John Cort

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John Cort

John C. Cort was a Boston based religious socialist.

Catholic activism/career

Cort did a two-year stint with the Catholic Worker in New York City after graduating from Harvard in 1935.

He worked several years in varied positions with the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists (he was a co-founder), intertwined with numerous stays in T.B. hospitals, and a brief stint as an organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union; twelve years as a business agent with the Newspaper Guild, initially in New York and then in Boston; two years as a senior Peace Corps administrator in the Philippines; several years laboring on urban poverty, first as the head of the Commonwealth Service Corps, then with the Model Cities Program in Lynn, MA; finally at the age of 60, entering upon a career of serious scholarship, which included authoring a 400-page work on Christian socialism and now a 300-page volume on justice and the right to a job.[1]

Catholicism and socialism

Cort converted to Catholicism as a senior at Harvard, and was a daily communicant until his death. John Cort’s formal affiliation with the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) in 1975 marks his first public identification with democratic socialism.

Cort had a long involvement with the Archdiocesan Labor Guild. He was a key activist for several decades, a past president, and editor of its monthly newsletter.[2]

Mike Pattberg's reminisces

John Cort and Mike Pattberg were both involved in the 1976 Fred Harris Presidential campaign.[3]

Unlike some in the Boston local, he had little use for the writings of Karl Marx, and not just the 20th century dictatorships that arose in his name. But his major objection to DSA was our pro-choice stance on abortion. On this question and others, he took the official position of the Catholic Church.
I got to know John better in the 1980s, when we were part of the Boston DSA contingent for the Pledge of Resistance, one of the more effective expressions of popular opposition to U.S. policy in Central America.
But the parts of this book that will probably stimulate the most controversy on the left have to do with the Association of Catholic Trade Unionists (ACTU), which John helped lead, and their fight against Communist Party influence in the unions of the 1940s. The chapter "ACTU and the Stalinists" describes how CP-controlled unions subordinated not just foreign policy resolutions but strike activity and general militancy to the ruler "of one of the most reactionary, dictatorial, homicidal govern-ments in the history of the world". During the Hitler-Stalin Pact (1939-41) CP unions urged strikes, like at North American Aviation in 1941, to deny arms shipments to Hitler's only opponent—Great Britain. That is until Hitler tore up the alliance pact and invaded Russia, whereupon CP unions became the most ardent advocates of assembly line speed up, piecework and no-strike pledges.

DSOC Religious Commission

In 1977, John Cort attended the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee convention in Chicago. At the convention Cort and others organized a DSOC Religion and Socialism Committee (later Commission). Cort was elected coordinator and editor of the newsletter.

Among early leaders, co-editors and contributors to the newsletter were Peter Steinfels, Sister Mary Emil, Rosemary Ruether, Harvey Cox, Cornel West, Arthur Waskow, Joe Holland, James Luther Adams, Jim Gorman, Maxine Phillips and Jim Wallis. Monsignor George Higgins was also a contributor.[4]

Democratic Socialists of America

DSA Conference delegate

In 1983 John Cort was a Boston, Massachusetts delegate to the Democratic Socialists of America conference in New York City, October 14-16, 1983[5]

DSA Religion and Socialism Commission

In 1995 John Cort was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America Religion and Socialism Commission[6].

In 2000, the Democratic Socialists of America Religion & Socialism Commission consisted of:[7]

Debs-Thomas-Bernstein Awards Reception


On June 12, 2001, John Cort was a supporter of the annual Debs-Thomas-Bernstein Awards reception which is hosted by Boston Democratic Socialists of America. The Debs-Thomas-Bernstein Award is presented to "leaders who fight for democracy, here at home and around the world". Ed Clark, Honorary Vice Chair of Democratic Socialists of America; and Communist Party USA-linked Dessima Williams received the Debs-Thomas-Bernstein Award, while DSAer John Maher received the Michael Harrington Lifetime Achievement Award. DSAer David Knuttunen; Boston-based "social justice" organization Neighbor to Neighbor; and In These Times members Abby Rockefeller and Lee Halprin were benefactors of the reception. The reception took place at the home of DSAer Marcia Peters and her husband David Karaus in Jamaica Plain.[8]


On June 13, 2002 Boston Democratic Socialists of America presented its 25th Annual Debs–Thomas–Bernstein Awards to "leaders who fight for democracy, here at home and around the world". State Representatives Pat Jehlen and Anne Paulsen, Co-Chairs of the Progressive Legislators Group received the award. Ellen Feingold, the earliest known recipient (1979) spoke on the history of the organization. David Knuttunen and Susan Davidoff were benefactors of the reception. John Cort was a patron of the reception.[9]

Association for Union Democracy

In 2008 John Cort was listed on the Advisory Board[10] for the Association for Union Democracy.


  1. TYR, Jan. 2007
  2. TYR, Jan. 2007
  3. TYR, Jan. 2007
  4. Dreadful conversions: the making of a Catholic socialist, By John C. Cort, page 319
  5. DSA Conference delegate list Oct. 12 1983 update
  6. DSA Religion and Socialism Commission Letterhead June 18 1995
  8. The Yankee Radical, June 2001, page 1
  9. The Yankee Radical, Sep./Oct. 2002