Robert LaFollette was a busy man. Besides being the most notable U.S. Senator of the early 20th century, he was a dedicated liberal, championing civil rights, workers' rights, and environmental awareness. To help further his causes, he began a small circulatory called LaFollette's Weekly. The first issue was published January 9, 1909.
The subscription rate was rather astounding, and by 1928, over 50,000 people read the Weekly .. err, weekly. In 1912, LaFollette had officially created the Progressive Party in American politics, citing reform as its top goal in all fields. His weekly had been a major supporter of women's suffrage, better treatment of blacks and foreigners, and isolationism during World War I. To commemorate the growing success of the party, LaFollette changed the magazine's title in 1929 to The Progressive.
The magazine continued to serve as a bastion of liberal politics, featuring insightful commentary from a variety of writers, including James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Martin Luther King Jr., Edward Kennedy, George Orwell, and Adlai Stevenson. It lambasted McCarthyism; it spent 20 years fighting the war in Vietnam; and fought hard for environmentalism throughout the 1970s.
In 1979, The Progressive received an large amount of national publicity due to an article it had compiled that year entitled "The H-Bomb Secret: How we got it and why we’re telling it." The U.S. government had successfully managed to suppress its publication for 6 months, until the Supreme Court ruled that the State did not have the right to suppress peacetime military operations information.
Today, the magazine features writing from a veritable Who's Who of the American extreme left: Joan Didion, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Adolph R. Reed, Jr. are regular contributors, and special columnists have included Russ Feingold, Al Sharpton, and the late Paul Wellstone. Additionally it features articles and interviews with many colorful alternative cultural icons, including Jello Biafra, Steve Earle, and Louis Farrakhan.
The magazine itself is in many respects typical of extreme political methodology: it often undercuts the factual basis for its writings with broad generalizations, unnecessary name-calling and browbeating, and an often alarming lack of context. Still, the magazine often fights for equitable causes, such as gay rights, improved health care, and world peace (they frequently recite this phrase with a straight face.) And occasionally the magazine hits on salient points, albeit often bluntly and with little compassion for the opposite side.
The magazine's website is http://www.progressive.org. There you can subscribe, order a free copy, and view many articles from its back issues. While most of its writing must be taken with the proverbial grain of salt, it is still a compelling read for those interested in the entire spectrum of American politics and society.