Scope and Content
Title: Socialist Workers Party Records,
Date (inclusive): 1928-1990
Collection number: 92036
Socialist Workers Party
111 manuscript boxes, 1 oversize box
47.2 linear feet
Hoover Institution Archives
Stanford, California 94305-6010
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. .
Collection is open for research.
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[Identification of item], Socialist Workers Party Records, [Box no.], Hoover Institution
Acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives in 1992.
Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. To determine if this has occurred, find
the collection in Stanford University's online catalog at
. Materials have been added to the collection if the number of boxes listed in the online catalog is larger than the number
of boxes listed in this finding aid.
Alternative Form Available
Most of collection also available on microfilm (107 reels).
United States--Politics and government.
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
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
Scope and Content
Records of the Socialist Workers Party are deposited at the Wisconsin State Historical
Society as well as in the Hoover Institution Archives. Those at the Wisconsin State
Historical Society are concerned with domestic activities of the party, while those in
the Hoover Institution Archives are concerned with its international activities and
especially with its relations with the Fourth International and its predecessors.
Records in the Hoover Institution Archives are arranged in nine 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 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
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