The Progressive

 Progressive Cover 10-02

Note: Progressive Cover 10-02 // //



The Progressive

Not to be confused with the Progressive Building Society.
The Progressive

October 2002 cover
Editor Ruth Conniff
Categories Politics, culture
Frequency Monthly
Publisher Progressive, Inc.
Founder Robert M. La Follette, Sr.
Year founded 1909 (as La Follette's Weekly)
First issue 1929 (as The Progressive)
Country United States
Based in Madison, Wisconsin
Language English
ISSN 0033-0736
OCLC number 531780706

The Progressive is an American monthly magazine of politics, culture and progressivism with a pronounced liberal perspective. Founded in 1909 by Senator Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette, it was originally called La Follette's Weekly and then simply La Follette's. In 1929, it was recapitalized and had its name changed to The Progressive; for a period The Progressive was co-owned by the La Follette family and William Evjue's newspaper The Capital Times. Its headquarters is in Madison, Wisconsin.

The magazine is known for its strong pacifism. It devotes much coverage to combating war, militarism, and corporate power. It supports civil rights and civil liberties, women's rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, labor rights, human rights, environmentalism, criminal justice reform, and democratic reform. Its current Editor-in-Chief is Ruth Conniff. Previous editors included Fighting Bob La Follette, his son Robert Jr., William Evjue, Morris Rubin, Erwin Knoll and Matthew Rothschild.


On the first page of its first issue, La Follette wrote this introduction to the magazine:

In the course of every attempt to establish or develop free government, a struggle between Special Privilege and Equal Rights is inevitable. Our great industrial organizations [are] in control of politics, government, and natural resources. They manage conventions, make platforms, dictate legislation. They rule through the very men elected to represent them. The battle is just on. It is young yet. It will be the longest and hardest ever fought for Democracy. In other lands, the people have lost. Here we shall win. It is a glorious privilege to live in this time, and have a free hand in this fight for government by the people.

Some of the campaigns The Progressive has waged include the fight to stay out of World War I, opposition to the Palmer Raids in the early 1920s and calling for action against unemployment during the Depression. La Follette's wife Belle edited the publication's women's section, and also wrote articles for the publication condemning racial segregation.

During the 1940s, The Progressive adopted an anti-Stalinist view of the Soviet Union.

During the early 1940s the magazine argued that the United States should stay out of World War Two. Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor, The Progressive declared its support for the American war effort. However, The Progressive also condemned the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima, in contrast to both The Nation and The New Republic's support for the bombing. The Progressive reprinted an essay from The Christian Science Monitor by Richard Lee Strout arguing that by using the bombs, "The United States has incurred a terrible responsibility to history which now, unfortunately, can never be withdrawn".

In 1947, The Progressive's editors announced they were suspending publication. However, after readers raised $40,000 to save the magazine, The Progressive returned as a monthly magazine issued as a non-profit venture.

In the 1950s, The Progressive dedicated itself to combating McCarthyism, although the magazine agreed that the U.S. government had the right to blacklist members of the Communist Party.The Progressive issued a special issue criticizing McCarthy, McCarthy: A Documented Record in 1954; sections from the issue were read aloud in the U.S. Senate, and it became the magazine's best-selling issue. The Progressive also criticized U.S. nuclear policy and clandestine CIA activity in this period.

In the 1960s, it was a platform for the American Civil Rights Movement, publishing the writing of Martin Luther King, Jr. five times, and publishing James Baldwin's open letter "My Dungeon Shook - Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation", the first section of The Fire Next Time. The Progressive also devoted much of its articles to denouncing U.S. involvement in Indochina.

1984 saw The Progressive publish "Behind the Death Squads" by Allan Nairn, a critique of U.S. policy in El Salvador.

The Progressive opposed the Persian Gulf War, accusing the George H. W. Bush Administration of rejecting any options for peaceful negotiation of the crisis. While condemning Saddam Hussein's government for its abuse of human rights, it accused the Bush administration of hypocrisy for not taking action against other governments which also abused human rights. The magazine also argued against the second Iraq War.

United States v. Progressive, Inc.

In 1979, The Progressive gained national attention for its article by Howard Morland, "The H-bomb Secret: How we got it and why we're telling it", which the U.S. government suppressed for six months because it contained classified information. The magazine prevailed in a landmark First Amendment case of prior restraint, United States v. Progressive, Inc..

2011 Wisconsin Protests

Located a few blocks from the Wisconsin State Capitol, The Progressive covered the protests that began in February 2011 in response to Governor Scott Walker's Wisconsin budget repair bill. Madison Magazine named The Progressive's political editor Ruth Conniff as one of its Editors' Choice in 2011 for her "frontline dispatches from inside and outside the State Capitol and the courtroom across the street".

100th Anniversary

For its 100th year in print, the magazine published a book featuring "some of the best writing in The Progressive from 1909 to 2009" titled Democracy in Print, published by the University of Wisconsin Press.


Although circulation had fallen to the level of 27,000 subscribers in 1999, by April 2004, following the Iraq War, circulation reached a record 65,000. By 2010, circulation had settled near 47,000.

Notable contributors

Throughout the years, The Progressive has published articles by Jane Addams, James Baldwin, Louis Brandeis, Noam Chomsky, Clarence Darrow, John Kenneth Galbraith, Charles V. Hamilton, Nat Hentoff, Seymour Hersh, Molly Ivins, June Jordan, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Jr., Sidney Lens, Jack London, Milton Mayer, A.J. Muste, George Orwell, Marcus Raskin, Bertrand Russell, Edward Said, Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, I.F. Stone, Norman Thomas, George Wald, James Wechsler and Howard Zinn. It has also published liberal politicians such as Russ Feingold, J. William Fulbright, Dennis Kucinich, George McGovern, Bernie Sanders, Adlai Stevenson, and Paul Wellstone.

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