by Robert W. Cherny
University of Illinois Press, 2024
Paper: 978-0-252-08793-6 | Cloth: 978-0-252-04583-7 | eISBN: 978-0-252-05671-0
Library of Congress Classification HX91.C3
Dewey Decimal Classification 324.279407509795


Founded in 1919, the Communist Party (CP) in San Francisco survived an ineffectual early period to become a force in the trade union heyday of the 1930s. Robert Cherny uses the lives and careers of more than fifty members to tell the story of the city’s CP from its founding through 1958.

Cherny draws on FBI files, the records of the CP at the Russian State Archive for Social and Political History, interviews, and memoirs to follow male and female party and union leaders, rank-and-file members, and others. His history reveals why people joined the CP while charting the frequent changes in policy, constant member turnover, and disruptive factionalism that limited party aims and successes. Cherny also follows his subjects through their resignations, expulsions, or other reasons for departure and looks at the CP’s influence on their lives in subsequent years.

Vivid and exhaustively researched, San Francisco Reds is a long view account of the personal motivations and activism of an Old Left generation in a West Coast city.