World Socialist Party of the United States
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|World Socialist Party of the United States|
|Preceded by||Socialist Party of America|
|Headquarters||Boston, MA 02144|
|International affiliation||World Socialist Movement|
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The World Socialist Party of the United States (WSPUS) is a socialist political organization established in Detroit, Michigan as the Socialist Party of the United States in 1916 and which operated as the Socialist Educational Society in the 1920s and later the Workers' Socialist Party. The organization reemerged in the 1990s and exists today as the American companion party of the World Socialist Movement.
The World Socialist Party of the United States (WSPUS) maintains that, since its inception, it has been unique in the history of American socialist and socialist-labor parties in as much as it has stood alone in maintaining the original conception of socialism as first propounded by its 19th-century theorists, such as Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Antonie Pannekoek and William Morris. Within this tradition, socialism is defined as a post-capitalist mode of production where the accumulation of capital is no longer the driving force governing production, and instead production is undertaken solely to produce useful goods and services.
The WSPUS defines socialism as a moneyless society based on common ownership of the means of production, production for use, and social relations based on cooperative and democratic associations as opposed to bureaucratic hierarchies. Additionally, the WSPUS considers statelessness, classlessness and the complete abolition of wage labor components of a socialist society, traits that are usually reserved to describe fully developed communism.
The WSPUS condemns other parties that call themselves "socialist" for supporting one side of the capitalist coin (the interests of labor within capitalism) and criticize them for being reformist (such as Social Democrats) and thus for abandoning the long-term goal of building socialism in favor of maintaining the capitalist mode of production tempered with a welfare state. The World Socialist Movement also criticizes "democratic socialists" and labor unionists for coming to define socialism by their political/social struggles within capitalism, rather than by the system of socialism. For instance, they criticize the Socialist Party USA for policies such as advocating full employment rather than dealing with the structural issue of the need for wage labor in capitalist society. The WSPUS also contends that nationalization, state ownership and even decentralized-public ownership of industry is not socialism because capital, monetary relations, exploitation, wage labor and bureaucratic hierarchy still exist in such organizations, and in most cases state-run organizations are still structured around generating profits.
They advocate the abolition of all employment which they argue is a modern form of slavery, and its replacement by a society of voluntary labor and free association that produces wealth for the community to enjoy without the need for buying and selling - free access.
Unlike anarchists, however, the World Socialist Party advocates a political revolution because it argues that as the state is the "executive committee" of the capitalist class, it must be captured by the working class to keep the former from using it against the will of the latter. It also condemns the reformist nature of much anarchist activism. The WSPUS maintains that the revolution must be carried out by a willing majority organized without leaders, capturing the state by means of delegates elected solely to carry out the wishes of the majority to destroy the state by replacing it immediately with democratic control of the means of production across the entire country, and indeed the entire planet.
It has stood against all wars fought since its inception on the grounds that they always represent the economic interests of the owning class, and never those of the working class. Unlike much of the left, it does not take sides in wars, e.g. not calling for a victory for the Vietnamese against America.
It has opposed the traditional radical opposition to the (usually Republican) incumbent presidents (e.g., anti-Nixonism, anti-Reaganism, or anti-Bushism) arguing that the enemy of the working class is the entire exploitative social system based on ownership of the means of the production, not the presidents elected to run that system efficiently, as such opposition fosters the illusion of "better presidents" rather than an understanding of, and opposition to, the entire economic system based on an owning minority employing a non-owning majority to produce its profits.
The "Socialist Party of the United States" (SPUS) — its name inspired by co-thinkers in the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) and the original (non-WSM) Socialist Party of Canada (SPC) — was established on July 7, 1916 by 42 defecting members of Local Detroit of the Socialist Party of America (SPA). Those leaving to found the new organization were encouraged by the rapid growth of the so-called impossibilist movement in Canada and were deeply discouraged by the growing trend towards reformism in the SPA. Many founding members of the WSPUS were employed in the growing Michigan auto industry.
The group was initially headed by an immigrant from England named Adolph Kohn, who was later remembered by one factional opponent as a "mild-mannered, blue-eyed man with a vast memory" who was "textually brilliant in Marxist lore." Writing under the pseudonym "John O'London," Kohn attempted to gather around him others opposed to the World War in Europe who felt that the pursuit of ameliorative reforms only served to bolster the capitalist system.
The SPUS participated in the left-socialist circles of the time, especially with the Michigan Socialists expelled from the SPA in 1919 who first helped form the Communist Party of America (CPA) and later formed the Proletarian Party of America. Groups were formed in New York City, Cleveland, Portland and San Francisco.
The "Proletarian" group and the SPUS split apart over support for the Soviet Union. The WSPUS applauded the Bolshevik's withdraw from the first World War, but felt that the new Soviet regime could only be state capitalist and hence should not be supported. The Proletarian Party, headed by Scottish emigrant John Keracher, regarded the USSR as a workers' state which needed defending.
The WSPUS was given a regular page in the Western Clarion, the weekly paper of the original (non-WSM) Socialist Party of Canada, a publication which circulated broadly in American Left-socialist circles.
Pressured by the Palmer Raids of January 1920 and threatened with trademark litigation by the Socialist Party of America, the SPUS in the early 1920s as the "Socialist Educational Society" (SES). There were three locals in the SES period, located in Boston, Detroit and New York. The NYC local was the most active and events often included Louis Boudin as guest lecturer.
In 1927, the SES changed its name again to the "Workers' Socialist Party" (WSP).
The party published an irregular organ during the 1930s, The Socialist, which was launched in November 1929 and continued publication until July 1938.
The heyday of the WSP was 1930 and 1940s when it had perhaps 150 members. During that time WSP members were quite active in the workers' movement, especially the United Auto Workers union which a number of WSPUS members helped form. WSPUS members were also active in the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and the International Typographical Union in New England.
Since October 1933 the Socialist Party of Canada had published the Western Socialist from Winnipeg. After the outbreak of World War II the Western Socialist could not be published in Canada as an anti-war journal. Beginning with Vol. VI whole number 55, October 1939 the periodical was published in Boston and became the official organ of both the SPC and the WSPUS. Its final issue was Vol. XL whole number 319 1979-80.
In 1947 the party's name was changed once again, this time to the present World Socialist Party of the United States. During the 1980s, the party began to publish World Socialist Review, the first issue being dated 1986. World Socialist Review has been published irregularly since then.
The WSPUS rejuvenated in the mid-1990s due to the emergence of the internet. As of September 2008 it has members scattered throughout the United States, including Local Branches in Boston and Portland, as well as a regional Branch in the area encompassing Detroit and Toledo, Ohio.