Scope and Contents
Title: William Schneiderman papers
Date (inclusive): 1920-1985
Collection number: larc.ms.0026
Accession number: 1988/104
Labor Archives and Research Center
J. Paul Leonard Library, Room 460
San Francisco State University
1630 Holloway Ave
San Francisco, CA 94132-1722
Languages represented in the collection:
6.25 cubic feet
(5 record cartons)
Abstract: Primarily material related to Schneiderman's role as California State secretary of the Communist Party, including correspondence,
leaflets, clippings, pamphlets, memoranda, reports, hearing transcripts and manuscript for his autobiography,
Dissent on Trial , including one chapter not published.
Location: Collection is available onsite.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Labor Archives and Research Center. All requests for permission to publish or quote
from materials must be submitted in writing to the Director of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf
of the Labor Archives and Research Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission
of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], William Schneiderman Papers, larc.ms.0026, Labor Archives and Research Center,
San Francisco State University.
This collection was donated by Leah Schneiderman, the wife of William Schneiderman, in 1988 under the direction of Robert
Processed by Rex Doane in October 1990.
Born on December 14, 1905 in Romanov, Russia, William Schneiderman was brought to the United States at the age of two by his
parents. The family settled in Chicago where Schneiderman's father worked in the garment industry. The Schneidermans would
later relocate to Los Angeles in the 1920s after William's father contracted T.B. While in Los Angeles, Schneiderman wrote
in his autobiography that the "land of promise" had once again "mocked" his family (Schneiderman,
Dissent on Trial, p. 15). It was this disillusionment and the poverty that he suffered as a child that helped to, in Schneiderman's words,
develop a strong "working-class consciousness" (Ibid. p. 17) early in life. At age 16, Schneiderman joined the Young Communist
League to begin his long career of political activism. Schneiderman also held a number of jobs while in Los Angeles during
the Twenties. Letters of recommendation found in this collection indicate that he worked as a bookkeeper for the Upholstery
Union No. 15, in a similar capacity for the National Biscuit Company, and as an office clerk for a local grocery. Despite
working ten hour days, Schneiderman attended night classes at UCLA. While enrolled, Schneiderman actively opposed the compulsory
ROTC program on campus. As a result of his activities, school officials classified him as a "non-citizen." The consequence
of this change in status meant that Schneiderman had to pay significantly higher tuition as a non-resident in order to complete
his education. The increase in fees proved to be too much for the already strapped Schneiderman and he was forced to drop
out. He would finally receive his degree some forty years later.
Schneiderman's political convictions continued to have an impact on his personal fortunes. In 1925, he was fired from a job
he had held for five years. The Simon Levi Company stated that Schneiderman was laid-off, "owing to some changes in our office
work" (Simon Levi Co. letter of recommendation dated Nov. 28, 1925, Schneiderman Collection, box 2, folder 75). Schneiderman
held that his dismissal was the result of being "fingered by the Red Squad." In 1927, Schneiderman's final citizenship papers
came through and they would later become the source of some controversy. In 1930, Schneiderman was assigned by the Communist
Party to become a district organizer in the New England area (a territory hard hit by unemployment). Schneiderman was transferred
a year later to Minneapolis, where a number of party leaders had been indicted as a result of a "Red Scare." Serving once
again as a district organizer, Schneiderman was also nominated as the Party's candidate for governor and received 5,000 votes.
In 1935, Schneiderman spent a year in the Soviet Union and was deeply impressed with what he thought to be the future for
Returning to California, Schneiderman was appointed as state secretary for the Communist Party, a position he held until 1957.
In 1939, the year of his marriage to Leah, the U.S. Justice Department moved to deport Schneiderman on the basis of his membership
to the Communist Party during the time of his naturalization. Schneiderman's citizenship trial would eventually reach the
Supreme Court where he was represented by Wendell Wilkie without fee. Schneiderman won the case and soon made headlines again,
when in 1949 he and fourteen other communist leaders were indicted under the Smith Act (a list of the individuals indicted
is included in the noteworthy individuals index at the end of this guide). With the eventual Supreme reversal of the Smith
Act, Schneiderman resumed his active role within the Communist Party, and as state secretary he delivered a number of speeches
at the various state and national conventions. In 1982, Schneiderman wrote his autobiography,
Dissent on Trial, chronicling his struggles as a life-long political activist. William Schneiderman died on January 29, 1985.
Scope and Contents
The material within this collection chiefly focuses on William Schneiderman's involvement in the Communist Party from
1931 until his retirement in the late 1960s. The types of material in the collection include: official and personal correspondence;
court transcripts; newspaper clippings; Communist Party memos, newsletters, and pamphlets; research material; speech notes;
and manuscript versions of both published and unpublished writings. The largest segment of the collection are the transcripts
of speeches delivered by Schneiderman as California State secretary at the Communist Party state and national conventions.
As long-time state secretary (and later chairman) of the California Communist Party, Schneiderman offers a critical and revealing
view of the Party's development. As such, researchers will value his insight into the Communist Party and its internal turmoil.
Issues often addressed by Schneiderman within his speeches include the rights of minorities and a need to develop a youth
movement within the Party. Other issues include the steady decline of membership (particularly in the 1950s and early 1960s)and
the developing ideological split in the party. Other noteworthy series in the collection include the Schneiderman citizenship
case and the Smith Act trial materials. Included in the citizenship case are the Supreme Court briefs, news clippings, related
correspondence, and the manuscripts of Schneiderman's speeches during the trial. This case still serves as a fundamental precedent
for the rights of immigrants. Similarly,
the speech notes, court transcripts, and newspaper clipping in the Smith Act series help further document the struggles endured
the Communist Party in the United States. Please note that the Smith Act transcripts included in this series are incomplete.
Researchers should value the unpublished epilogue to Schneiderman's autobiography,
Dissent on Trial. Indicative of Schneiderman's deep concern for the fate of the Communist Party, the epilogue is outspoken and fairly critical.
In it, Schneiderman candidly writes that the Communist Party too quickly dismissed criticisms of the Soviet Union and too
often held that these were merely distortions and falsehoods. While emphasizing the continued allegiance to the ideals of
warned that the Soviet Union could not be considered infallible and that certain alterations in policy were appropriate and
The epilogue was considerably revised by Schneiderman prior to publication.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Communist Party of the United States of America.
Communist trials--United States.