History and Mission

The Progressive is a monthly leftwing magazine of investigative reporting, political commentary, cultural coverage, activism, interviews, poetry, and humor. It steadfastly stands against militarism, the concentration of power in corporate hands, and the disenfranchisement of the citizenry. It champions peace, social and economic justice, civil rights, civil liberties, human rights, a preserved environment, and a reinvigorated democracy. Its bedrock values are nonviolence and freedom of speech.

The Progressive is fortunate to have some of the best writers in the country grace its pages, including Wendell Berry, Edwidge Danticat, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jim Hightower, Eduardo Galeano, Luis Rodriguez, Terry Tempest Williams, and Dave Zirin. The magazine also provides comic relief with columns by humorists Kate Clinton and Will Durst.

Some of America’s leading poets—Adrienne Rich, Martín Espada, C.K. Williams, and Rita Dove—publish original work in The Progressive. The magazine also publishes a monthly interview with an activist, artist, writer, scholar, or political figure. Here are some of the people we’ve interviewed in the last decade: Howard Dean, Ani DiFranco, Steve Earle, Janeane Garofalo, Danny Glover, Amy Goodman, Mikhail Gorbachev, Seymour Hersh, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Barack Obama, Michael Pollan, Robert Redford, Martin Sheen, Joseph Stiglitz, Helen Thomas, Alice Walker, and Elizabeth Warren.

The Progressive has a storied history. On January 9, 1909, Senator Robert M. La Follette Sr. of Wisconsin founded La Follette’s Weekly to be “a magazine of progress, social, intellectual, institutional.” The goal, he wrote, was “winning back for the people the complete power over government —national, state, and municipal—which has been lost to them.” He attacked private greed in the form of corporate monopolies that hoarded power. He championed the public interest, campaigning for social and economic justice. And he urged the United States not to entangle itself in foreign wars.

In 1929, La Follette’s Weekly changed its name to The Progressive, but the views of the magazine have remained remarkably consistent over the years.

In 2009, The Progressive celebrated its centennial by publishing its anthology, Democracy in Print: The Best of The Progressive magazine, 1909-2009 (Univ. of Wisconsin Press). And the April 2009 issue of The Progressive was a special commemorative one. Devoting a single page to each year of The Progressive, this issue served up kernels of wisdom from the archives. It’s a walk through 100 years of U.S. history and progressive history. And it includes quotations from Jane Addams, James Baldwin, Louis Brandeis, Theodore Dreiser, Sen. Russ Feingold, Molly Ivins, June Jordan, Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Jr., Sinclair Lewis, Milton Mayer, Arundhati Roy, Bertrand Russell, Edward Said, Cindy Sheehan, Upton Sinclair, Gore Vidal, Paul Wellstone, and Howard Zinn.