This digital archive is one among many on the Marxist Internet Archive (marxists.org) created by me (Marty Goodman) and the Rizanov Library Digital Archive Project.
The Riazanov Library Digital Archive project had its origins around 2006, when I (Marty) began the creation of a complete digital archive of the public publications of the Spartacist League and all its international sections (members of the International Communist League. Toward the completion of this some years later, I was introduced to David Walters of marxists.org while looking for a public outlet for these scans.
The meeting resulted in more than that: David enlightened me regarding how very much of the critically important publications of the history of the workers movement generally was not then available digitally. He urged me to address this. This was made possible by David at that time becoming the Director of Holt Labor Library, and by its founder Rod Holt’s deep commitment to making the remarkable contents of Holt Labor Library widely and freely available digitally, regardless of what the impact on the physical holdings might be from the handling of material required for scanning. This last allowed me to use the very best available scanning techniques, to get superior digital images of the pages.
The first major project of the Riazanov Library Project after the SL/ICL archive was the creation of a complete digital archive, scanned entirely form orignial paper in large part held by Holt Labor Library (but also purchased by the Riazanov Library project, and donated to that project in the course of an appeal made on Marxists.org) of The Militant 1928–1966 (we’re still looking for access to original paper for 1967–1978).
Digitally archiving The Militant involved acquisition of a flat bed broadsheet (18 × 24 inch) scanner, and eventually involved bringing in others to operate the scanner, given the huge amount of labor involved in scanning tens of thousands of broadsheet pages of a fragile and often brittle newspaper. It also resulted in my acquiring skills at unbinding old brittle fragile bound volumes of broadsheet newspapers, rendering them as (otherwise intact) piles of individual pages of the paper.
In the course of this project, and before we were able to locate original paper for all (especially the earliest) issues, we obtained permission from the rights and permissions officer of ABC CLIO (owner of rights to what was once Greenwood Press) to freely reproduce digitally and distribute the contents of any and all of the Greenwood Press 1968 and 1970 series (Series 1 and 2) of reproductions of radical publications of the USA, provided such distribution was entirely not for profit, which of course was a core principle of the project. This permission cleared the way for our subsequently providing scans of quite a number of other publications from Greenwood Reprints, in cases where original paper was not avilable.
Regarding original paper: It rapidly became clear that scans directly from originals ... even brittle, brown, partly damaged originals in most cases ... resulted in very much visibly clearer and better scans than obtaining images from microfilm. This was a function of the execrably sloppy technique employed for a large part of the time (especially prior to 1965) when microfilms were made, but also is an intrinsic property of microfilm’s high contrast and limitation to being black and white. And of the simple fact of the immense lag in time between taking a picture on film and seeing the result, and the serial sequential nature of images along a film, all resulting in limited ability to find and correct errors. It also often was a property of the contemptible stupidity of those either making the microfilm or those libraries and librarians who were responsible for the originals being filmed, who often refused to unbind volumes of tabloid and broadsheet newspapers when filming them, forcing the microfilm to consist of images where entire words at times were lost in the gutters of bound volumes. Thus our project rapidly became, when at all possible, heavily committed to making our scans from original paper, instead of microfilm.
As time went by, a small stable core of volunteer consultants joined the project, including in particular Tim Davenport of the Early American Marxism site. Tim significantly enhanced this project not only by virtue of his encyclopedic knowledge of the publications of the left, but also by his outstanding generosity in providing from his personal collection some of his most rare and fragile original holdings for scanning by the project.
Although some libraries and librarians greeted our efforts with suspicion and even overt hostility, seeing digitization of their unique holdings as decreasing the chance of people coming thru their doors, some have been quite kind and supportive of this project. Tamiment Library’s former director, the late Michael Nash in particular, kindly provided me with special access to rare original holdings of Labor Herald, and in general allowed me much time using Tamiment Library’s overhead book scanner. Peter Filardo, former archivist at Tamiment Library, provided me with kind encouragement. Daryl Morrison and John Sherlock of the U.C. Davis Special Collections library showed this project extraordinary kindness by allowing flat bed scanning on site of a few critical holdings of theirs (including two issues of Labor Herald) that were missing from Holt Labor Library’s collections being scanned. The Bancroft Library of U.C. Berkeley offered us special access to their extraordinary collection of original issues of The Liberator when it seemed like we might be missing some issues from our collection (a problem which good luck and a lot of money ultimately remedied). The Prometheus Research Library has also kindly supported this project by providing scans and/or xerox copies of some other critical issues of various publications missing from runs of them in Holt Labor Library’s collection, and may soon provide us with scanning access to one rare publication that as far as I can tell is not held as a complete run anywhere else.
As of the writing of this note in October of 2013, the Riazanov Library digital archive project has created freely available digital archives of over 100 US socialist and communist publications. We’ve concentrated on the US Trotskyist movement, but expanded to the pre-Trotskyist communist and socialist movement, and also to some of the US Stalinist CP publications, including ongoing work to provide a high quality digital archive from originals of Western Worker, the west coast paper of the Communist Party USA, and of Southern Worker (with kind assistance by a project done by Dick Reavis). We expect soon, with the kind cooperation of a master document scanner by the name of Ralph Vesecky and the permission of the Internationalist Group, to be able to add to our collection a high quality color scan archive of the publications of the Internationalist Group.
We ... I, Marty Goodman of the Riazanov Library digital archive project, and David Walters, of Marxists.org and of the Holt Labor Library ... hope you find this material of interest... and of use.
Martin H. Goodman MD
Director, Riazanov Library Digital Archive Project