The Progressive

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Not to be confused with the Progressive Building Society.
The Progressive
Progressive Cover 10-02.jpg
October 2002 cover
Editor Ruth Conniff
Categories Politics, culture
Frequency Monthly
Publisher Lisa Graves
First issue 1909
Company The Progressive Magazine
Country United States
Based in Madison, Wisconsin
Language English
ISSN 0033-0736

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 changed its name to The Progressive.

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.[1] 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. Its editorial offices are in Madison, Wisconsin.


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.[1]

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, calling for action against unemployment during the Depression, combating McCarthyism in the 1950s, and denouncing U.S. involvement in Indochina.

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. In the 1970s, the magazine devoted attention to the emerging environmentalist movement, beginning with a special Earth Day issue in 1970 entitled "The Crisis of Survival".

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. The Progressive.

In the 1980s, The Progressive published stories about U.S. support for death squads in Central America. During the 1990s, it turned its attention to immigrants, women and welfare, LGBT social movements, and prisoners.

The Progressive opposed the first Iraq War and advocated an end to the economic sanctions on Iraq. It has also promoted an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

After 9/11, The Progressive advocated caution against all-out war with Afghanistan. It warned of restrictions to civil liberties and opposed the Patriot Act. It was also an outspoken opponent of the second Iraq War and called for the impeachment of George W. Bush.

From 2008 to the present, it has been critical of President Barack Obama for escalating the war in Afghanistan, for maintaining George W. Bush's laws and executive orders limiting civil liberties, and for expanding them to include the right to assassinate people, including U.S. citizens. It has also opposed drone warfare in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.

Domestically, The Progressive has supported an effort to overturn the Citizens United decision. It has supported same-sex marriage and immigrants' rights to a path to citizenship and opposed the Tea Party movement and the far right. It has also opposed moves to privatize public education.

2011 Wisconsin Protests[edit]

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 their Editors' Choice in 2011 for her "frontline dispatches from inside and outside the State Capitol and the courtroom across the street."[2]

100th Anniversary[edit]

The forerunner of The Progressive was LaFollette's Magazine, established in Madison, Wisconsin in 1909.

For its 100th year in print, the magazine published a book featuring "some of the best writing in The Progressive from 1909 to 2009"[3] 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.[3] By 2010, circulation had settled near 47,000.

Notable contributors[edit]

Throughout the years, The Progressive has published leading social critics such as Jane Addams, James Baldwin, Louis Brandeis, Noam Chomsky, Clarence Darrow, John Kenneth Galbraith, Nat Hentoff, Molly Ivins, June Jordan, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King Jr., Jack London, Milton Mayer, A.J. Muste, George Orwell, Edward Said, Carl Sandburg, Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, I.F. Stone, Norman Thomas, 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.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Rothschild, Matthew (2009). Democracy in Print. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. 
  2. ^ "Editor's Choice: Four Individuals Worth Their Weight in BOM Gold". Madison, WI, USA: Madison Magazine. July 2011. ISSN 0192-7442. OCLC 769704856. Retrieved August 11, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Ivey, Mike (April 29 – May 5, 2009). "Rebel with a cause". The Cap Times. 
  4. ^ "The Progressive Magazine to Celebrate Its 90th Anniversary in January". Common Dreams NewsWire. 1998-10-18. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 

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