The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is a communist party in the United States. Originally a group in the Communist Party USA that supported Leon Trotsky against Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, it places a priority on "solidarity work" to aid strikes and is strongly supportive of Cuba. The SWP publishes The Militant, a weekly newspaper that dates back to 1928. It also maintains Pathfinder Press.
Socialist Workers Party
|National Secretary||Jack Barnes|
|Split from||Communist Party USA|
Castroism (from 1959)
Trotskyism (until 1982)
|International affiliation||Pathfinder tendency|
The SWP traces its origins back to the former Communist League of America (CLA), founded in 1928 by members of the CPUSA expelled for supporting Russian communist leader Leon Trotsky against Joseph Stalin. Concentrated almost exclusively in New York City and Minneapolis, the CLA did not have more than 100 adherents in 1929. After five years of propaganda work, the CLA remained a tiny organization, with a membership of about 200 and very little influence.
The rise of fascism in Nazi Germany and the failure of the communist and social democratic left to unite against the common danger created a situation where certain radical parties throughout the world reexamined their priorities and sought a mechanism for building united action. As early as December 1933, a Trotskyist splinter group called the Communist League of Struggle (CLS), headed by former Socialist Party youth section leader Albert Weisbord and his wife Vera Buch, approached Norman Thomas of the Socialist Party of America seeking a united front hunger march of the two organizations followed by a general strike. This suggestion was dismissed as "poppycock" by SP Executive Secretary Clarence Senior, but the seed of the idea of joint action had been planted.
Early in 1934, some French Trotskyists of the Communist League conceived of the idea of entering the French Socialist Party (the Section Française de l'Internationale Ouvrière or SFIO) in order to recruit members for the Trotskyists, or so some critics have charged. The group retained its identity as a factional organization inside the SFIO and built a base among the party's youth section, continuing their activity until popular front action between the SFIO and the mainline Communist Party of France made their position untenable. This tactic of "entering" the larger social democratic parties of each country, endorsed by Trotsky himself, became known as the "French Turn" and was replicated by various Trotskyist parties around the world. In 1934, the Communist League of America merged with the American Workers Party led by A. J. Muste, forming the Workers Party of the United States.
Throughout 1935, the Workers Party was deeply divided over the "entryism" tactic called for by the "French Turn" and a bitter debate swept the organization. Ultimately, the majority faction of Jim Cannon, Max Shachtman and James Burnham won the day and the Workers Party determined to enter the Socialist Party of America, though a minority faction headed by Hugo Oehler refused to accept this result and split from the organization.
The Socialist Party was itself beset with factional disagreements. The party's left-wing Militant faction sought to expand the organization into an "all-inclusive party"—inviting in members of the Lovestone and Trotskyist movements as well as radical individuals as the first step towards making the Socialist Party a mass party. Although there were no mass entries at this time, several radical oppositionists did make their way into the party, including former Communist Party leader Benjamin Gitlow, youth leader and ex-Jay Lovestone supporter Herbert Zam and attorney and American Workers Party activist Albert Goldman. Goldman at this time also joined with YPSL leader Ernest Erber to establish a newspaper in Chicago with a Trotskyist orientation, The Socialist Appeal, later to serve as the organ of the Trotskyists inside the Socialist Party.
In January 1936, just as the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party was expelling the Old Guard for their factional organization and alleged "violation of party discipline", James Cannon and his faction won their internal battle in the Workers Party to join the Socialist Party, when a national branch referendum voted unanimously for entry. Negotiations commenced with the Socialist Party leadership, with the admissions ultimately made on the basis of individual applications for membership rather than admission of the Workers Party and its approximately 2,000 members as a group. On June 6, 1936, the Workers Party's weekly newspaper, The New Militant, published its last issue and announced "Workers Party Calls All Revolutionary Workers to Join Socialist Party".
Although party leader Jim Cannon later hinted that the entry of the Trotskyists into the Socialist Party had been a contrived tactic aimed at stealing "confused young Left Socialists" for his own organization, it seemed that at its inception the entryist tactic was made in good faith. Historian Constance Myers notes that while "initial prognoses for the union of Trotskyists and Socialists were favorable", it was only later when "constant and protracted contact caused differences to surface". The Trotskyists retained a common orientation with the radicalized Socialist Party in their opposition to the European war, their preference for industrial unionism and the Congress of Industrial Organizations over the trade unionism of the American Federation of Labor, a commitment to trade union activism, the defense of the Soviet Union as the first workers' state while at the same time maintaining an antipathy toward the Stalin government and in their general aims in the 1936 election.
Cannon went to Tujunga, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, to establish another new newspaper, Labor Action, targeted to trade unionists and Socialist Party members and aimed at winning them over to Trotskyist views while Shachtman and Burnham handled the bulk of the faction's activities in New York. Norman Thomas attracted nearly 188,000 votes in his 1936 Socialist Party run for President, but performed poorly in historic strongholds of the party. Moreover, the party's membership had begun to decline. The organization was deeply factionalized, with the Militant faction split into right ("Altmanite"), center ("Clarity") and left ("Appeal") factions, in addition to the radical pacifists led by Thomas. A special convention was planned for the last week of March 1937 to set the party's future policy, initially intended as an unprecedented "secret" gathering.
Prior to the March convention, the Trotskyist Socialist Appeal faction held an organizational gathering of their own in Chicago, with 93 delegates gathering on February 20–22, 1937. The meeting organized the faction on a permanent basis, electing a National Action Committee of five to "coordinate branch work" and "formulate Appeal policies". Two delegates from the Clarity caucus were in attendance. James Burnham vigorously attacked the Labour and Socialist International, the international organization of left-wing parties to which the Socialist Party belonged and tension rose along these lines among the Trotskyists. United action between the Clarity and Appeal groups was not forthcoming and an emergency meeting of Vincent Dunne and Cannon was held in New York with leaders of the various factions including Thomas, Jack Altman and Gus Tyler of Clarity. At this meeting, Thomas pledged that the upcoming convention would make no effort to terminate the newspapers of the various factions.
There was no action to expel the Trotskyist Appeal faction, but pressure continued to build along these lines, egged on by the Communist Party's increasingly vehement denunciations of Trotsky and his followers as wreckers and agents of international fascism. The convention passed a ban on future branch resolutions on controversial matters, an effort to rein in the activities of the factions at the local level. It also banned factional newspapers, establishing a national organ instead.
Constance Myers indicates that three factors led to the Trotskyists' expulsion from the Socialist Party in 1937: the divergence between the official Socialists and the Trotskyist faction on the issues, the determination of Altman's wing of the Militants to oust the Trotskyists, and Trotsky's own decision to move toward a break with the party. Recognizing that the Clarity faction had chosen to stand with the Altmanites and the Thomas group, Trotsky recommended that the Appeal group focus on disagreements over Spain to provoke a split. At the same time, Thomas, freshly returned from Spain, had concluded that the Trotskyists had joined the Socialist Party not to make it stronger, but to capture it for their own purposes.
On June 24–25, 1937, a meeting of the Appeal faction's National Action Committee voted to ratchet up the rhetoric against the American Labor Party and Republican nominee for mayor of New York Fiorello LaGuardia (a favorite son of many in Socialist ranks) and to reestablish their newspaper, The Socialist Appeal. This was met with expulsions from the party beginning August 9 with a rump meeting of the Central Committee of Local New York, which expelled 52 New York Trotskyists by a vote of 48 to 2 (with 18 abstentions) and ordering 70 more to be brought up on charges. Wholesale expulsions followed, with a major section of the Young People's Socialist League (YPSL) leaving the party with the Trotskyists.
The 1,000 or so Trotskyists who entered the Socialist Party in 1936 exited in the summer of 1937 with their ranks swelled by another 1,000. On December 31, 1937, representatives of this faction gathered in Chicago to establish a new political organization—the Socialist Workers Party.
The October 2, 1937 issue of the Socialist Appeal included a convention call from the so-called "Left Wing" to "All Locals and Branches of the Socialist Party", accusing the NEC of the party of having "betrayed the principles of socialism" by withdrawing the party's candidate for mayor of New York in favor of LaGuardia and for having ordered "the bureaucratic expulsion of all the revolutionary members of the party who oppose and obstruct this sell-out policy". A convention was called by four Socialist Party State Committees, the NEC of the YPSL and the organized Left Wing organizations of Chicago and New York, originally slated for Thanksgiving weekend, November 25–28, in Chicago, but it was soon postponed until December 31 "in order to provide adequate time for discussion by the membership" of important questions.
In December 1937, an agenda was published by the Convention Organizing Committee naming Cannon as the primary reporter on the Trade Union question, Shachtman on the Russian Resolution, Goldman on the Spanish Resolution, Canadian Maurice Spector on the International Resolution, Burnham on the Declaration of Principles of the new organization and Abern on Party Organization and Constitution. The gathering was to conclude with the election of a new National Committee.
On December 31, over 100 regular and fraternal delegates gathered in Chicago, where they were greeted by a speech of welcome delivered by Chicago leader Albert Goldman, a labor attorney. As editor of the Trotskyist movement's ongoing theoretical magazine, The New International, Shachtman delivered the first official report to the gathering, dealing with the political situation in the United States. He declared:
It is entirely inconceivable that American imperialism can succeed in resisting the inexorable tendencies that are pulling it into the vortex of the coming world war.
If the working class is unable to prevent the outbreak of war, and the United States enters directly into it, our party stands pledged to the traditional position of revolutionary Marxism.
It will utilize the crisis of capitalist rule engendered by the war to prosecute the class struggle with the utmost intransigence, to strengthen the independent labor and revolutionary movements, and to bring the war to a close by the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of proletarian rule in the form of the workers state.
The convention devoted a full day to discussion of the labor movement's problems and the role of the new organization in the unions, with Cannon delivering the primary report. While criticizing the "reactionary role which the AFL leadership has played", Cannon declared that "our party...takes a clear-cut position in favor of the earliest and completest possible unification of the AFL and the CIO, and also the hitherto unaffiliated Railroad Brotherhoods".
The 1940 split in the SWP followed an internal factional debate over the party's internal government, the class nature of the Russian state and Marxist philosophy and other questions. The SWP experienced many other factional conflicts and splits in its history, but this was the largest and foreshadowed many features of those to come.
The majority faction, led by Cannon, supported Trotsky's position that the Soviet Union remained a "workers' state" and should be supported in any war with capitalist states, despite their opposition to Stalin's government. The minority faction, led by Shachtman, held that the Soviet Union should not be supported in its war with Finland. One of its leaders, James Burnham, held in addition that the Soviet Union had degenerated so far that it deserved no defense whatsoever. Like this debate, most later factional disputes within the SWP centered on different attitudes toward revolutions in other countries.
The opposition faction alleged that Cannon's leadership of the SWP was "bureaucratic conservative" and demanded the right to its own publications to express its views outside the party. The majority faction said this was contrary to Lenin's concept of democratic centralism and that disagreements within the SWP should be debated only internally. Similar disagreements over the SWP's internal government have surfaced in most later faction fights, with most later opposition factions raising similar demands and accusations. Despite this, most of these later factions claimed political descent from Cannon and the SWP majority, not from earlier opposition factions and splinter parties.
A number of members were imprisoned under the Smith Act of 1941, including Cannon (see Smith Act Trials). Those imprisoned included the main national leaders of the SWP and those members most prominent in the Midwest Teamsters.
The party put into practice the so-called Proletarian Military Policy of opposing the war politically while attempting to transform what they saw as an imperialist war into a civil war. The party lost a number of its members while sailing in extremely perilous convoys to Murmansk. Problems caused by some experienced leaders' imprisonment and many others' enlistment in the armed forces meant that the editorship of The Militant passed through a number of hands during the war.
The SWP was active in supporting labor strikes that occurred despite the wartime "no-strike pledge" and protests against racist discrimination during the war, such as A. Philip Randolph's March on Washington Movement. The Post Office refused to mail some issues of The Militant and threatened to cancel its third-class mailing permit, citing objections to its articles calling for violent overthrow of the government. The SWP said it was being persecuted for opposing racist discrimination.
After the war, the SWP and the Fourth International both expected that there would be a wave of revolutionary struggles like those that accompanied the end of the previous war. Indeed, revolutions did occur in Yugoslavia, Albania, Korea and China, to name only those that resulted in the overthrow of capitalism, but contrary to Trotskyist expectations they were headed by Moscow-oriented "Stalinist" parties.
The largest strike wave in United States history, involving over five million workers, occurred with the end of the war and the wartime pledge made by many union leaders not to strike for the duration, but this did not mean there were not many strikes during wartime as there were many wildcat strikes during this period as well as strikes officially called by the United Mine Workers of America. There were also protests by GIs demanding rapid demobilization after the end of the war, sometimes called the going-home movement. The SWP participation in this upsurge led to a brief period of rapid growth for the SWP immediately after the war.
The end of the war also saw the reorganization of the Fourth International in which the SWP played a major role. As part of this process, moves were made to heal the breach with Shachtman's supporters in the Workers Party (WP) and for the two groups to fuse. This eventually came to nothing, but some SWP members who supported the views of Felix Morrow and Albert Goldman grew dissatisfied with what they saw as the SWP's ultra-leftist attitude towards revolutionary policies. Eventually they left the SWP in a state of demoralization and some joined the WP.
Meanwhile, a faction within the WP called the Johnson-Forest Tendency, named for C. L. R. James (known as Johnson) and Raya Dunayevskaya (Forest), was impatient with the WP's caution and felt the situation could rapidly become pre-revolutionary. This led them to leave the WP and rejoin the SWP in 1947. This tendency had moved further away from the "orthodox Trotskyism" of the SWP, producing tension. For example, they continued to hold the position that the Soviet Union was a "state capitalist" society. By 1951, their presence in the SWP was ever more anomalous and most left to form the Correspondence Publishing Committee. Dunayevskaya and her supporters eventually formed the News and Letters Committees in 1955 after splitting with James, who was deported from the United States to Britain, where he continued to advise the Correspondence Publishing Committee, which split again in 1962, with those loyal to James taking the name Facing Reality.
The brief postwar wave of labor unrest gave way to the conservatism of the 1950s, the reform of previously radical labor unions and McCarthyism. The SWP's attempt at entryism into the growing civil rights movement, which continued uninterrupted out of World War II, could not fully offset these trends and the SWP experienced a period of decline and isolation.
The party also had a number of splits over these years. One saw the departure of the faction of Bert Cochran and Clarke, who formed the American Socialist Union, which lasted until 1959. That 1953 opposition supported some of the positions of Michel Pablo, the Secretary of the Fourth International, although Pablo disagreed with their wish to dissolve the Fourth International.
The next, smaller split was that of Sam Marcy's Global Class War faction, which called within the SWP for support of Henry Wallace's Progressive Party presidential run in 1948 and regarded Mao Zedong as a revolutionary leader. This faction ended up leaving the SWP in 1958 after supporting the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, a position contrary to that of the SWP and other Trotskyist tendencies. It went on to form the Workers World Party.
Meanwhile, throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s the remaining membership of the SWP clung to its firmly held beliefs and grew older. Consequently, the party membership shrank over these years from a postwar high in 1948 until the tide began to turn in the early 1960s. The Cuban Revolution signaled a change in the SWP's political direction as it embarked on pro-Castro "solidarity work" through the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. The result was a small accretion of youth to the party's ranks. In the same period longtime SWP leader Murry Weiss won another group of youth from the Shachtmanites as they joined the Socialist Party of America. Many of the new recruits were drawn from the student movement, unlike those who had led the party since the 1930s; as a result the party's internal culture began to change.
Despite such growing signs of an end to the isolation the group endured during the McCarthyite period, it experienced a new split in the early 1960s. A factional situation developed in the SWP that saw a number of small oppositional groups develop. One of the key issues was the Cuban Revolution and the SWP's response to it. Cannon and other SWP leaders such as Joseph Hansen saw Cuba as qualitatively different from the Stalinist states of Eastern Europe. Their analysis brought them closer to the International Secretariat of the Fourth International (ISFI) from which the SWP had split in 1953. The SWP successfully negotiated a reunification of the ISFI and the International Committee of the Fourth International leading to the creation in 1963 of the reunified Fourth International. Two sections of the ICFI, including Gerry Healy's Socialist Labour League, rejected the merger and turned against the SWP leadership, working with opponents within the party.
The most important faction opposing the SWP leadership's new line was the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) led by James Robertson and Tim Wohlforth that rejected the SWP's "capitulation" to Pabloism and opposed joining the USFI. They were critical of the Castro government, arguing that Cuba remained a "deformed workers' state". However, a split developed within this faction between groups headed by the two men. Nonetheless, both the RT and the Reorganized Minority Tendency split to form the Spartacist (see Spartacist League) and the American Committee for the Fourth International respectively, with the latter becoming aligned with Healy's SLL.
The SWP supported both the civil rights movement and the black nationalist movement which grew during the 1960s. It particularly praised the militancy of black nationalist leader Malcolm X, who in turn spoke at the SWP's public forums and gave an interview to the Young Socialist magazine. After his assassination, the SWP had limited success in forming alliances with his followers and other black nationalists. However, these movements were part of the radicalization of these years aiding the SWP's growth.
Like all left wing groups, the SWP grew during the 1960s and experienced a particularly brisk growth in the first years of the 1970s. Much of this was due to its involvement in many of the campaigns and demonstrations against the war in Vietnam. The SWP advocated that the antiwar movement should call for the immediate withdrawal of all American troops and should primarily focus on organizing large, legal demonstrations for this demand. It was recognized by friend and foe alike as a major factor influencing the direction of the antiwar movement along these lines. One of the leaders of the anti-war movement at this time, along with Dave Dellinger and many others was Fred Halstead, a World War II veteran and former leader of the garment workers union in New York City. Halstead was the 1968 presidential candidate of the SWP who visited Vietnam in that capacity.
The SWP was also increasingly outspoken in its defense of the Cuban government of Fidel Castro and its identification with that government. A new leadership led by Jack Barnes (who became national secretary in 1972) made identification with Cuba an ever-greater part of the politics of the SWP throughout the 1970s.
The party also published many of Trotsky's works in these years through their publishing house, Pathfinder Press. Not only were the better-known writings reprinted, many for the first time since the 1930s, but other more obscure articles and letters were collected and printed for a wider audience than they had when first distributed. The expansion of the press also allow the SWP to host Intercontinental Press, the FI magazine which moved from Paris to New York in 1969, which later merged with Inprecor.
The growth of labor militancy in the early 1970s affected the SWP and currents developed within it urging a reorientation of the party towards this militancy. One such current was the Proletarian Orientation Tendency, which included Larry Trainor, which eventually dissolved itself.
Another tendency developed called the Internationalist Tendency (IT). The IT posed a greater challenge for the group's leadership as the tendency agreed with the Fourth International's advocacy of guerrilla warfare as a "tactic on a continental scale" in Latin America. However, despite tensions between the SWP and the rest of the international, when the former expelled the IT the International refused to side with the tendency. The IT would disintegrate over the next few months, some of its supporters finding their way back into the SWP.
The international tensions developed further when the Leninist Trotskyist Tendency was established in 1973 by the SWP and its co-thinkers in order to contribute to the debate for the Tenth World Congress. It argued for a reversal of the Latin American guerrilla war orientation adopted at the Ninth World Congress.
This period was the peak of the SWP's growth and influence. The party continued its involvement in the movement against the war in Vietnam, which peaked in 1970–1971. The SWP also supported Chicano nationalism, including the Raza Unida Party. It helped organize protests demanding legal abortion through the Women's National Abortion Action Coalition. With the mid-to-late 1970s decline of these movements and the end of the 1960s–1970s youth radicalization, SWP membership and influence went into decline.
In 1978, the SWP leadership decided that the key task was for party members to make a turn to industry. This turn entailed party members getting jobs in blue collar industries in preparation for, the SWP leadership projected, increasing mass struggles. The 1977–1978 coal miners' strike and developments like Steelworkers Fight Back were among the events pointed to in arguing for this change in policy. Party members sought to get jobs in the same workplaces in order to work as organized "fractions", doing "communist political work" as well as union activity.
As a result, many members were asked to move and change jobs, often out of established careers and into low-paying jobs in small towns. Many of the older members with experience in trade unions resisted this "colonization program", which upset their established routine in the unions as did some of the younger members.
Opposition to the "turn to industry" developed within the SWP. This opposition was not homogeneous and was itself beset by differences between different factions.
A further factor in the growing divisions within the SWP was the move by Jack Barnes, Mary-Alice Waters and others in the leadership away from the Trotskyist label. In 1982, Barnes gave a speech which was later published as Their Trotsky and Ours: Communist Continuity Today in which Barnes rejected Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution, arguing that it failed to sufficiently distinguish between the democratic and socialist tasks of a workers' revolution. Barnes argued that anticapitalist revolutions typically began with a "workers' and farmers' government" which initially concentrated on bourgeois-democratic measures and only later moved on to the abolition of capitalism.
Barnes also argued that the Trotskyist label unnecessarily distinguished leftists in that tradition from leftists of other origins, such as the Cuban Communist Party, or the Sandinista National Liberation Front. He argued that the SWP had more in common with these organizations than with many groups calling themselves Trotskyist. The SWP has continued to publish numerous books by Trotsky and advocate a number of ideas commonly associated with Trotskyism, including Trotsky's analysis of Stalinism.
The opposition factions continued to support the theory of permanent revolution and the Trotskyist label: they anticipated that the SWP leadership was reassessing its place in the Fourth International. While declaring their support to the Cuban and the leftist Nicaraguan governments, they were more critical of the Castroist and Sandinista leadership. Additionally, they continued to oppose the "turn to industry".
One opposition group rallied around the Weinsteins on the West Coast (with supporters elsewhere too) while a second group rallied around George Breitman and Frank Lovell. Together they formed an opposition bloc on the SWP's National Committee, but in 1983 both groups were expelled. The opposition factions, having split from the SWP, formed new organizations. The Weinstein group formed the San Francisco-based Socialist Action. The Breitman-Lovell group after a time formed the Fourth Internationalist Tendency. Both groups described themselves as "public factions" of the SWP and set the task of recapturing the SWP to their understanding of Trotskyism. Another group, mainly in Los Angeles, had been close to Breitman, but did not agree to orient toward the SWP belonged briefly to Socialist Action and left to join the "regroupment" organization Solidarity.
This was the most recent split or major faction fight in the SWP. The organization has experienced an unusually long period of internal peace since, although it has declined steadily in both its membership numbers and its political influence within the American left. Numerous recent expulsions—sometimes of long-standing SWP veterans—have contributed to the membership decline. In 2003, the party sold its major headquarters building in New York City for $20 million and moved to another location in Manhattan. Party leaders Jack Barnes and Mary-Alice Waters subsequently sold their West Village condominium for $1.87 million.
The SWP's most high profile and controversial campaign in the late 1980s and early 1990s was its Mark Curtis Defense Committee, established after Curtis, an SWP activist and trade union organizer, was charged and convicted on burglary and rape charges in 1988. The party claimed that Curtis had been framed by police for his role in defending immigrant workers. Curtis was eventually paroled, but he was later arrested in Chicago on prostitution-related charges and then expelled from the SWP.
The SWP now focuses most of its energy on internal activities, such as fund-raising, the weekly Militant Labor Forum and the distribution of Pathfinder books and The Militant. Its members are present in a handful of trade unions and it focuses most of its political energy towards defending immigrant rights and promoting Cuban solidarity.
Due to legal constraints, the SWP ended its formal affiliation with the Fourth International in the 1940s. It remained in close political solidarity with the Fourth International. The Socialist Workers Party broke formally with the Fourth International in 1990, though it had been increasingly inactive in the Trotskyist movement since National Secretary Jack Barnes' 1982 speech "Their Trotsky and Ours", which some view as signaling a break with Trotskyism. The SWP action followed the 1985 World Congress and the SWP closed Intercontinental Press in 1986. The SWP's international formation is sometimes referred to as the Pathfinder tendency because they each operate a Pathfinder Bookstore which sells the publications of the SWP's publishing arm, Pathfinder Press.
The SWP has run candidates for President since 1948. It received its greatest number of votes in 1976, when its candidate Peter Camejo received 90,310 votes.
In the presidential election of 2004, the SWP ran Róger Calero for President and Arrin Hawkins for Vice President. Both candidates were constitutionally unqualified for the positions (under Article II, section 1) because Calero is not an American citizen and Hawkins was 29 years old, with the minimum age being 35 (this had been done before, notably by running 31 year old Linda Jenness in 1972). James Harris and Margaret Trowe, the SWP's ticket from 2000, stood in on the ballot in some states where Calero and Hawkins could not be listed. The two tickets combined received over 10,000 votes. They were on the ballot in 11 states and the District of Columbia, more than any other socialist candidates. The vote total does not reflect the actual vote because of the unqualified status of the candidates. County clerks (in some states) and statewide Secretaries of State have discretion in reporting votes for ineligible candidates. The same situation obtained in 2008.
|1948||Farrell Dobbs/Grace Carlson||13,614|
|1952||Farrell Dobbs/Myra Tanner Weiss||10,312|
|1956||Farrell Dobbs/Myra Tanner Weiss||7,797|
|1960||Farrell Dobbs/Myra Tanner Weiss||60,166|
|1964||Clifton DeBerry/Edward Shaw||32,327|
|1968||Fred Halstead/Paul Boutelle:||41,390|
|1972||Linda Jenness/Andrew Pulley||83,380||30,579 votes in Arizona due to ballot malfunction|
|Evelyn Reed/Clifton DeBerry:||13,878||Ballot access in Indiana, New York and Wisconsin|
|1976||Peter Camejo/Willie Mae Reid||90,986|
|1980||Clifton DeBerry/Matilde Zimmermann:||38,738|
|Andrew Pulley/Matilde Zimmermann||6,264|
|Richard Congress/Matilde Zimmermann||4,029||Ballot access in Ohio|
|1984||Melvin T. Mason/Matilde Zimmermann||24,672|
|1988||James "Mac" Warren/Kathleen Mickells||15,604|
|1992||James "Mac" Warren/Willie Mae Reid:||23,096|
|1996||James Harris/Laura Garza||8,463|
|2000||James Harris/Margaret Trowe:||7,378|
|2004||Róger Calero/Arrin Hawkins||3,677|
|James Harris/Margaret Trowe||7,411|
|2008||Róger Calero/Alyson Kennedy:||5,151|
|James Harris/Alyson Kennedy:||2,424|
|2012||James Harris/Maura DeLuca||4,115|
|2016||Alyson Kennedy/Osborne Hart||12,467|
Alyson Kennedy (born June 11, 1950) is an American activist, a member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) she is a former candidate for the 2019 Dallas mayoral election. She was the SWP's nominee for President in the 2016 United States presidential election, as well as Vice President in the 2008 United States presidential election.Andrew Pulley
Andrew Pulley (born May 5, 1951) is a former American politician who ran as Socialist Workers Party (SWP) candidate for Vice President of the United States in 1972; at the time he was twenty years old, making him ineligible under the United States Constitution. Along with presidential candidate Linda Jenness, he received 52,799 votes. At the time he ran he was a civil rights movement supporter, steel mill worker and Vietnam War U.S. Army veteran who'd opposed the war. He ran for Mayor of Chicago, Illinois in 1979 and then was the SWP candidate for president in 1980, when he received 40,105 votes.Arrin Hawkins
Arrin Hawkins (born 1975/76) is an American activist and political candidate. Hawkins ran as the vice presidential nominee of the Socialist Workers Party in the 2004 U.S. presidential election, while Róger Calero ran for President.
Because at the time of the election she was younger than 35 years of age (she was 28), she was constitutionally ineligible to serve as vice president. Therefore, some states did not allow Hawkins's name to be listed on the ballot. In those states, Margaret Trowe, the Socialist Workers' vice-presidential candidate from the 2000 ticket, stood in for her on the ballot.
Calero also required an alternate in some states, because he was born in Nicaragua; the original candidate Martin Koppel would also have been ineligible. The ticket with Calero at the head won 5,150 votes and that with James Harris won 2,424.As the running mate of Martin Koppel, she was the SWP candidate for Lieutenant Governor of New York in 2002. She ran for Manhattan Borough president in 2005, winning 2,375 votes (1%), losing by a wide margin to Scott Stringer.Hawkins is a leader in the youth wing of the Socialist Workers' Party. She holds a degree from the University of Minnesota, where she spent time in Senegal studying the role of women in African society.Brown v. Socialist Workers '74 Campaign Committee
Brown v. Socialist Workers '74 Campaign Committee, 459 U.S. 87 (1982), was a United States Supreme Court case that dealt with political speech, and whether a state could require a minor political party to disclosure its membership, expenditures, and contributors.
At the time, most states required political parties to disclose their contributions and expenditures; in 1982, the Court ruled that the Socialist Workers Party, a minor party in Ohio, was not required to disclose its contributors or recipients, on the basis of retributive animus and harassment if party functionaries did so.Clifton DeBerry
Clifton DeBerry (1924–2006) was an American communist and two-time candidate for President of the United States of the Socialist Workers Party. He was the first black American in the 20th century to be chosen by a political party as its nominee for president.Ed Shaw (activist)
Edward "Ed" Shaw (July 13, 1923 – October 1995) was an American socialist and lifelong member of the Socialist Workers Party.Fred Halstead
Fred W. Halstead (April 21, 1927 – June 2, 1988) was the Socialist Workers Party's candidate for President of the United States in 1968. His running mate was Paul Boutelle.
Halstead played a significant role in the movement against the Vietnam War, outlined in his book Out Now! . He also was a staff writer on The Militant, the publication of the Socialist Workers Party.
Halstead was a 6'6", 350 pound ex-garment cutter who worked briefly as a bouncer in a country-and-western saloon in the 1950s, when he was on the blacklist.James Harris (Socialist Workers Party politician)
James Harris (born 1948) is an American communist politician and member of the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party. He was the party's candidate for President of the United States in 1996 receiving 8,463 votes and again in 2000 when his ticket received 7,378 votes. Harris also served as an alternate candidate for Róger Calero in 2004 and 2008 in states where Calero could not qualify for the ballot (due to being born in Nicaragua). In 2004 he received 7,102 votes of the parties 10,791 votes. In 2008 he received 2,424 votes. More recently Harris was the SWP candidate in the 2009 Los Angeles mayoral election receiving 2,057 votes for 0.89% of the vote. Harris served for a time as the national organization secretary of the SWP. He was a staff writer for the socialist newsweekly The Militant in New York. He wrote about the internal resistance to South African apartheid and in 1994 traveled to South Africa to attend the Congress of South African Trade Unions convention. In July 2012, Harris was named the Socialist Workers Party nominee for president. The vice presidential nominee was Maura DeLuca.James Warren (presidential candidate)
James "Mac" Warren is a journalist and steel worker who ran as the Socialist Workers Party candidate for United States President in 1988 and 1992. His running mate in 1988 was Kathleen Mickells, and in 1992 he had two: Estelle DeBates and Willie Mae Reid, varying from state to state. Warren and his running mates received 23,533 votes (0.02%) 
Warren also ran against incumbent Richard M. Daley for mayor of Chicago in 1991, receiving less than 1% of the vote.Kathleen Mickells
Kathleen Mickells (born 1951) is an American oil refinery worker, coal miner and activist with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).Mickells was born in Omaha, Nebraska and worked at the Cumberland Mine in Greene County, Pennsylvania before being laid off in 1987. In 1986, she led a delegation of American women coal miners to tour coal fields in the United Kingdom. In that same year, Mickells attended the International Miners Organisation meeting also in the United Kingdom. In 1987, she was part of the SWP delegation which attended the 75th anniversary of the founding of the African National Congress, which was held in Arusha, Tanzania due to the apartheid policies in South Africa.Margaret Trowe
Margaret Trowe (born 1948) is an American Communist and women's rights activist. She was the 2000 United States Vice Presidential Candidate for the Socialist Workers Party; she also appeared as their VP candidate in 2004 in those states where the official candidate Arrin Hawkins was excluded from the ballot for being constitutionally ineligible to serve as vice president.
Trowe had run for United States Senator for Iowa in 1998 and received 2,400 votes. She also received one write-in vote for President of the United States in the 2004 election. In 2006, she was a candidate for Florida's 18th congressional district.Matilde Zimmermann
Matilde Zimmermann (born September 6, 1943) is an American author and professor who ran as the Socialist Workers Party candidate for United States Vice President in 1980. The party had three different Presidential candidates that year, Andrew Pulley, Richard H. Congress and Clifton DeBerry depending on the state. She was at the time a writer for the party newspaper The Militant. Zimmermann also ran as an alternate vice presidential candidate for Andrea Gonzales in some states in 1984; Melvin T. Mason was the presidential candidate.
Zimmermann (PhD History 1998) is the Residente Director of SLC (Sarah Lawrence College) in Cuba and is a faculty member in History an Global Studies al SLC. She has been based in Havana the last two fall semesters (2003 and 2004) as Director of SLC in Cuba. Because of the new U.S. restrictions on undergraduate academic programs in Cuba, Sarah Lawrence is now the only program of U.S. students at the University of Havana.Melvin T. Mason
Melvin T. Mason is an American politician who ran as Socialist Workers Party candidate for United States President in the 1984 United States presidential election. Along with Vice Presidential candidates Andrea Gonzales and Matilde Zimmermann (different ones in different states) he received 24,672 votes.
Mason had run twice for Governor of California, in 1978 and in 1982.
He wrote the autobiography Mel Mason: The Making of a Revolution (1982) ISBN 0-87348-448-7.
At present, he is the President of the Monterey Peninsula, California Branch of the NAACP.Myra Tanner Weiss
Myra Tanner Weiss (May 17, 1917 – September 13, 1997) was an American Communist following Trotskyism, and a three time U.S. Vice-Presidential candidate of the Socialist Workers Party.
Myra Tanner was recruited to the American Trotskyist movement in 1935, while at the university in Salt Lake City. In 1942, she married Murry Weiss, also a member of the SWP. They were living and working for the Party in Los Angeles, and Myra Tanner ran for the mayor of Los Angeles in 1945 and 1949.
The SWP in the 1950s was very factionalized and the Weisses were often viewed as being allies of Jim Cannon who moved to the West Coast at this time. As a result of this the leadership around Farrell Dobbs found themselves in conflict with the Weisses over the infamous Bustelo Incident.Myra Tanner Weiss was the SWP's vice-presidential candidate in 1952, 1956 and 1960, with Farrell Dobbs running for President of the United States. Later in life she and her husband Murry Weiss became political supporters of the Freedom Socialist Party.Osborne Hart
Osborne Hart (born 1952) is an American socialist activist. Hart was the vice-presidential nominee of the Socialist Workers Party in the 2016 presidential election. He has run for several other offices, including for mayor of Philadelphia in 2015.Hart's father was a career soldier and he traveled extensively as a youth. His activism began in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement. He has also been active in the solidarity movement with socialist Cuba and other political movements.Paul Boutelle
Kwame Montsho Ajamu Somburu (born Paul Benjamin Boutelle; October 13, 1934 – May 3, 2016) was the Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Vice President in 1968. He and presidential candidate Fred Halstead were on the ballot in 19 states. Boutelle toured throughout the United States during that campaign and appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including William F. Buckley, Jr.'s Firing Line, and in interviews with Joey Bishop and Dick Cavett. He spoke at numerous community meetings, universities, forums, conferences, and other venues.
Boutelle also toured internationally during the campaign to Canada, England, Scotland, and France. His national tour of France was cancelled because of the nationwide worker and student strikes and protests during the spring of 1968. His sponsoring organization was one of 22 banned by the French government.
Boutelle also campaigned as a socialist candidate for Mayor of New York City, Mayor of Oakland, California, United States Congress three times, New York State Attorney General in 1966, and Borough President of Manhattan. Boutelle was also active in the Freedom Now Party (an all-Black party that existed from 1963 to 1965) and was its candidate for the New York State Senate in Harlem, New York City in 1964.
In 1979, he changed his name to Kwame Montsho Ajamu Somburu.Richard Congress
Richard Congress was a candidate for United States President of the Socialist Workers Party. He was one of three candidates the party had that year, the others being Andrew Pulley and Clifton DeBerry. Matilde Zimmermann was the vice presidential candidate on all three tickets.
Congress was on the ballot in Ohio, where he received 4,029 votes. Congress was also mentioned in a United States Supreme Court decision concerning ballot access, Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780 (1983).Róger Calero
Róger Calero (born 1969 in Nicaragua) is a Nicaraguan journalist living in the United States and one of the leaders of the Socialist Workers Party. He was SWP candidate for President of the United States in 2004 and 2008, and for the United States Senate in New York in 2006.Willie Mae Reid
Willie Mae Reid is an African-American politician who ran as the Socialist Workers Party candidate for Mayor of Chicago in 1975, winning 16,693 votes but coming in third place against Richard J. Daley. The number had fallen from the number of signatures she'd acquired to get on the ballot, 66,000. She also ran as their vice presidential candidate in 1976 (Presidential candidate: Peter Camejo) and 1992 (Presidential candidate: James "Mac" Warren), winning 91,314 votes.
Socialist Workers Party (United States)
|Parties by state|
Current communist parties in the United States
won at least
one percent of