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History of the WSPUS

The badge version of the WSPUS logo.

Most of the founders of the WSPUS were auto factory workers and members of the Socialist Party of America (SPA). Others were members of the Socialist Party of Canada (SPC) or Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) who had left their counties to avoid conscription for World War One. Encouraged by the rapid growth of the SPC and disgusted with what they felt was a growing reformism in the SPA, they left the Detroit Local of the SPA en masse and formed the WSPUS on July 7, 1916 with 42 members.

The founding name of the WSPUS was the Socialist Party of the United States. Threatened by a trademark suit by the SPA, the party renamed itself the Workers’ Socialist Party of the US. In 1947 the party’s name was again changed to the present World Socialist Party.

The WSPUS participated in the left-socialist circles of the time, especially with the Michigan Socialists expelled from the SPA in 1918 who first helped form the Communist Party of America (CPA) and later formed the Proletarian Party of America. Groups were formed in New York City, Cleveland, Portland and San Francisco. The “proletarian” group and the WSPUS split apart over support for the Soviet Union. The WSPUS applauded the Bolshevik’s withdraw from the first World War, but felt that the new USSR could only be state-capitalist and hence should not be supported. The Proletarians regarded the USSR as a workers’ state which needed defending.

The WSPUS was given a regular page in the Socialist Clarion, the weekly paper of the SPC, which was widely read in American left-Socialist circles.

During the 1920s, the WSP operated under the title Socialist Educational Society (SES) adopted during the Palmer era repression against revolutionaries. There were 3 locals in the SES period, in Boston, Detroit and New York. The NYC local was the most active and events often included Louis Boudin as guest lecturer. The SES came out as the WSPUS again in 1927 and started publishing their own magazine “The Socialist”.

The heyday of the WSP 1930 and 1940s when it had perhaps 150 members. During that time WSP members were quite active in the workers’ movement, especially the United Auto Workers union which a number of WSPUS members helped form. WSPUS members were also active in the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and the Typographers unions in New England.

In 1939, publishing of the Socialist Party of Canada’s “Western Socialist” magazine was transfered to Boston due to it’s ban in Canada for it’s anti-war politics. The Western Socialist became a joint publication until the mid-1970s. It ceased publication in 1980.

WSPUS diminished during the Red Scare period of the 1950s. It was unable to capitalize on the upsurge during the 1960s and became moribund following the ending of publication of “The Western Socialist”.

The WSPUS rejuvenated in the mid-1990s thanks to the internet. As of Sept. 2008 it has members scattered throughout the US with Locals in Boston and Portland. A Regional Group exists in the Detroit-Toledo area.

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