The more things change…
Eighty years ago, the United States faced another economic crisis, the Great Depression. Unemployment was rampant. Corporations used and abused workers in pursuit of profits. The demand for a strong voice that spoke for the worker grew louder in the more industrialized areas of the nation.
In the less industrial south, workers were no less abused. Racist Jim Crow laws further kept black workers, and those who spoke for the have-nots, suppressed. Lynchings happened with a shocking frequency.
The need for a strong voice was met, in part, by the Southern Worker, a newspaper “clandestinely published by the Communist Party in Birmingham and Chattanooga,” two of the more industrialized cities in the South at the time.
The Southern Worker was published by Communists from 1930-37 and can now be found online at: http://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/southernworker/index.htm
Dick Reavis and a team of scholars just finished a complete compilation with handy indexes.
The reporting and editorials found in these documents still speak truth to power. The call for the recognition of the fundamental rights of man like equality, fairness, justice-those basic American rights-can be found in the pages of the Southern Worker.
For example, in the first issue, Aug. 16, 1930, there is a news item detailing an American first: when the Communist Party nominated black and white workers to run on the same tickets for U.S. Senate and governor seats in Alabama and Tennessee. During a time when it was illegal for black and white people to travel or sit together, and decades before the major American parties did so.
Ironically, the party those in power often still label as anti-American was the one which first stood for that patriotic virtue of true equality in the nation!
Now, 80 years later, we see the same need, the same demand, for some entity speaking for the rights of working Americans everywhere. The words of those writers and thinkers and doers from the Southern Worker can still move, still motivate, still inspire.