Socialist parties

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Socialist parties in European history, political organizations formed in European countries to achieve the goals of socialism.

General History

In the late 19th cent. the gradual enfranchisement of the working classes gave impetus to socialism and the formation of Socialist political parties in many countries. Most were directly influenced by the teachings of Karl Marx. At the same time labor unions (see union, labor) were formed to improve the worker's economic status. In the 1870s and 80s, Socialist parties appeared in most European states; in 1889 they joined to form the Second International.

Despite similarities, the varying economic, social, and political conditions within countries gave distinctive national characters to the different socialist organizations. In France the political defeats experienced by socialists and other worker groups of the February Revolution (1848) and the Commune of Paris (1871) encouraged syndicalism and the revolutionary doctrine of Louis Auguste Blanqui. In Germany the state socialism of Ferdinand Lassalle gained wide acceptance. (For more detailed historical sketches of the Socialist parties in France and Germany, see below.) In Russia agrarian socialist ideas evolved indigenously (as did anarchism), finding expression in the Populist movement (see narodniki) and in the works of Aleksandr Herzen, Mikhail Bakunin, and others. Georgi Plekhanov introduced Marxism to Russia. (For the subsequent history of political socialism in Russia, see Socialist Revolutionary party; Bolshevism and Menshevism; communism.) Socialism in Great Britain developed in close association with the trade union movement and obtained its ideological direction from the evolutionary socialists of the Fabian Society rather than from Marxism (see Labour party). The Socialist parties in the Scandinavian countries were also generally moderate, and in the 20th cent. they soon gained a prominent political role.

All European Socialist parties were marked by schisms; the main issue dividing them was whether party members should cooperate with bourgeois-dominated governments to work for gradual reforms or should organize extralegally to hasten what Marxists viewed as inevitable, proletarian revolution. Eduard Bernstein, in Germany, was one of the first to deny (1898) some of Marx's doctrines and to argue for "revisionism."

World War I brought the collapse of Socialist internationalism, since many socialists supported their national governments in the war, some accepting ministerial positions. Of those opposing the war, the most notable were the Russian Bolsheviks, who in 1917 won control of their country in the Russian Revolution. After the war left-wing socialists, hoping for an extension of the Russian Revolution to other European countries, split off from the more moderate majority to form Communist parties. Thus a Third (Communist) International was formed to rival the Second International.

In the interwar years most of the Socialist parties discarded their revolutionary ideology. Many participated in coalition governments with bourgeois parties, and in Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark they formed their own governments. However, since they formed either coalition or minority governments they were prevented from achieving structural socialist changes, although some social reforms were enacted. Socialists were not able to counter the rise of fascism, and in Italy, Germany, and Spain they were suppressed.

During World War II, socialists were prominent in the resistance movement in the countries occupied by Germany. In the postwar period the cold war widened the gulf between the Socialist and Communist parties, and most Socialist parties moved even further away from Marxism. Substantial periods of power have, however, enabled some to promote their goals of a planned economy and a welfare state in many European countries; their position has been especially strong in the Scandinavian countries. In the 1990s a number of Socialist parties moderated their commit to a planned economy and the welfare state, most especially the British Labour party, which went so far as to abandon formally its traditional Socialist positions.


See M. Beer, General History of Socialism and Social Struggles (1957); C. Landauer, European Socialism (1959); G. D. H. Cole, The Second International, 1889–1914 (1956), Communism and Social Democracy, 1914–1931 (1958), and Socialism and Fascism, 1931–1939 (1960); S. Kramer, Socialism in Western Europe (1984); A. S. Lindemann, A History of European Socialism (1984); J. Tomaszewski, The Socialist Regimes of Eastern Europe (1989).

In Germany

In 1875, at Gotha, the followers of Lassalle united with the Marxist group of Wilhelm Liebknecht and August Bebel to form the Socialist Labor party, later known as the Social Democratic party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, or SPD). Despite repressive laws the SPD grew rapidly and by 1912 was the largest single party in the Reichstag.

In 1891 the Erfurt Program, adopted at a party congress in Erfurt, repudiated Lassalle's theories and placed the party on a strictly Marxist theoretical basis. Ideological debate shook the party throughout the 1890s. Bernstein led the revisionists in urging the SPD to weaken its commitment to Marxist theories of inevitable revolution and class struggle and to form alliances with middle-class parties. Karl Kautsky was the leading supporter of Marxist orthodoxy, and his position was formally upheld by the party, but in practice revisionism prevailed.

When World War I broke out (1914), the Social Democrats in the Reichstag voted for war credits, and in 1916 SPD deputies entered the government. Late in 1915 a group opposed to the continuation of the war broke off from the Majority Socialists and took (1917) the name Independent Socialists. They were led by Hugo Haase. Another, more radical group also broke away; the Spartacus party led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. With the German revolution of Nov., 1918, an SPD government under Friedrich Ebert and Haase took control, but its failure to promote socialist policies led to Haase's withdrawal and the brutally suppressed Spartacist revolt of Jan., 1919. Under the Weimar Republic the Social Democrats joined coalitions with other parties and succeeded in improving the condition of the working classes but were unable to counter extremist resurgence, and with the rise of Adolf Hitler the SPD was destroyed.

After World War II the revived SPD in East Germany was forced to merge (1946) with the Communists in the Socialist Unity party. In West Germany, the SPD emerged as the leading opposition party. In 1966 it entered a "grand coalition" with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and in 1969 the SPD, led by Chancellor Willy Brandt, became the dominant party in a governing coalition with the small Free Democratic party. Brandt pursued a policy of normalizing relations with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, including East Germany. In 1974, Brandt resigned as the result of a spy scandal and was succeeded by Helmut Schmidt. The SPD maintained a majority coalition, winning reelection in 1976 and 1980, but went into opposition when the Free Democrats switched to the CDU in 1982.

The SPD was a member of the East German transitional government in 1990, but lost again in the first all-German elections that year. The SPD was in opposition until 1998, when Gerhard Schröder led the party to a victory over the CDU coalition. Schröder's movement of the party toward the center led, in 2005, to formation of the more traditionally socialist Left party, an alliance of dissident SPD members (including former party leader Oskar Lafontaine) and former Communists. The SPD narrowly lost the 2005 elections to the CDU and entered into coalition with them as a junior partner (2005–9). The SPD suffered significant losses in the 2009 elections, but after the Free Democrats won no seats in 2013, the SPD was again the junior partner in a CDU-led government.


See studies by C. E. Schorske (1955, repr. 1970), D. W. Morgan (1975), G. Braunthal (1978 and 1983), and V. L. Lidtke (1985).

In France

The French Socialist party, known as the SFIO from its official name Section française de l'internationale ouvrière [French section of the Worker's International], was formed in 1905 by a merger of various socialist groups that had long quarreled over tactics. Led by Jean Jaurès and Jules Guesde, the SFIO became a major political force. In 1914 the party supported French participation in World War I, accepting ministerial posts.

The duration of the war and the example of the Russian Revolution stimulated the growth of a pro-Bolshevik element in the SFIO. By 1920 the Communists held a majority in the party, and a split was unavoidable. The minority, led by Léon Blum, reconstituted the SFIO and in 1924 it joined a coalition government. In 1936, faced by economic depression, government corruption, and the rise of French fascism, the Socialists, allied with Communists and Radical Socialists, won election as the Popular Front; Blum was premier (1937–38).

In World War II the SFIO played a heroic role in the French Resistance, emerging in 1945 as one of the strongest government parties. But, flanked by Communists on the left and conservative parties on the right, it gradually lost strength, although it frequently was the leading party in governing coalitions. Split over support for the Fifth Republic in 1958, the party made a succession of alliances, unsuccessfully opposing the ruling Gaullists. It was reorganized in 1969 as the Parti Socialiste.

Socialist candidate François Mitterrand, was only narrowly defeated for the presidency in 1974, and in 1981, again with Communist support, he defeated Gaullist President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, then led his party to an assembly majority. The Socialists governed, with Pierre Mauroy and then Laurent Fabius as premier, until 1986, increasing social benefits, nationalizing industrial and financial enterprises (later reprivatized by the successor government), and promoting devolution to local governments. However, its austerity policies cost it an assembly majority; a center-right coalition "cohabited" with President Mitterrand until 1988, when Mitterrand was reelected, and the party regained a majority. Michel Rocard became premier and established a minimum guaranteed income, but deficit-driven public-sector wage cuts cost him support. He was replaced by Edith Cresson in 1991, and she by Pierre Bérégovoy in 1992.

By the end of 1992, the party was divided in the face of a united conservative opposition, which triumphed in the assembly elections of 1993. The Socialists also lost the presidency in 1995, but they returned to power in the assembly in 1997, and Lionel Jospin became premier. In 2002 Jospin failed to win the presidency, placing third, and the party subsequently lost control of the assembly. The party's 2007 candidate for the presidency, Ségolène Royal also lost. In 2012, however, François Hollande, the Socialist presidential candidate, defeated the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy. They subsequently also won control of the assembly, with Jean-Marc Ayrault became premier.


See H. G. Simmons, French Socialists in Search of a Role (1970); S. Williams, ed., Socialism in France (1983); D. S. Bell and B. Criddle, The French Socialist Party (2d ed. 1988).

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Socialist Party

Socialist ideas and publications have circulated in Argentina since 1870. El Obrero appeared in 1890 to communicate these ideas, and the German socialist club, Vorwärts, initiated the formation of the International Committee, which called on workers in particular to organize themselves and demand protective laws. La Vanguardia, a newspaper, founded in April 1894, called for a meeting of socialist groups to form the party. The party was formally established in 1896 when the First Congress approved the Minimum Program. Its Statement of Principles declared that workers were oppressed and exploited by capitalists and that the proletariat was responsible for reforming the situation. To bring about this socio-economic transformation, the party promoted universal suffrage and worker organization.

The Minimum Program was drawn up, with different variants, on the basis of electoral platforms: an eight-hour work day, improvement of working conditions, elimination of indirect taxes, taxation of large-property ownership and inheritance, extension of the vote to women, separation of Church and state, and divorce. The party encouraged industrial development to increase the power of the worker class, but strongly opposed all protectionism and defended free play of supply and demand. It promoted cooperativism, a mutual support association where people get together by their own free will to solve common economic, social and cultural needs, through the creation of a democratically controlled company.

Juan B. Justo became the indisputable head of the Socialist Party and the defender of gradual and progressive change. The main basis of the party was the ongoing mobilization of its adherents, and it gave priority to the education of workers. It participated in the political system but denounced fraud. Its most resounding triumph was the election of Alfredo Palacios in 1904 as national deputy.

The electoral reform of 1912 set a stage that was more favorable to political organizations. The Socialist Party faced hard competition from the Radical Party, which it considered a part of the old political structure. A significant increase in the electorate in the federal capital, Buenos Aires, resulted in several deputies and senators being elected. Although the electorate of Buenos Aires gave its support to the Socialist Party, the party could not consolidate a solid structure in the country's inland provinces.

The party always had a difficult relationship with workers' organizations and with the diverging opinions of many of its members. Different waves of opinion formed within it, causing several splits. Like Palacios, Manuel Ugarte was considered more nationalist than internationalist. Palacios was expelled from the Socialist Party for challenging its leadership and went on to found the Argentine Socialist Party, which was short-lived and had little success.

In 1912 another faction founded the Karl Marx Studies Center, which defended orthodox Marxism. Tensions increased when party members were forbidden to simultaneously hold membership in the Young Socialists, and due to the group's stance on the 1914 war. Several members were expelled, including José Penelón, Rodolfo Ghioldi, Vittorio Codovilla, and Alberto Palcos, and in 1918 they founded the International Socialist Party, which supported the Russian Revolution and eventually became the Communist Party.

Between 1916 and 1930 Argentine politics underwent an important change that had a significant impact on democratic movements in the country. The military coup of September 6, 1930, broke the continuity of constitutional government, and conflicts within the Socialist Party resurfaced. In the 1930s the party opposition from the Left was expelled and formed the Socialist Workers Party, which in turn underwent several internal crises until its dissolution. An Independent Socialist Party also was formed.

The emergence and consolidation of the Peronist Party drained militants from the Socialist Party, which lost many of its members to the growing Peronist movement. The Socialist Party opposed Peronism, and many of its leaders left for exile. With the fall of Perón in 1955, the Socialist Party was reactivated, with a renewed hope of attracting members from among the masses, but these new members failed to materialize as workers did not leave the Peronist ranks.

After 1955 Argentina was unstable. Plagued by repeated military coups, the Socialist Party remained on the political scene through its various rifts. In 1958 it split again, forming the Democratic Socialist Party, which continues in the early twenty-first century, as well as the Argentine Socialist Party. The latter was a coalition of socialists, Castroists, and Maoists; their differences prompted the party's division into the Argentine Socialist Party and the Vanguard Argentine Socialist Party, which further split into the Popular Vanguard Party (which self-dissolved in 1972 to join the Justicialist Party) and the Communist Vanguard Party. In 1966 the Argentine Socialist Party split again when Juan Carlos Coral was expelled from the group and joined a Trotskyite group to form the Workers Socialist Party, which ran candidates in the national elections of 1973 and was banned by the military dictatorship in 1976. In 1972 the socialists of the Argentine Socialist Party, along with other scattered minor groups, created the Popular Socialist Party.

See alsoCodovilla, Vittorio; Ghioldi, Rodolfo; Justo, Juan B.; Palacios, Alfredo L.; Ugarte, Manuel.


Adelman, Jeremy. "El Partido Socialista Argentina." In Nueva Historia Argentina, Vol. 5: El progreso, la modernización y sus límites, 1880–1916, ed. Mirta Zaida Lobato. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 2000.

Aricó, José. La hipótesis de Justo. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1999.

Camarero, Hernán, and Carlos Miguel Herrera, eds. El partido socialista en Argentina: Sociedad, Política, e ideas a través de un siglo. Buenos Aires: Prometeo, 2005.

Oddone, Jacinto. Historia del socialismo argentino. (1934). Buenos Aires: CEAL, 1988.

Walter, Richard. The Socialist Party of Argentina, 1890–1930. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1977.

                                        Mirta Zaida Lobato

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The Socialist Party entered the Depression years with high hopes for revival, and exited in near collapse. The party's greatest weakness was internal disunity, but the ultimately debilitating conflicts reflected the dilemmas of a radical movement in the age of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

By the time of the stock market crash in 1929, the once-strong Socialist Party had reached internal collapse. Pockets of ethnic labor and local voting strength, notably German, Jewish, and Slovenian, had been greatly heartened by the emergence of Norman Thomas, a former minister, as perpetual candidate and replacement for the late figurehead Eugene V. Debs. But many younger radicals had defected to Communist circles, and the deep-set bureaucratic mentality of older, influential party figures sometimes proved as much of a liability as a benefit, offering a gloomy prospect for the near future.

Nonetheless, a fresh generation of socialists found themselves in the movement of the unemployed, leading the Workers Alliance and the Young People's Socialist League, while older hands enjoyed a revival of municipal victories in heavily Germanic Milwaukee and Reading, Pennsylvania, and strong turnouts in scattered spots. The Student League for Industrial Democracy (SLID) prospered on some campuses amid the rise of antiwar sentiment. Presidential campaigner Thomas, winner of a straw poll among college students in 1932, expected to win millions of votes that year and actually received 800,000, a promising turnout.

Communist blunders contributed to a renewal of interest in the Socialists and to their hopes for a major revival, but those hopes were deeply disappointed within only a few years. Often sectarian and highly rhetorical during the early 1930s, Communists left open opportunities for organizing projects within existing unions and for the creation of a labor party. Novelist Upton Sinclair, who mobilized socialistic constituencies for his run for California governor—but within the Democratic Party—marked yet another promising way forward despite his defeat by a Republican candidate in 1934. For a moment it seemed that the Socialist Party membership of approximately thirty thousand might be multiplied by its influence within union locals, certain urban neighborhoods, and college or middle-class reform milieus.

Two key factors reversed these gains. The proclamation of a "Second New Deal" by the Roosevelt administration in 1935 killed the labor party initiative at the national level and drained off many important activists who were earlier involved in Socialist electoral campaigns. The announcement of a Popular Front by world Communist parties brought American Communists into the New Deal coalition just as the labor movement expanded rapidly into industrial unionism and cultural innovation flourished at every level. Communists benefited, absorbing the radicalized writers, artists, and musicians, as well as most militant unionists and African-American activists and intellectuals, while Socialists lost out decisively at almost every level.

The Socialist failure was presaged by their practical absence from three major strikes in 1934—in Minneapolis-St. Paul (led by followers of Leon Trotsky), in Toledo (led by members of the American Workers' Party under A. J. Muste), and in San Francisco (led by Communists). The Trotskyists and "Musteites" actually merged with the Socialist Party in 1936, after joining with each other, but this project of creating an alternative to the Communists occurred too late. A walk-out of oldergeneration Socialist conservatives, who took along the Rand School, radio station WEVD, and the weekly New Leader, left the party badly weakened.

The merger of unemployed groups and student groups into entities more influenced by the Communists better indicated the New Deal's magnetic attraction. Radicalism had become reformism, and pacifist rejection of war had evolved into antifascist support of armed resistance to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. The dramatic fall of Norman Thomas's presidential vote in 1936 to less than half his 1932 total suggested that little remained of the organization but a personal following of Thomas as "Mr. Socialism," America's voice of conscience.

This conclusion would, however, underestimate the ability of local Socialists to rebound within particular circumstances. Socialists held their own and gained new electoral ground in immigrant-heavy Milwaukee, Bridgeport, Connecticut, and Reading, Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, scattered sections of the party led autoworkers, coal miners, and various other groups. As the nation tilted increasingly toward war, a particularly pure strain of pacifism influenced liberal Christian pastors and the laity with a socialistic interpretation of approaching global trauma. Socialist support for the "Keep America out of War" Congress in 1938 marked a final high point.

This was the Indian summer of a movement that could not recover its momentum. Severe internal wrangling with the followers of Trotsky ended with the expulsion of the minority in 1938. The inevitability of war and the 1941 entry of the United States doomed pacifism to a moral outcry that was not supported in most of the ethnic milieus where Socialist sympathies had remained alive. Opposition to Communist ideology and tactics, once made from attacking compromises with the Roosevelt administration, now slipped toward the center, as influential Socialists, especially within the labor movement, poised to become cold warriors.



Bell, Daniel. "The Background and Development of Marxian Socialism in the United States." In Socialism and American Life, Vol. 1, edited by Donald Drew Egbert and Stow Persons. 1952.

Socialist Party of America Papers. Duke University Libraries, Durham, NC.

Warren, Frank A. An Alternative Vision: The Socialist Party in the 1930s. 1974.

Paul Buhle

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Socialist Party

A conglomeration of various Marxist groups—the Nueva Acción Pública, the Acción Revolucionaria Socialista, the Partido Socialista Marxista, the Orden Socialista, and the Partido Socialista Unificado—became the Socialist Party on 19 April 1933. Created to fill a political vacuum caused by the collapse of the Carlos Ibáñez government and the failure of the Socialist Republic of 100 Days, the party endured repression at the hands of the Arturo Alessandri Palma government, which exiled many of its leaders, including Marmaduke Grove Vallejo. The Socialists created a special niche for themselves: they favored the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and opposed capitalism and imperialism, particularly that of the United States. But while ideologically akin to the Communists, they refused to accept the domination of Moscow.

Initially acting alone, the Socialists urged an alliance with other left-wing parties to form the Bloque de Izquierda in 1935. Two years later, the Communists joined the Socialists and other elements, including the Radical Party, to establish the Popular Front. Although they held various ministerial portfolios in the Aguirre Cerda government, some dissidents accused the party's leaders of betraying Socialist principles by supporting the reformist, but hardly revolutionary, Aguirre Cerda government.

This dispute, which led to the creation of the Socialist Workers Party (Partido Socialista de Trabajadores), constituted the first of many splits which shattered the party's cohesion. Grove later led another splinter group out of the Socialist fold and into the Partido Socialista Auténtico when radicals criticized his support of the Ríos regime. Given the party's eclectic composition, it is not surprising that schisms appeared. By 1946 the Socialists had formed three parties, and not surprisingly, their collective fortunes declined in the elections. Two years later, the party coalesced into just two factions: the Partido Socialista de Chile and the Partido Socialista Popular.

The Partido Socialista Popular unexpectedly supported the candidacy of Carlos Ibáñez, a former dictator associated with conservative policies. Although the party attempted to rationalize this policy, its decision represented an attempt to jump on the Ibáñez bandwagon in order to win back some of its former supporters. This opportunistic policy bore fruit when the party won certain ministerial posts and increased its congressional representation. But when Ibáñez's policies began to misfire, the Socialist faction withdrew its support. In 1957 the Socialists managed to reconcile their two factions. Earlier, in 1956, the Socialists had joined the Communists to create the Popular Action Front (FRAP), which would nominate Salvador Allende as its presidential candidate in 1958 and 1964. They also participated in the 1970 Popular Unity government.

The largely working-class Socialists sought to establish a broad-based authoritarian government to reorder drastically the nation's economic, social, and political priorities. Unlike the Communists, the Socialists believed that Chile's own experience should shape the revolutionary process. The Socialists became more vociferous during the Allende period, advocating armed revolution, seeking the abolition of the bourgeois state, and refusing to compromise with the Christian Democrats. Many believe that Socialist intransigence prevented Allende from compromising on certain essential issues, thus hastening the collapse of his government.

Since 1973, the party has split into various factions, including one led by Ricardo Lagos, which appeared willing to compromise with non-Marxists, and another under the control of the more radical Clodomiro Almeyda Medina, which was not. Despite these differences, the Socialists cooperated with the anti-Pinochet forces, helping to elect Patricio Aylwin in 1989 and electing representatives to both houses of Congress. Continuing their partnership with other leftist parties, the Socialists won the presidency in 1999 with candidate Ricardo Lagos. Again, in 2006, the socialist candidate Michelle Bachelet won the presidential contest and also became Chile's first female chief executive.

See alsoAlessandri Palma, Arturo; Allende Gossens, Salvador; Aylwin Azócar, Patricio; Bachelet, Michelle; Chile, Socialist Republic of 100 Days; Grove Vallejo, Marmaduke; Ibáñez del Campo, Carlos; Lagos, Ricardo.


Julio César Jobet Burquez, El socialismo chileno a través de sus congresos (1965) and El partido socialista de Chile, 2 vols. (1971).

Miriam R. Hochwald, "Imagery in Politics: A Study of the Ideology of the Chilean Socialist Party" (Ph.D. diss., UCLA, 1971).

Paul W. Drake, Socialism and Populism in Chile, 1932–52 (1978).

Benny Pollack and Hernán Rosenkranz, Revolutionary Social Democracy—The Chilean Socialist Party (1986).

Additional Bibliography

Baño, Rodrigo, ed. La Unidad Popular treinta años después. Santiago: Departamento de Sociología, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad de Chile, 2003.

Ponce Durán, Pedro. Oscar Schnake Vergara: Comienzos del socialismo chileno, 1933–1942. Santiago: Ediciones Documentas, 1994.

                                      William F. Sater

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The Socialist Party of the United States of America (SP-USA) is one of several parties claiming to be the heir to the country's original organized Socialist movement, the Socialist Labor Party (SLP). Support for the party has fluctuated over the years, but it remains a vigorous advocate of radical change of economic and social policy in the United States.

Originally called the Workingmen's party when it was organized in 1876, the party was renamed in 1877. Most of its members were immigrants from the large industrial U.S. cities. In 1890 Marxist Daniel De Leon joined the SLP and became editor of its newspaper, The People. Under De Leon's leadership the SLP adopted a Marxist view that advocated revolution in order to free workers from the bonds of capitalism. In 1892 the SLP ran Simon Wing as a presidential candidate. The SLP continued to run presidential candidates for many years; however, electoral strength for the party reached a peak in 1898 when the SLP candidate fielded 82,204 votes.

In 1898 eugene debs and other veterans of the American Railway Union's national strike against the Pullman Company organized the Socialist democratic party (SDP). The majority of SDP members were laborers who had been born in the United States. In 1901 one wing of the SLP merged with Eugene Debs' Social Democratic Party (SDP) at a unity convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. The newly merged Socialist Party of the United States of America was a mix of people harboring moderate to radical views including Marxists, Christians, pro-Zion and anti-Zion Jewish reformers, pacifists, populists, anarchists, and others. The continuing reform versus revolution debate was blunted by the adoption of platforms that envisioned revolution as the ultimate goal, while advocating immediate reform measures, but the party faced continuous internal conflict due to the variety of opinions held by its members.

The Socialist party sought to become a major component of the American political system. Debs ran as the party's presidential candidate in 1908, 1912, and 1920, polling over 915,000 votes in 1920. In 1919 a major ideological divide within the party caused a number of members to split off and form what eventually became the Communist Party of the United States. In 1924 the Socialist party did not field a presidential candidate, but instead it supported the campaign of Senator robert la follette of Wisconsin who ran on the progressive party ticket. La Follette polled 5 million popular votes but carried only his home state. The Great Depression of the early 1930s increased support for the Socialist party; its 1932 presidential candidate, Norman Thomas, received 896,000 votes.

After that election the membership and political impact of the Socialist party began to decline. The heterogeneity of views led to conflicts among various party factions, and over the years these factions were subject to numerous splits and mergers. Some members left to join the Communist party because they felt the Socialist agenda was not sufficiently radical. Others became Democrats, theorizing that working with a major political party was the most viable means of achieving reform.

In 1976 the Socialist party ran a presidential candidate for the first time in 20 years. Since then the party has fielded presidential candidates in 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000. In 2000 the presidential candidate, David McReynolds, a peace activist and former party chair, earned ballot status in seven states. Since 1973, the Socialist party has concentrated on grassroots organizing and having an impact on local politics.

further readings

Fried, Albert., ed. 1992. Socialism in America: From the Shakers to the Third International: A Documentary History. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

Lipset, Seymour Martin, and Gary Marks. 2001. It Didn't Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States. New York: Norton.

Miller, Timothy. 1998. The Quest for Utopia in Twentieth-Century America: 1900–1960. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse Univ. Press.

Socialist Party of the United States of America. Available online at <> (accessed August 11, 2003.


Marx, Karl Heinrich; Socialism.

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Socialist party, in U.S. history, political party formed to promote public control of the means of production and distribution. In 1898 the Social Democratic party was formed by a group led by Eugene V. Debs and Victor Berger. Two years later, Debs ran for president with the support of the more moderate wing of the Socialist Labor party, and in 1901 this group, led by Morris Hillquit, united with the Social Democratic party to form the Socialist party. The new party differed from the more radical Socialist Labor party in favoring an evolutionary, as opposed to revolutionary, socialism, and it soon outsized the older organization.

The Socialist party did not show much electoral strength until 1910 and 1911, when its candidates won numerous state and local elections. In 1912, Debs received nearly 900,000 votes (6% of the votes cast) as the party's presidential candidate. The party reached its peak membership (nearly 120,000) in that year. Allan Benson ran for president in 1916, but his percentage of the national vote dropped to 3%. In 1917 the party opposed the American entry into World War I, with a small faction of dissenting prowar members seceding from the party. Debs and a number of others were arrested for their opposition to the war, although Debs ran for president in 1920 while imprisoned and received 920,000 votes. After serving part of his sentence he was pardoned by President Harding. Following the Russian Revolution, a substantial group within the party advocated that the organization drop its evolutionary and reformist position and work instead for the immediate overthrow of the capitalist system. In 1919 this faction withdrew from the party, thereby substantially weakening it, and formed the Communist party of the United States.

In 1924 the Socialist party supported the Progressive party candidate for president, Robert La Follette, but in 1928 it once again nominated its own candidate, Norman Thomas, who ran in the following five presidential elections. The party lost much of its support during the 1930s when the New Deal came into effect, implementing many programs that the Socialists had long demanded. Since then the party's influence has steadily declined. In the 1952 and 1956 presidential elections Darlington Hoopes ran as the Socialist candidate, receiving fewer than 2,500 votes in the latter election. Although other minor parties espousing socialism currently participate in national elections, the Socialist party decided in 1960 to withdraw from national politics and concentrate on education. Since the 1950s the party has reorganized and changed its name several times, with the main group taking the name Social Democrats, USA in 1972.

See W. B. Hesseltine, The Rise and Fall of Third Parties (1948, repr. 1957); I. Kipnis, The American Socialist Movement (1952, repr. 1972); D. Shannon, The Socialist Party of America (1955, repr. 1967); H. Nash, Jr., Third Parties in American Politics (1959); J. Weinstein, The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912–1925 (1967); R. W. Judd, Socialist Cities: Municipal Politics and the Grass Roots of American Socialism(1989).

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SOCIALIST PARTY OF AMERICA was formed in July 1901 by a union of the Social Democratic Party of Eugene V. Debs and Victor L. Berger, and Morris Hill-quit's wing of the Socialist Labor Party. The Socialist Party gave to American radicalism, normally fragmented and divided, a unique era of organizational unity. The party was well entrenched in the labor movement: the Socialist candidate captured almost one-third of the vote for the presidency of the American Federation of Labor in 1912. In that year, too, the Socialists reached the high point of their electoral success: Eugene V. Debs, running for the U.S. presidency, gained 6 percent of the vote; and some twelve hundred Socialists were elected to public office, including seventy-nine mayors.

The party's growth stopped after 1912, but the following years can be characterized as a time of consolidation rather than as a time of decline. For once departing from its policy of inclusiveness, the party, in 1913, cast out the syndicalist wing led by William D. Haywood. By eliminating the one group not committed to political action, the party became more cohesive without altering the balance between the right and left wings. World War I severely tested, but did not undermine, the Socialist movement. During wartime persecution, Debs and many others went to prison; vigilante action and the barring of Socialist literature from the mails weakened outlying bodies, especially in the western states. These setbacks were more than counterbalanced by the rapid growth of the party's foreign-language federations and by the tapping of antiwar sentiment, as was evident in the party's strong showing in wartime elections.

The Bolshevik revolution in Russia (1917) was the turning point for the party. The problem was not the event it self—this was universally hailed by American Socialists—but whether it provided a model for the United States. The left wing, and especially the foreign-language federations, believed that it did, and they were sustained by instructions coming from the Third Communist International in 1919. The party leaders thought otherwise: they did not think that the United States was ripe for revolution, nor were they willing to reconstitute the party along Leninist lines. With the left wing about to take over, the established leadership in May 1919 suddenly expelled seven foreign-language federations and the entire Michigan party, and invalidated the recent elections to the national executive committee.

A decisive break with the past had occurred. Not only was American radicalism permanently split between Communists and Socialists, the latter had lost their authenticity as a movement of radical action. By 1928, Socialist membership was not even one-tenth of the 1919 level, and, although it experienced some revival during the 1930s under Norman Thomas, the party never regained either its popular base or the electoral appeal of earlier years. After 1956 the Socialist party ceased to nominate presidential candidates and increasingly viewed itself as an educational rather than a political force.


Shannon, David A. The Socialist Party of America: A History. New York: Macmillan, 1955.

Weinstein, James. The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912–1925. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1967.

DavidBrody/a. g.

See alsoCommunist Party, United States of America ; Radicals and Radicalism ; Social Democratic Party ; Socialist Labor Party ; Socialist Movement .

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Socialist Party

The first guilds and associations with Marxist orientations appeared in Uruguay at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1901, with some support from progressive Masons, they ran in municipal elections and were defeated. In 1904, Emilio Frugoni attempted to organize the Socialists in support of Batllismo and electoral collaboration, but this plan failed. The Socialist Party was formed on 12 December 1910 with the intention of participating in elections, and a seat was finally won.

Uruguayan socialism arose as a radical response to Batllist social reform. This is in part why the majority of the PS formed the Communist Party in 1921. With this split, the Socialists lost their parliamentary representation until 1928, and they developed a more Western and reformist stance under the direction of Frugoni. In the mid-1950s a new generation of militants encouraged an ideological redefinition that radicalized the PS into a revolutionary and anti-imperialist body. In 1962, with factions that had split from the National Party, the Socialists ran in elections as part of the Popular Union, but the attempt failed roundly. Frugoni distanced himself from the party permanently. At the same time, young militants began to develop a clandestine armed wing, which, after its separation from the party, gave rise to the National Liberation Movement, or Tupamaros.

The Socialist Party was outlawed in 1967, then legalized again in 1971, when it became a founding member of the Frente Amplio and won a parliamentary seat. In 1972 it assumed a Marxist-Leninist ideological stance, which it renounced in 1985. The party was outlawed along with the rest of the Left following the 1973 coup d'état, and it remained so until 1984, when it was formally incorporated into the negotiations for the movement toward democracy. In 1989, the successful Frente Amplio candidate for mayor of Montevideo was the Socialist Tabaré Vázquez. The Socialist Party has continued its relationship with the Frente Amplio. In 2004 the alliance won the presidential campaign, and the leader of the party, Reinaldo Gargano, became minister of foreign relations.

See alsoBatllismo; Frugoni, Emilio; Masonic Orders; Uruguay, National Liberation Movement (MLN-T).


Carlos Real De Azúa, "Política, poder y partidos en el Uruguay de Hoy," in Luis Benvenuto et al., Uruguay Hoy (1971).

Gerardo Caetano et al., De la tradición a la crisis: Pasado y presente de nuestro sistema de partidos (1985).

Fernando López D'alessandro, Historia de la Izquierda Uruguaya, 3 vols. (1988–1992).

Additional Bibliography

Caetano, Gerardo, Javier Gallardo, and José Pedro Rilla. La izquierda uruguaya: Tradición, innovación y política. Montevideo: Trilce, 1995.

Crespo Martínez, Ismael. Tres décadas de política uruguaya: Crisis, restauración y transformación del sistema de partidos. Madrid: Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas, Siglo Veintinuo de España, 2002.

Sosnowski, Saúl, and Louise B. Popkin, eds. Repression, Exile, and Democracy: Uruguayan Culture. Translated by Louise B. Popkin. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993.

Vescovi, Rodrigo. Ecos revolucionarios: Luchadores sociales, Uruguay, 1969–1973. Barcelona: Nóos Editorial, 2003.

                           Fernando LÓpez D'Alessandro

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Socialist Party US political party. It was formed in 1901 by the unification of the Social Democratic Party and the Socialist Labor Party. Dedicated to the state ownership of all public utilities and important industries, its best-known leaders were Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas.

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