What Are Some Facts About the American Socialist Party?


Quick Answer

The Socialist Party of America resulted from the merger of the Social Democratic Party of America with the “Kangaroo” faction of the Socialist Labor Party in 1901. The party initially gained widespread support, especially among working-class immigrants, but began losing large portions of its membership due to its opposition to World War I, contentious relationships with established labor unions and the emergence of communism. This deeply divided its membership and led to large segments leaving to form alternative political organizations.

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The party also came under increased scrutiny and political attacks over allegations of ties to German and Austrian officials during World War I. The party continued to experience a sharp decline in popularity following World War II as anti-communist sentiment intensified over the Korean War and Soviet aggression in Hungary, Eastern Europe and Berlin, and Americans developed a tendency to associate socialism with communism. After the party’s nominee for the 1956 presidential election received fewer than 6,000 votes, the party stopped nominating its own candidates for national office and began endorsing candidates and parties with platforms consistent to some extent with its own.

Divisions within the party mounted during the 1960s and 1970s over the war in Vietnam, the civil rights movement and issues such as abortion and gay rights. Unable to resolve internal divisions and balance the competing interests of various factions, the party split in 1973 into the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and various organizations that eventually formed the Socialist Party USA.

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