International Press: The Revolution Resonates
Alexander Trachtenberg, founder of International Press, was born to a Jewish family in the Russian imperial city of Odessa (modern-day Ukraine) in 1884. Trachtenberg began participating in leftist groups as a teenager, and took part in the first Russian Revolution of 1905. Fleeing the pogroms and repression that accompanied that revolution, Trachtenberg left the Russian Empire and settled in the United States.
In the United States, Trachtenberg joined an active socialist movement, which was dominated by immigrants like himself. Trachtenberg welcomed the 1917 Russian revolution. Although he did not immediately support the Bolsheviks, he joined their cause after Lenin’s coup in October 1917, and quickly became active in the Soviet-sponsored Communist Party of the United States (CPUS).
In 1924, Trachtenberg founded International Publishers with the goal of disseminating Marxist-Leninist thought in affordable editions, including a series of pamphlets on current issues, such as housing policy, race relations, education, religion, and the arts. The pamphlets exhibit strong influences from Soviet graphic art, such as photomontage. They also hew closely to the official Soviet line; for example, Trachtenberg stopped publishing works by Trotsky after he fell afoul of the Soviet regime.
In the 1950s, Trachtenberg was indicted twice under the Smith Act, which prohibited the “overthrow or destruction of any government in the United States.” International Publishers put out two pamphlets in his defense. Thanks to an appeal that overturned his second conviction, Trachtenberg spent a total of only three months in prison, and he continued to work with International Publishers until his retirement in 1962.