What is the Socialist Party?

Paul Woods

The term socialist party can be associated with a number of political parties around the world that espouse socialism as a fundamental philosophy. In the United States, the Socialist Party USA is a small political party that supports democratic socialism, personal equality and pacifism. It does not support capitalism, communistic government or totalitarianism. The party's headquarters are in New York City with regional office in many states.

Many socialist politicians support centralized planning and control of the national economy.
Many socialist politicians support centralized planning and control of the national economy.

Socialist parties in individual nations worldwide are largely independent of one another and support a variety of political and social views regarding each nation's internal affairs and international relations. In almost every case, the parties support socialism as the preferred manner of organizing a nation’s economy. Socialism refers to the common ownership of the means of production and common control of resources. Many socialist parties also support centralized planning and control of the national economy.

The Socialist Party seeks to challenge the political domination of the two primary parties in the U.S.
The Socialist Party seeks to challenge the political domination of the two primary parties in the U.S.

In the U.S., the Socialist Party supports the tenants of common ownership but does not support centralized control. The party, according to its website, “strives to establish a radical democracy that places people’s lives under their own control.” Radical democratic socialism in this context means government by majority at the community level whenever possible.

Dealing with the economy, this party supports production of goods and provision of services based on needs and uses, as opposed to making a profit. Employment is a right for those who wish to be employed in the party's view. Business decisions regarding production and productivity are to be made at the community level by those affected by the decisions.

Socially, this party supports full equality of all people regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. The party recognizes the value of artistic endeavors and supports them. Personal privacy is recognized as right as well.

International relations under the Socialist Party are founded on non-alignment and non-militarism. Both war and preparation for war are condemned as part of the party’s platform. The party views militarism and the military-industrial complex as a drain on a nation's resources.

The party adopted the name Socialist Party USA in 1973 at the end of a decade-long process of the larger Socialist Party of America breaking into factions, largely disagreeing over U.S. involvement in Vietnam. In recent presidential elections, the party has won only a fraction of a percent of the popular vote for its candidates. The organization publishes a magazine called The Socialist.

Eugene Debs ultimately became the head of the American Socialist Party.
Eugene Debs ultimately became the head of the American Socialist Party.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


I believe that socialism has failed everywhere it's been tried, including here in the United States, where it's been implemented in a milder form known as Keynesian economics. The government simply hasn't been able to create jobs.

While I do think that the Socialist Party in the United States is more or less weak, the fact is that it still does endorse political candidates, usually on the Democratic ticket.

If I were such a Democrat, I would quickly move to distance myself from an endorsement, unless in fact I shared the party's platform convictions.


I was reading an article not too long ago about the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. It was very interesting.

Apparently in the 1960s the party formed to oppose American companies that were coming in and industrializing the territory. A lot of it was led by college students who didn't like the way things were being run.

They had quite a large following all through the 70s but then they started to fade out because of internal conflicts between the party leaders. I don't recall if they ever got anyone major elected, but they had a lot more influence on the political culture of Puerto Rico than any socialist group has had in the United States. It is definitely worth reading about if you enjoy political history, especially since it isn't well known.


@stl156 - I wasn't aware of this until just recently, but Portugal actually has a socialist derived government. I don't know a lot about Portugal, but I haven't heard anything about them being in economic trouble or anything, so I guess it is working all right for them. I know the Soviet Union had some problems making their system work, but it is possible that was caused by the size of the country, limited resources, and the world's political climate at the time.

I was wondering if there had been any high profile individuals in the United States or other countries who were members of the Socialist Party. Have there ever even been any socialists that won a major election in the US, such as in Congress or in state government?


One thing I really dislike about the Socialist Party's opinion on setting up the economical system where there is community and governmental control, is the lack of opportunity for individual initiative and creativity.

In this system, there are jobs for almost all citizens, but they are usually low paying and there is little opportunity to develop a new idea. The educational system is also affected by this same idea. It is rigid and conforming.


@stl156 - As someone else mentioned before, it is often hard to draw the line between a communist and socialist society, since they both evolved from the same place. WiseGeek actually has a good article outlining the differences between the two that I would suggest you read for more information.

As that article mentions, socialism is typically used just to refer to an economic idea, while communism refers to economics and politics. I think that typically holds true when you look at the different countries with those types of government. The Soviet leaders were fairly radical by many standards, but then if you look at China and North Korea, they exercise a lot more control over what people can do or say than the USSR ever did. People almost treat communist leaders like gods.

The two groups also have different ideas about the way goods and services should be allocated between citizens. Although the article says they dislike capitalism, socialism still uses come capitalist ideas in terms of resource use.


The Socialist Party in the U.S. is really quite weak, but it's a good thing that there are minor parties that offer their voice.

The Socialist Party seems to work better in a smaller country, that avoids international conflict, and can organize economically and socially on a community basis.

Our country is way too big for socialism to work efficiently. But capitalism in the US isn't working too well right now! I think some aspects of socialism are worth a try, if done right, like health care and some social programs.


I guess my question after reading this is: What exactly is the difference between socialism and communism? Don't they both basically operate under the idea that goods and services should be distributed equally between citizens and that everyone should be equal?

I know that China and North Korea are operated under a communist government and that the Soviet Union was socialist (it was right in their name), but I don't really know enough about them to know the differences. Are there any current countries that are socialist, and have they fared better than the USSR?


@anamur-- How about the claims made by some conservatives that the Democratic Party is turning into a Socialist Workers Party?

Looking at the policies made by the Democratic Party in the last several years, some Conservatives are now fearing that the Democratic Party is becoming Socialist in many ways. Some people are even taking it to the extreme and saying that it's already too late and that we're close to becoming a totally Socialist country.

I personally don't agree with this, but it's interesting to hear about how average Americans think about Socialism. Do you think that for Americans, Socialism just means very left wing or very liberal? Or is there more to it than that?


@burcinc-- That's not surprising. America was established with the idea that the government would not become too powerful. And that's why for years during the Cold War, we fought against the Soviet Union's hold globally, so that our capitalism wouldn't be threatened by the Socialist Workers Party.

I think that the fall of the Soviet Union has already proven that Socialism is not a good form of government. So it's normal for the American Socialist Party to remain small. America will always be a democratic capitalist country.


I wrote a paper on the American Socialist Party last year for class. The Socialist Party in the US actually split off from the then Communist party, partly because of ideological differences and partly because of leadership problems.

The Communist Party and the Socialist Party actually had a lot in common in terms of governance. I know both valued the workers over everything else and wanted government owned businesses that would split profits equally among the people. Both also valued social programs and wanted there to be free health care and education.

The leaders who formed the Socialist Party were previously also leaders of the Communist Party. Somewhere along the line differences arose and several leaders decided to form their own party- the Socialist Party.

Neither of these parties have been particularly strong in the US though. They still have some followers today, but are nowhere near winning an election.

Post your comments
Forgot password?