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Mike Gold

Mike Gold

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Michael "Mike" Gold is the pen-name of Jewish American writer Itzok Isaac Granich. A lifelong communist, Gold was a novelist and literary critic, his semi-autobiographical novel
Autobiographical novel
An autobiographical novel is a form of novel using autofiction techniques, or the merging of autobiographical and fiction elements. The literary technique is distinguished from an autobiography or memoir by the stipulation of being fiction...

 Jews Without Money from 1930 was a bestseller.


Gold was born Itzok Isaac Granich on April 12, 1894 on the Lower East Side of New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 to Romanian
The Romanians are an ethnic group native to Romania, who speak Romanian; they are the majority inhabitants of Romania....

The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 immigrant parents - Chaim Granich and Gittel Schwartz Granich. He had two brothers. Mike Gold signed his first published writings Irwin Granich. He reportedly took the pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

 Michael Gold at the time of the Palmer Raids
Palmer Raids
The Palmer Raids were attempts by the United States Department of Justice to arrest and deport radical leftists, especially anarchists, from the United States. The raids and arrests occurred in November 1919 and January 1920 under the leadership of Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer...

 on radicals in 1919-20 from a Jewish Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 veteran he admired for having fought to "free the slaves." During the 1930s and 1940s Gold was considered the Dean of U.S. Proletarian Literature.

Literary career

The Masses
The Masses
The Masses was a graphically innovative magazine of socialist politics published monthly in the U.S. from 1911 until 1917, when Federal prosecutors brought charges against its editors for conspiring to obstruct conscription. It was succeeded by The Liberator and then later The New Masses...

, a socialist journal edited by Floyd Dell
Floyd Dell
Floyd Dell was an American author and critic.-Biography:Floyd Dell was born in Barry, Illinois on June 28, 1887....

 and Max Eastman
Max Eastman
Max Forrester Eastman was an American writer on literature, philosophy and society, a poet, and a prominent political activist. For many years, Eastman was a supporter of socialism, a leading patron of the Harlem Renaissance and an activist for a number of liberal and radical causes...

, published his first pieces in August, 1914. "Three Whose Hatred Killed Them" is a poem about anarchists killed in a Lexington Avenue tenement by their own bomb. Gold praised their pure intentions. Until his death he was an ardent supporter of the Communist Revolution
Communist revolution
A communist revolution is a proletarian revolution inspired by the ideas of Marxism that aims to replace capitalism with communism, typically with socialism as an intermediate stage...

 of 1917 and the Soviet Union in all its phases. In 1921-22 Gold and Claude McKay
Claude McKay
Claude McKay was a Jamaican-American writer and poet. He was a seminal figure in the Harlem Renaissance and wrote three novels: Home to Harlem , a best-seller which won the Harmon Gold Award for Literature, Banjo , and Banana Bottom...

 became Executive Editors of Max Eastman's magazine The Liberator
The Liberator (magazine)
The Liberator was a monthly socialist magazine established by Max Eastman and his sister Crystal Eastman in 1918 to continue the work of The Masses, which was shut down by the wartime mailing regulations of the U.S. government. Intensely political, the magazine included copious quantities of art,...

In 1925 Gold visited Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

. In 1926 he was a founding editor of The New Masses
The New Masses
The "New Masses" was a prominent American Marxist publication edited by Walt Carmon, briefly by Whittaker Chambers, and primarily by Michael Gold, Granville Hicks, and Joseph Freeman....

, which published leftist works and also set up radical theater groups. Gold was editor-in-chief from 1928 to 1934. As he had at The Liberator, he liked to publish letters, poems and fiction by ordinary workers more than those of literary leftists.

One of the articles he wrote for The New Masses was "Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein
Gertrude Stein was an American writer, poet and art collector who spent most of her life in France.-Early life:...

: A Literary Idiot", in which he assaults her works as appearing "to resemble the monotonous gibberings of paranoiacs in the private wards of asylums ... The literary idiocy of Gertrude Stein only reflects the madness of the whole system of capitalist values. It is part of the signs of doom that are written largely everywhere on the walls of bourgeois society."

In "Proletarian Realism" (1930), Gold said of Marcel Proust: "The worst example and the best of what we do not want to do is the spectacle of Proust, master-masturbator of the bourgeois literature."

Jews Without Money

Gold had been working on his one novel, Jews Without Money, a fictionalized autobiography about growing up in the impoverished world of the Lower East Side, throughout the 1920s. Published in the midst of the 1928 Great Depression, in 1930, it was an immediate success and went through many print-runs in its first years and was translated into over 14 languages. It also became a prototype for the American Proletarian novel. On the last page of the book, the poor Jewish boy prays for the arrival of a Marxist worker's revolution that will emancipate the working class.

Jews without Money is set in a slum populated mainly by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. The father of the hero is a painter, who suffers from lead poisoning
Lead poisoning
Lead poisoning is a medical condition caused by increased levels of the heavy metal lead in the body. Lead interferes with a variety of body processes and is toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive and nervous systems...

. When he falls from a scaffold, he is disabled and can no longer work. His business fails and the family is pushed into poverty. The wife has to seek work in a restaurant. Although he is a bright boy, young Michael decides he must leave school.

In his Author's Note to the novel, Gold wrote, "I have told in my book a tale of Jewish poverty in one ghetto, that of New York. The same story can be of a hundred other ghettoes scattered over all the world. For centuries the Jew has lived in this universal ghetto."


Gold himself was fond of repeating a quote from the novel: "O workers' Revolution!... You are the true Messiah!"

The popularity of the novel made Gold a national figure and cultural commissar of the Communist Party
Communist Party USA
The Communist Party USA is a Marxist political party in the United States, established in 1919. It has a long, complex history that is closely related to the histories of similar communist parties worldwide and the U.S. labor movement....

. He was a daily columnist for its paper, the Daily Worker
Daily Worker
The Daily Worker was a newspaper published in New York City by the Communist Party USA, a formerly Comintern-affiliated organization. Publication began in 1924. While it generally reflected the prevailing views of the party, some attempts were made to make it appear that the paper reflected a...

, until his death.

As a critic, Gold fiercely denounced left wing authors who he held deviated from the Communist Party line. Among those he denounced were Albert Maltz
Albert Maltz
Albert Maltz was an American author and screenwriter. He was one of the Hollywood Ten who were later blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses....

  and "renegade" Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American author and journalist. His economic and understated style had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his life of adventure and his public image influenced later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the...

, who responded with "Go tell Mike Gold, Ernest Hemingway says he should go fuck himself."

Death and legacy

Gold died in Terra Linda, California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, on May 14, 1967 from complications following a stroke. He was 73 years old.

Gold's papers reside at the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives
The Tamiment Library is a research library at New York University that documents radical and left history, with strengths in the histories of communism, socialism, anarchism, the New Left, the Civil Rights Movement, and utopian experiments. The Robert F. Wagner Archives, which is also housed in...

 at New York University
New York University
New York University is a private, nonsectarian research university based in New York City. NYU's main campus is situated in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan...

 in New York City.


  • Life of John Brown. Girard, KS: Haldeman-Julius Co, 1924.
  • Proletarian Song Book of Lyrics from the Operetta "The Last Revolution." With J. Ramirez and Rudolph Liebich. Chicago: Local Chicago, Workers Party of America, 1925.
  • The Damned Agitator and Other Stories. Chicago: Daily Worker Publishing Co.
    Daily Worker
    The Daily Worker was a newspaper published in New York City by the Communist Party USA, a formerly Comintern-affiliated organization. Publication began in 1924. While it generally reflected the prevailing views of the party, some attempts were made to make it appear that the paper reflected a...

    , 1927. —Little Red Library #7.
  • Money: A Play in One Act. New York: Samuel French
    Samuel French
    Samuel French was a U.S. entrepreneur who, together with British actor, playwright and theatrical manager Thomas Hailes Lacy, pioneered in the field of theatrical publishing and the licensing of plays....

    , 1929.
  • 120 Million. New York: International Publishers
    International Publishers
    International Publishers is a book publishing company based in New York City specializing in Marxist works of economics, political science, and history. The company was established in 1924 by A.A. Heller and Alexander Trachtenberg, using funds earned through a lucrative trade concession granted...

    , 1929.
  • Jews Without Money. New York: International Publishers, 1930.
  • Charlie Chaplins Parade. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1930.
  • Proletarian Literature in the United States: An Anthology. (Contributor.) New York: International Publishers, 1935.
  • Change the World! New York: International Publishers, 1936.
  • "Battle Hymn": A Play in Three Acts. With Michael Blankfort.) New York: Play Bureau, Federal Theatre Project
    Federal Theatre Project
    The Federal Theatre Project was a New Deal project to fund theatre and other live artistic performances in the United States during the Great Depression. It was one of five Federal One projects sponsored by the Works Progress Administration...

    , 1936.
  • The Hollow Men. New York: International Publishers, 1941.
  • David Burliuk: Artist-Scholar, Father of Russian Futurism. New York: A.C.A. Gallery, 1944.
  • Rhymes for Our Times. With Bill Silverman and William Avstreih, Bronx, NY: Lodge 600, Jewish People's Fraternal Order of the International Workers Order, 1946.
  • The Mike Gold Reader New York: International Publishers, 1954.

Additional reading

  • Radical Representations: Politics and Form in U.S. Proletarian Fiction, 1929-1941 (Post-Contemporary Interventions by Barbara Foley, Duke University Press, 1993, p. 312.
  • Mike Gold: Dean of American Proletarian Literature by John Pyros (Published Dramatika; January 1980)
  • Encyclopedia of Literature and Politics: Censorship, Revolution, and Writing A-Z [Three Volumes] by M. Keith Booker (Published 2005 Greenwood Publishing Group)
  • Bloom, James. Left Letters: The Culture Wars of Mike Gold and Joseph Freeman (Columbia University Press
    Columbia University Press
    Columbia University Press is a university press based in New York City, and affiliated with Columbia University. It is currently directed by James D. Jordan and publishes titles in the humanities and sciences, including the fields of literary and cultural studies, history, social work, sociology,...

    , 1992)
  • Rideout, Walter B. The Radical Novel in the United States: 1900-1954: Some Interrelations of Literature and Society. New York: Hill and Wang, 1966.
  • James A. Michener Art Museum: Bucks County Artists - Michael Gold

External links