Do socialist politics have a future in the United States?


One of the most important facts about political life in the United States is also one of the most rarely discussed: The United States is the only modern industrial state where no communist, socialist, democratic-socialist, social-democratic, or labor-based party has ever emerged as an important force in national politics. There have been many attempts, but none has ever succeeded in getting beyond marginal-third-party status. This sets us apart from all the world, even Canada, where the New Democratic Party was a major player not long ago; and Britain, where the Labour Party is socialistic by American standards, has Marxist wings, and historically has been institutionally linked with the labor unions.

Why is this? And is there any possibility it might change?

In their book It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States (W.W. Norton & Company, 2000), Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks study the question and conclude the failure of socialism here resulted from a combination of factors, including:

  1. American poltical culture is uniquely antistatis, individualist and libertarian, even compared with other English-speaking countries.

  2. Leaving out the systematic submergence of certain ethnic and racial groups, there has never been a rigid social (as distinct from economic) class system in the United States, such as characterized the societies of Marx’s Europe.

  3. Unlike their counterparts in Western Europe and elsewhere, American socialists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries failed to build a power base in the labor unions, which were mostly concerned with bread-and-butter issues like wages, hours and working conditions.

  4. Unlike their foreign counterparts, American socialists failed to build alliances with traditional religious believers, and in fact alienated them, to the point where the American Catholic clergy became openly hostile to socialism.

  5. In the early 19th century, European socialists got their foot in the door, and established their political presence as defenders of the people, by campaigning for such things as press freedom and universal suffrage. Although these were radical ideas in Europe at the time, they were well established in the United States from earliest decades of the republic, which deprived American socialists of the opportunity to fight for them here and reap political benefits thereby.

  6. The winner-take-all, first-past-the-post system marginalized American socialists, compared with other countries that had proportional-representation systems. This systemic barrier, however, has marginalized all American third parties of all ideologies.

  7. The American federal system prevents Congress, if it ever had a socialist majority, from enacting any thoroughgoing program of socialism on a national scale. However, this cuts both ways: The federal system also provided socialists with more opportunities to contest and win elections at the state and local levels. (See below.)

  8. Although American socialists won important offices at the state and local level in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and even controlled the governments of some cities, socialist leaders at the national level failed to build on these achievements. In fact, such non-revolutionary municipal reforms local socialist leaders were able to achieve were dismissed and derided as “sewer socialism” by national party leaders.

  9. Compared with more practical and compromise-oriented socialists in other countries, American socialists were unfortunately given over to extremism, sectarianism, and splitting over minor points of doctrine.

  10. The ethnically diverse character of the American working class led American workers to identify with their ethnic group before their class, inhibiting the development of “class consciousness” here. White American proles, for instance, have never wanted to think of themselves as being in the same social class as the blacks.

  11. The Socialist Party made the crucial mistake of opposing U.S. entry into World War I. This made the party much more popular among German-Americans, but it also drove a lot of Anglo-Saxons out of the party, especially in the Midwest.

For some reason, Marks and Lipset end their analysis with the 1930s and '40s – the period when much of the Socialist Party’s agenda was co-opted by Roosevelt in the New Deal; the party became even more marginalized by sectarianism; many of the Communist Party members, on Stalin’s orders, hid their party affiliation while they sought positions of influence in government and the labor unions, and indeed went so far underground that those who escaped the McCarthy-era purges gradually stopped being Communists at all; and the Cold War taught Americans to identify the idea of socialism with treason. But the political upheavals of the '60s and ‘70s apparently do not even merit discussion as lost opportunities for socialism in America, in Marks’ and Lipset’s view.

Bringing things up to the more recent past, and the present:

The Nation, the principal magazine of the anticommunist, democratic-socialist left for most of the 20th century, published an article by Norman Rush in its January 24, 1994, issue: “What Was Socialism . . . And Why We Will All Miss It So Much.” This was in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Communist Bloc of Eastern Europe. Rush argued that socialism is now bankrupt even as an idea:

"On the left – and I do mean the chartered antitotalitarian left – a persistent impulse has been to show that the socialist project, deformed and betrayed though it was in the Russian model and its clones, is still somehow salvageable. This sentiment, doggedly appended to declarations of relief that the cold war is over, yields two main contentions. The first is that greater and timelier infusions of democracy might have saved Russian socialism. The second, a cloudier thing, is that because the continuing structural imperfections of capitalism are so alarming, a socialist option just has to be viable. . . .

“The truth is that wherever it has achieved practical expression, socialism is finished. While our attention has been fixed on the spectacular demolition derbies taking place in Russia, China, Cuba and Eastern Europe, in the background another long-running sequence of socialist defeats is winding up. To remain afloat, nominally socialist and social democratic parties in Europe and elsewhere jettison what used to be the basic objectives of socialism and offer programs ever more finely attuned to the imperatives of mature capitalism. Most now support the reprivatization of industries nationalized in more heroic times at their own urging. . . . Membership in trade unions, those flagship institutions of the former socialist political culture, is collapsing. Guerilla socialism in Latin America is aggressively de-Marxifying itself. As for the enclave microsocialisms like the kibbutzim in Israel, the ejido collectives in Mexico, the Yugoslav self-managed industrial sector – whose existence provided a fallback hope for left idealists that a redeemed form of nonstate socialism might someday arise – all are in serious, probably terminal, difficulty.”

Nevertheless, The Nation continues to publish, and there remain several self-identified communist or socialist organizations, with websites, now active in the U.S. They are all very small organizations and their unfortunate tendency to splitting and factionalism makes them even smaller. Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America, by Micah Sifry (Routledge, 2002), is a pretty good history of third-party movements just in the past ten years, and it was notable that the author managed to do the job without more than passing mention of any such activity by socialist parties, unless you count the New Party, or the Working Families Party of New York, parties which have left-progressive politics but never use the “s-word” in their literature.

The website provides a pretty thorough list of third-party organizations currently active in America. Of those, the following are self-identified as socialist or communist, or can be considered socialist or leftist in some sense:

The Communist Party USA ( Founded here just after the Russian Revolution, out of a radical faction of the Socialist Party. These are the Orthodox Communists: Traditional Marxist-Leninist – and Stalinist, too, in Stalin’s day and for some time after. This party used to follow the lead of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and, yes, took their money and spied for them, though there was little spying they could effectively do.

The Democratic Socialists of America ( Descended from a faction which split from the Socialist Party USA in the 1960, led by the late Michael Harrington, who founded the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, which evolved into the DSA. The DSA fields no candidates for office, believing they can better serve the democratic-socialist cause as an educational organization. The DSA is America’s full member of the Socialist International, one of two (the other is the Social Democrats, USA, q.v.) The DSA boasts a lot of big-name members, such as Barbara Ehrenreich.

The Freedom Socialist Party ( A dissident Trotskyist group that broke away from the Socialist Workers Party in 1966.

The Green Party of the United States ( and the Greens/Green Party USA ( The Greens are not exactly Reds, they’re something new and different. In particular, their emphasis on “decentralization” cuts clean against the tendency of most forms of socialism. But socialist thinking definitely plays a role in Green ideology. Note there are two organizations. The Greens/Green Party USA is the smaller and is much more Marxist in its orientation.

The Labor Party ( Founded just in the past few years by the late labor leader Tony Mazzochi. It has yet to field any candidates for public office, concentrating its efforts on winning the support of organized labor, with not much success to date. Its literature is not very socialist in tone, certainly not ideological in any way, but it is an attempt to build a labor-based political movement that will fight for the interests of working people as a class, against the interests of the rich as a class, and if that’s not socialism, what is?

The New Party ( (I used to be an enthusiastic member of this one.) Founded in 1992 as an attempt to build a real political presence in America to the left of the Democrats. As noted above, it never called itself socialist but its politics were definitely left-progressive. I speak of the New Party in the past tense because it went inactive, more or less, on the national level after losing a Supreme Court case, Timmons v. Twin Cities New Party, which, had they won, would have guaranteed third parties the right to cross-endorse major-party candidates, a strategy known as “ballot fusion.” The New Party spawned state organizations which are still active and, on a local and state level, somewhat successful, including the Working Families Party in New York (

The New Union Party ( A radical but non-violent “DeLeonist” party, founded in 1980 by dissidents from the Socialist Labor Party.

The Peace and Freedom Party ( Centered in San Francisco with no apparent presence outside California. Founded in 1967 as an anti-war party. “[C]ommitted to socialism, democracy, ecology, feminism and radical equality.” This is where Abbie Hoffman probably would have ended up if he had been more of a joiner.

The Progressive Labor Party ( A militant, Stalinist-style communist party, based in New York. Dedicated to armed revolution.

The Revolutionary Communist Party USA ( A Maoist party, dedicated to armed revolution.

The Social Democrats, USA ( Split from the Socialist Party in the 1960s, mainly over the Vietnam War: Michael Harrington’s faction (which eventually became the Democratic Socialists of America) was against it, while the more conservative Social Democrats were for it. The split still holds, apparently: According to its website, the SD-USA supports the Iraq war, which every other socialist organization in America is against.

The Socialist Party USA ( Founded in 1900 by more moderate members of the older Socialist Labor Party (see below) This is the party that ran Eugene Debs for president so many times. A non-revolutionary, democratic-socialist party – but still plenty radical compared with, say, the New Party or the Labor Party.

Socialist Action ( A Trotskyist organization founded by expelled members of the Socialist Workers Party.

The Socialist Equality Party ( A Trotskyist party, founded (yet again) by dissidents from the Socialist Workers Party after the SWP started to drift away from Trotskyism. It claims to be affiliated with something called the “International Committee of the Fourth International.”

The Socialist Labor Party ( Founded in 1877, which makes it the oldest existing socialist party in America. A militant democratic-socialist party, committed to “Marxism-DeLeonism”. Gave rise to the Socialist Party, q.v. Now mostly a local affair in New Jersey.

The Socialist Workers Party ( Originally a Trotskyist organization, founded in 1938 when the Communist Party USA, on orders from Stalin, expelled its Trotskyists. Since the 1980s the SWP has drifted away from Trotskyism and towards the authoritarian politics of Fidel Castro; as a result, several SWP members have bolted and formed their own more purely Trotskyist parties.

The Workers Party USA ( A hardcore Marxist-Leninist Party founded by Michael Thorburn in 1992.

The Workers World Party ( A Maoist party, formed in 1959 by a pro-Chinese faction of the Socialist Workers Party.

The World Socialist Party of the USA ( Non-violent utopian Marxists.
So what do you all think? Is there any chance a successful new American socialist or leftist movement could be stitched together out of these odds and ends? Does socialism have any future in America – not as a system, but as a political idea?
I might as well fill you in on my own background, here. I was no red-diaper baby. I was raised by white middle-class parents to be an ordinary love-me-I’m-a-liberal. In my late teens and early 20s I went through a libertarian phase, without ever joining the party. But the more I thought about libertarianism the more unsatisfactory it seemed to me, and I gradually lost interest. (In retrospect it was more an emotional attitude than anything else: No government tells ME what to do, dammit!) In 1989, at the age of 26, I started law school at the University of Maryland at Baltimore, which is located in downtown Baltimore, and for the first time in my life was confronted with the daily spectacle of the American urban poor – so many defeated, helpless, hopeless people! And I started seriously questioning the value of capitalism as a system. I studied socialism and became active in some local leftist groups. But I never became a Marxist in any sense of the word. I never saw any value in Marxist doctrines, as such. My vision of socialism was, in general terms, human economic life democratized and rationalized, with equality elevated above liberty as a guiding principle, but not to the exclusion of liberty. I never saw revolution, or even “class conflict,” as strictly necessary for this purpose. Certainly I never wanted to live in a society where the proletariat culturally absorbed all other classes. Much better we should have a society where the middle class absorbs all other classes. I’m not even completely inimical to the idea of a social-economic pyramid. We’ll probably always have something of the kind. All I want is for the top and the bottom of that pyramid to be a lot closer together than they are now – a society where there is no desperate poverty, and the size of personal fortunes and incomes is limited. The most persuasive utopian novel I’ve ever read is Pacific Edge by Kim Stanley Robinson, describing a Green-dominated future where every American is guaranteed a basic income of at least $10,000 a year and nobody is allowed to have more than $100,000 a year. This leaves plenty of room for personal ambition and striving. Economic activity is in the hands of private enterprises; all the state does is limit their size, breaking up any corporation that grows beyond a certain number of employees or a certain concentration of assets. It’s a good start. Does any doper out there have a workable vision of socialism for the future?

The US does have “socialism lite”. There really isn’t a “socialist” program that exists in Europe that does not have a counterpart in the US, although a more toned version. So I see it more as a matter of degree.

But I do think item #6 has a lot to do with it. It’s also why you see so many of the far left proposing things like proportional representation or instant runoff elections. Either of those might give the left more visibility. It might help parties like the Libertarians, but I think it would be more beneficial to the Greens, etc.

So we’ll continue to get Socialism lite here, but not much more as long as our current election process remains as it is.

If the Socialists want to make any headway into U.S. politics they first need to get rid of their color red. The fact that they do use the color red makes me think that the party is just a phoney Republican construct.

I think that the main reson is that unlike oother countries, in which the population divides itself into the rich and the poor, Americans think of themselves as either rich or gonna-be-rich-someday-soon.

Why care for the poor - even if you are poor - if you don’t intend on staying poor?

Socialism will never happen in the US. It’s simply not compatible with our system of government or our national culture. Individualism reigns supreme here. Not to mention it would require wholesale changes to our Constitution.

I think one of the reasons socialism never caught on in the US was religion. Movements such as the second great awakening, the sunday school movement, pentecostalism, etc made Christianity more popular in the US than in Europe. This made the demand for a secular religion like socialism less than Europe where the state sponsored churches were seen as ossified and corrupt.
No openly socialist parties will ever succeed in the US because the US has been so economically succesful. To ditch our system and go to socialism would be like the medical establishment ditching pharmaceuticals for leaches.
An interesting note is that Robert Owen, who coined the term socialism, set up his first socialist community in the US. So the US has the longest history with Socialism.

I think we can (and should) adopt some specific socialist policies (such as socialized medicine) but the word “socialism” has been so thoroughly demonized and is so poorly understood by most Americans that we can’t attach the word to the policies.

I disagree. I don’t think #6 has much to do with it at all. Britain has the same winner-take-all system and they had and still have a nice little socialist movement. Same with other countries. The socialists didn’t gain ground because of PR, they gained ground because they had massive grassroots support, which the socialists didn’t have.

Also, they succeeded because in many cases, the major parties didn’t take notice of them until the socialists began to displace them in the government. With the way that American parties worked, with a lot of mavericks and big-tent ideas, there was room in the Democratic party for some socialist ideas like social security, minimum wage, etc. to take root and get passed.

Au contraire. Americans have a greater understanding of ‘socialism’, and all of its associated pitfalls, than do many Europeans. At its core, taking from some to give to others goes counter to American nature. Americans give to charity, but to be forced to give? No thank you, sir.

Witness what happened when the Wicked Witch of the East started going on about ‘universal healthcare’ all those years ago. Utter failure, and thankfully so. ‘Socialist’ ideas sound all well and good, until it is realized that someone has to pay for them.

The good solid centerpiece of marxist thinking is its critique of capitalism. Most of its condemnations of the unfettered market economic system are quite valid.

The problem with marxism and socialism and its various half-siblings lies with the lack of a good alternative vision. Most of it is a rehash of what anthropologists describe as the Big Chief system, where all the members of the tribe bring what they have hunted and gathered into the center of the village and the Big Chief distributes them out to the tribe members according to their needs. Under marxist theory, there’s one of those magic ellipsis things (you know, like how to get rich collecting underwear. Step1>Collect underwear…Step3>Now You’re Rich) about the state (i.e., the Big Chief) “withering away” and the goodies somehow start redistributing themselves of their own accord or something.

What they need to do is go back to the critique and put aside pretensions of having an alternative in mind and instead open the discussion to new ideas. Also, they should drop the term “capitalism” entirely. The “thing” they are criticizing is, in fact, the market economy, the “money system”, in its raw simple entirety, and they’d probably get better reception by saying so than by getting anticentralist-government backs up by saying “capitalism”.

Maybe I don’t understand it. What exactly is socialized health care? Does the government pay for every trip to the doctors office or emergancy room? The problem is that the good intentions of free health care for all breaks down once it gets slapped in the face by the reality. How does one distribute a finite amount of healthcare to an infinite spectrem of ailments ranging from the trivial to the life threatening?

I think that socialism has had an impact on American politics and American capitalism. It has tended to soften the hard line of true capitalism…‘Mature Capitalism’ as the term is used. Things like safety nets for unemployed, having private industry pick up part of the tab for retirement, health care, etc are good things. In future, the trend is to expand on this, I have no doubt. Again, this is a good thing, IMO. Some of the social aspects of Socialism are definitely appealing, in moderation…which I think is where Mature Capitalism is headed.

That said, I think that Americans in general reject some of the more extreme aspects of socialism (such as nationalization of industries, etc) on a gut level. It gets into the whole concept of those with ability verse those that need.

To use the ‘Big Chief’ analogy above, you have those people that have the ability (and will) to go forth and hunt and bring back the food. Then you have those people who DON’T have the ability (or will) to go forth and hunt to contribute. But, the ‘Big Chief’ is going to distribute the goodies based on NEED, not ability…so folks who DON’T really contribute, but who have NEED will get either the same share of the goodies, or MORE of the goodies, bause they NEED them. I think THAT, at the root, is wants anathem to many Americans. After all, anyone in this country can go forth, if they have the will and ability, to get the goodies for themselves. Anyone.

I’m sure its the case in Europe too, but they didn’t start out that way…they started out with a very well defined class system, which was very rigid. To them, socialism was a gods send (in a matter of speaking…lol), and its a system that helped ‘free’ their lower classes. I can see why they would cling to it…I don’t blame them. But in America we have a whole different history. I don’t see the main stream ever embrasing something like socialism on a national scale…unless we, as Americans, experience some VERY serious problems (a la the Great Depression).

To use Progressive or Mature Capitalism and the ‘Big Cheif’ analogy. You have those with ability who go forth and hunt, or make things that contribute to the general welfare of the tribe. They get to keep much of what, through their ability, they hunt and gather or make or trade. But, they pay a small tithe to the ‘Big Chief’. The ‘Big Chief’ then uses some of that tithe to help support those with no ability (or will) to contribute enough to keep them from starving. I think that this system seems ‘fairer’ to many Americans. To them (and me) it seems fair that I should get the fruits of my labor. I worked for them after all. Its my abilities that produced them, I should be the MAJOR benificiator of them. However, it also makes me feel better that SOME of the fruits of my labor DO go to help those in more need. Just as long as its not to an extreme.

I know I’ll get flamed for this, but the best fictional GUT level book I ever read, that really showed for me (in a very caracaturistic way) the differences and attitudes, was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Sure its almost laughable in its portrayals and caracatures…but it also has a gut level impact on Americans…something even Joe Sixpack, sitting on his couch can UNDERSTAND at least. My European friends, on the other hand, basically just shake their heads or ridicule the book…they don’t get it. But discussing some of the concepts with other friends I have (many of them blue collar types…like my father in law), they DO get it, even if they don’t agree.

Anyway, thats just my opinion…I could be wrong.


I think American culture is unique in that it is an ad culture. It doesn’t explain why socialism failed in the past, but offers up an explanation as to why it has a fairly bleak future here.

This is America, You are What You Drive, Drive=Love (God=Love and Drive=God?), and Coke is the Real Thing. We are so identified with products that we can’t seperate our selves from them. We want them because we want them and that’s that. Try to get in the way of that and you’re competing a multi-billion dollar industry that’s telling people the exact opposite every single day. Not just in the media either: from our 501’s to coke cans, to Rolex watches, every product we own is branded and advertises itself constantly. Consumption isn’t just a pastime, it’s a right and a moral duty to a secular religion.

Democratic reforms are the best way to go in the short term. Ultimately, people have to trust the government before they trust socialism. Socialists can fight for better and more direct representation, campaign finance reform, and voter education. These are the sorts of ideas that can win broad enough support to be feasible and help bring representation to those who do have socialist ideas.

In the long term, we’re probably going to have to wait until the ecological draw-down nears it’s end and the lack of resources bankrupt Capitalism’s crutch of constant growth. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just how I see things playing out.

You weren’t kidding, were you? This is a big meaty OP and it’s gonna be lots of fun to work with.

First, I’d like to start off by saying you missed one group, that’s as big if not bigger (numerically) than many of the groups you listed: the International Socialist Organization. We’re worth checking out.

So, having said that, let’s take a look at the assertions of Messrs. Lipset and Marks (ha!) as to why socialism “failed” in the US.

Well, the concept of individual liberty was one of the central tenets of the American revolutionaries (as well as the French) at the end of the eighteenth century. It’s hardly surprising that those themes would continue to be embraced by the dominant political parties over two centuries later. But “political culture” doesn’t mean American culture as a whole, either. Furthermore, highfalutin phrases about God-given rights and the pursuit of happiness tend to ring hollow when those who talk about those rights try to deny them to others, and when individual pursuit of happiness seems to fail to deliver on its promises to a large section of the general population.

Peasantry and a hereditary nobility alone do not a class society make. Conditions for working people in the US’ largest cities during Marx’ lifetime were just as bad as those of the working people in Europe’s cities. Are there two separate explanations for these similar conditions?

Now this is just historically ignorant. The largest strikes of the 1930s - Flint and Minneapolis, for example - had communists and socialists at their very heart. Farrell Dobbs’ Teamster Rebellion is highly illustrative of this point.

The Russian social-democrats did the same thing. They openly criticized religion and sought to build organizations independent of religious influence. And they had 1917 - in a country where there was an official, state-sanctioned religion and one man was head of both Church and State.

A lot of the US organizations published their own newspapers, which quite frequently got censored or shut down. It was quite easy to demonstrate their defense of “freedom of the press”. And “universal suffrage”?! Lipset and Marks have their heads somewhere else than the top of their necks. Blacks couldn’t vote until slavery was abolished - and even then it took the better part of the ensuing century to assert that right - and women didn’t get the vote until the 1920s. And that was another vicious fight. The assertion that universal suffrage was firmly entrenched in the Republic since its inception is ludicrous, unless they choose to apply some hyper-Orwellian definition of the word “universal”.

Not much to say here. It takes money to run a political party, and the Republicans and the Democrats get boatloads of it from corporations. Anti-corporare parties don’t tend to get the same kind of donations from the same sources.

Socialism couldn’t be brought about through Congress or the ballot box in any case. Marx repeatedly stressed that socialism was not just a political change but a complete transformation of society.

A stupid move on their part. Socialists need to be the staunchest defenders of any reforms that can be achieved.

This is not a uniquely American phenomenon. Socialist parties worldwide were crawling with splits and sectarianism. The smaller the parties are, the worse the effects are. A split of five hundred people on a point of doctrine can be the death knell for a party of only a thousand people but will hardly cause a stir in a party of fifty thousand.

More historical ignorance. The sharecroppers’ movement after the Civil War involved both poor white and poor Black farmers. The defense of the Scottsboro Boys in the 1930s attracted large numbers of people from all ethnic backgrounds. Same thing for the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s. While it is true that racism can divide people who belong to the same class and prevent them from understanding their common interests, the mere existence of different ethnic groups in one country isn’t the catalyst for those divisions.

The real mistake was supporting the war. Plenty of Socialist parties in Europe (with the notable exception of the Bolsheviks) not only supported the war but voted for government war credits where they had parliamentary representatives. Opposing butchery is no political sin. They may have been swamped by the government-sponsored and media-supported tide of patriotic hysteria (sound familiar?) but their opposition to the war was not a mistake.

More historical whitewashing, of course. The Cold War and the political persecution of communists and socialists did far more to destroy what had previously been a militant and visible left tradition in the United States than any purported “cultural” influences or political errors on the organizations’ part.

The article you quoted from the Nation is really nothing more than a cry of despair from the disoriented left rather than a serious analysis of the ideology they’re trying to reject. Every single last example cited in the article (with the exception of Russia, and that only before the rise of Stalin) has nothing to do with revolutionary socialism and shouldn’t be an alternative for anyone serious about changing the world to consider.

Well then, Olentzero, why IS the socialist party more marginalized in the US? You have certainly demonstrated why you think the OP is wrong, but you haven’t put forth your own views as to why this is. The only thing I gleamed from your post that might be relavent to that question was:

“Not much to say here. It takes money to run a political party, and the Republicans and the Democrats get boatloads of it from corporations. Anti-corporare parties don’t tend to get the same kind of donations from the same sources.”

Is that the summ total of your hypothisis as to why the socialist party is fairly weak in America?

BTW, I’m not being antagonistic…I’m truely curious as to your thoughts on this.


You missed my penultimate paragraph, then. The Cold War and virulent anti-communism of the late 1940s and the 1950s completely destroyed a strong and more or less healthy socialist movement here in the US. McCarthy’s “witch hunts” and the Rosenbergs’ trial and execution were highly effective in sending the message that anyone who opposed the US politically was going to end up with their lives a living hell.

I don’t know a lot about the Parliamentary system, but isn’t that what Britain has and isn’t it much different from a winner take all system? I.e., having to “form a government” means forging coalitions, sometimes with minority parties, that gives those minority parties more clout than they would have in the US system.

Well, I’m sure glad you cleared that up!

Could be. But McCarthy is now vilified as much if not more than he vilified the “pinkos” of his day. Why have we not seen a resurgence in socialist thought? If anything, it’s less of a force today than it was 20 years ago.

Plus, socialism usually thrives under opression.

I’d disagree with two suggestions made here:

  1. A lack of proportional representation has nothing to do with socialist parties failing. After all, Britain, France, and Australia have successful Socialist parties, and they don’t use proportional representation.

  2. The Socialist Party was pretty much dead before the McCarthy era. The oppression it (and the large German membership of it) got during WWI hurt it, the forming of left-wing groups (Wisconsin’s Progressives, Minnesota’s Farmer-Laborers, North Dakota’s Independence League) hurt it in the Midwest, and the Socialist support given by NYC Jews was killed off by the New Deal, and the founding of the American Labor Party, which, unlike the Socialists, endorsed FDR.