Definitions

Equality Party

Socialist Equality Party (United States)

The Socialist Equality Party is a Trotskyist political party in the United States, one of a few Socialist Equality Parties around the world affiliated to the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI).

In addition, it has participated in recent elections with the aim of opposing the American occupation of Iraq and building a mass socialist party with an international perspective. The SEP held its founding congress in 2008, where it also adopted a statement of principals.

Revolutionary tendency

In early 1960s, most U.S. Trotskyists were organized in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) as part of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). Tim Wohlforth was a youth leader in that party and was opposed to the course of the organisation, which was heading toward reunification with the International Secretariat of the Fourth International (ISFI). With others, including James Robertson, he formed the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) within the SWP. It developed links with the Socialist Labour League in Britain, led by Gerry Healy.

They saw the course of the SWP towards a regrouping with the ISFI, which had long been called "Pabloite" by members of the ICFI, as breaking with basic Trotskyist principles. The party leadership at the same time blocked discussion over other issues, such as the SWP's support for Fidel Castro as an "unconscious" Trotskyist.

The ICFI leadership, supported by the RT, argued that if a revolution can be carried out by an unconscious Trotskyist, there was no point of building the Fourth International as the conscious leadership of the working class. The ICFI traced the SWP's support for Cuba to their "regroupment" policy, in which, according to the ICFI, they attempted to gain the support of the middle-class radical supporters of Cuba. The ICFI claimed this was done without a genuine discussion of the principles of the Fourth International.

Reorganized minority tendency

The two main leaders of the RT had different evaluations of the SWP. Robertson's position led the SWP to expel him and his supporters first, but he and his supporters did not join the ICFI. Robertson's group went on to form the Spartacist League. The remainder of the tendency, now led by Wohlforth alone renamed their group the Reorganized Minority Tendency.

Wohlforth and his supporters were themselves expelled in 1964, but they maintained connections with Gerry Healy and the rest of the ICFI, which they considered the legitimate Trotskyist movement.

They claimed the split was due to their insistence on a discussion of the decision by the Sri Lankan Lanka Sama Samaja Party to participate in the national government. They explained this decision as "opportunism" that originated in the "centrist" position of the LSSP during the split between the ISFI and ICFI of 1953.

American Committee of the Fourth International

Those Americans expelled from the SWP then formed the American Committee of the Fourth International (ACFI) and became the United States section of the ICFI, while the SWP joined the ISFI. At this time, the Socialist Labour League under Gerry Healy was the largest section of the ICFI, followed by the French OCI.

Workers League

The ACFI grew throughout the 1960s along with most leftist groupings. The ACFI was renamed the Workers League in 1966 and developed into a nationwide organisation with hundreds of members. Its youth work, which led to the development of the Young Socialists, was particularly successful in this period.

In 1985, the ICFI split over policies advanced by the Workers Revolutionary Party. The policies they disagreed with included supporting national bourgeois regimes, including those of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gadhafi, and supporting Stalinists such as Gordon McLennan of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Many of Healy's former supporters saw these moves as a repetition of the mistakes of Pabloism.

The Workers League engaged in a long-term campaign against the rival Socialist Workers Party. In the 1970s they issued a report titled "Security and the Fourth International" which alleged, amongst other things, that leading SWP member Joseph Hansen, who had been an assistant to Leon Trotsky during his Mexico City exile, was an accomplice in his assassination alleging that he and, by implication the SWP, were agents of the Soviet secret police (GPU). The WL also supported a lawsuit against the SWP by expelled member Alan Gelfand, who argued that he had been unconstitutionally deprived of his freedom of political expression by being expelled from the SWP by agents of the government. He attempted to force the government to reveal all its agents in the SWP and force the SWP to readmit him as a member. The lawsuit was dismissed in 1989, but not before confirming that former SWP leader Jim Cannon's secretary, Sylvia Callen (referred to by then-SWP national secretary Jack Barnes as his "hero") had been a GPU agent. The myopic and seemingly singular obsession with another small political organization helped in the almost complete destruction of the Workers League. They lost the overwhelming majority of their membership between 1973 and 1980.

The WL and its successor organization, the Socialist Equality Party, also countered the SWP's campaign in defense of Mark Curtis with its own campaign alleging that the SWP member was guilty of the sexual assault charge for which he was imprisoned. The SEP worked closely with the prosecution.

Socialist Equality Party

In 1995, the various parties affiliated to the ICFI renamed themselves the Socialist Equality Party. The activity of the ICFI is centered around the publication of the World Socialist Web Site. The SEP has also run in recent elections, including the 2004 Presidential elections, when it nominated Bill Van Auken for President and Jim Lawrence for Vice-President. In 2003, the SEP ran John Christopher Burton in the California recall gubernatorial elections, although it urged people to vote "No" on the recall because it saw the recall campaign as an anti-democratic attempt by right-wing forces to undo the results of the election that happened only a few months earlier. Burton received 6,000 votes and came in 13th in a field of 135 candidates.

The SEP also ran candidates for the 2006 US mid-term elections, including Bill Van Auken for US Senate in New York State, Jerome White for Congress in Michigan and John Burton for Congress in California. In its elections it called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq.

Other candidates, announced on the World Socialist Web Site on May 15, 2006, included:

  • Joe Parnarauskis, a nurse, for Illinois State Senate (District 52, Champaign-Urbana)
  • Eric Des Marais, a graduate student, for Maine State Senate (District 32, Bangor)
  • Christie M. Schaefer, a service worker, for Oregon State Senate (District 19, Portland)
  • Paul Palinkas, a computer consultant, for Washington State House (District 36, Seattle)

In the aftermath of the 2006 US mid-term election the SEP relaunched its student movement, the Students for Social Equality, as the International Students for Social Equality emphasizing the international perspective of the SEP and anticipating a growing radicalization of workers, students, and youth.

In 2008, the party declined to get on any ballots, citing "prohibitive ballot access laws." It instead encouraged voters to write the candidates in.

Other Socialist Equality Parties linked to the one in the United States exist in Australia, Canada, Germany, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom.

Presidential tickets

External links

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