Left and Right

Social Democrats, USA

A small fringe leftist party provided the bowels in which the neocons were originally spawned. The story of how former socialists achieved ideological hegemony in the American political class with the assistance of right-wing plutocrats is a rather interesting one to say the least. Only sectors of the paleo-right and some far-leftists are aware of this.


Social Democrats, USA (SDUSA) is a small political association of democratic socialists and social democrats founded in 1972. The Socialist Party of America (SPA) had stopped running independent presidential candidates and consequently the term party in the SPA’s name had confused the public. Replacing Socialist with Social Democrats, SDUSA clarified its vision to Americans who confused social democracy with the ideology of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union which SDUSA opposes.[3]

SDUSA pursued an electoral strategy of political realignment intended to organize labor unions, civil rights organizations and other constituencies into a coalition that would transform the Democratic Party into a social democratic party. The realignment strategy emphasized working with unions and especially the AFL–CIO, putting an emphasis on economic issues that would unite working class voters. SDUSA opposed the so-called New Politics of Senator George McGovern, pointing to the rout suffered in the 1972 presidential election.

SDUSA’s organizational activities included sponsoring discussions and issuing position papers — however, it was known mainly because of its members’ activities in other organizations. It included civil rights activists and leaders of labor unions such as Bayard Rustin, Norman Hill and Tom Kahn of the AFL–CIO as well as Sandra Feldman and Rachelle Horowitz of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Internationally, the group supported the dissident Polish labor organization Solidarity and several anti-communist political movements in global hot spots.

SDUSA’s politics were criticized by former SPA Chairman Michael Harrington, who in 1972 announced that he favored an immediate pull-out of American forces from Vietnam. After losing all votes at the 1972 convention that changed the SPA to SDUSA, Harrington resigned in 1973 to form the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC), forerunner of Democratic Socialists of America.

By the early 1970s, the Socialist Party of America (SPA) was publicly associated with A. Philip Randolph, the civil rights and labor union leader; and with Michael Harrington, the author of The Other America. Even before the 1972 convention, Harrington had resigned as an Honorary Chairperson of the SPA[3] “because he was upset about the group’s failure to enthusiastically support George McGovern and because of its views on the Vietnam War“.[4]

In its 1972 Convention, the SPA had two Co-Chairmen, Bayard Rustin and Charles S. Zimmerman of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU);[5] and a First National Vice Chairman, James S. Glaser, who were re-elected by acclamation.[3] In his opening speech to the Convention, Co-Chairman Bayard Rustin called for SDUSA to organize against the “reactionary policies of the Nixon Administration” and Rustin also criticized the “irresponsibility and élitism of the ‘New Politics’ liberals”.[3]


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