Centennial of People’s World stresses key role as voice for the working class
Attendees at the People's World 100th Birthday Celebration applaud guest speaker Assaf Talgam, center, managing editor of Zo Haderekh newspaper. On stage from the left: PW Senior Editor Roberta Wood, Managing Editor C.J. Atkins, Talgam, Long View Publishing Co. President John Bachtell, Associate Editor Melissa Parks, and CPUSA Co-Chair Rossana Cambron. | Taylor Dorrell / People's World

CHICAGO—The key role of People’s World is to both counteract the impact of the corporate-controlled media and boost the visibility and morale of workers by putting their causes upfront, online and in print, speakers said at the paper’s centennial celebration Friday, June 7.

“It makes a difference when you see something published about your struggle,” said Communist Party USA Co-chair Rossana Cambron, who offered remarks on behalf of the party. “People’s World builds a community around itself,” she said, “and that’s what kept it going,” even when finances have been tight or when the government tried to silence it.

Associate Editor Melissa Parks at the mic, June 7. Seated: CPUSA Co-Chair Rossana Cambron and Senior Editor Roberta Wood. | Taylor Dorrell / People’s World

The event was held as part of the Communist Party’s 32nd National Convention in Chicago, highlighting both the special relationship that the publication and the CPUSA have had for the past century, as well as People’s World’s commitment to the long-term goal of socialism.

The newspaper’s fighting history was a key part of the birthday celebration but so too were its internationalism and the struggle for peace. This was showcased in messages and remarks by special guests from journalists working in the Middle East at People’s World’s sister publications Al-Ittihad (The Union) and Zo Haderekh (The Path).

A fighting history

The paper’s ancestor, The Daily Worker, first rolled off the presses on Jan. 13, 1924. That first edition reached both coasts within two days, making it the world’s first national English-language Marxist daily newspaper. Throughout the year, besides its daily news coverage and analysis, People’s World has been running reprints of historic front-page stories on its website.

The publication is “the voice of the workers, the unemployed, people of color, immigrants, youth, seniors, the LGBTQ community, and people with disabilities,” Editor-in-chief John Wojcik said in opening remarks. “And we’ll continue to be your voice until socialism rises like sunshine from coast to coast over this great land of ours.”

Since 1924, speakers said, the paper has never missed an issue, come hell, high water, or Treasury Department raids in the 1950s, where agents smashed into its Manhattan offices and seized equipment.

“The first front page of the Daily Worker said ‘Big business interests, merchant princes, landlords, and profiteers should fear us,’” Wojcik told the capacity crowd in the meeting hall of Chicago’s Roosevelt University.

“We always stand on the side of the struggle of the working class,” said Wojcik, a former meat cutter and UFCW shop steward in New Jersey, who used his college degrees to turn to writing and now editing the paper. That’s “one thing that does not change.”

People’s World Editor-in-Chief John Wojcik said the publication would be a voice for the oppressed ‘until socialism shines like the sun from coast to coast.’ | Taylor Dorrell / People’s World

“One of the strongest weapons the ruling class possesses is its control of the press,” explained Managing Editor C.J. Atkins. “A hundred years ago, a group of radical workers and Marxist writers decided to break that monopoly” and start a paper “based on a truth that could not be found in any of the newspapers at that time.”

He continued: “That truth was that the people of the United States didn’t own their own country. They didn’t own the factories, railroads, banks.” They also didn’t own the means of communication—in those days, newspapers and radio. Without ownership of their own economy, the people of the U.S. “were not yet truly free.”

The Daily Worker, Atkins said, was dedicated to putting that truth into print every day. The paper “indicted capitalism and the racism, sexism, and profiteering at its core.”

It became a tool for the working class, providing “an alternative to capitalism” and pointing the way toward socialism. Atkins discussed the paper’s history of campaigning for workers and their causes, organizing against fascism and war, and defending democracy over the decades.

People’s World Managing Editor C.J. Atkins spoke on the paper’s century of struggle against corporate media monopoly. | Taylor Dorrell / People’s World

He described how it continued to champion labor, Black Americans, immigrants, and their allies in the civil rights revolution, women’s liberation, fights for LGBTQ equality, and on through to today’s struggle for a ceasefire in Gaza and to block a second Trump term.

Honored Friday night was Tim Wheeler, People’s World’s retired Editor-in-chief and former Washington Bureau Chief. Wheeler started with The Worker in 1966, served for a quarter-century as D.C. correspondent, and when the paper was threatened with extinction in the early ’90s, he stepped up to serve as editor.

Speaking to the crowd, Wheeler said he was “indebted to the party for giving me a life as a Communist journalist, to have the opportunity to travel all over this country and write stories about the struggles of the people.” He said it was his “honor” to have that assignment. He estimated that during his years working for People’s World, he wrote more than 10,000 articles—and he’s still submitting stories, even though he’s “officially retired.”

WATCH: Taking Your Side for a Century: 100 Years of the Daily Worker and People’s World

Internationalism and the fight for peace

The feature of the celebration were the remarks of special invited guests from Al-Ittihad and Zo Haderekh newspapers. The former is the largest Arab-language Marxist publication in the world. Published in Haifa, it appears daily in Israel and circulates clandestinely in the occupied Palestinian territories. The latter is the Hebrew-language newspaper of the Israeli Communist Party.

At the last minute, Al-Ittihad’s representative was unable to travel to the United States. People’s World Senior Editor Roberta Wood spoke of the brave journalists at the paper and the desperate wartime conditions under which they are struggling.

“From its establishment in 1944, Al-Ittihad has been a part of the struggle for peace among all the peoples in Palestine and Israel,” Wood said. “It’s fought to end the occupation and to win socialism.”

In the occupied West Bank and Gaza over the decades, young people have frequently been dragged into court by Israeli police for distributing copies of the paper. Wood detailed the repression the Netanyahu government is dishing out today against progressive media outlets and the difficulty they face in getting out the facts of about Gaza.

Though the journalists of Al-Ittihad could not be present in person, Wood read out the editors’ wishes for a “happy 100th birthday to People’s World,” their hope that it would “keep reporting on the truth about the war and the occupation,” and their desire for more cooperation.

Assaf Talgam, the managing editor of Zo Haderekh, was, fortunately, able to get to the U.S., and he shared details of what it’s like to fight against the Gaza genocide from inside Israel as a Communist journalist.

Assaf Talgam, managing editor of Zo Haderekh newspaper, speaks at the People’s World 100th Birthday Celebration. | Taylor Dorrell / People’s World

“As we convene here today, the Israeli government continues to wage a brutal and criminal war against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,” Talgam said. “While this terrible situation is known by the whole world, almost all major media outlets in Israel have completely ignored the atrocities perpetrated in Gaza. Thus, large segments of the Israeli public remain ignorant of the crimes committed by their government.”

Talgam slammed mainstream Israeli media outlets, which he said “do not try to keep the Israeli public informed, but rather keep them misinformed, about what is actually happening in Gaza.” And that’s just the moderate media, he said. “The more radical right-wing outlets are actively celebrating the deaths of Palestinian civilians while urging the military to commit more war crimes and genocide.”

The level of suppression against the free press has escalated rapidly in Israel in the months since Oct. 7. Talgam pointed to Netanyahu’s crackdowns on international media like Al Jazeera and the Associated Press, as well as police raids on Zo Haderekh’s own offices.

“Since the beginning of the war, both Communist newspapers”—Al-Ittihad and Zo Haderekh—”have been struggling against the media silence, trying to bring to the public news of the situation in Gaza.” The military prevents them from reporting directly from the war zone, but they publish information they get from trusted Palestinian sources on the ground and share data from international agencies recording the crimes of the IDF.

Readership is up sharply since the war began. In addition to breaking the media blockade, Talgam said that Communist journalists have two other important tasks: “making dissenting voices inside Israel heard and giving political direction to the anti-war movement.”

The Israeli Communist Party and its allies in the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (Hadash) “are the only political forces that have consistently opposed the war since the beginning and sought to rally public resistance.” Talgam said they argue the war is a disaster for both Palestinians and Israelis: “It is destroying Palestinian existence, poisoning Israeli society, and destroying the remnants of Israeli democracy.”

Talgam received sustained applause from the audience when he declared, “No people can base its future on the destruction of another people.” He said there can be “no military solution” to the conflict and that a resolution is only possible in the context of a ceasefire and prisoner exchange deal.

Ending the current war is only the first step, however, he said. Zo Haderekh and the Israeli CP maintain that the only basis for a just and lasting peace is “the end of Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories conquered in June 1967, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees, respecting their right of return.”

Looking ahead

John Bachtell, president of Long View Publishing, termed People’s World “a sterling example of revolutionary media and liberation movements.” He said People’s World is unique because of its relationship “with a revolutionary organization”—the Communist Party. The Marxist outlook, he said, “is its plus.”

Commemorative commodities: Special edition posters, coloring books, totes, pins, and more were available at the event. | C.J. Atkins / People’s World

But he said the publication cannot rest on its history alone. “Like the party, People’s World must win its leadership in the struggle every day.” And that means “immersing ourselves in the biggest battle of our lifetimes—the 2024 elections and the battle to defeat MAGA, the Trump fascists, and the billionaires that are backing them.” The political balance has to be changed “to defend what we achieved in the past and to win even more.”

The need for People’s World has grown, Atkins stated, as “the level of ruling class power has gotten stronger.” Mainstream media and social media power are now concentrated in a few monopolies, most of them controlled by rich, right-wing reactionaries.

Fighting those monopolies on behalf of workers and their causes can’t be done without money, though, and the People’s World accepts no advertising. Corporate cash brings corporate control, and People’s World doesn’t take any. Writers and editors at corporate media know which side their bread is buttered, and often act accordingly.

But not the journalists at People’s World, whose only constituents are their working-class readers. “For as long as this publication exists,” Atkins told the audience, “it will keep taking sides—yours.”

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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.