Workingmen's Party of the United States

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The Workingmen's Party of the United States (WPUS), established in 1876, was one of the first Marxist-influenced political parties in the United States. It is remembered as the forerunner of the Socialist Labor Party of America.

Organizational history[edit]


The WPUS was formed on July 19 1876 when a congress of socialists from around the United States met in Philadelphia in an attempt to unify their political power.[1] Seven societies sent representatives, and within four days the party was formed under the name of the Workingmen's Party of the United States. The party, composed mostly of foreign-born laborers, represented a collection of socialist ideas from different groups, most notably followers of Karl Marx and Ferdinand Lassalle. The Lassallean faction believed in forming a socialist political party to advance their agenda incrementally through the electoral process. Marxian socialists, however, opposed to reformism believed in forming a socialist party as an instrument of organization of the proletariat to propagate consciousness leading to an ultimate revolutionary seizing of state power. They championed strong trade unions, strikes, and boycotts to develop class consciousness through class conflict.[2]

The party at first had little influence over any politics in the United States on a national or local level. Much like the International Workingmen's Association before it, the WPUS was widely viewed as socialistic. However, during the railroad strikes during the summer of 1877, the party, led by the charismatic and well-spoken American Albert Parsons, showed some of its power by rallying support for the striking railroad workers.[3]

Although the WPUS was largely unsuccessful in the strikes it helped lead, on August 6, 1878 the party had managed to gain enough popularity to capture 5 out of 7 seats in Kentucky state legislature.[4][citation needed] As news spread around the country of the success of the WPUS, more "Workingmen's Parties" formed in cities around the country, some chartered by the WPUS and some not.

Name Change[edit]

In December 1877, the Lassallean-led organization changed its name from the Workingmen's Party of the United States to the Socialist Labor Party of North America.[5]


  1. ^ "Notes on the Early History of American Communism". 1 February 2014. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  2. ^ Dray, Philip (2010). There Is Power In A Union. New York: Doubleday. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-385-52629-6.
  3. ^ Dray, Philip (2010). There Is Power In A Union. New York: Doubleday. pp. 114–15. ISBN 978-0-385-52629-6.
  4. ^ Foner, Philip (1984). The Workingmen's Party of the United States. Minneapolis, MN: MEP Publications. p. 100. ISBN 0-930656-35-0.
  5. ^ Draper, Theodore (1957). Roots of American Communism (1st ed.). Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, Inc. p. 12. ISBN 0929587006.

Further reading[edit]

  • Philip S. Foner, The Great Labor Uprising of 1877. New York: Monad Press, 1977.
  • Robert V. Bruce, 1877: Year of Violence. Indianapolis: The Bobbs Merrill Company, 1959.

External links[edit]