Socialist Equality Party (United States)

Socialist Equality Party
FoundedSeptember 1964; 54 years ago (September 1964) (as American Committee for the Fourth International)
HeadquartersPO Box 48377
Oak Park, MI 48237
Youth wingInternational Youth and Students for Social Equality
Revolutionary socialism
Political positionFar-left
International affiliationInternational Committee of the Fourth International

The Socialist Equality Party (SEP) is a Trotskyist political party in the United States, one of several Socialist Equality parties around the world affiliated with the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). The ICFI publishes daily news articles, perspectives and commentaries on the World Socialist Web Site and maintains Mehring Books as publishing house.

The SEP was formed in 1995 by the Workers League, the US supporters of the ICFI. The Workers League had been founded in 1966 by the American Committee for the Fourth International (ACFI), headed by Tim Wohlforth, which emerged out of a split with the Socialist Workers Party, in opposition to the latter's support for Castroism.

According to the party's website, the SEP "seeks not to reform capitalism, but to create a socialist, democratic and egalitarian society through the establishment of a workers' government and the revolutionary transformation of the world economy. We seek to unify workers in the United States and internationally in the common struggle for socialism—that is, for equality and the rational and democratic utilization of the wealth of the planet."

In 2008, the SEP held its official founding congress, where it adopted a statement of principles and official organizational history. It has participated in elections in the United States, including running Jerry White for President and Niles Niemuth for Vice President in 2016,[1] and Niemuth in Michigan's 12th congressional district in 2018.[2]


Revolutionary Tendency

In the early 1960s, most American Trotskyists were organized in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) as part of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). Tim Wohlforth was a youth leader in that party and was opposed to the course of the organization, which was heading toward reunification with the International Secretariat of the Fourth International (ISFI). With others, including James Robertson, he formed the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) within the SWP. It developed links with the Socialist Labour League in Britain, led by Gerry Healy.

They saw the course of the SWP towards a regrouping with the ISFI, which had long been called Pabloite by members of the ICFI as breaking with basic Trotskyist principles. The party leadership at the same time blocked discussion over other issues, such as the SWP's support for Fidel Castro as an "unconscious" Trotskyist.

The ICFI leadership, supported by the RT, argued that if a revolution can be carried out by an unconscious Trotskyist, there was no point of building the Fourth International as the conscious leadership of the working class. The ICFI traced the SWP's support for Cuba to their "regroupment" policy, in which according to the ICFI they attempted to gain the support of the middle class radical supporters of Cuba. The ICFI claimed this was done without a genuine discussion of the principles of the Fourth International.

Reorganized Minority Tendency

The two main leaders of the RT had different evaluations of the SWP. Robertson's position led the SWP to expel him and his supporters first, but he and his supporters did not join the ICFI. Robertson's group went on to form the Spartacist League. The remainder of the tendency, now led by Wohlforth alone, renamed their group the Reorganized Minority Tendency.

Wohlforth and a small handful of his supporters were themselves expelled early in September 1964, proclaiming themselves the American Committee for the Fourth International (ACFI) and launching the biweekly Bulletin of International Socialism.[3] They maintained connections with Gerry Healy and the rest of the ICFI, which they considered the legitimate Trotskyist movement, becoming that group's American section.

Wohlforth and his co-thinkers claimed the split was due to their insistence on a discussion of the decision by the Sri Lankan Lanka Sama Samaja Party to participate in the national government. They characterized this decision as "opportunism" that originated in the "centrist" position of the LSSP during the split between the ISFI and ICFI of 1953.

Workers League

The ACFI grew throughout the 1960s along with most leftist groupings. The ACFI was renamed the Workers League (WL) in 1966 and developed into a nationwide organization with hundreds of members. Its youth work, which led to the development of the Young Socialists, was particularly successful in this period.

In 1985, the ICFI split over policies advanced by the Workers Revolutionary Party in Britain. The policies they disagreed with included supporting national bourgeois regimes, including those of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gadhafi; and supporting Gordon McLennan, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Great Britain.[citation needed] Many of Healy's former supporters saw these moves as a repetition of the mistakes of Pabloism.

The Workers League engaged in a long-term campaign against the rival Socialist Workers Party (SWP). In the 1970s, they issued a report titled "Security and the Fourth International" which alleged, amongst other things, that leading SWP member Joseph Hansen, who had been an assistant to Leon Trotsky during his Mexico City exile, was an accomplice in his assassination alleging that he and by implication the SWP were agents of the Soviet secret police (GPU). The WL also supported a lawsuit against the SWP by expelled member Alan Gelfand, who argued that he had been unconstitutionally deprived of his freedom of political expression by being expelled from the SWP by agents of the government. He attempted to force the government to reveal all its agents in the SWP and force the SWP to readmit him as a member. The lawsuit was dismissed in 1989, but not before confirming that former SWP leader Jim Cannon's secretary, Sylvia Callen (referred to by then-SWP national secretary Jack Barnes as his "hero"), had been a GPU agent.

The WL and its successor organization, the Socialist Equality Party, also countered the SWP's campaign in defense of Mark Curtis with its own campaign alleging that the SWP member was guilty of the sexual assault charge for which he was imprisoned.[4][5]

Socialist Equality Party

Previous Socialist Equality Party logo

In 1995, the various parties affiliated with the ICFI renamed themselves the Socialist Equality Party. The ICFI launched the World Socialist Web Site in 1998.[6] The party is also associated with the publishing house Mehring Books, formerly known as Labor Publications.[7]

In 2006, the Socialist Equality Party relaunched its student movement (the Students for Social Equality) as the International Students for Social Equality, which was renamed the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) in 2012.[8]