Workers World Party

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Workers World Party
Chairperson Larry Holmes (First Secretary)
Founded 1959
Headquarters 55 W. 17 St. New York, NY 10011
Youth wing Fight Imperialism Stand Together
Ideology
Political position Fiscal: Socialist economics
Social: Revolutionary socialism
Official colors Red
Website
Workers World Party

Workers World Party (WWP) is a Communist-leaning socialist political party in the United States, founded in 1959 by a group led by Sam Marcy.[1] Marcy and his followers split from the Socialist Workers Party in 1958 over a series of long-standing differences, among them Marcy's group's support for Henry A. Wallace's Progressive Party in 1948, the positive view they held of the Chinese Revolution led by Mao Zedong, and their defense of the 1956 Soviet intervention in Hungary, all of which the SWP opposed.

WWP describes itself as a party that has, since its founding, "supported the struggles of all oppressed peoples". It has recognized the right of nations to self-determination, including the nationally oppressed peoples inside the United States. It supports affirmative action as necessary in the fight for equality. As well, it opposes all forms of racism and religious bigotry. Workers World and YAWF were noted for their consistent defense of the Black Panthers and the Weather Underground along with Vietnam Veterans Against the War and the Puerto Rican Independence movement. Workers World Party was also an early advocate of gay rights, and remains active in this area.

Since then, the Workers World Party has been controversial for its support of Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il, and the Chinese crackdown on the “counter-revolutionary rebellion” in Tiananmen Square.[2]

The WWP has published Workers World newspaper since 1959, a weekly since 1974.

History

The distant origins of the WWP go back to the Global Class War Tendency, led by Sam Marcy and Vincent Copeland, within the Socialist Workers Party. This group first crystallized during the presidential election of 1948 when they urged the SWP to back Henry Wallaces's Progressive Party campaign, rather than field their own candidates. Throughout the 1950s the GCWT expressed positions at odds with official SWP policy, categorizing the Korean War as a class, rather than imperialist, conflict; support of the People's Republic of China as a workers' state, if not necessarily supporting the Mao leadership; and supporting the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution by the Soviet Union in 1956.[3]

The Global Class War Tendency left the SWP in early 1959. In their May day issue of their new periodical, its third number, the group proclaimed "We are THE Trotskyists. We stand 100% with all the principled positions of Leon Trotsky, the most revolutionary communist since Lenin". The sect appears to have organized officially as the Workers World Party in February 1960.[4] At its inception the WWP was concentrated among among the "working class" in Buffalo, Youngstown, Seattle and New York. A youth organization, first known as the Anti-Fascist Youth Committee, and later as Youth Against War and Fascism was created in April 1962.[5]

From the beginning both the WWP and the YAWF concentrated their energies on street demonstrations. Early campaigns focused on support of Patrice Lumumba, opposition to the House Un-American Activities Committee, and against racial discrimination in housing. They conducted the first protest against American involvement in Vietnam on August 2, 1962.[6] Their opposition to the war also included the tactics of "draft resistance" and "GI resistance". After organizing demonstrations at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in support of a soldier being tried for possessing anti-war literature, they founded the American Servicemens Union, intended to be a mass organization of American soldiers. However, the group was completely dominated by the WWP and YAWF.[7]

During the late 1960s and 1970s the Party threw itself into protests for a number of other causes, including "defen[se] of the heroic black uprisings in Watts, Newark, Detroit, Harlem" and women's liberation. During the Attica Prison riot the rioters requested a YAWF member, Tom Soto, to present their grievances for them. The WWP was most successful in organizing demonstrations in support of desegregation "busing" in the Boston schools in 1975. Nearly 30,000 people attended the Boston March Against Racism, which they had organized. Also during the 1970s they attempted to begin work inside organized labor, but apparently were not very successful.[8]

In 1980 the WWP began to participate in electoral politics, naming a presidential ticket, as well as candidates for New York Senate, congressional and state legislature seats. In California they ran their candidate, Deidre Griswold, for in the primary for the Peace and Freedom Party nomination. They came in last with 1,232 votes out of 9,092. In 1984 the WWP supported Jesse Jacksons bid for the Democratic nomination, but when he lost in the primaries they nominated their own presidential ticket, along with a handful of congressional and legislative nominees.[9]

Ideological background and platform

While the party originally considered itself Trotskyist, is soon began to cease referring to Trotsky in their organ or to carry much, if any, Trotskyist literature. In its first decade the group leaned more to Maoism, while still considered itself to have "the kind of political independence that enables revolutionaries to speak up if they see that the cause is being damaged by the policies of the leadership of socialist countries." They supported the Peoples Republic of China on the issues of the 1959 Tibetan uprising and the Sino-Indian Border War of 1962, and endorsed both the Great Leap Forward and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, but criticized their characterization of the USSR as social imperialist, fearing that it would lead to Sino-American reproachment.[10] The party was particularly attracted to Lin Biao, praising the inclusion of him in the preamble to the 1969 Chinese Constitution.[4] They felt that the disappearance of Lin and his associates mark "the end of an entire stage of the Cultural Revolution." They grew increasingly critical of Communist China after 1971, especially their closer relations to the west and supported the "radical faction" within China that opposed this course. After the fall of the Gang of Four in 1976 they considered the Chinese leaders "reaction" and "attacking the revolutionary domestic achievements of the Mao era". By the mid 1980s the only trace of Trotskyist ideology still espoused by the WWP was the idea of the USSR and other Communist controlled countries as degenerated workers' states who had to be defended against imperialism even if their leaderships needed to be criticized.[11]

Ideologically, the WWP is orthodox Marxist-Leninist. The Party's Trotskyist origins are reflected in much of Sam Marcy's early literature. However, Marcy also continued to uphold the USSR as a socialist state until the very end. When the Provisional Organizing Committee to Reconstitute a Marxist-Leninist Communist Party was formed, the WWP included a friendly headline directed to them, "Welcome, Comrades!" in Workers World newspaper. The Provisional Organizing Committee replied by telling them, "Trotskyism is Counter-Revolution and Nothing Else!". Following this, "virtually all mention of Trotsky vanished forever from its pages."[12] These things led some individuals and organizations to accuse both Marcy and the party of being "Stalinist," yet the Party was never simply a "pro-Soviet" organization. They were never following the line of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union without discussions: Marcy was always critical of Stalin's leadership and the Party remains largely Trotskyist in many areas. Marcy also firmly criticized Khrushchev for starting the Sino-Soviet split and called for the unity of all of the socialist states at the time (i.e. the Warsaw Pact countries, China, Yugoslavia, Albania and the DPRK.[1] Their program of supporting all of the socialist states and calling for a united socialist bloc, rather than simply following the line of one of the large, ruling Communist parties (e.g. Chinese or Soviet), was part of what made the WWP unique during the Cold War era, and independence remains a defining trait of the Party. The ideological positions of Workers World Party developed through the theoretical analyses of Marcy and co-founder Vince Copeland over the course of 37 years - by 1998 they were both deceased. The Party hasn't strayed from the line in the years since, but longtime cadre and Secretariat member Fred Goldstein has proven to be a leading Marxist economics writer who builds upon the political theories that have always defined WWP. Today as always, the Party is much more involved with getting to know and build solidarity with ordinary working-class and oppressed peoples on the strength of constant activism than in debating. The relatively low priority given to recruitment during intermittent periods is due to a lack of time when various important actions are taking place rather than any view of elitism. WWP adheres strongly to the Leninst concept of a cadre membership but seeks to become a revolutionary mass party through Marxist political analysis as well as deep involvement in organizing movements and protests. The party platform includes guaranteed rights of work, housing, education; justice for oppressed social groups; release of political prisoners; and working class solidarity

Activities and organizational structure

Members staffing a WWP information booth at Occupy Wall Street, October 2011

The WWP has organized, directed or participated in many coalition organizations for various causes, typically anti-imperialist in nature. The International Action Center, which counts many WWP members as leading activists, founded the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) coalition shortly after 9/11, and has run both the All People's Congress (APC) and the International Action Center (IAC) for many years. The APC and the IAC in particular share a large degree of overlap in their memberships with cadre in the WWP. In 2004, a youth group close to the WWP called Fight Imperialism Stand Together (FIST) was founded.

Workers World Party has regional branches in 20 major US cities. The Party receives donations and contributions as the source of its funding, while volunteers/cadres run the day to day operations of the Party. WWP is led by an internally elected secretariat. Currently, the Secretariat is made up of six people: Deirdre Griswold, Larry Holmes, Fred Goldstein, Monica Moorehead, Sara Flounders, and Teresa Gutierrez. The WWP has participated in presidential election campaigns since the 1980 election, though its effectiveness in this area is limited as it has not been able to get on the ballots of many states. The Party also has run some campaigns for other offices. One of the most successful was in 1990, when Susan Farquhar got on the ballot as a US Senate candidate in Michigan and received 1.3% of the vote. However, the Party's best result was in the 1992 Ohio US Senate election, when the WWP candidate received 6.7% of the vote, running against a Democrat and a Republican.[13]

WWP and North Korea

The WWP has maintained a position of support for the government of North Korea. Through its Vietnam-era front organization, the American Servicemen's Union (ASU), the party endorsed a 1971 statement of support for that government. The statement was read on North Korea's international radio station by visiting ASU delegate Andy Stapp. In 1994, Sam Marcy sent a letter to Kim Jong Il expressing his condolences on behalf of the WWP with the passing of his father Kim Il Sung, calling him a great leader and comrade in the international communist movement.[14] Its more recent front groups, IAC and (formerly) International ANSWER, have also demonstrated in support of North Korea.[15]

Disagreement with other leftists

This is seen in disagreements over analysis of whether or not a particular country is socialist (e.g. Cuba, North Korea or the People's Republic of China) and also positions historically held by the Party (e.g., support for Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, Czechoslovakia and Hungary). It is also seen in disagreements over WWP calls for solidarity with governments that it sees as being socialist, anti-imperialist, or any country facing the threat of being attacked by the United States. WWP also faces opposition from ideological groups that are critical of other Marxist-Leninist and Trotskyist parties. On the political left, this criticism comes from anarchists, social democrats and the liberal left. The political right is also often opposed to any communist party or socialist organization. When the WWP was playing a role in organizing anti-war protests before the US attack on Iraq in 2003, many newspapers and TV shows attacked the WWP specifically.[16][17][18]

Splits

In 1968 the WWP absorbed a small faction of the Spartacist League that had worked with it in the Coalition for an Anti-Imperialist Movement called the Revolutionary Communist League. This group left the WWP in 1971 as the New York Revolutionary Committee. The NYRCs newspaper provided rare details about the internal functioning of the group that have subsequently been used by scholars as a primary source. The NYRC later reconsitituted as the Revolutionary Communist League (Internationalist).[19]

In 2004,[20] the WWP suffered its most serious split when a few dozen members of WWP left to form the Party for Socialism and Liberation. The ANSWER coalition aligned itself with the PSL and Workers World Party then founded the Troops Out Now Coalition. The split included many of the top leaders of the WWP which included most of the membership of the WWP on the West Coast.

To date, neither party has officially given any reason for the split. PSL maintains a nearly identical political line.

Presidential Tickets

The party has fielded candidates in U.S. presidential elections.[21]

Year President Vice-President Votes
1980 Deirdre Griswold Gavrielle Holmes 13,285 (0.02%)
1984 Larry Holmes, in some states Gavrielle Holmes Gloria LaRiva 17,985 (0.02%)
1988 Larry Holmes Gloria La Riva 7,846 (0.01%)
1992 Gloria La Riva Larry Holmes 181 (0.00%)
1996 Monica Moorehead Gloria LaRiva 29,083 (0.03%)
2000 Monica Moorehead Gloria LaRiva 4,795 (0.00%)
2004 John Parker Teresa Gutierrez 1,646 (0.00%), includes votes on the Liberty Union Party line in Vermont
2008 No candidate, endorsed Cynthia McKinney No candidate, endorsed Rosa Clemente n.a.

References

  1. Selected Works of Sam Marcy. Workers World. URL accessed on October 2, 2008.
  2. Goldberg, Michelle One Percent. Tablet Magazine.
  3. Alexander 1991, p. 911.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Alexander 1973, p. 554.
  5. Alexander 1991, p. 912.
  6. Klehr, Harvey (1988) Far Left of Center
  7. Alexander 1991, pp. 912-913.
  8. Alexander 1991, p. 913.
  9. Alexander 1991, p. 914.
  10. Alexander 1991, p. 915.
  11. Alexander 1991, p. 916.
  12. Roots of the Workers World Party. Marx Mail. URL accessed on October 2, 2008.
  13. Error on call to template:cite web: Parameters url and title must be specified Ballot Access News. URL accessed on September 22, 2008.
  14. Marcy, Sam Kim Il Sung - Anti-imperialist fighter, socialist hero.
  15. Carlson, Peter. "The Crusader: Ramsey Clark Was LBJ's Attorney General. Now He's Busy Denouncing U.S. 'War Crimes' in Places Like Iraq, N. Korea. How Did That Happen?", The Washington Post, 15 Dec 2002. Retrieved on 23 November 2011. 
  16. Cooper, Marc. "A Smart Peace Movement is MIA", Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2002. 
  17. Gitlin, Todd (October 14, 2002). "Who Will Lead?". Mother Jones magazine. 
  18. <((cite news |title=Behind the Placards: The odd and troubling origins of today’s antiwar movement |first=David |last=Corn |work=LA Weekly |date=November 1, 2002}}
  19. Alexander 1991, pp. 913, 941-3, 1049.
  20. Socialism and Liberation magazine is changing. pslweb.org. URL accessed on June 7, 2008.
  21. Leip, Dave United States Presidential Election Results. US election atlas.

Sources

  • Alexander, Robert (1991). International Trotskyism: a documented analysis of the world movement. Durham: Duke University Press. 
  • Alexander, Robert (1973). "Schisms and unifications in the American Old Left 1953-1970". Labor History. 14. 

Further reading

Prominent Members

External links

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