The Worker Cover Image

Introduction to

The Worker

(1919 - 1920)

The Communist Party of America (CPA) was subject to government suppression almost from the moment of its birth. The founding convention of that organization, held in Chicago from Sept. 1-7, 1919, was attended by a Justice Department informer, N. Nagorowe of Gary, Indiana. Delegates attending the convention very nearly embroiled in an Illinois "Criminal Syndicalism" case in 1920 — and many of those attending the founding convention of the rival Communist Labor Party were brought to such a trial and convicted.

Nevertheless, the CPA was founded as a legal organization — with a known and publicized headquarters location (1219 Blue Island Avenue, Chicago), similar above ground state organizations, and an openly subscribed and mailed legal press. The organization was initially organized on a state-by-state basis rather than by industrial districts, as was the Socialist Party which preceded it.

While the group's national official organ, The Communist, is well known and readily available through a 1969 reprint by the Greenwood Publishing Co., few realize that there were smaller and more localized publications produced by the CPA's state organizations.

The Communist Party of America, Local Greater New York produced a small format publication called The Communist World, edited by New York City dentist Maximilian Cohen. Runs of this publication exist at New York Public Library and the Library of Congress and the material has previously been preserved on microfilm.

Here we have an even rarer bird, a small format semi-monthly called The Worker, published by the Communist Party of America in Boston.

Editor of The Worker was John J. "Johnny" Ballam (1882-1954), an ultra-radical former member of the Socialist Labor Party and the IWW of Dutch-Jewish ethnic heritage who would spend the rest of his life in and around the American Communist Movement. Peter Pascal Cosgrove (known as "Pascal"), a leading light in the Boston organization who would later lend his efforts to the Friends of Soviet Russia and its work in the Kuznets Basin of Soviet Russia, acted as business manager.

The Worker was extremely short-lived and very few issues have survived. A total of just 6 issues were produced before J. Edgar Hoover's mass raids of January 2/3, 1920 shuttered the publication for good. Five of these issues are made available here for the first time in the better part of a century, thanks to the digitization efforts of Com. Marty Goodman of the Riazanov Library Digitization Project.

Tim Davenport
Early American Marxism website
Corvallis, OR
May 16, 2012

Special Note of thanks to the following individuals and institutions that made copies of The Worker available and help scan and process them for this archive: Dr. Marty Goodman of the The Riazanov Project and David Walters from the Marxists Internet Archive.

The Worker, Volume 1, No. 1, October 15, 1919

The Worker, Volume 1, No. 3, November 15, 1919

The Worker, Volume 1, No. 4, December 1, 1919

The Worker, Volume 1, No. 5, December 15, 1919

The Worker, Volume 2, No. 1, January 1, 1919