Socialist Party of America
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Founded: 1901
Defunct: 1972
Political Beliefs Democratic Socialism
Leaders Eugene V Debs,Norman Thomas

The Socialist Party of America is the most successful left wing party to have existed in America. It is the party of Eugene V Debs.


Formed in 1901 from the moderate ("Kangaroo") wing of the Socialist Labor Party, the Social Democratic Party of Eugene V. Debs, and a group of Christian socialists led by congregationalist minister George Davis Herron (1862-1925). Naming themselves the Socialist Party of America, this new group became the first mass socialist party in the United States. The party grew quickly due to the fame of Debs and his colleagues in the labor movement. Morris Hillquit, the leader of the Kangaroo SLP faction, became the national secretary of the Party. By 1912, the membership of the SP had grown to 118,000. The party won thousands of state and local elections, and by the end of the 1910's, the Socialist Party had two Congressman, Meyer London (S-NY) and Victor Berger (S-WI).

First Split[]

In 1919, the Socialist Party lost a large part of its membership when those within the party which supported V. I. Lenin and the Russian Bolsheviks left to form the Communist Party USA. In spite of this, Eugene Debs (the Socialist candidate for President in 1920) received 913,664 popular votes. However, after Debs's death, the party's support began to slow. Debs was replaced by Presbyterian minister Norman Thomas, who was as successful in Presidential elections as Debs. But the SPA lost many of its local elections and both of its Congressmen. Also, an angry section of the "Old Guard" within the party went on to leave the SP and create the Social Democratic Federation in 1936. During the McCarthy period of anti-Communist hysteria, the Socialist Party's support became so small that they ended their long-running Presidential campaigns. However, the Socialist Party was optimistic, because it was merging with former enemies and the hope was that the party would recreate a strong third party. In 1956, the Socialist Party merged with the Social Democratic Federation, forming the SPA-SDF.

Death of the Original American Socialist Party[]

An attempt was made to merge the party with two other groups, the Independent Socialist League (led by Max Shachtman) and the Jewish Labor Bund in 1957. While the JLB deal fell through, the ISL did merge with the Socialist Party. Unfortunately, the extremely anti-Communist Shachtmanites of the ISL went to work taking over the SPA-SDF. In 1972, the SPA-SDF-ISL merged with the Jewish Socialist Verband. In 1973, the ISL Shachtmanites were in control of the command structure of the Socialist Party, renaming the SPA-SDF-ISL-JSVA "Social Democrats USA". The SDUSA became "neo-conservative", supporting no leftist cause except the labor movement. Two large groups left this newly formed SDUSA, forming two opposition groups, the Democratic Socialists of America and the Debs Caucus. The Debs Caucus would recreate the Socialist Party of Eugene Debs when it renamed itself Socialist Party USA in 1976.

Sources and Things of Intrest[]

Socialist Mayor of Milwaukee up until the 60s Interview

Socialist Documents

Socialist History