MIA: History: USA: Special Note on the 1934 — 1948 New Masses

Special note concerning issues from 1934 through 1948

I began the above the above art-preserving digital archive of the first 8 years of New Masses, (during which it was published monthly) in 2014, and finished it in February 2017. It is in that period... and especially in the earlier part of that period, that this publication had the most and the best graphic art. This archive, years in the making due to the difficulty of acquiring unrestricted scanning access to every page of every issue, I completed making in February 2017.

In 1934 New Masses changed publication from monthly to weekly. By 1934, the political character of the publication had changed significantly, and its presentation of graphic art was by then greatly reduced.

I had not originally intended to continue to scan this publication beyond 1933... had not planned on scanning the weekly New Masses that began in 1934 and continued as a weekly through 1947 into January of 1948. Partly because of the decreased quantity and, in my opinion, quality of the artistic content, partly because of the change in the politics behind it, and partly because obtaining proper scanning access to all 52 issues for a given year seemed likely to be impossible given the small shopkeeper mentality of many special collections, and their hostility to facilitating making their precious hoarded material freely available via high quality scans to all. Also significantly in part simply because of the immense amount of work involved in archiving an art-bearing weekly publication.

However, I had to admit that 1934 in particular was a very important year for events in the American labor movement. And that the period of the transformation of third period Stalinism into Popular Front period Stalinism is an interesting and important one for those who wish to know the history of the American revolutionary left. The deciding event occurred when John Durham of Bolerium Books happened to acquire for sale bound volumes of New Masses... every issue in years 1934 through 1938 and half of 1939. And offered to sell them to me at a very reasonable price, because he supported the work I was doing. The quality of the paper in these bound volumes was exceptional. Far superior to that which I'd seen in other issues I had personally acquired and in issues I'd seen in much vaunted special collections libraries.

Unbinding these bound volumes so as to preserve as much of the paper edge to edge was time-consuming, tedious work. It took more than 10 hours to properly unbind the each bound (6 month long) volume so as to extract without harming the issues. As time went by, I acquired more of New Masses from other sources, such as Eugene P. of Southpaw Books and Daryl V. F. of Bibliomania, in Oakland, CA. Tim Davenport kindly contributed to this project from his collection several runs of entire years of New Masses from the late 1930s and early 1940s.

In discussions with comrades and colleagues working with me on this project, I gradually softened in my attitude toward New Masses of the 30's and even New Masses of the early 1940's I came to realize that documenting the CP's response to the Molotov - Ribbentrop ("Hitler - Stalin") pact in its publications was important, as was documenting its later responses to Operation Barbarossa (the German invasion of the Soviet Union) and the Battle of Stalingrad and its aftermath.

And, tho the weekly New Masses of the mid and late 30s ... and especially the New Masses of the 1940s... never was as consistently stunning in artistic quality overall as those of the 20's and early 30's, I came to appreciate there WAS a fair amount of very worth while art... and even some political art that I felt was relatively intelligent and timeless. In the end, I gradually moved toward committing to making high quality, art-preserving digital archives of New Masses thru the end of 1943. I may yet also scan 1944, and as I have 1945 already scanned (it's up here on MIA now), if I scan all of 1944 New Masses, that would mean I've managed to digitally archive 20 years of New Masses.

At this time I have no plans to ever scan 1946 and 1947 New Masses. Lower quality images of those (minus their covers) are available... scanned at 300 dpi from microfilm... on the UNZ.org web site. We do have here scans I made of the final two (early January 1948) issues of New Masses.

Note that for New Masses 1926 - 1936 we have available here for downloading the definitive indexes for those issues created by Theodore Watts, presented with his kind permission. After 1936, I've included with each year of the publication a searchable pdf file of the tables of contents of all of the year's issues.

The the time of this writing, we have scanned New Masses 1926 - 1937, 1939 - 1941, and 1945. I am at this time working on scanning 1938 New Masses, preserving the lovely artwork of, among other things, their caricature-bearing covers. An assistant is currently scanning 1942 New Masses, and then will scan 1943, which I have purchased a near complete set of original issues.


 

Martin H. Goodman MD
Director, Riazanov Library digital archive projects
Brooklyn NY
November 2018