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Workers Party (United States)

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The Workers Party (WP) was a Third Camp Trotskyist group in the United States. It was founded in April 1940 by members of the Socialist Workers Party who opposed the Soviet invasion of Finland. They included Max Shachtman, who became the new group's leader, Hal Draper, C. L. R. James, Martin Abern, Joseph Carter, Julius Jacobson, and Irving Howe. The party's politics are often referred to as Shachtmanite.


At the time of the split, almost 40% of the membership of the SWP left the SWP. The WP had approximately 500 members. Although it recruited among workers and youth during the war years it never grew substantially, despite having more impact than its numbers would suggest.

Early years

By 1941 the party had developed a minority tendency which was grouped around the figures of two leading intellectuals CLR James and Raya Dunayevskaya. This tendency took the name the Johnson-Forest Tendency for its principal leaders' pseudonyms. It developed the viewpoint that Russia was state capitalist. The tendency developed the view that the WP should rejoin the Fourth International due to the imminence of a pre-revolutionary situation. In the meantime the SWP had from 1943 onwards developed a loose oppositional tendency led by Felix Morrow and Albert Goldman which, among other things, called for the WP to be readmitted to the SWP.

In 1945 and 1946, these two tendencies argued for their parties to regroup. However, discussions decelerated after Goldman was found to be working with the WP's leadership. He left the SWP in May 1946 to join the WP, with a small group of supporters including James T. Farrell. C. L. R. James' tendency left the WP in October 1947 in order to rejoin the SWP, while Farrell and Goldman left in 1948 to join the Socialist Party of America.

Working in the labor movement, the party grew rapidly, largely as at a time of labor shortages which allowed its mainly New York Jewish intellectual members to take industrial jobs which would otherwise have been closed to them. At the same time the draft prevented the construction of a stable industrial base as much of the youthful membership was inducted into the armed forces. In the same period younger members, for example were recruited.

Youth organizations

The organization created a youth section, the Socialist Youth League in 1946. After the merger of a number of a group from the Young Peoples Socialist League in the early 1950s, including Michael Harrington, it renamed itself the Young Socialist League. They merged back with the YPSL at about the same time as the adult organization was merging with the SP-SDF in August 1958. A group led by Tim Wohlworth did not approve of this merger and joined the SWP affiliated Young Socialist Alliance.

International affiliation

Having departed the SWP the newly founded WP found itself outside the ranks of the Fourth International too but continued to consider itself to be in political sympathy with the movement internationally. In order to give expression to this the WP founded a Committee for the Fourth International to regroup its international co-thinkers, including a group of emigre Germans. After WW 2 Shachtman would attend the Second World congress of the Fourth International as an observer only to reject the organisation as irredeemably sectarian.

Independent Socialist League

In 1949, the group renamed itself the Independent Socialist League. It was removed from the US Attorney General's List of Subversive Organizations after a lengthy court battle, but failed to grow as Howe and others exited the organization to start the political magazine Dissent.

From 1949 the organization published an internal discussion bulletin for its members called Forum.

In 1957, the ISL joined the Socialist Party of America, dissolving the following year. Some members took leading positions in the Socialist Party. A small group around Hal Draper left to form the Independent Socialist Clubs.

"Third Camp"

From the start, the group distinguished itself from the SWP by advocating a Third Camp perspective. In an article published in April 1940, entitled "The Soviet Union and the World War", Shachtman concluded:

The revolutionary vanguard must put forward the slogan of revolutionary defeatism in both imperialist camps, that is, the continuation of the revolutionary struggle for power regardless of the effects on the military front. That, and only that, is the central strategy of the third camp in the World War, the camp of proletarian internationalism, of the socialist revolution, of the struggle for the emancipation of all the oppressed.

The group soon developed an analysis of the Soviet Union as bureaucratic collectivist. It was the first group to use the slogan "Neither Washington nor Moscow", implying that they preferred neither capitalism nor the states allied to the Soviet Union.


  • F. Forest Outline of Marx's Capital: volume one [United States]: Educational Dept. Workers Party, U.S.A.,
  • C. L. R. James My friends: a fireside chat on the war (as "Native Son") New York : Workers Party 1940
  • This is not our war! New York, N.Y., Workers party 1940
  • Labor's voice against the war: election platform of the Workers Party. New York, N.Y., Workers Party, Local New York, 1940
  • Conscription--for what? : an open letter to the President of the United States. New York, N.Y. : Workers Party and the Young Peoples Socialist League, 1940
  • Walter Weiss How to get jobs for all New York : Workers Party Election Campaign Committee, 1940
  • Jim Crow on the run!: Negro bus drivers today, Negroes in the war industries tomorrow. New York, N.Y. : Workers Party and the Young Peoples Socialist League, 1941
  • Henry Pelham On to Washington for Negro rights New York, N.Y. : Workers Party, 1941
  • Henry Judd India in revolt New York, N.Y., Workers party 1942
  • Ernest Erber The role of the party in the fight for socialism New York, N.Y., Educational Dept., Workers Party, U.S.A., 1942
  • Max Shachtman For a cost-plus wage New York; The Workers party 1943
  • Paul Temple ABC of Marxism. New York City, Workers Party, National Education Dept. 1943
  • J. R. Johnson Education, propaganda, agitation: post-war America and Bolshevism. New York City, Workers Party, National Education Dept. 1943
  • Max Shachtman The Struggle for the New Course New York: New International Pub. Co. 1943; originally published together with Trotskys The New Course
  • Ernest Lund Plenty for all; the meaning of socialism New York, The Workers party, 1943
  • The labor party question; resolutions of 1938 and 1944 on the relationship of the Marxists to the movement for a labor party. [New York?] National Educational Dept., Workers Party, 1944
  • Hal Draper The truth about Gerald Smith: America's no. 1 fascist San Pedro, Calif: Workers Party, Los Angeles Section, 1945
  • Max Shachtman Socialism: the hope of humanity New York: New International Pub. Co. 1945
  • Workers Party election platform, New York City, 1945. New York, N.Y. : Issued by Workers Party Campaign Committee, 1945
  • David Coolidge The New York elections and the fight against Jim Crow New York, N.Y. : Issued by Workers Party Campaign Committee, 1945
  • Sing!: labor and socialist songs. [Los Angeles, Calif.] Workers Party, Los Angeles Section, 1945
  • Security and a living wage; why workers strike. [New York, Workers Party, 1945
  • Albert Glotzer Incentive pay: the speed-up new style New York: Workers Party, 1945 (as Albert Gates)
  • Irving Howe Smash the profiteers: vote for security and a living wage, New York, N.Y. : Workers Party Campaign Committee, 1946.
  • Max Shachtman The Fight for Socialism: The Principles and Program of the Workers Party New International Publishing Co., New York, 1946.
  • Hal Draper Jim Crow in Los Angeles Los Angeles: Workers Party, 1946
  • Hal Draper ABC of Marxism: outline text for class and self study Los Angeles: Workers Party, 1946
  • 1947 municipal platform Chicago : Workers Party Campaign Committee, 1947
  • Leon Trotsky Marxism in the United States (introduction) New York: Workers Party, 1947 (as Albert Gates)
  • Irving Howe Don't pay more rent!, Long Island City, N.Y. : Published by Workers Party Publications for the Workers Party of the United States 1947.
  • Albert Goldman The question of unity between the Workers party and the Socialist workers party, [Long Island City, Workers party publication, 1947
  • Stop the enemies of the working people: a program for the Detroit elections. New York, N.Y. : Workers Party of America, 1947
  • Ernest ErberThe role of the trade unions: their economic role under capitalism Long Island City, N.Y. : National Educational Dept., Workers Party, 1947
  • Herman W. Benson The Communist Party at the crossroads : toward Democratic Socialism or back to Stalinism New York, Published for the Independent Socialist League by New International Publishing Co., 1957.
  • The case for unity : new perspectives for American socialism : resolution adopted by the July 1957 Convention of the Independent Socialist League New York, N.Y. : Independent Socialist League, 1957
  • Similarly named parties

  • Workers Party of America
  • American Workers Party
  • Workers Party of the United States
  • Workers' Party of Ireland
  • References

    Workers Party (United States) Wikipedia

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