James Weinstein, 78; Leftist Advocate, Writer

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Times Staff Writer

James Weinstein, founding editor and publisher of the progressive magazine In These Times and a historian of leftist politics in the United States, has died. He was 78.

Weinstein died Thursday at his home in Chicago of brain cancer.

Born to a wealthy family in New York City, Weinstein used his money to fund leftist causes and publications, including In These Times, which he founded in 1976. Until his retirement in 1999, Weinstein used the magazine’s editorials to urge progressives to work within the Democratic Party rather than splinter into ineffective leftist groups.

His work recently earned the Studs Terkel Award from the Chicago-based Community Media Workshop for his devotion to democracy, justice and human values.


“Jim Weinstein was a shining example of a truly independent journalist,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning Terkel said at the time. “In his own way, he was in the tradition of George Seldes and I.F. Stone and Lincoln Steffens -- muckraking journalists who challenged the received wisdom. He always asked ‘Why?’ and “Who is behind what?’ and ‘Where are the bodies buried?’ ”

An avowed socialist, Weinstein belonged to the Communist Party from 1948 until 1956, when he resigned following revelations of the atrocities in the Josef Stalin era.

In 1949, after he gave a ride to Julius Rosenberg, who would later be executed for espionage, Weinstein was trailed by FBI agents and subpoenaed to testify before a congressional panel that included Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy.

Often irking his doctrinaire leftist colleagues, Weinstein described himself as a “Groucho Marxist” and used humor to get his points across.

Toward the end of World War II, Weinstein interrupted his studies at Cornell University to serve in the Navy as an electronics technician. He later completed his Cornell degree in government and attended a year of Columbia University Law School. He worked for electronics companies for a few years, becoming active in trade unions, before earning a master’s degree in history at Columbia.

In 1960, Weinstein moved to Madison, Wis., where he edited the journal Studies on the Left and wrote his first two books, “The Decline of Socialism in America, 1912-1925” and “The Corporate Ideal in the Liberal State, 1900-1918.”


After a failed run for Congress in New York City, Weinstein moved to San Francisco in 1967 to found the quarterly publication Socialist Revolution, later called Socialist Review, and the bookstore Modern Times.

In 1974, he taught at the Centre for the Study of Social History in Covington, England, before settling in Chicago.

His other books include “For a New America,” which he co-edited with David W. Eakins, and “Ambiguous Legacy: The Left in American Politics.”

Weinstein’s final book, which he considered his best, is “The Long Detour: The History and Future of the American Left,” published in 2003.

A Los Angeles Times reviewer described it as a historical survey of socialism as a concept and noted that Weinstein “writes with an elegance and a light touch uncommon among historians of the left.

Weinstein is survived by his wife of 15 years, Beth Maschinot; two children from an earlier marriage, Lisa Weinstein of Chicago and Joshua Weinstein of San Francisco; and a sister, Lois Sontag of Stamford, Conn.


The family has asked that any memorial donations be sent to Literature for All of Us, a reading program in Evanston, Ill.