Socialist Equality Party (Germany)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Germany)

The Partei für Soziale Gleichheit and the WSWS

225. The International Committee concluded from the bankruptcy of the reformist organisations that the previous organisational form of its sections as “Leagues” or “Bund” was no longer appropriate. This form had been selected at a time when many militant workers actively supported the social-democratic or Stalinist mass parties and trade unions. The political activity of the sections of the ICFI “therefore assumed, despite variations in tactics, that the starting point of a great new revolutionary reorientation of the working class would proceed in the form of a radicalisation among the most class-conscious and politically-active elements within the ranks of these organisations. Out of that movement, in which the sections of the International Committee would play a catalytic role as the most intransigent opponents of Social Democracy and Stalinism, would arise the real possibilities for the establishment of a mass revolutionary party”, David North explained. That was no longer the case. “If there is to be leadership given to the working class, it must be provided by our party. If a new road is to be opened for the masses of working people, it must be opened by our organisation. The problem of the leadership cannot be resolved on the basis of a clever tactic. We cannot resolve the crisis of working class leadership by ‘demanding’ that others provide that leadership. If there is to be a new party, then we must build it.” Every section of the International Committee began preparations for the establishment of such parties.[1]

226. On March 20, 1997, a national conference of the BSA near Darmstadt founded the Partei für Soziale Gleichheit. The conference resolution explained: “In the post-war period the SPD and the trade unions still combined a bourgeois programme—the defence of private property—with the defence of social reforms. This enabled workers to secure their daily needs through these organisations, even if their politics ran contrary to workers’ long-term interests.… Today the SPD and the trade unions openly oppose the workers, even in the defence of their daily needs. Both their members and voters desert them in droves. The defence of even the most minimal demand places before workers tasks that can only be resolved through the building of a new party. Such a party cannot emerge from the rubble of the old, politically bankrupt organisations. It can develop only by assembling the most politically advanced workers around the historically developed programme of the Fourth International. That is why the BSA has seized the initiative to create this party. It places the working class in the position to raise its own voice and intervene as an independent force in social events.”[2]

227. The name Partei für Soziale Gleichheit was selected on the basis of careful consideration. It expressed “the fundamental objective of the new party: it is in irreconcilable opposition to the prevailing social tendency, which is characterised by the increasing impoverishment of broad social layers on the one hand, and by the unrestrained enrichment of a small minority on the other. It stands for the goal of the socialist movement: a society in which there are no class differences and which is based on real equality between human beings. And it distinguishes itself from the political crimes, committed by the Stalinists and Social-Democratic bureaucracies, in the name of socialism, which they theoretically falsified.”[3]

228. The development of the International Committee into a politically unified world party after the split with the WRP culminated in January 1998 in the establishment of the World Socialist Web Site. Epoch-making developments in communications, closely followed by the International Committee, created the technological conditions for the WSWS. The Internet was an extraordinary medium for the spread of revolutionary ideas and for organising revolutionary work. For many decades, the production of newspapers had played a central and crucial role in the structure of the revolutionary movement. Lenin had dedicated a substantial part of his groundbreaking work What Is to Be Done? to an explanation of the role of an all-Russian newspaper. The BSA had, since its founding in 1971, published a newspaper—first Der Funke and then Neue Arbeiterpresse. But their distribution depended on the number of party members available to sell it. The Internet created the conditions to overcome this restriction and to extend the party’s readership.

229. The WSWS was not, however, merely a product of Internet technology. It was based on the same conceptions as the transformation of leagues into parties: the International Committee had to play the key role in the political re-orientation of the working class on the basis of Marxism. The WSWS relied on the entire theoretical capital of the Marxist world movement. As the Editorial Board explained: “The World Socialist Web Site, published by the coordinated efforts of ICFI members in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America, takes as its starting point the international character of the class struggle. It assesses political developments in every country from the standpoint of the world crisis of capitalism and the political tasks confronting the international working class. Flowing from this perspective, it resolutely opposes all forms of chauvinism and national parochialism. We are confident that the WSWS will become an unprecedented tool for the political education and unification of the working class on an international scale. It will help working people of different countries coordinate their struggles against capital, just as the transnational corporations organise their war against labour across national boundaries. It will facilitate discussion between workers of all nations, allowing them to compare their experiences and elaborate a common strategy. The International Committee of the Fourth International intends to use this technology as a tool for the liberation of the working people and oppressed all over the world.”


David North, The Workers League and the Founding of the Socialist Equality Party, Detroit 1996, p. 18-19, 30.


Partei für Soziale Gleichheit, Grundsätze und Ziele, Essen 1997, p. 11-12, 129.


ibid. p. 5.