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Socialist Workers Party records
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  • Access
  • Use
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Alternative Form Available
  • Historical Note
  • Scope and Content of the Collection

  • Title: Socialist Workers Party records
    Date (inclusive): 1928-1998
    Collection Number: 92036
    Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Library and Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 135 manuscript boxes, 1 oversize box (57.8 Linear Feet)
    Abstract: Correspondence, minutes, resolutions, theses, and internal bulletins relating to Trotskyist and other socialist activities in Latin America, Western Europe, Iran, and elsewhere, and to interactions of the Socialist Workers Party with the Fourth International; and trial transcripts, briefs, other legal documents, and background materials relating to the lawsuit brought by Alan Gelfand against the Socialist Workers Party in 1979. Most of collection also available on microfilm (108 reels).
    Creator: Socialist Workers Party
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Library & Archives


    The collection is open for research; materials must be requested in advance via our reservation system. If there are audiovisual or digital media material in the collection, they must be reformatted before providing access.


    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    The Hoover Institution Library & Archives acquired records of the Socialist Workers Party from the Anchor Foundation in 1992. A register to the collection, prepared in 1997 and updated in 2013, remains the principal overall description of, and finding aid to, the collection. Further records of the Socialist Workers Party were received from the Anchor Foundation in 2015, described in the Addendum.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Socialist Workers Party records, [Box no., Folder no. or title], Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Alternative Form Available

    Most of collection also available on microfilm (108 reels).

    Historical Note

    The Socialist Workers Party had its origins in the Communist League of America, formed in 1928 by former members of the Workers (Communist) Party of America who had been expelled as followers of Leon Trotsky. The Communist League of America merged with the American Workers Party in 1934 to create the Workers Party of the United States. This organization dissolved in 1936 to allow its members to enter the Socialist Party, where they constituted a left wing. Members of the left wing, after expulsion from the Socialist Party, founded the Socialist Workers Party at the beginning of 1938.
    From its outset as the Communist League of America, the Socialist Workers Party viewed itself as the American section of an international left wing of the communist movement whose outstanding leader was Leon Trotsky. This current first found organizational expression as the International Left Opposition in 1930. A belief that the program and practices of the Communist International were in need of drastic reform gradually gave way to the conviction that that organization was incorrigible and should be supplanted. The course of this progression of thought is indicated by the transformation of the International Left Opposition into the International Communist League in 1933 and then into the Movement for the Fourth International in 1936. The Fourth International was established in 1938 with the proclaimed goal of serving as the world party of socialist revolution.
    World War II disrupted the workings of the Fourth International and many of its sections. A European Secretariat in exile functioned in the United States during the war. The passage in 1940 of the Voorhis Act, which required parties belonging to any international political organization to register with the United States government and provide lists of members and contributors, prompted the Socialist Workers Party to formally disaffiliate from the Fourth International. When the International resumed its operations after the war, the party maintained a close relationship with it and was recognized as a fraternal organization but never formally rejoined as its American section.
    Political differences within the Fourth International resulted in a rupture in 1954. Most of the continental European sections adhered to the orientation of the International Secretariat, the International's continuing directing body. The Socialist Workers Party aligned itself with some other sections in establishing a rival International Committee. For all practical purposes Fourth International (International Secretariat) and Fourth International (International Committee) operated as separate organizations. Unity of most forces on both sides was restored in 1963, with a newly created United Secretariat as continuing directing body.
    Rupture again threatened but was averted in the 1970s. The Socialist Workers Party aligned itself with a number of Latin American sections in creating a Leninist-Trotskyist Tendency (subsequently Leninist-Trotskyist Faction) within the International in 1973. This was opposed by an International Majority Tendency representing most of the European sections. The factions were dissolved in 1977.
    The Socialist Workers Party found itself increasingly in disagreement with the Fourth International in the 1980s as the party ceased to define itself as Trotskyist. The Fourth International, meanwhile, accorded recognition to two organizations originating in splits from the party, Socialist Action and the Fourth Internationalist Tendency, as sympathizing American sections in addition to the Socialist Workers Party. The 12th World Congress of the Fourth International in 1985 was the last in which representatives of the Socialist Workers Party participated. Since the party was not formally a member of the Fourth International the question of formal withdrawal did not arise. However, by the end of the decade the Socialist Workers Party had broken off all connections with the Fourth International.

    Scope and Content of the Collection

    Records of the Socialist Workers Party are deposited at the Wisconsin State Historical Society as well as in the Hoover Institution Library & Archives. Those at the Wisconsin State Historical Society are concerned with domestic activities of the party, while those in the Hoover Institution Library & Archives are concerned with its international activities and especially with its relations with the Fourth International and its predecessors. Records in the Hoover Institution Library & Archives are arranged in ten series, most of which call for some commentary.
    Fourth International Issuances, the first series, consists of official issuances, notably minutes, congress proceedings, and internal bulletins, of the Fourth International and its predecessors. Issuances of international bodies only, not national sections, are included. These are arranged by issuing bodies, which are listed in order of historical progression. Issuances lend themselves to serial arrangement and are listed in considerable detail.
    The next two series, Chronological File and Geographical File, are extremely rich but much more amorphous. Correspondence between Socialist Workers Party leaders and Fourth International leaders, reports and memoranda of all descriptions, and official and unofficial documents of all sorts emanating from practically every national section are included. Materials within the two files are similar in character and many documents might with equal validity have found their way into either. Individual folders as maintained by the Socialist Workers Party and the Library of Social History (where the records were held prior to their deposit in the Hoover Institution Library & Archives) tended to be established and assigned headings according to criteria that were either chronological or geographical. These classificatory decisions were respected, and the two series were constructed by grouping folders together according to which of the two criteria they met. Arrangement of the material within each was then regularized. It is important for researchers interested in a particular geographical area to keep in mind that the Chronological File as well as the Geographical File is likely to include relevant material. An attempt has been made to annotate the Chronological File listings with indications of concentrations of material relating to specific countries, but such annotations are by no means exhaustive. Official issuances of national sections lending themselves to serial listing are generally specified. Other materials are generally not itemized, not because their importance is less but because a rigorously itemized list would be of prohibitive length.
    The International Assignments File consists of correspondence and reports of Socialist Workers Party representatives abroad on international assignments, mainly during the 1970s.
    The Barnes/Waters File is drawn from the papers of Jack Barnes and Mary-Alice Waters, leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and its principal representatives in dealings with the Fourth International during the 1970s and 1980s. Arranged chronologically by congresses and other meetings of the Fourth International, it is a major source for activities of the International during those decades and includes much material, especially minutes and world congress proceedings, that might otherwise have been included in the Fourth International Issuances series.
    The Leninist-Trotskyist Faction File consists of internal circulated materials documenting the history of the international Leninist-Trotskyist Faction (described in the Historical Note above) during the period of its existence from 1973 to 1977.
    The Gelfand vs. Smith et al. File requires special explanation. The Workers Revolutionary Party and the Workers League, Trotskyist organizations in Great Britain and the United States, respectively, that remained outside the Fourth International (United Secretariat), embarked in 1975 upon a series of allegations that Soviet secret police and United States Federal Bureau of Investigation penetration of the Socialist Workers Party beginning in the 1930s had turned that party into one that was police-controlled. These allegations were characterized by the Socialist Workers Party, and by a number of unaffiliated observers, as a slander campaign. Alan Gelfand, an expelled member of the Socialist Workers Party, initiated a lawsuit in 1979 against leaders of the party and leading law enforcement officials of the United States government on the basis of these allegations. The case went to trial in federal district court in 1983 and resulted in judgment against Gelfand. This series contains not only the legal records of the Socialist Workers Party defendants in the trial but also extensive background material on the allegations and their history.
    A tenth series, Serial Issues and Serial Issue Indexes, represents material added to the collection subsequent to the arrival of the main body of material in the Hoover Institution Library & Archives. It consists mainly of indexes to newspaper and other serial publications reflecting the views of the Socialist Workers Party and its predecessors.
    The addendum consists of five series. The Fourth International File is composed of material documenting the Socialist Workers Party's relations with the Fourth International. This includes documentary publications prepared by the Party on the period from the split in the International in 1953 until its reunification in 1963 and substantial working materials for a continuation of the documentary series on that period. It also includes the principal documents of the Fourth International's World Congresses from the 7th (Reunification) Congress in 1963 through the 12th Congress in 1985.
    The Geographical File consists of correspondence, internal documents, and printed matter on the Socialist Workers Party's relations with groups in other countries or with Fourth International debates relating to specific countries. This material had been arranged by the Party and the Anchor Foundation according to country. It includes correspondence of SWP leaders with the Sandinista government of Nicaragua and with the government of North Korea.
    The Individuals File consists of correspondence with individuals from outside the United States or Americans involved in international work, with related internal documents and printed matter. The material had been arranged by the Party and the Anchor Foundation according to name of individual. Among these individuals are C. Frank Glass, Albert Glotzer, Joseph Hansen, Peng Shu-tse, and John G. Wright. The Hoover Institution Library & Archives holds separate collections of papers of each of these five individuals. The Institution's Hansen, Peng, and Wright Papers were also received from the Anchor Foundation, and there is substantial duplication between the files on these individuals in this collection and material in their respective separate collections. The Institution's Glass and Glotzer Papers were received from independent sources.
    The Ernest Mandel File might have been treated within the Individuals File but has instead been established as a separate series because of its large size. Ernest Mandel (1923-1995), a Belgian, was one of the principal leaders of the post-World War II Fourth International and a noted Marxist economist. The file includes his correspondence with SWP leaders, as well as a considerable body of his draft and printed writings.
    The Socialist Workers Party Leadership School File consists of the syllabus and instructional materials prepared for a cadre training course on the political writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Communism -- United States
    Socialism -- United States
    Socialism -- Europe
    Communism -- Latin America
    Communism -- Europe
    Communism -- Iran
    Socialism -- Latin America
    Socialism -- Iran
    Fourth International
    Gelfand, Alan