Art Perlo, ‘Gentle Giant,’ 1947-2021
Art Perlo at a demonstration, outfitted in a CPUSA t-shirt and carrying a 'Tax the Rich' sign. | Courtesy of Joelle Fishman

Art Perlo, lifelong Communist beloved for his stalwart dedication, modesty, wit, and wisdom, passed away on Dec. 18 after a year-long battle with bladder cancer.

He served as Ward 24 Co-Chair in New Haven, Conn., and executive board member of the Yale Unions Retirees Association. Ward 24 Alder Evette Hamilton called him a “gentle giant” for his kindness, commitment, humor, and broad knowledge that touched the lives of so many in the city, state, and around the country.

Art Perlo. | By Jahmal Henderson

Born in New York on Nov. 2, 1947, son of Marxist economist Victor Perlo and artist Ellen Perlo, Art moved to New Haven in 1975 after living in Chicago and Portland, Ore., to join his life partner Joelle Fishman, participating in her People Before Profits campaigns for U.S. Congress and mayor. As an independent economist and activist, Art devoted his talents to the cause of the rights and equality of working-class people of all races, genders, and national backgrounds.

An IT worker at Yale’s Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry lab for 35 years, he helped organize and was a founding member of the clerical and technical workers’ union Local 34 Unite Here in 1984. Although not eligible for the union with his managerial and professional job classification, he was appreciated for honoring the strikes of Local 34 and Local 35, joining his co-workers on the picket line for respect and improved wages and benefits. He was an early proponent for restructuring Yale’s hiring practices to open job opportunities for Black and Latino New Haven residents.

Art Perlo with his life partner, Joelle Fishman.

Since the 1990s, Perlo was a consistent voice to tax the rich, developing the economic basis for the legislative campaign of the Coalition to End Child Poverty in Connecticut in 2005 that helped pave the way for progressive tax reform and the child tax credit.

He helped organize many buses to marches and protests in Washington, D.C., and New York for peace, racial justice, and immigrant rights, as well as participation in countless actions and events in Connecticut, including the People’s World Amistad Awards, which gave him a tribute this year.

He was a frequent contributor to People’s World on economic and other issues and edited the “People Before Profits” column following his father’s death.

He gave various lectures locally and nationally, including a popular analysis “An Activist’s View of Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century” at the New Haven Free Public Library in 2014.

Art was deeply respected for his willingness to take on any task, no matter how small, in the community or the union, and for his unwavering commitment to equality, peace, environmental justice, and an end to exploitation to make the world a better place. During the 2020 presidential election, he led a strong voter registration and get-out-the-vote effort in Ward 24.

Art Perlo, at far left, carrying the Connecticut Communist Party banner at a demonstration.

As education director of the Connecticut Communist Party, he held many classes to bring forward new leaders. He served on the National Committee of the Communist Party USA, chaired the party’s Economic Commission, and over the years served on the editorial board of Political Affairs, on the African American Equality Commission, and on various convention committees, always upholding the working-class struggle for socialism.

Art was a scholar and intellectual for major change in our capitalist system. As an activist himself, he encouraged others to develop their understanding of the system as well as their importance in using their knowledge to bring others into activism. He dedicated his life to this pursuit.

He was an avid biker, hiker, and rock climber, photographer, and videographer.

A website will be launched in January with links to Art Perlo’s writings and an opportunity for those who knew him to post stories and photos. Contributions to the causes closest to Art’s heart can be made here.

Due to the resurgence of COVID-19, a gathering will not be held at this time. On Jan. 1, 2023, an open house continuing the annual tradition of Art and Joelle will be held to celebrate Art’s life and carry on the movement building his life exemplifies.

Read some of Art Perlo’s articles published in People’s World.


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.