About this Archive
(1915-2010) journalist, also known as Sam Lesser
Sam Russell (pen-name of Sam Lesser, né Manassah Lesser or Manasseh Lesser) was born in Hackney on 19 March 1915, the son of Jewish-Polish immigrants. In 1934 he won a scholarship to study Egyptology at UCL, where, in 1935, he joined the Communist Party. Having been attracted to the Communist Party by its anti-fascist stance, Russell was persuaded to go to Spain to fight Franco's falangists. Telling his mother he was going to Egypt as part of his studies, he travelled to Spain in September 1936 as part of the first group of Britons to join the International Brigades. After being badly injured in 1937, Russell was no longer able to fight, but returned to Spain to broadcast propaganda, and later reported on the war for the Daily Worker.
When the Daily Worker was banned in 1941, Russell worked in an aircraft factory, where he became a shop steward, before returning to journalism when the ban on the Daily Worker was lifted. In the course of his time at the Daily Worker, he reported a number of significant events from around the world. Based in Moscow from 1955 to 1959, he reported on the process of de-Stalinisation and befriended the Cambridge spies Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess. Russell also reported from Budapest during the suppression of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956, Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 (at which time he interviewed Ché Guevara), and from Chile during Pinochet's coup in 1973.
Russell retired in 1984, and following the demise of the Communist Party in 1991 joined the Labour Party. In later life he was heavily involved in the commemoration of volunteers from the International Brigades, and was granted Spanish citizenship in 2009 in gratitude for his service to the republic during the Civil War. He died on 2 October 2010 aged 95.
Scope and content
Papers of journalist Sam Russell (also known as Sam Lesser), including correspondence, articles, newspaper cuttings, notebooks, publications, reports, photographs and ephemera relating to the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War and the International Brigade Association; press cuttings of articles by Russell for the Daily Worker and Morning Star; Russell's reports from socialist countries (USSR, Asia, Western Europe, and the Americas); Second World War, specifically the relationship between the UK and the USSR; Soviet Union, Stalinism and the Cold War; Communist Party of Great Britain, including policies and campaign material; Daily Worker and Morning Star; Correspondence from colleagues, contacts, friends and family, (1938-2010).