New Leader, liberal magazine, dies

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The New Leader, which is either the most influential of the little-known magazines or the least well known of the influential ones, is closing after 82 years of publication, first as a weekly, then a biweekly and, since 2000, a bimonthly.

The executive editor, Myron Kolatch, said recently that he was still working on the January-February issue, which in characteristic New Leader fashion would probably come out a bit late, toward the end of next month, and would be a retrospective look at the magazine's history. Then he plans to pack up the magazine's papers and back issues and look for an archive somewhere to house them.

The New Leader has a circulation of roughly 12,000, down from a peak of about 30,000 in the late 1960's, and like most magazines of its kind, it runs at a loss - some $400,000 a year in this case. Back in the 50's, it was said to receive occasional support from the C.I.A., but it has been more reliably sustained by contributions from, of all places, an institute financed by Tamiment, the famous Poconos resort and proving ground for the likes of Sid Caesar and Danny Kaye. When Tamiment, which began as a Socialist camp for adults, was sold in 1965, Mr. Kolatch explained, its directors decided to spend down the proceeds on The New Leader and a couple of other causes, and they have finally succeeded in doing just that, leaving the magazine without enough money to go on.

The New Leader, which was originally a broadsheet and then became a tabloid before settling into its current magazine format, was founded in 1924 as an organ of the American Socialist Party, and it came of age in an era when American politics on the left was so sectarian that you needed a scorecard to keep track of all the factions and their publications. In 1936, Samuel M. Levitas, a charismatic Russian émigré and a Menshevik, became executive editor. Under his influence, The New Leader broke with the Socialists, and in the great schism that sundered the American left over the issue of Stalinism, it clung resolutely to the side of the liberal anti-Communists, where it quickly became a powerful and outspoken voice, reporting on the Moscow trials, the Yalta Conference, the cold war and the gulag.

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