A Beginner’s Guide to American Communist Parties: Part 2

January 22, 2019 Updated: February 20, 2019

Commentary

Part Two of this series addresses American communist groups that organize outside of the Democratic Party, unlike their Democrat friendly counterparts, which were discussed in Part One.

Broadly speaking, there are two categories of hard-left organizations in the United States: those who organize within the Democrat Party and those who don’t. Those who generally stay away from the Democratic Party include dedicated ideologues who are more likely to engage in street violence and—like their Democrat friendly counterparts—work with foreign communist regimes and groups.

While hardened communists represent a small fraction of the population, they have a surprisingly powerful impact but receive little scrutiny from the establishment media. The Revolutionary Communist Party’s flag-burning activities, for example, resulted in a Supreme Court decision that continues to reverberate.

The Revolutionary Communist Party’s front group, Refuse Fascism, placed a full-page ad in The New York Times that was signed by former Weather Underground terrorist, communist, and friend of former President Barack Obama, Bill Ayers; professor of theology and Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) member Cornel West; and militant anti-Israel activist Marc Lamont Hill, to name a few.

The hardcore Marxist Workers World Party was behind the headline-grabbing push to demolish confederate-era statues. The Freedom Road Socialist Organization/FightBack! fought to keep terrorist murderer Rasmea Odeh in the United States.

Communists of all stripes descended upon Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown; they were behind the Standing Rock standoff over the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota; they flooded to the border to support the Honduras Caravan at the end of 2018; they descended upon Charlottesville, North Carolina, in August 2017 to protest the so-called “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally; they were behind numerous violent anti-Trump protests of 2016 and 2017.

Communists agitate their way into headlines on a regular basis; yet many Americans believe communists somehow evaporated when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down in 1989.

This two-part series offers a birds-eye view of the U.S.-based organizations, and hopefully plants the seed for readers to understand that these subversive organizations exist, and they seek to hurt America.

Socialist Party USA (SPUSA)

In the early 20th century, the Socialist Party USA (SPUSA) was the largest Marxist group on the U.S. left with 100,000 members and boasted numerous elected officials, mainly in the Midwest. The SPUSA lost many members to the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) in the 1920s, and much of the remaining remnant to the Democratic Socialists Organizing Committee in the 1970s.

Today’s SPUSA overlaps with the Green Party in some areas, with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) in Memphis, Tennessee, and with DSA nationally.

In Memphis, the SPUSA controls the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center and interacts with local Democrats such as Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.).

The SPUSA is probably less than 1,000 members in total, but has a presence in almost every state.

The party is extremely militant, and is effective in some areas on local issues, but is ultimately a fringe player on the U.S. left.

Socialist Workers Party

In the 1970s, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) was a leading force in the anti-Vietnam War movement. Its newspaper, The Militant, was widely read on the U.S. left. The SWP began as a pro-Leon Trotsky split from the CPUSA in the 1920s, and for many years was the country’s second-largest communist party. Currently, the SWP is a shadow of its former self.

The SWP abandoned Trotskyism in the 1980s, and now orientates its international activities around Cuba and the old Soviet front the World Federation of Democratic Youth. The SWP has tiny sister groups in Canada, Iceland, the UK, New Zealand, and Australia.

In the United States, the SWP is now little more than a Marxist cult. Their tactic is to recruit bright young college students then put them to work for decades in meat-packing plants in Iowa or Nebraska to connect with the “working class.” This talent-wasting exercise has been applied since the 1970s with minimal results.

But they keep trying.

The once-dynamic SWP retains maybe 500 members nationwide.

Freedom Socialist Party

The Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) began in 1966 as a split from the SWP in Seattle. It is militantly feminist, “anti-racist,” and pro-Cuba. Today, the FSP has branches in Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and Melbourne, Australia. It probably has less than 200 members in total.

The FSP is big on “abortion clinic defense,” usually through their front-group Radical Women.

Workers World Party

The Workers World Party (WWP) is one of the most hardcore Marxist organizations of any consequence in the United States. It was founded in 1959 as a pro-China split from the SWP. The banner line for its newspaper, The Workers World, is “Workers and Oppressed Peoples of the World Unite.”

They incorporate elements of Stalin, Mao, and Trotsky into their revolutionary philosophy.

The WWP is a serious communist party, very active in street protests and often prone to violence. When you see Confederate statues being toppled in North Carolina or Louisiana—that’s the WWP.

The WWP has close ties to Russia, North Korea, and Cuba. These people are one of the most dangerous communist parties in the country.

The WWP has 400–600 members in about 30 branches, mainly in the New York, Boston, Chicago, and the West Coast.

The WWP runs its own candidates, but the Durham, North Carolina, branch does work with Democrats.

In 2018, the WWP’s very strong Detroit branch split from the organization to form a new group, the Communist Workers League.

Party for Socialism and Liberation 

The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) was originally created in 2006, as the result of a split in the WWP, although their “political line” is almost identical. The San Francisco branch, as well as several other members, left the WWP in 2004. The PSL has since established two national branches in Washington and in San Francisco, as well as more than 20 smaller branches throughout the United States, from Sarasota, Florida, to West Virginia to Portland, Oregon.

The PSL is a dynamic and growing party but suffers a high burnout rate of cadre. It is probably 500–800 members strong.

The PSL is very close to Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Cuba, even the ruling Communist Party of Nepal. PSL leader Brian Becker is a regular on Russian propaganda channel Russia Today and has his own show on Russian channel Sputnik.

These people are serious communists.

Becker and the PSL have ties to several Muslim groups, including the Nation of Islam and the pro-Hamas Muslim American Society.

The PSL controls the nationwide anti-U.S. military organization the ANSWER Coalition.

Freedom Road Socialist Organization-Fight Back!

The Freedom Road Socialist Organization-Fight Back! (FRSO-FB) split from the Freedom Road Socialist Organization in 1998 but kept the same name. FRSO-FB is centered in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Wisconsin, with some strength in New York, North Carolina, northern Florida, eastern Texas, Arizona, Utah, and California. It’s probably around 500 members strong, more if you count its youth wing, Students for a Democratic Society.

The FRSO-FB is hard-core Maoist. It supports China, and three officially designated terrorist organizations: the Communist Party of the Philippines, Colombia’s FARC guerrillas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Because of these connections, the FBI raided the homes of several FRSO-FB members in September 2010 and issued subpoenas in a search for evidence related to material support of terrorist groups. No charges were ever made.

FRSO-FB works closely with the WWP and together have built ties to pro-Putin elements in Russia. The FRSO-FB also has close ties to Venezuela.

Solidarity

Headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, Solidarity is feminist, green, and socialist. Originally formed by ex-SWP members in 1986, Solidarity is affiliated to the Fourth International, a worldwide alliance of Trotskyist parties. Only about 200 members strong, Solidarity has most presence in New York City and California.

Solidarity comrades mainly support the Green Party and have some overlap with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (not the FightBack! group) and with the DSA.

League of Revolutionaries for a New America

League of Revolutionaries for a New America (LRNA) morphed out of the old Communist Labor Party (CLP), a Maoist grouping that originated out of a pro-China split in the CPUSA in 1958. The early CLP was predominately black and Puerto Rican, and today’s LRNA is largely comprised of “people of color.” The LRNA is extremely secretive about membership, which probably stands at about 300.

People’s Tribune was the newspaper of the LRNA, with Rally Comrades! now its official publication. Its best-known affiliate now is probably Caleb Maupin, a convert from the WWP. He is a regular guest on Russia Today and a correspondent for Iran’s PressTV.

International Socialist Organization

Founded in 1977, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) is now America’s largest Trotskyist organization. It was aligned for years with the British Socialist Workers Party, but now has relations with several foreign Trotskyist groupings in Canada, Australia, and Europe. The ISO has 1,500 to 2,000 members and is present in most northern and western U.S. cities and Texas.

The ISO is very active on campuses and in the anti-war movement. It works with and inside the Green Party. Many ISO leaders have stood for office on the Green ticket, especially in California.

The ISO publishes a daily online and monthly print newspaper, Socialist Worker. ISO also distributes the International Socialist Review and titles from the publishing house Haymarket Books, both of which are run by the nonprofit Center for Economic Research and Social Change.

Every year, the ISO hosts a well-attended “Socialism” conference in Chicago.

Socialist Alternative

Socialist Alternative (SA) is in political solidarity with the Committee for a Workers’ International, a worldwide Trotskyist alliance working in more than 30 countries. SA is the second-largest U.S. Trotskyist grouping after ISO, with probably 600 to 800 members active in most states.

SA first emerged as “Labor Militant” in 1986, inspired by the example of the UK socialist group Militant Tendency, which sought to infiltrate the British Labour Party. SA advocates for electoral opposition to the Democratic Party and concentrates on running its own candidates. After many electoral campaigns—often on the Green Party ticket—SA’s biggest success to date was electing their comrade Kshama Sawant to Seattle City Council in 2013.

Party of Communists, USA

The Party of Communists, USA (PCUSA) split from the CPUSA in 2014, mainly because they thought their party was becoming indistinguishable from the Democratic Party.

Though probably less than 200 members, the diehard Stalinist PCUSA sees itself as the true leader of American communism and has reached out to more “mainstream” communist parties in Mexico, Cuba, Europe, Russia, and Canada.

The PCUSA is strongest in Los Angeles and New York City, where it has some influence in the Transit Workers Union. The PCUSA publishes a magazine, Ideological Fightback!, and runs a front group called the U.S. Friends of the Soviet People.

Revolutionary Communist Party

Revolutionary Communist Party (Revcom) is the most cult-like group on the U.S. left. These people worship their great leader Bob Avakian and hang onto his every word.

Revcom has roots in the Maoist student movement of the Vietnam War era of the 1960s and 1970s. It has active chapters in at least 15 population centers, mainly centered around their Revolution bookshops. Once boasting several thousand members, Revcom today is probably around 500 to 800 members, centered largely in Chicago and the Bay Area.

Revcom supports only the most extreme foreign Maoists, such as Peru’s notorious Sendero Luminoso guerrillas.

Revcom leaders believe “elections are not the arena where decisions are made about the future direction of the society” and do not participate in them.

Their newsletter, Revolution, is published weekly in print and online. The Antifa-like “Refuse Fascism” protest group is a front group for Revcom.

Revcom’s trademark is burning U.S. flags. If you see protesters in black T-shirts gleefully immolating Old Glory, it’s almost certainly Revcom.

The Nature of Communist Organizations

Keep in mind that leftist groups often overlap, morph, and split. Like their principles, these groups are forever changing, which adds to the complexity in researching them. One thing that does not change, however, is the goal of all these organizations: global communism, which they believe can only be achieved through revolution.

The biggest debate within leftist groups is how to best achieve “revolution.” Is it through the constant chaos of violent protest, as advised by Leon Trotsky? Is it through the “march through the institutions” as directed by Antonio Gramsci? Or perhaps through race-baiting tactics, turning people against one another, as preferred by Mao Zedong?

No matter how this revolution is achieved, the United States is the biggest obstacle in their path. Once the United States succumbs to communism, these activists believe they will directly oversee a new world order.

Trevor Loudon is an author, filmmaker, and public speaker from New Zealand. For more than 30 years, he has researched radical left, Marxist ,and terrorist movements and their covert influence on mainstream politics.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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