Communist party of the United States of America

Alternative names
Dates:
Active 1919
Active 1973
English, Spanish; Castilian

History notes:

The Communist party of the United States is a left-wing Marxist party dedicated to revolutionary socialism and, until the anti-Communist Soviet revolution of 1991, to support of the Communist party of the USSR. With the establishment of the Communist International (COMINTERN) in Moscow in 1919, new Communist parties were founded in many countries including the United States. There have been many name changes and ideological shifts in the party over the years. Beginning in 1956, there was an ideological split over de-Stalinization and the Hungarian Revolution.

From the guide to the Communist Party of the United States of America records, circa 1956-1960, (University of Washington Libraries Special Collections)

The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) was founded in 1919 by members of the left wing of the Socialist Party USA. The CPUSA played an important role in the labor movement, particularly in the building of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, in struggles for civil rights for African Americans, while its cultural initiatives attracted a number of prominent artists and intellectuals, and its struggles to attain and maintain its legality were an important chapter in the history of U.S. civil liberties. The Central Control Commission (which later, i.e., ca. the 1940s became the Central Review Commission) of the Communist Party was responsible for internal Party discipline of both individuals and Party units.

From the description of Communist Party of the United States of America records. Central Control Commission records, [ca.1929-1953] [microform]. (New York University). WorldCat record id: 477173738

The Communist Party of the United States of America (Communist Party USA), formed in 1919 to advance socialism in the United States.

From the description of Communist Party of the United States of America pamphlet collection, 1919-1973. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 460950098

The Communist Party, USA was founded in 1919 by members of the left wing of the Socialist Party USA. The CPUSA played an important role in the labor movement, particularly in building the Congress of Industrial Organizations in the 1930s-1940s, and in struggles for civil rights for African Americans. The Party's cultural initiatives in the 1930s attracted a number of prominent artists and intellectuals, and its struggles to attain and maintain its legality were an important chapter in the history of U.S. civil liberties. Though the importance of the CPUSA declined after the 1950s, the Party remained active in the areas of anti-imperialism, civil rights, labor, peace, and women's rights.

From the guide to the Communist Party of the United States of America Audio Collection, Bulk, 1965-1989, 1920s - 1999, (Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive)

The Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), a Marxist-Leninist party aligned with the Soviet Union, was founded in 1919 in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution by the left wing members of the Socialist Party USA. These split into two groups, with each holding founding conventions in Chicago in September 1919: one which established the Communist Labor Party, and a second which established the Communist Party of America. In a 1920 Joint Unity Convention, a minority faction of the Communist Party of America merged with the Communist Labor Party to become the United Communist Party. Under the strong recommendation of the Communist International (Comintern), the UCP ultimately joined the remaining members of the Communist Party of America in May 1921. At this point, the Party existed largely in an underground, clandestine manner. In December 1921, it formed the Workers Party of America to serve as its legal arm with the purpose of securing its right to a legal and open existence; the WPA in 1922 became the Workers (Communist) Party of America, the recognized U.S. affiliate of the Comintern. The Party established its newspaper, the Daily Worker, in 1924 as a means to communicate with membership and a larger left wing audience about the Party’s policies and positions on a wide range of current events, with an emphasis on labor issues and social justice. By 1927, the Party had moved its headquarters to New York City. In 1929, it officially declared its name as the Communist Party of the United States of America, and had an affiliated youth group, the Young Communist League.

The CPUSA’s highest governing body is its National Convention, which meets every few years to decide basic policy questions. The day to day leadership of the party is directed by about a dozen members of the Political Bureau or Political Committee and members from various national commissions. Between conventions, policy is set by a National Committee that consists of full time cadre, leading activists, public notables, and party officers. Between National Committee meetings, policy is set by the Central Committee. Due to a decline in Party membership, the Central and National Committees and their functions were merged into one body during the late 1980s; this body is now called the National Committee. At the regional level, the Party is divided into districts, which may be comprised of several states. Each district is made up of local clubs which form the most basic unit of the Party; in the early days of the Party, clubs were referred to as cells. Clubs are based on place of work (shop club) or on residence (neighborhood club).

As the prospect of imminent revolution in the United States faded, the Party focused on working within existing labor organizations, a tactic known as “boring from within”, under the leadership of labor organizer William Z. Foster. It also began the process of “Bolshevization,” in which the Party’s language-based federations were reorganized into shop and neighborhood-based Party units. During the 1920s, much of the Party’s energy was consumed by factional struggles between various left and right groups; these struggles mirrored events occurring in the international Communist movement, like the 1928 expulsion of Leon Trotsky’s sympathizers. A political left turn in that year initiated the so-called Third Period (1928-1934) of Communism, in which the Party sharply attacked moderate socialist groups as “social fascists,” and sought to form its own revolutionary trade unions rather than work within existing labor unions. This tactic, known as dual unionism, was not successful on its own terms, but it helped build a cadre of organizers who went on to play important roles in the development of the CIO. This was also the period during which the CPUSA developed a new stance on the status of black Americans, recognizing their oppression based on their nationality in addition to their class. This decision drew significant support among African and Caribbean American leftists. Beginning in 1928, the CPUSA ran candidates for president and vice president, including an African American vice presidential candidate, James W. Ford, in 1932. In 1930, the Party established the International Workers Order, a fraternal organization organized around ethnicity, which eventually grew to approximately a quarter million members. The largest single section was the Jewish Peoples Fraternal Order, a reflection of the fact that Jews were the largest ethnic group within the CPUSA.

The onset of the Great Depression led to an upsurge in Party activity, as members increased efforts to organize labor and rallied as advocates for the unemployed. The Party was also instrumental in the defense of political prisoners. Through the International Labor Defense, a legal defense organization affiliated with the CPUSA, Communist attorneys contributed to the defense of the Scottsboro Boys, nine young black men accused of rape. This period also saw the rise to leadership of Earl Browder, who was General Secretary of the Party from 1930-1945.

By 1935, the triumph of fascism in Germany led the Communist movement to embrace Popular Front politics. Communists began collaborating not only with socialists, but with liberals on anti-fascist and reformist goals. The CPUSA endorsed the New Deal, though it voiced many criticisms of the program. It also coined the slogan “Communism is Twentieth Century Americanism,” in an attempt to emphasize that the organization reflected the best traditions of progressive American history. With the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations in 1935, hundreds of veteran Communist labor organizers helped organize millions of workers, and emerged as the leadership of the United Electrical Workers, the National Maritime Union, and several smaller unions. They were also an integral part of a progressive coalition heading the United Automobile Workers. In the South, the Party was committed to ending legal segregation and ensuring equal voting rights for minorities; through the Southern Negro Youth Congress in the 1930s and 1940s, the CPUSA worked to mobilize students, farmers, and industrial workers to overturn segregation laws and to build support for anti-lynching legislation. The Party was also a leading force in the American Student Union. By the summer of 1939, the Party had nearly 60,000 members and many more sympathizers, garnering a certain degree of respectability as a part of the left wing of the New Deal.

During the late 1930s and coinciding with the American-Soviet wartime alliance, the Communist Party had some significant electoral successes. As a result of proportional representation, two Communists were elected in the 1940s to the New York City Council, one on the Communist Party ticket and one on the American Labor Party ticket. Communists also allied with Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor Party and were sometimes instrumental in the selection and election of progressive Democratic Party candidates.

In August 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed a non-aggression pact committing to cease anti-fascist action. During the years of the non-aggression pact, membership declined sharply, and the Party lost substatncial influence among popular front organizations.

However, with the entry of the Soviet Union into the war in 1941, the Party abruptly returned to its Popular Front anti-fascist politics and recovered much of its influence. It reached its peak membership of about 80,000 during WWII. In its eagerness to be seen as part of the patriotic war effort, the Party had even tacitly endorsed the internment of Japanese Americans. Party General Secretary Earl Browder put forth the view that the postwar period could feature a continued U.S.-Soviet alliance, an expansion of the New Deal, and the indefinite postponement of the struggle for socialism. This proposal was reflected in the 1944 name change of the Party to the Communist Political Association. However, the onset of the Cold War undermined such hopes. By the end of 1945, the Party had reverted to its former name, deposing Earl Browder in favor of William Z. Foster, one of Browder’s main critics. The postwar economic boom, along with the rising tide of anti-communism, further weakened the appeal of the CPUSA.

In 1947, the Truman administration instituted a loyalty oath program for Federal employees and began background investigations on persons deemed suspect of holding party membership in organizations that advocated violent and anti-democratic programs. That same year, the U.S. Attorney General compiled a list of organizations considered to be subversive. The CPUSA backed independent candidate Henry Wallace during the 1948 Presidential election; it also sought continued good relations with the USSR and opposed Truman’s Cold War foreign policies. During this period, anti-communist measures accelerated. In 1949, the CIO expelled eleven unions deemed to be Communist dominated, and the top twelve leaders of the CPUSA were indicted and subsequently convicted under the Smith Act. Smith Act prosecutions of additional leading Communists followed the conviction of the initial group. Based in part on these measures, the House Committee on Un-American Activities held extensive hearings at which witnesses were expected to name political associates or face contempt charges unless they invoked the Fifth Amendment. The entertainment industry compiled its own list of suspected subversives, who were then denied employment. In 1950, the Subversive Activities Control Act was passed over President Harry Truman’s veto. It required Communist organizations to register with the United States Attorney General and established the Subversive Activities Control Board to investigate persons suspected of engaging in subversive activities or otherwise promoting the establishment of a “totalitarian dictatorship.” This act decimated the full range of the Party’s Popular Front organizations. At the state level, there were analogous laws, prosecutions, and hearings.

Fearing the onset of a fascist dictatorship, the Party sent most of its leadership underground, further weakening the organization. The worst of the anti-communist fervor began to recede after the 1954 censure of Senator Eugene McCarthy and some favorable Supreme Court rulings. However, in 1956 the Communist Party was devastated by Soviet Premier Khrushchev’s “Secret Speech” which acknowledged that crimes had been committed under the regime of Stalin. The Party, which had already lost three-quarters of its membership, suffered further losses, and went through a two-year internal crisis. This resulted in the 1958 defeat and resignation of the social democratic reform-minded elements within the Party. By 1959, when Gus Hall became General Secretary, the membership was less than 5,000.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the role of women and African Americans in the leadership of the Party increased notably. Children of Communists or former Communists made up a significant component of the young white civil rights workers who traveled to the South in the early and mid 1960s. Bettina Aptheker, daughter of the well-known Communist historian Herbert Aptheker, was a leading activist in the Free Speech Movement at the University of California at Berkeley. Charlene Mitchell, an African American, was the Party’s 1968 presidential candidate; Angela Davis, also African American, ran for Vice-President on the Communist Party ticket in 1980 and 1984. The Party’s National Chair was occupied by African American Henry Winston from 1966-1986. After his death, African American Jarvis Tyner, former head of the New York State District, stepped into the position, then renamed Executive Vice-Chair.

The CPUSA experienced some growth during the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, despite its sometimes ambivalent relationship to the culture and politics of the New Left. The CPUSA’s daily newspaper, the Daily Worker, was revived as the Daily World in 1967; it reported on the rebirth of the civil rights movement, and later, the anti-Vietnam movement and the growing black nationalist movement. In New York City, the Metropolitan Council on Housing, an old left Popular Front organization, grew to become one of the leading tenants’ rights organizations in the city, with its own publication and radio program. Throughout the country, individual Communist activists were elected to local public offices, although none on the Communist Party ballot. The Party also continued its labor activism, establishing Trade Unionists for Action and Democracy, and playing a crucial role in the affairs of Local 1199, which represented hospital workers in the New York City area. It maintained an active opposition caucus within the American Federation of Teachers, opposing the policies of AFT president Albert Shanker.

In the 1980s, the Party continued to promote international peace efforts; working through the U.S. Peace Council, the CPUSA focused on nuclear disarmament and opposed Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, or "Star Wars," program. They also directed more energy to attracting and recruiting a younger generation of activists with the decision to revive an official youth affiliate. The Party’s youth organization had undergone several incarnations throughout the century-from the W.E.B. Du Bois Clubs to the Young Workers Liberation League. By the early 1980s, it was reinstated under its original name, the Young Communist League.

Parallel to the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev, the Party experienced the growth of a reform tendency in the latter 1980s. Many of these reformists left after their political defeat at the 1991 Party convention; they went on to form the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. Despite a severe drop in membership, the CPUSA remained active during the 1990s, maintaining its focus on advocating for the working class, working towards equal rights for racial and ethnic minorities and women, and promoting international peace. With the rise of environmentalism in the 1980s and 1990s, the CPUSA joined in global efforts to protect the environment. Still based in New York City, the CPUSA continues to work on behalf of oppressed communities and advocate progressive social change.

From the guide to the Communist Party of the United States of America Records, Bulk, 1950-1990, 1892-2009, (Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive)

The Daily Worker traces its origins to the Communist Labor Party, founded in Chicago in 1919, and its newspaper the Toiler . When the Communist Labor Party merged with the Workers Party in 1921 the Toiler became the weekly paper The Worker . On January 13, 1924 it changed its name to the Daily Worker . It continued to be published in Chicago until 1927, when the Communist Party moved to New York City. As the official organ of the Communist Party, USA, the Daily Worker's editorial positions reflected the policies of the Communist Party. At the same time the paper also attempted to speak to the broad left-wing community in the United States that included labor, civil rights, and peace activists, with stories covering a wide range of events, organizations and individuals in the United States and around the world. As a daily newspaper, it covered the major stories of the twentieth century. However, there was always an emphasis on radical social movements, social and economic conditions particularly in working class and minority communities, poverty, labor struggles, racial discrimination, right wing extremism with an emphasis on fascist and Nazi movements, and of course the Soviet Union and the world-wide Communist movement.

After the Communist Party moved its operations to New York City the Daily Worker became one of the most influential papers on the American Left. In the late 1920s its circulation was estimated at 17,000 and at its peak in the late 1930s it may have been as high as 35,000.

In October 1935 the Daily Worker began to publish a Sunday edition, later known as the Sunday Worker. That same year, it also added comic strips such as Louis Furstadt's Little Lefty, a countercultural retort to the mainstream press' Little Orphan Annie . In 1938 it added a women's page edited by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Over the years, the paper would publish the work of many notable graphic artists and cartoonists, including prominent figures such as Fred Ellis, who also contributed artwork The New Majority, The Liberator and The Labor Herald ; radical illustrator and muralist Hugo Gellert; painter, journalist and cartoonist Robert Minor; and Ollie Harrington, an African American cartoonist who lived in exile in East Germany for much of his life.

In the mid-1930s the Daily Worker established a sports page that combined extensive sports coverage with incisive social criticism. Sports page editor Lester Rodney led the campaign for the desegregation of professional sports in the United States, particularly baseball. Featuring regular articles on the accomplishments of African American athletes, such as Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis, the Daily Worker made the case that all sports would benefit from integration. As part of this campaign it sponsored a basketball team made up of Harlem's top high school players and persuaded a black professional football team to play a benefit game to raise funds for the paper.

With their leadership role in the Southern Negro Youth Congress, the Communist Party and the Daily Worker played a central role in the early civil rights movement and the anti-lynching campaigns of the 1930s and 1940s, including the campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys, the Angelo Herndon trial, and the work of the International Labor Defense. The Daily Worker denounced the Jim Crow laws of the Southern United States, focusing its coverage on violence directed against the black community and on the emerging struggles to end segregation and racial intimidation.

The Daily Worker's coverage of the unemployment marches in the early years of the Great Depression and the fight for social security and unemployment insurance made it one of the most influential papers on the American Left. Its coverage of the labor battles of the 1930s shaped the way many Americans thought about organized labor. Its reporters and photographers captured the struggles textile workers in Gastonia, North Carolina in 1929; Illinois miners in 1930; California lettuce workers and Flint, Michigan autoworkers in 1931; coal miners in Harlan County, West Virginia ("Bloody Harlan") and teamsters in Minneapolis in 1934. During these years, the paper also documented the impact of the Great Depression on American working people, with stories on housing conditions in Harlem, Hunger Marches and unemployed movement organizing across the country, the campaign for social security, the "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work Campaign," and mobilizations for improved housing. The paper was noted for its investigative reporting about slum housing and block busting in Harlem. Civil rights was an important part of the Daily Worker's agenda and the paper covered most of the major lynching cases of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys was on its front pages for nearly seven years.

The news coverage in the Daily Worker almost always reflected Communist Party policies. During the Trade Union Educational League years of the 1920s this meant support for revolutionary unionism. During the Popular Front years the paper was a leading voice for industrial unionism and the Congress for Industrial Organizations.

As the organ for the Communist Party, USA the Daily Worker provided extensive coverage about the international Communist movement. For the Communist Party the Soviet Union was the center of the world's revolutionary movement. The Daily Worker's coverage of Soviet life, foreign, and domestic policies reflected an uncritical perspective on the Soviet system, as it celebrated life in what it called the "Socialist" countries. These stories often highlighted the miracles of Soviet economic development and ethnic harmony under Socialism. This internationalist perspective often resulted in extensive coverage of the struggles for declonialization in Asia, Africa, and Latin America which were largely invisible in the mainstream press. The Daily Worker often focused on revolutionary nationalism in its various forms from Pan Africanism to the self determination struggles in the Middle East.

With the ascendancy of Adolph Hitler, the fight against Nazism and fascism moved to the center of the Communist Party's agenda in the late 1930s. It reported on Nazi atrocities, and the rising tide of anti-Semitism. In 1936 the Daily Worker sent teams of photographers and reporters to Spain, as it tried to rally the American people to support the Spanish Republic in its brutal civil war with the Falange of General Francisco Franco. These teams returned with images and stories depicting the lives of ordinary Spanish people resisting fascism, the relationship between the Republican army and the International Brigades, and the impact of the fascist bombing in cities such as Guernica.

With the fall of Spain and the signing of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, the CPUSA aligned itself with the new course in Soviet foreign policy, as World War II became an "imperialist war." Between September 1939 and June 1941, the Daily Worker refocused on the domestic scene and the peace movement as a way of trying to divert attention from the Soviet Union's pact with Germany. The paper highlighted campaigns for union rights, job security, and civil liberties.

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941, the Daily Worker's interpretation of the war changed dramatically. The message, as depicted in the articles and photography of the Daily Worker, became World War II as an epic struggle against the Nazis, the role of the Soviet Union as the major battlefield of the war, and the impact of the German invasion on Russia's civilian population. On the cultural front, the paper documented the relationship between politics, folk music and folk dance, covering individuals such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Leadbelly, Sophie Maslow and Martha Graham.

However, the post-war period saw the rise of McCarthyism and the Communist Party under relentless attack. As a result, the Daily Worker experienced a dramatic decrease in circulation and the paper's financial health, always tenuous at best, took a decided turn for the worse. The daily paper closed in January 1958 during the period when the Communist Party was forced to go underground as a result of the repression of the Red Scare. In 1960 it resumed publication as a weekly under the name of The Worker and, although it began biweekly publication several years later, it never again achieved the level of popularity or circulation it enjoyed in the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1967 the paper, now renamed the Daily World, resumed daily publication. It reported on the rebirth of the civil rights movement, including sit-ins, voter registration campaigns and the Freedom Rides, following figures including Martin Luther King, Jr, Ralph Abernathy, Rosa Parks and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. In the late 1960s and 1970s, as the CPUSA aligned itself with the anti-Vietnam War movement and Black Nationalist movements including the Black Panthers, the paper covered important events of that period, including the Soledad Brothers trial, the subsequent arrest and imprisonment of Angela Davis, demonstrations against the war in Vietnam – including massive Moratorium Day demonstrations – on college campuses in New York City and across the country, and the Black Panther Breakfast Program in Harlem.

In 1986 the paper merged with the CPUSA's West Coast weekly, the People's World . The newly formed People's Daily World was published from 1987 until 1991, when daily publication was abandoned in favor of a weekly edition, renamed the People's Weekly World . During this period the paper focused heavily on labor union activity, particularly in cities like Detroit and Chicago, as well as the growing anti-globalization movement.

Shifting its operations back to Chicago between 2001 and 2002, the paper changed its name to the People's World in 2009. In 2010, the paper ceased print publication and became an electronic, online-only, publication.

From the guide to the The, Daily Worker, and, The Daily World, Photographs Collection, Bulk, 1930-1990, 1920-2001, (Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive)

The Daily Worker, the official organ of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA), traces its origins back to the Communist Labor Party, founded in Chicago in 1919. The Communist Labor Party’s paper was known as the Toiler . When the Communist Labor Party and the Workers Party merged in 1921, the Toiler became the weekly paper The Worker . Two years later, the paper changed its name to the Daily Worker . As a daily newspaper, the Daily Worker covered the major stories of the 20th century, while at the same time speaking to the left-wing sector of the American population, which included labor, civil rights, and peace activists. The newspaper emphasized radical social movements, labor struggles, racial discrimination, right wing extremism, the Soviet Union, and the world-wide Communist movement.

The CPUSA grew under increasing attack following WWII. The rise of McCarthyism and the Red Scare eventually forced the Party to go underground, and in 1958, the Daily Worker shut down operation. In 1960, it resumed bi-weekly publication as The Worker, but never achieved the level of popularity it had in the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1967, the paper now known as the Daily World, again became a daily. It reported on the civil rights movement, including sit-ins, voter registration campaigns and the Freedom Rides. In the late 1960s and into the early 1970s, the Daily World aligned itself with the anti-Vietnam War and black nationalist movements.

In 1986 the paper merged with the CPUSA's West Coast weekly, the People's World . The newly formed People's Daily World was published from 1987 until 1991, when daily publication was abandoned in favor of a weekly edition, renamed the People's Weekly World . During this period the paper focused heavily on labor union activity, particularly in cities like Detroit and Chicago, as well as the growing anti-globalization movement.

Shifting its operations back to Chicago between 2001 and 2002, the paper changed its name to the People's World in 2009. In 2010, the paper ceased print publication and became an electronic, online-only, publication.

Specific artists represented in the Daily Worker/ Daily World Cartoon Collection include: Fred Ellis, Ollie Harrington, Hugo Gellert, Norman Goldberg, Kinkaid, and James Erickson (Eric), among numerous others.

From the guide to the The, Daily Worker, and, Daily World, Cartoon Collection, Bulk, 1940-1980, 1928-2002, (Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive)

The Daily Worker traces its origins to the Communist Labor Party, founded in Chicago in 1919, and its newspaper the Toiler . When the Communist Labor Party merged with the Workers Party in 1921 the Toiler became the weekly paper The Worker . On January 13, 1924 it changed its name to the Daily Worker . It continued to be published in Chicago until 1927, when the Communist Party moved to New York City. As the official organ of the Communist Party, USA, the Daily Worker's editorial positions reflected the policies of the Communist Party. At the same time the paper also attempted to speak to the broad left-wing community in the United States that included labor, civil rights, and peace activists, with stories covering a wide range of events, organizations and individuals in the United States and around the world. As a daily newspaper, it covered the major stories of the twentieth century. However, there was always an emphasis on radical social movements, social and economic conditions particularly in working class and minority communities, poverty, labor struggles, racial discrimination, right wing extremism with an emphasis on fascist and Nazi movements, and of course the Soviet Union and the world-wide Communist movement.

After the Communist Party moved its operations to New York City the Daily Worker became one of the most influential papers on the American Left. In the late 1920s its circulation was estimated at 17,000 and at its peak in the late 1930s it may have been as high as 35,000.

In October 1935 the Daily Worker began to publish a Sunday edition, later known as the Sunday Worker. That same year, it also added comic strips such as Louis Furstadt's Little Lefty, a countercultural retort to the mainstream press' Little Orphan Annie . In 1938 it added a women's page edited by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Over the years, the paper would publish the work of many notable graphic artists and cartoonists, including prominent figures such as Fred Ellis, who also contributed artwork The New Majority, The Liberator and The Labor Herald ; radical illustrator and muralist Hugo Gellert; painter, journalist and cartoonist Robert Minor; and Ollie Harrington, an African American cartoonist who lived in exile in East Germany for much of his life.

In the mid-1930s the Daily Worker established a sports page that combined extensive sports coverage with incisive social criticism. Sports page editor Lester Rodney led the campaign for the desegregation of professional sports in the United States, particularly baseball. Featuring regular articles on the accomplishments of African American athletes, such as Jackie Robinson and Joe Louis, the Daily Worker made the case that all sports would benefit from integration. As part of this campaign it sponsored a basketball team made up of Harlem's top high school players and persuaded a black professional football team to play a benefit game to raise funds for the paper.

With their leadership role in the Southern Negro Youth Congress, the Communist Party and the Daily Worker played a central role in the early civil rights movement and the anti-lynching campaigns of the 1930s and 1940s, including the campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys, the Angelo Herndon trial, and the work of the International Labor Defense. The Daily Worker denounced the Jim Crow laws of the Southern United States, focusing its coverage on violence directed against the black community and on the emerging struggles to end segregation and racial intimidation.

The Daily Worker's coverage of the unemployment marches in the early years of the Great Depression and the fight for social security and unemployment insurance made it one of the most influential papers on the American Left. Its coverage of the labor battles of the 1930s shaped the way many Americans thought about organized labor. Its reporters and photographers captured the struggles textile workers in Gastonia, North Carolina in 1929; Illinois miners in 1930; California lettuce workers and Flint, Michigan autoworkers in 1931; coal miners in Harlan County, West Virginia ("Bloody Harlan") and teamsters in Minneapolis in 1934. During these years, the paper also documented the impact of the Great Depression on American working people, with stories on housing conditions in Harlem, Hunger Marches and unemployed movement organizing across the country, the campaign for social security, the "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work Campaign," and mobilizations for improved housing. The paper was noted for its investigative reporting about slum housing and block busting in Harlem. Civil rights was an important part of the Daily Worker's agenda and the paper covered most of the major lynching cases of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. The campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys was on its front pages for nearly seven years.

The news coverage in the Daily Worker almost always reflected Communist Party policies. During the Trade Union Educational League years of the 1920s this meant support for revolutionary unionism. During the Popular Front years the paper was a leading voice for industrial unionism and the Congress for Industrial Organizations.

As the organ for the Communist Party, USA the Daily Worker provided extensive coverage about the international Communist movement. For the Communist Party the Soviet Union was the center of the world's revolutionary movement. The Daily Worker's coverage of Soviet life, foreign, and domestic policies reflected an uncritical perspective on the Soviet system, as it celebrated life in what it called the "Socialist" countries. These stories often highlighted the miracles of Soviet economic development and ethnic harmony under Socialism. This internationalist perspective often resulted in extensive coverage of the struggles for declonialization in Asia, Africa, and Latin America which were largely invisible in the mainstream press. The Daily Worker often focused on revolutionary nationalism in its various forms from Pan Africanism to the self determination struggles in the Middle East.

With the ascendancy of Adolph Hitler, the fight against Nazism and fascism moved to the center of the Communist Party's agenda in the late 1930s. It reported on Nazi atrocities, and the rising tide of anti-Semitism. In 1936 the Daily Worker sent teams of photographers and reporters to Spain, as it tried to rally the American people to support the Spanish Republic in its brutal civil war with the Falange of General Francisco Franco. These teams returned with images and stories depicting the lives of ordinary Spanish people resisting fascism, the relationship between the Republican army and the International Brigades, and the impact of the fascist bombing in cities such as Guernica.

With the fall of Spain and the signing of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, the CPUSA aligned itself with the new course in Soviet foreign policy, as World War II became an "imperialist war." Between September 1939 and June 1941, the Daily Worker refocused on the domestic scene and the peace movement as a way of trying to divert attention from the Soviet Union's pact with Germany. The paper highlighted campaigns for union rights, job security, and civil liberties.

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941, the Daily Worker's interpretation of the war changed dramatically. The message, as depicted in the articles and photography of the Daily Worker, became World War II as an epic struggle against the Nazis, the role of the Soviet Union as the major battlefield of the war, and the impact of the German invasion on Russia's civilian population. On the cultural front, the paper documented the relationship between politics, folk music and folk dance, covering individuals such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Leadbelly, Sophie Maslow and Martha Graham.

However, the post-war period saw the rise of McCarthyism and the Communist Party under relentless attack. As a result, the Daily Worker experienced a dramatic decrease in circulation and the paper's financial health, always tenuous at best, took a decided turn for the worse. The daily paper closed in January 1958 during the period when the Communist Party was forced to go underground as a result of the repression of the Red Scare. In 1960 it resumed publication as a weekly under the name of The Worker and, although it began biweekly publication several years later, it never again achieved the level of popularity or circulation it enjoyed in the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1967 the paper, now renamed the Daily World, resumed daily publication. It reported on the rebirth of the civil rights movement, including sit-ins, voter registration campaigns and the Freedom Rides, following figures including Martin Luther King, Jr, Ralph Abernathy, Rosa Parks and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. In the late 1960s and 1970s, as the CPUSA aligned itself with the anti-Vietnam War movement and Black Nationalist movements including the Black Panthers, the paper covered important events of that period, including the Soledad Brothers trial, the subsequent arrest and imprisonment of Angela Davis, demonstrations against the war in Vietnam – including massive Moratorium Day demonstrations – on college campuses in New York City and across the country, and the Black Panther Breakfast Program in Harlem.

In 1986 the paper merged with the CPUSA's West Coast weekly, the People's World . The newly formed People's Daily World was published from 1987 until 1991, when daily publication was abandoned in favor of a weekly edition, renamed the People's Weekly World . During this period the paper focused heavily on labor union activity, particularly in cities like Detroit and Chicago, as well as the growing anti-globalization movement.

Shifting its operations back to Chicago between 2001 and 2002, the paper changed its name to the People's World in 2009. In 2010, the paper ceased print publication and became an electronic, online-only, publication.

From the guide to the The, Daily Worker, and, The Daily World, Negatives Collection, Bulk, 1968-1990, 1930-2001, (Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives)

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  • Journalism, Communist--United States
  • International relations
  • Labor unions--United States--Pictorial works
  • Prisoners--Correspondence
  • Communism--Newspapers
  • Political cartoons--United States
  • Labor unions--Pictorial works
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975
  • Universities and colleges
  • Communists--United States--Civil rights
  • Socialism and youth--United States
  • Civil rights movements--United States
  • Art--Political aspects
  • Housing--New York (State)--New York
  • Peace movements--United States
  • Terrorism
  • Labor unions and communism--New York (State)--New York
  • Labor movement--United States--Pictorial works
  • Communists--United States--Portraits
  • Scottsboro Trial, Scottsboro, Ala., 1931
  • Labor movement--United States
  • Zionism
  • Labor leaders--United States
  • Trotskyism
  • Women's rights
  • Communism--Washington (State)
  • Communists--New York (State)
  • Communism and music--United States
  • Labor unions and communism--United States
  • Washington (State)
  • Social classes
  • Labor unions
  • Communists--United States--Interviews
  • Political ballads and songs--United States
  • World War, 1939-1945--Pictorial works
  • Social justice--United States
  • Anti-war demonstrations--United States--Pictorial works
  • Communism--Spain--History
  • Socialism and education
  • Mexican Americans--Political activity
  • Picketing--United States--Pictorial works
  • May Day (Labor holiday)--Pictorial works
  • Anti-communist movements--United States
  • Sports--pictorial works
  • Caricatures and cartoons--United States
  • African Americans and labor unions
  • Political campaigns--New York (State)--New York
  • Press, Communist--United States
  • Communism--New York (State)
  • African Americans--Civil rights
  • Labor
  • Marxism--History
  • Communists--New York (State)--New York
  • Communism--Periodicals
  • Communists--Portraits
  • Communists--Periodicals
  • Working class--United States
  • Communism--United States
  • Women socialists--United States
  • Subversive activities--United States
  • Communism--California
  • Labor leaders--New York (State)
  • African Americans in the performing arts
  • Socialism--United States--20th century
  • Communism--History--Sources
  • New Left--United States
  • Jewish radicals--United States
  • Trials (Political crimes and offenses)--United States
  • Picketing--Pictorial works
  • Racism
  • World War, 1939-1945--Civilian relief--Pictorial works
  • Labor unions and communism--United States--Pictorial works
  • Publishers and publishing--United States
  • Peace movements--Pictorial works
  • Communist education--United States
  • Communism and art--United States
  • Capitalism
  • Communism--China
  • Party discipline--United States
  • Minorities--Civil rights--United States
  • Civil rights--United States
  • Communism History 20th century
  • Antinuclear movement--Pictorial works
  • Communism and literature--United States
  • Communists--United States--Biography
  • Socialism--New York (State)
  • Communism--History
  • Popular fronts--United States
  • Czechoslovakia--Pictorial works
  • Sports--United States--Pictorial works
  • Socialism--History
  • Espionage, Soviet--United States
  • Civil rights
  • Communism--Soviet Union
  • Strikes and lockouts--Pictorial works
  • Civil rights demonstrations--Pictorial works
  • New York (N.Y.)--Social conditions--20th century--Pictorial works
  • Communism and culture--United States
  • African American communists
  • Communist trials--United States
  • Communism and education--New York (State)
  • Demonstrations--Pictorial works
  • Communists
  • Cold War
  • Political Campaigns
  • Women communists--United States
  • Race discrimination--United States
  • Elections--United States--History--20th century
  • Anti-war demonstrations--Pictorial works
  • Libraries and communism--United States
  • Socialist parties--United States
  • Communism
  • Women and communism--United States--History--20th century
  • May Day (Labor holiday)--United States--History
  • Labor unions--Political activity--United States
  • Cartoonists--United States
  • Youth movements--United States
  • Socialism
  • Student movements--United States
  • Communism--United States--20th century
  • Labor unions and communism--Pictorial works
  • Radicalism--United States
  • Elections--New York (State)--New York
  • Communism--Cuba
  • Sacco--Vanzetti Trial, Dedham, Mass., 1921
  • New York (N.Y.)--History--20th century--Pictorial works
  • Political prisoners--United States
  • Jews--Political activity--United States
  • Jewish communists--New York (State)--New York
  • Political activists--United States
  • Women's rights--United States
  • Communism--United States--History--20th century
  • Labor--United States
  • African Americans--Pictorial works
  • Newspaper publishing--United States
  • Communism--New York (State)--New York
  • Strikes and lockouts--United States--Pictorial works

Occupations:

not available for this record

Functions:

not available for this record

Places:

  • China |x Politics and government. (as recorded)
  • Soviet Union |x Foreign relations |z United States. (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Soviet Union |v Pictorial works. (as recorded)
  • Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |x International brigades. (as recorded)
  • New York (N.Y.) |x History |y 20th century. (as recorded)
  • Russia |x History |y 20th century. (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939 |v Pictorial works. (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Soviet Union |x History. (as recorded)
  • Germany (East) |v Pictorial works. (as recorded)
  • New York (N.Y.) |v Pictorial works. (as recorded)
  • New York (N.Y.) |v Pictorial works. (as recorded)
  • Communist countries. (as recorded)
  • New York (N.Y.) |x Officials and employees |v Portraits. (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Soviet Union |x Politics and government. (as recorded)
  • Harlem (New York, N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • Chile |x History |y 1970-1973. (as recorded)
  • Communist countries |x Tours. (as recorded)
  • Spain |x History |y Civil War, 1936-1939. (as recorded)