Socialist Equality Party (United States)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (United States)

The Formation of the Socialist Equality Party

In June 1995, the Workers League initiated a process of transforming itself into the Socialist Equality Party. It was anticipated that this transformation would be carried out over a substantial period of time; for this process involved not merely a change of name, but the altering of longstanding forms of work and the development of the revolutionary socialist movement’s relationship to the working class, within the United States and internationally. The transition from a league into a party was begun and developed in the closest collaboration with the sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International, which began to implement the same transitional process in the countries in which they worked. The transition from a league into a political party was determined by changes of a fundamental character, not only in immediate objective conditions, but also in the historical context within which the ICFI conducted its activity. The decision expressed the judgment of the Workers League and the ICFI that the discrediting and breakdown of the old mass organizations of the working class, rooted in the breakdown of the post-World War II equilibrium, had set into motion a process of political realignment by the working class on an international scale:

It is the development of the contradictions of world capitalism and the class struggle as an objective historical process that determines the organizational forms within which our activity develops. These forms, and the relation to the working class that they express, bear a specific relation to the historic conditions under which they arose and initially developed. The formation of leagues, from the Socialist Labour League in Britain in 1959, the Workers League in 1966, the Revolutionary Communist League in 1968, to the formation of the Bund Sozialistischer Arbeiter in 1971 and the Socialist Labour League in Australia in 1972, was bound up with definite historical conditions and strategic conceptions of the development of the revolutionary movement of the working class.

The central strategical problem that confronted the Trotskyist movement in this early period in the development of the ICFI was the active and militant allegiance given by the most advanced sections of the working class to the mass Stalinist and Social-Democratic parties and trade unions.

The political activity of our sections therefore assumed, despite variations in tactics, that the starting point of a great new revolutionary reorientation of the working class would proceed in the form of a radicalization among the most class-conscious and politically-active elements within the ranks of these organizations. Out of that movement, in which the sections of the International Committee would play a catalytic role as the most intransigent opponents of Social Democracy and Stalinism, would arise the real possibilities for the establishment of a mass revolutionary party.[1]

The formation of the SEP anticipated a change in the relationship between the Marxist movement and the working class:

We must draw the appropriate conclusions from the collapse of the AFL-CIO and correctly formulate the new tasks of the party. If there is to be leadership given to the working class, it must be provided by our party. If a new road is to be opened for the masses of working people, it must be opened by our organization. The problem of leadership cannot be resolved on the basis of a clever tactic. We cannot resolve the crisis of working class leadership by “demanding” that others provide that leadership. If there is to be a new party, we must build it.[2]


David North, The Workers League and the Founding of the Socialist Equality Party (Detroit: Labor Publications, 1996), pp. 18-19.


Ibid., p. 30.