic Party of America and disaffected elements of the Socialist Labor Party which had split from the main organization in 1899.[1]

In the first decades of the 20th Century, it drew significant support from many different groups, including trade unionists, progressive social reformers, populist farmers, and immigrant communities. Its presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs, won over 900,000 votes in 1912 and 1920, while the party also elected two Congressmen and numerous state legislators and mayors. The party's staunch opposition to American involvement in World War I, although welcomed by many, also led to prominent defections, official repression and vigilante persecution. The organization was further shattered by a factional war over how it should respond to Russia's Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and the establishment of the Communist International in 1919.

After endorsing Robert LaFollette's presidential campaign in 1924, the Socialist Party returned to independent action and experienced modest growth in the early 1930s behind presidential candidate Norman Thomas. After the 1920s, however, the Party's appeal was weakened by the popularity of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, the superior organization and tactical flexibility of the Communist Party under Earl Browder, and the resurgent labor movement's need for friendly government policies. A divisive and ultimately-unsuccessful attempt to broaden the party by admitting followers of Leon Trotsky and Jay Lovestone caused the traditional "Old Guard" to leave and form the Social Democratic Federation. While the party was always strongly anti-Fascist, as well as anti-Stalinist, the SP's ambivalent attitude towards World War II cost it both internal and external support.

The SP stopped running Presidential candidates after 1956, when its nominee Darlington Hoopes won fewer than 3,000 votes. In the party's last decades, its members, many of them prominent in the labor, peace, civil rights and civil liberties movements, fundamentally disagreed about the socialist movement's relationship the Democratic Party domestically and how best to advance democracy abroad. In 1972–73, these strategic differences had become so acute that the Socialist Party shattered into three successor groups.

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.

See also


  1. Note that the Socialist Party of America was also known at various times in its long history as the "Socialist Party of the United States" (as early as the 1910s) and "Socialist Party, USA" (as early as 1935, most common in the 1960s). The original, official name of the organization was "Socialist Party of America," however, and it is so referred to here.
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