Milton Fisk

Socialism From Below in the United States



Judged in terms of their promise to build a revolutionary party, the political groups in the tradition of socialism-from-below in the US have so far failed. The revolutionary Communist Party of the early twenties was wrecked by Stalinism. The Worker? Party of the early forties sank into reformism and Stalinophobia. The task faced by new groups emerging from the political wreckage of older ones was in part always to perpetuate the tradition itself of socialism-from-below. However disappointing the failures of the various groups to build a genuine revolutionary party, there is the fact that the tradition ha. been kept alive. What follows is an account of the splits and turns that have carried that tradition through sixty years.

The International Socialist Organization views itself as an inheritor of that tradition. On the shoulders of the best in that tradition, it is struggling to build a socialist current in the US out of which a revolutionary workers’ party will emerge. It is more then than a repository of the tradition of socialism-from-below. It sees the period since 1968 as one of economic stagnation and social instability on a world scale. In these conditions struggles can develop that with the leadership of a revolutionary party can be directed against the state and the social system the state perpetuates.

The ISO reaffirms its tradition by holding that worker exploitation and minority and sex oppression will not be done away with by technical elites, labor officials, party bureaucrats, or liberal politicians. Only a movement of the exploited and of the oppressed can do this. Moreover, it rejects the view that reform struggles will of themselves lead to revolutionary struggle. against the state and the overarching social system. While participating in reform struggles, revolutionaries attempt to deepen the socialist current by generating socialist consciousness in the militants in those struggles.

It is these aspects of the tradition of socialism-from-below that provide the perspective from which the events that follow are judged.

Milton Fisk
Bloomington, Indiana
May 1977


Last updated on 9.1.2002