Leslie Cagan

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Leslie Cagan, 2009

Leslie Cagan (born 1947) is an American activist, writer, and socialist organizer involved with the peace and social justice movements.[1][2][3][4][5][6] She is the former national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, the former co-chair of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, and the former chair of Pacifica Radio.[7]

Early life[edit]

Cagan was born in 1947 to a Jewish couple in The Bronx, New York City, in what she described as a "red diaper" family.[8] She attended her first political rally as a young child in the 1950s, accompanied by her parents, who were former members of the Communist Party.[2][8][9] Her grandmother, a seamstress, was a founding member of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union.[5] She graduated from New York University in 1968 with a degree in art history.[1]


In 1969, Cagan was among the first participants of the Venceremos Brigade, groups of young adults who visited Cuba under the auspices of harvesting sugar cane.[10] During her journey to Havana, Cagan told an Associated Press reporter: "All of us support the Cuban Revolution and feel that by going and working with the Cubans we can show that support."[10]

After choosing to skip graduate school, Cagan began her lifetime career of promoting various causes, predominantly in the anti-war movement, the anti-nuclear movement, the LGBT rights movement, the feminist movement, and normalization of relations with Cuba.[1][2][8] Cagan has been described by The New York Times as one of the "grandes dames of the country's progressive movement" and a "national figure in the antiwar movement."[1]

During the late 1960s–early 1970s, Cagan was actively involved with the Black Panther Party.[11] Cagan has protested the incarceration of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a Black Panther Party member convicted and sentenced to death for the 1981 murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner.[12]

On June 12, 1982, Cagan was a lead organizer of the anti-nuclear rally held in New York City, attended by hundreds of thousands of activists.[13] She was co-chair of the 1987 protest for gay and lesbian rights.[12]

In 2002, Cagan was among the founders of United for Peace and Justice, a left-wing coalition of more than 1,300 international and U.S.-based organizations opposed to what they describe as "our government's policy of permanent warfare and empire-building." The organization was founded in the months preceding the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[5][7] Cagan is strongly opposed to U.S. military forces staying in Iraq.[14] Her view of Iraqi insurgents fighting U.S.-led coalition forces: "What I do think is legitimate is that people who are being occupied would find a way to work against that occupation. If you call that an insurgency, then so be it."[5] In regards to U.S. relations with Israel, Cagan had described U.S. funds as going "to help maintain the deadly Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories."[5]

Cagan co-founded the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a socialist group that left the Communist Party, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.[15][16] In 1997, she was an organizer for the 14th annual World Festival of Youth and Students.[17] Cagan is a member of the New York Committee to Free the Cuban Five, an advocacy group seeking the release of five Cubans convicted in 2001 of spying on Cuban American exiles and U.S. military bases for Fidel Castro.[18][19] In reference to peace activism, Cagan has said, "We have so much to learn from the history of the Communist Party about how this work has been done."[20]

In 2004, Cagan was included in Out magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential LGBT people.[21] She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her partner, author and activist Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, founding director of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice.[1][5]



  1. ^ a b c d e Hedges, Chris (February 4, 2003). "A Longtime Antiwar Activist, Escalating the Peace". The New York Times. pp. B2. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c Haberman, Clyde (March 18, 2008). "The Lady Doth Protest, but It's Harder". The New York Times. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Gay Politics and AIDS: Leslie Cagan". The Nation. AEGiS. 248 (11): 362. March 20, 1989. ISSN 0027-8378. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  4. ^ Goldberg, Michelle (August 11, 2004). "New York lockdown". Salon. Archived from the original on January 15, 2009. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Treiman, Daniel (August 27, 2004). "Preparing To Protest As the Republicans Come to Town". The Forward. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  6. ^ Williams, Joe (August 25, 2004). "Why Left Goes Right To Leslie". Daily News. Retrieved January 1, 2010. [permanent dead link]
  7. ^ a b McFarland, Duncan (May 2009). "Looking Back at UFPJ: An Interview With Leslie Cagan" (PDF). Dialogue & Initiative. Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism: 2–9. Archived from the original (PDF) on May 18, 2010. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  8. ^ a b c Cagan, Leslie (1979). "Something New Emerges: The Growth of a Socialist Feminist". In Cluster, Dick. They Should Have Served That Cup of Coffee: 7 Radicals Remember the 60s. Boston: South End Press. pp. 225–260. ISBN 978-0-89608-082-9. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  9. ^ Arike, Ando (September 2006). "Leslie Cagan: co-founder of United for peace and justice". The Progressive. thefreelibrary.com. ISSN 0033-0736. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  10. ^ a b Jones, Stratford C. (November 29, 1969). "75 Americans Bound For Cuba To Help Castro". The Associated Press. The Herald-Tribune. pp. 10–A. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  11. ^ Pinar, William (2004). What is Curriculum Theory?. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 113–114. ISBN 978-0-8058-4827-4. 
  12. ^ a b Meyer, Matt (2008). Let Freedom Ring: A Collection of Documents from the Movements to Free U.S. Political Prisoners. Oakland, California: PM Press. p. 393. ISBN 978-1-60486-035-1. 
  13. ^ Kaplan, Esther (December 18, 2002). "A Hundred Peace Movements Bloom". The Nation. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  14. ^ Harkinson, Josh (October 17, 2007). "Leslie Cagan, United for Peace and Justice". Mother Jones. ISSN 0362-8841. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  15. ^ Sheppard, Barry (August 17, 1994). "CoC votes for mass workers party". Green Left Weekly. Archived from the original on November 29, 2012. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  16. ^ Malapanis, Argiris (February 23, 2004). "It's what you're for that counts, not what you're against". The Militant. Socialist Workers Party. 68 (7). ISSN 0026-3885. Retrieved January 2, 2010. 
  17. ^ La Riva, Gloria (March 20, 1997). "Cuba prepares for World Youth Festival". Workers World. Workers World Party. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  18. ^ Mears, Bill (January 30, 2009). "'Cuban Five' file appeal with Supreme Court". CNN. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  19. ^ Pratt, Minnie Bruce (September 20, 2005). "Women leaders going to D.C. to demand freedom for Cuban Five". Workers World. Workers World Party. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  20. ^ Margolis, Dan (March 30, 2007). "Party of hope archives show living history". People's World. Communist Party USA. Retrieved January 1, 2010. 
  21. ^ "OUT 100". Out. Google Books. 13 (6): 110. December 2004. ISSN 1062-7928. Archived from the original on November 8, 2013. Retrieved January 2, 2009. 

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