MIA: History: USA: Publications: Southern Worker
Introductions, Readers, Ancillary Documents:
Introduction by Dick J. Reavis [HTML format viewable on the web]
Introduction by Dick J. Reavis [PDF]
Southern Worker Reader [Out-takes, vingettes and stories from Southern Worker in Word Doc format. Right click to download as Word document]
Subject and Author Index [Updated September 4, 2012. Word Doc format. Right click to download as Word document]
The acquisition, editing, formatting and digitization of the Southern Worker was under the initiation of Dick J. Reavis from the University of North Carolina with help in all areas by Tim Davenport of the Early American Marxism Archive and the Marxists Internet Archive, JW from Texas and contributor to Wikipedia and archive.org on entries relevant to the American left, Marty Goodman, MD, from the Riazanov Library Project and David Walters, Director of the Holt Labor Library and Admin for the Marxists Internet Archive.
Short Preface to this Collection of the Southern Worker
Launched in the Summer of 1930, the Southern Worker was a semi-legal, semi-clandestine regional publication of the Communist Party, USA (CPUSA) targeted primarily to the black impoverished farmers and urban workers of the region.
As the 1920s drew to a close the CPUSA was the subject of scrutiny and criticism from the Communist International for its failure to mobilize any appreciable number of hyper-exploited black workers and agricultural laborers in its cause. In the August 1930 issue of the CPUSA’s theoretical magazine, new party leader Earl Browder acknowledged that as of the previous year the CPUSA had “hardly 50 Negro members in its ranks.” Focused efforts were to be made to rapidly boost this segment of the organization’s membership, of which the new Southern Worker was to be a significant part.
Solomon Auerbach was named editor of this new journalistic initiative. Auerbach, a 24-year old ethnic Jewish native of Philadelphia, had been a member of a youth delegation to the Soviet Union in 1927 before his expulsion from the University of Pennsylvania the following year for his radical activities. His academic career at an end, Auerbach became a functionary of the CPUSA, working first for the New York Daily Worker before before his rapid promotion to the editorship of Labor Defender, the monthly magazine of the CP’s legal aid organization, International Labor Defense.
Accompanied by his wife, Isabelle, Auerbach traveled to Chattanooga, Tennessee to launch the publication. The initial print run of the Southern Worker was 3,000 copies, distributed by mail and through direct distribution of bundle orders by a small network of dedicated activists.
In an effort to deter official police and spontaneous vigilante repression, the new broadsheet bore a false city of origin on the front page (“Birmingham, Alabama”) and Auerbach himself adopted a pseudonym, “James S. Allen” — a name he ultimately used for the rest of his life.
Auerbach-Allen remained in the editor’s seat in Chattanooga only briefly, returning to New York City in the fall of 1931, where he continued to be involved in the CPUSA’s work among African-Americans, in addition to undertaking other party tasks. Although not named on the publication’s masthead, other editors of the publication included Harry M. Wicks (from Sept. 12, 1931 until the paper’s hiatus the following month) and Elizabeth Lawson (from the paper’s rebirth in May 1933 until its termination). The latter took the liberty of changing Auerbach’s pseudonym, listed on the masthead as purported editor, from “Jim Allen” to “Jim Mallory."
The CPUSA’s Southern Worker became the inspiration for a similar effort which attempted to organize and radicalize workers of the Pacific coast states, the Western Worker, which debuted at the beginning of 1932.
A financial drain on the coffers of the Communist Party with its small circulation and very low cover price, publication of the Southern Worker became less regular in the spring of 1933 before being formally made a monthly in the summer of 1934.
In ensuing months the CPUSA changed course from the ultra-radical rhetoric of the “Third Period” to a new campaign called the “Popular Front” — an effort to build and lead a broad, multi-class alliance against the growing menace of fascism. The confrontational and polarizing Southern Worker no longer fit the CPUSA’s strategy in this new interval. The September 1937 issue of the Southern Worker would be the publication’s last. The parallel Western Worker was similarly terminated a few months later.
A total of 90 issues of the Southern Worker are archived here in the Adobe Portable Document Format (pdf). These are generally digitizations of a poorly shot microfilm — the original filming institution has managed to misplace the master negative , leaving the world nothing but badly worn service copies of the film. Image quality consequently varies greatly from issue to issue, with parts of some issues largely or partially illegible. Efforts will be made to improve these images over time.