"We Called Each Other Comrade": Charles H. Kerr & Company, Radical Publishers

Article excerpt

Ruff, Allen. "We Called Each Other Comrade": Charles H. Kerr & Company, Radical Publishers. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997. 312 pp. $19.95.

The radical press that flourished in the United States during the first two decades of this century has until recently been discussed only in general and cursory terms, most often in the context of government suppression during World War I. In the last ten years, however, historians have begun to devote book-length studies to the individual organs that made up this group of American publications and to the writers and publishers behind them. In 1988, for instance, Elliot Shore published Talkin' Socialism: J.A. Wayland and the Role of the Press in American Radicalism, 1890-1912, an valuable account of the most successful left-wing weekly of the period, the Kansas-based Appeal to Reason.

Contributing further to an understanding of radical publications, Allen Ruff's book expands the press concept beyond newspapers and magazines and examines the largest producer of socialist literature in the United States, Charles H. Kerr & Company in Chicago. At its height during the 1900-20 period, Kerr & Company produced the International Socialist Review, a left-wing magazine second only to the Appeal in influence, and was responsible for introducing English-language translations of the works of Karl Marx not only in the United States but around the world. An independent historian and radical activist, Ruff made Kerr's firm the subject of his doctoral dissertation at the University of Wisconsin, and his book draws on Kerr & Company's publications and on the personal papers of the firm's principals and of others associated with them. …