Celebrating the archives of the Communist press

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The following is based on a speech given at an event celebrating the donation of the Communist Party USA archives to New York University’s Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, March 23, in New York. Teresa Albano is editor of the People’s Weekly World.

Making the American promise real for all

If I were to list only a fraction of the names of the thousands of people who wrote for, or cartooned for or in other ways supported the Daily Worker, Western Worker, Daily World, People’s World, Voz del Pueblo and now People’s Weekly World and Nuestro Mundo — in short, the Communist press in all its forms during our 83 years of existence — we’d be here for a long time.

I wish we could have a list of credits rolling by behind me. It would be like watching the credits from an epic film about the working-class struggle for a better world — for socialism.

Maybe we’ll ask the good staff here at Tamiment to put such a complete list together — right after they get through indexing the 1 million photos from our Communist press archives. That’s an unbelievable number! One million photos — imagine trying to organize them in your photo album.



Proud history, bright future

Both the Communist Party and its press have deep roots in American soil, like the prairie grasses in the great Midwest. Our history is a proud one, and our future is bright. We are here. We are fighting.

We are making the promise of America real for everyone.

As long as corporations plunder and profit, while millions here and around the world go hungry and die of curable diseases, there will be a Communist Party. And as long as capitalism is around, there’s going to be a Communist Party.

If there is one thing the American people admire, it’s determination and stick-to-it-ness, and the Communists sure have weathered and survived with gritty determination.



Taking the long view

Communists take the long view of life, of struggle and what it takes to make social change. That’s one reason the name of our newspaper’s publishing company is Long View Publishing.

And with taking the long view comes responsibility for our future — a future that fulfills the promise of democracy, of equality for every race and nationality and for men and women, of peace, of environmental and economic justice.

But our future is inextricably bound with the present-day struggles and circumstances.

Speaking of which, this last month has been particularly uncomfortable for the White House. They haven’t had such a good time of it with having to take responsibility for the ongoing disaster in Iraq, then Walter Reed and the veterans health care scandal, the Scooter Libby guilty verdict, and now the exposé of firing eight prosecutors who wouldn’t go along with vote suppression and other dirty tricks. You see some grim faces on the photo wire.

But you know who is looking good these days? John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

You know who else is looking good? Al Gore.

Remember back in 2000 when some on the left proclaimed that there was no difference between Gore and Bush? I can’t imagine Bush ever fighting to stop global warming, let alone being able to explain it.

Back in 2000, the People’s Weekly World didn’t have the attitude that there was no difference between the candidates — and we didn’t have that attitude toward the trampling of democracy in Florida. We didn’t just sit and read about it. We sent our national correspondent Tim Wheeler there to report and help with the righteous fight to count every vote. He was distributing leaflets with one hand and taking down quotes with the other.



Importance of the Communist media

The Communist media is indispensable. Not only do we record the movements for social justice and workers rights though our reporting and our interviews with the makers of history— we are part of the struggles that make history too. We proudly take sides.

We covered and were part of the founding of the CIO, the industrial unions in auto, steel, textile and mines; the struggles against fascism and Jim Crow racism. We helped wage the fight for the freedom of the Scottsboro Nine, and we promoted the integration of Major League Baseball. We reported on and participated in the struggles to end the war in Vietnam including such momentous developments as the Chicano Moratorium and Dewey Canyon III, organized by antiwar veterans.

We helped expose Reagan’s dirty wars in Central America, lent a hand to tearing down apartheid in South Africa, marched against corporate globalization, celebrated the first same-sex marriages in Massachusetts, reported people’s stories of horror and solidarity at Ground Zero in New York after 9/11 and at the site of another great human tragedy — New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina. And last year, week by week, we chronicled the issues and struggles that led to the great labor and people’s victory in November.

And we are continuing the campaigns: ending the Iraq war; passing the Employee Free Choice Act; rebuilding the Gulf Coast; guaranteeing comprehensive immigration reform and a path to legalization with family unification; workers’ and civil rights; health care for all; and a new civil rights agenda. Again, we not only report on but also are a part of these struggles and have a stake in helping them succeed.

The problems these struggles seek to overcome are part and parcel of a system that strives to maximize private profit for a few at all costs. The Communist media uncovers the systemic nature of poverty, racism, war and exploitation — all of which go to the roots of capitalism. This is why we fight to lay the basis for a fundamental change.

If you’re not a subscriber, this is what you are missing. But lucky for you — you can subscribe tonight or online at www.pww.org.



On Iraq — we got it right

Back in 2002 the People’s Weekly World began to sound the alarm on Iraq. At the great march in New York on Feb. 15, 2003, our headline was, “Powell at UN, caught in web of lies.” If a little newspaper like ours could get that story right, why couldn’t The New York Times?



International solidarity

We have analyzed and reported firsthand about the great revolutionary happenings in Venezuela and throughout South America. Through our reporting and analysis, we have helped build the Cuba solidarity movement and demands for an end to the blockade, for normalized relations, and for freedom for the Cuban Five. We take part in the great struggle for working-class internationalism and to stop the U.S. government and corporations from waging war and plundering natural resources around the world.



Roots of Communist journalism

Communist journalism traces its roots to the great tradition of public advocacy journalism and the independent media in this country — independent of corporate interests and reactionary agendas.

This tradition goes back to our nation’s founding and first revolution with the publication of Tom Paine’s “Common Sense,” and to our second revolution, the end of slavery and the great abolitionist press of Douglass and Garrison, along with the women’s suffrage movement which also had its own voice.

We are part of the great freedom-of-the-press tradition.

We are part of the great tradition of labor journalism, the Black press, the Spanish and other foreign language newspapers, student and community papers. We are part of the left, progressive, Marxist, populist, freethinking and radical media traditions of this country.

And while continuing this great tradition, we are also part of the future. The People’s Weekly World is part of the new and growing media justice movement that is challenging monopoly corporate control of information and their point of view. Most importantly, we are one of the 4,500 Google news sources. And we are proud members of The Newspaper Guild/Communication Workers of America.



Intersection of past and future

This moment is an intersection of past and future. These archives were donated to this grand library because of the responsibility we felt for the future, not only the Communist Party’s and the People’s Weekly World’s future, but the future of the working-class, left and socialist movements.

By making these archives accessible to the public — through the work of talented librarians — students, unionists and historians can study and learn from previous generations. They can then do something great with this knowledge: write books, produce films and in other ways bring to the public the rich, diverse and beautiful people’s history of the United States.

Those who study the archives will surely spot some mistakes, some flaws. After all, Communists are human, and we do err. We have a little saying in the newspaper biz: doctors bury their mistakes, we publish ours.

But even with all of that our history, our present and our future will stand as a beacon of inspiration.

As the great labor and Communist Party leader Elizabeth Gurley Flynn once said: “History has a long-range perspective. It ultimately passes stern judgment on tyrants and vindicates those who fought, suffered, were imprisoned and died for human freedom against political oppression and economic slavery.”

And that’s what you will find in our archives.