Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe: Political Extremism in America

By John George; Laird Wilcox | Go to book overview
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12 Progress Labor Party

The Progressive Labor party began as the Progressive Labor Movement in January of 1962 and began calling itself a party in 1965. Until June 1971, the PL followed the straight Chinese line, and therefore it could be argued that they were neither "progressive" nor connected in any way with the American labor movement. The "founding fathers" of the group, Milt Rosen and Mort Scheer, were kicked out of the Communist Party USA after making an unsuccessful attempt to keep that party solidly in the Stalinist camp. They later called the CP a hopeless apologist for imperialism. Another PL founder, Bill Epton, was expelled from the organization in 1970 for advocating black nationalism. Kirkpatrick Sale describes the founding of PL:

On July 1, 1962, some fifty people meeting at the Hotel Diplomat in New York City established a new political organization on the left. Its fourteen-member coordinating committee consisted entirely of people who had been members of the Communist party and quit or were purged in late 1961 for being "ultra-leftists" and "agents of the Albania party"--i.e., "Maoists." 1

Most of the early members of Progressive Labor were disaffected Communist party people. Joe Dogher, a contributor to the early issues of Progressive Labor magazine had quit the CPUSA in 1956. He had been an organizer for the United Mine Workers in Pennsylvania and had fought with the Lincoln Brigade in Spain. Lee Coe, West Coast editor of Progressive Labor, had been the labor editor of the West Coast CPUSA paper, People's World.

PL, as they call themselves, has always been a dynamic group with chapters on college campuses and offices in such cities as New York, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Rochester, San Francisco, and Washington. They were the main force behind the mid-1960s "student" trips to Cuba, defying a State Department ban on travel to that country.

The role of PL in Students for a Democratic Society and its subsequent disillusion is detailed in the chapter on SDS. PL made a major attempt to capture a significant portion of the campus antiwar movement in 1964 when it established the May 2nd Movement. This account comes from the Socialist Workers party:

In March 1964, a number of socialist tendencies, including the Socialist Workers Party, the Communist Party, and Progressive Labor participated in an east coast conference sponsored by the Yale Socialist Union. Out of that conference came plans for


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