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Primary sources on Communists and the unemployed during the Great Depression

While writing my PhD dissertation a few years ago ("Down But Not Out: The Unemployed in Chicago during the Great Depression"), I accumulated an enormous number of primary sources from the 1930s. It occurred to me I might as well post some of them here, in case there are any students, activists, or scholars who might find them of interest. Most of the list below consists of excerpts from the microfilm archives of the U.S. Communist Party's newspaper the Daily Worker. It was a remarkable paper whose issues brilliantly portray the incredible turbulence of those years. What a tragedy it is, then, that so few people are aware of it or have access to it. There's nothing like reading primary sources to get a vivid and accurate sense of the past--and to be made powerfully aware of the parallels between the past and the present. Since I was writing on the unemployed, it was mostly only relevant articles that I copied. (As the decade of the 1930s moved to its midpoint and beyond, articles on unemployment dropped off, which is why they aren't represented below.)

Below the links to Daily Worker articles are miscellaneous other items I came across. And below those are some articles from the Party Organizer, an internal publication of the Communist Party (unlike the Daily Worker, which was for everyone to read, including non-members). Since unemployment is going to be such a paramount issue of public concern in the coming years, we could do worse than to study how earlier activists grappled with the task of organizing the jobless for political action. Such organizing certainly isn't easy! But these people did, in the end, accomplish much, including pressing the federal government to enact a "New Deal for the American people," in the words of FDR. If the left doesn't achieve something comparable in the coming years, the future of civilization will be grim indeed.

Issues of the Daily Worker



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