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Al Richmond; Leftist Editor, Smith Act Victim

November 09, 1987|Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Al Richmond, a former leftist editor who was prosecuted and jailed during the McCarthy era, has died of pneumonia at the age of 73.

Richmond helped found the Daily People's World, a lively leftist newspaper in San Francisco, and he worked as its editor. In 1951 the FBI raided the newspaper's offices and Richmond was tried for violating the Smith Act by conspiracy to teach and advocate the violent overthrow of the federal government.

He was convicted and served one year in jail. Ten years later the U.S. Supreme Curt declared the Smith Act unconstitutional.

"For everyone you bust," Richmond later recalled about the anti-communist campaign of Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, "you hope to intimidate thousands of others. I think that a lot of people were silenced, and their withdrawal from social commitment extended long afterwards."

Mother Jailed by Czar

Richmond's mother was a dedicated Russian revolutionary who spent six years in a czarist prison for radical activity before she came to the United States. He returned to Russia with his mother during the German occupation in 1917, and they were arrested by enemy troops. The family came back to the United States in 1922, and Richmond joined the Young Communist League at the age of 15.

He moved to Philadelphia after high school and helped unionize factory and dockworkers, then joined the New York staff of the Daily Worker as a writer. Later, Richmond moved to the West and openly published the Daily People's World while other communist papers preferred to go underground.

In his autobiography, "A Long View From the Left," Richmond criticized the Communist Party for not being more democratic. He quit the party but stayed true to his Marxist roots.

He is survived by his wife, Merle, and his sons, David and Joseph, of Mill Valley.

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