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Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives Printed Ephemera Collection on the Socialist Workers Party

Call Number



1932-1999, inclusive


Tamiment Library


4 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials

Materials are in English


The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives Printed Ephemera Collection on the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is an artificial collection, collected and assembled by the Tamiment Library over the course of several decades. The collection is a selection of printed matter put out by the Socialist Workers Party, including event fliers, brochures, election and campaign material, bulletins, pamphlets and other publications. In addition to the printed ephemera put out by the SWP, the collection also contains material produced by youth and affiliated organizations, namely the Young Socialist Alliance and the Militant Labor Forum. Included in the collection are the pamphlets and publications produced by SWP publishing houses and presses, these include: Pioneer Publishers, Merit Publishers, Pathfinder Press, and the SWP's own newspaper, The Militant.

Historical/Biographical Note

The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) traces its origins back to the Communist League of America, a group of exiled Communist Party of the United States of America members who supported Leon Trotsky over Joseph Stalin. 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 early in 1938. The SWP's paper, The Militant, has been in publication since 1928. The group also maintains the Pathfinder Press. Founders included James P. Cannon and George Breitman.

From the beginning, the SWP viewed itself as the American section of an international left wing of the communist movement. The SWP believed that the program and practices of the Communist International were in need of drastic reform. Going even further, the Fourth International was established in 1938 with the proclaimed goal of completely supplanting the Communist International and serving as the world party of socialist revolution.

Political differences and ruptures plagued the Fourth International for the next four decades. In the 1980s, the Socialist Workers Party found itself increasingly at odds with the international body as the party ceased to define itself as Trotskyist. The 12th World Congress of the Fourth International in 1985 was the last in which representatives of the Socialist Workers Party participated.

The SWP has run candidates in presidential elections since 1948. The Young Socialist Alliance is the youth wing of the SWP.


The collection is arranged into three series: Series I: SWP General Files, 1937-1996; Series II: SWP Affiliated and Youth Organizations, 1932-1999; Series III: Presses and Publishers, 1934-1998. Folders are arranged alphabetically within series.

Scope and Content Note

The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives Printed Ephemera Collection on the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) consists of constitutions, convention proceedings, reports, memoranda and press releases as well as printed ephemera such as fliers, brochures, circular letters, newspapers clippings, pamphlets and publications.

Series I: Socialist Workers Party General Files, 1937-1996, contains printed material put out by the Socialist Workers Party, including fliers, brochures, conference announcements, pamphlets and publications. Also included are constitutions, memoranda, press releases and convention proceedings. A large portion of this Series is material related to SWP national and local election campaigns, ranging in date from George Breitman's campaigns in the 1940s for City Commission in Newark and US Senator of New Jersey up through various national and local campaigns in 1992. There are materials put out by youth groups in the 1960s and 1970s in support of SWP candidates including Young Socialists for Halstead and Boutelle, High School Students for Boutelle, and the Young Socialists for Jenness and Pulley. This Series also contains a number of fliers for events and meetings. When noted, material has been separated by department or committee, with material coming largely from the National Education Department and consisting of course outlines and discussion guides on the history of Bolshevism, Trotskyism, the ABCs of Marxism, and dialectical materialism. This Series contains two scrapbooks, collections of articles and fliers on the "Negro Question" and the "Russian Questions." A large selection of the material was generated by the SWP nationally, relating to events, meetings, and conferences happening in and around New York State and City. However, there are a few files documenting events from other locations around the US, including Los Angeles, Minnesota and New Jersey.

Series II: Socialist Workers Party Affiliated and Youth Organizations, 1932-1999, contains printed material put out by various groups affiliated with the Socialist Workers Party, including their youth wing known as the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA). Included from the YSA are event fliers outlining the YSA's opposition to the Vietnam War, their position on black nationalism and feminism, and their support for labor and unionization generally, as well as for a 1970 strike of cafeteria and library workers at NYU. From YSA there are also election campaign materials, stickers, conference brochures, educational bulletins, and a number of pamphlets and brochures describing who the YSA are and how to join. Series II also contains material from the Communist League of America (Opposition), a predecessor of the SWP, the International Tendency, a break away group, and a wide selection of event fliers held at the Militant Labor Forum.

Series III: Presses and Publishers, 1934-1998, contains pamphlets and publications put out by the presses and publishing houses affiliated with the Socialist Workers Party. These include, Merit Publishers, Pathfinder Press, and Pioneer Publishers, as well as material by the SWP's own newspaper, The Militant. The pamphlets are organized by date as well as by subject. Prominent topics in the collection include: African Americans and civil rights, feminism and women's liberation, Cuba, fascism, labor and the Labor Party, McCarthyism, and the Minneapolis Trial where 18 leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and Minneapolis Truckdrivers Union were convicted and imprisoned.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Because of the assembled nature of this collection, copyright status varies across the collection. Copyright is assumed to be held by the original creator of individual items in the collection; these items are expected to pass into the public domain 120 years after their creation. Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives is not authorized to grant permission to publish or reproduce materials from this collection.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Collection name; Collection number; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials in this collection have been compiled by the Tamiment Library. There is no accession record associated with this collection.

Custodial History

The provenance of the materials is varied. Items were obtained through purchases, donations, standing orders with publishers, arrangements with labor unions and other organizations, exchanges with other libraries, and through ongoing collecting by Tamiment staff.

Related Material at the Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

George Breitman Papers (TAM 169)

Collection processed by

Adrien Hilton

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 16:28:38 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Description is in English


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012