Social Democrats USA

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Group.png Social Democrats USA   Powerbase SourcewatchRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
HeadquartersPO Box 16161, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.

The Social Democrats, USA (SD/USA) has its political roots in the Socialist Party. Its philosophical forefather was the intellectual Trotskyite, Max Shachtman. Shactman, initially a Communist, became increasinging disenchanted with the actions of the Soviet Union under Stalin and developed a new genre of antiStalinist leftists. This group joined the Socialist party of Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas in the 1960s. It was in this period that the SD/USA made its commitment to, and its first inroads into the organized labor movement. In 1972, the Socialist Party split into two factions; the left led by Michael Harrington and the right or conservative wing led by Tom Kahn, Rachelle Horowitz, and Carl Gershman. The latter became the SD/USA.

In the 1970s, under the leadership of Carl Gershman, SD/USA became a supporter of Sen. Henry Jackson and his contingent of conservative, hawkish "defenders of democracy." As such, they gained a great deal of political experience and savvy, but little political power. It was not until the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, that the SD/USA achieved positions of power and influence in both the labor movement and the government.[1]

The Social Democrats USA appear to have become largely defunct since the death of Penn Kemble in 2005.

2003 conference

In May 2003, shortly after the invasion of Iraq, the party held a Washington conference entitled Everything Changed: What Now for Labor, Liberalism and the Global Left? The event was chiefly noted at the time for a spat between the liberal writer Paul Berman and the prominent neoconservative Joshua Muravchik.[2] Muravchik commented that “I want to welcome Paul Berman on board. It seems that in every big conflict we reap some important new recruits. In the wars of Central America, we reaped the Radoshes and the Leikens. There were some more after Bosnia. Now the war against "terrorism" has brought us Hitchens and Berman — very nice indeed.”

Robert Leiken chaired a panel on ‘Europe, the Left and Anti-Americanism’, which considered the wave of opposition that the Iraq War had aroused across the Atlantic.

A central question for our next panel might be summarized this way: what role did the European left play in encouraging the strident attacks on the United States that have been mounted in Europe and elsewhere over the past year or so?
A second issue might this: In the years following World War II, when Stalin's army was in Eastern Europe and Stalinist parties seemed on the verge of coming to power in Western Europe, American and European intellectuals and sections of the labor movement rallied to found such institutions as the Congress for Cultural Freedom and Encounter magazine. Is such a grouping conceivable today?[3]

Sidney Hook conference

Members of the Social Democrats USA attended a conference entitled Sidney Hook and American Democracy: Current Crises; Future Challenges in Washington D.C on 1 October 2005.

Confirmed speakers on such themes as International Democracy and the New Totalitarianism, and American Liberalism and the Legacy of Sidney Hook include Peter Berkowitz, George Mason University School of Law and fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution; Paul Berman, author of Power and the Idealists, and Terror and Liberalism; Jean Bethke Elshtain, University of Chicago and author of Just War Against Terror; Joshua Muravchik, author of Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism; Fred Siegel, Cooper Union, New York, and author of The Prince Of The City: Giuliani, New York And The Genius Of American Life.[4]

The conference was opened by Carl Gershman of the National Endowment for Democracy, who mentioned that the NED's Mike Allen, David Lowe and Marc Plattner had been consulted on the event. Gershman also referred to the presence of Thomas Cushman and David Blankenhorn at the conference.[5]

Jean Bethke Elshtain delivered a lecture at the event which appeared in the Autumn 2007 edition of Democratiya.[6]


Prominent Members

Officers 2005

National Committee 2005

National Advisory Council 2005

Members of Advisory Committee are not necessarily members of SD, USA.[7]

External Resources

Alphabet Soup, Jesse Walker, Reason: Hit and Run, 22 May 2003.

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