The Daily Worker was created for Communist Party USA members in 1921. The paper was originally titled the Worker, centered in Chicago and marketed as a weekly newspaper for the first three years of its existence. It then moved to New York City and carried out a pre-planned expansion into a daily broadsheet with a new name, Daily Worker. Publication under this new title lasted from 1924 to 1958. Daily Worker was primarily focused on issues relating to organized labor.
In the January 13, 1924 edition, the first under their new name, the paper declared “Now, in this first issue of The Daily Worker, we join hands with the comrades of the Communist International in declaring that the Daily is but ‘The forerunner of more revolutionary dailies in other parts of the country.’” Most articles covered events that involved collective labor action. This included crackdowns by business owners, strikes, and other forms of collective bargaining.
Like other Communist Party USA-backed newspapers of the time, Daily Worker was supportive of the Civil Rights movement. It fought continual legal battles for freedom of speech and freedom of the press to prevent Daily Worker from closing. The Daily Worker firmly opposed McCarthyism. American law enforcement and intelligence agencies heavily infiltrated the Daily Worker’s contributor and subscriber bases. Its pages were surveilled to gather information about the Communist Party USA.
Firmly Stalinist in its outlook for most of its period of publication, Daily Worker struggled to keep together after the death of the Soviet leader. A further cause of division was the Soviet crackdown on the Hungarian uprising of 1956. In the November 5, 1956 edition, editor John Gates wrote, “The action of Soviet troops in Hungary does not advance but retards the development of socialism because socialism cannot be imposed on a country by force”. Many Communists were upset by the Daily Worker’s editorial stance that the crackdown was unjustified. Daily Worker subsequently moved towards Social Democrat political alignment and away from Soviet policies.
The overall American Communist party membership was deeply divided by the Soviet response to the Hungarian uprising and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization policies. Subscriptions plummeted below sustainable levels. Daily Worker also refused to place advertisements within its pages like other capitalist papers used for financial stability. The lack of ad revenue meant that the paper was vulnerable to funding losses from subscriptions and support from the official communist party.
As the Communist Party USA fractured ideologically, their finances suffered. The party withdrew financial support from Daily Worker in an attempt to cut costs. The final edition was released on January 13, 1958. The Daily Worker editorial board explained in their cover article that “Overwhelming was the financial burden on a shrinking Left-Wing movement beset by internal difficulties.” In its own obituary, the editorial board noted proudly that Daily Worker was “the longest-lived English language radical daily newspaper in the United States.”
–By Connor Monson
The Daily Worker was digitized with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program.