Farmer-Labor Movement History

                   MINNESOTA (1917-1948)

                         A THESIS
     which is now called  The Union Institute ( )

                   Thomas Gerald O'Connell

                       FOR THE DEGREE OF
                     DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

                      February  1979

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TABLE OF CONTENTS.                                page

(Select the "Contents" link near each page number to return here)

Chapter 0 Introduction.                                1
Chapter 1 Roots of the Movement.                      13
    1.1 Non Partisan League                           15
    1.2 Labor Forges a Political Movement             27
    1.3 Birth of the Farmer Labor Movement            34
    1.4 Footnotes to Chapter 1                        43

Chapter 2 Charisma and Class Conflict.                46
    2.1 Floyd B Olson - the Early Years               49
    2.2 A Farmer-Laborite in the Governor's Mansion   55
    2.3 The Great Teamster Strike                     67
    2.4 Footnotes to Chapter 2                        77
Chapter 3 The Benson Years.                           80
    3.1 The Education of a Radical                    81
    3.2 Tough Times in the State House                85
    3.3 The Communist Party Joins
        the Farmer-Labor Association                  95
    3.4 Defeat!                                      110
    3.5 Footnotes to Chapter  3                      127

Chapter 4 The Farmer-Labor Association:
          Education for Rank and File Democracy.     131
    4.1 The  Strength  of  Thousands                 133
    4.2 Education,  Farmer-Labor  Style              138
    4.3 The  Women's  Federation                     144
    4.4 The Party Press                              149
    4.5 The Legacy of Hope                           154
    4.6 Footnotes to Chapter 4                       161

Chapter 5 The Farmers Take a Holiday-
      Mass Protest and the Farmer-Labor Alliance.    163
    5.1 Stay Home!  Sell Nothing!                    166
    5.2 The War on Mortgage Foreclosures             178
    5.3 A New Deal/ A Stacked Deck                   184
    5.4 Footnotes to Chapter  5                      192

Chapter 6 The Rise of the C.I.O,                     194
    6.1 {Needs section heading}                      197
    6.2 {Needs section heading}                      206
    6.3 Footnotes to Chapter  6                      224

Chapter 7 Epilogue                                   227

Chapter: 0 INTRODUCTION                                    Page: 1

        One Saturday afternoon, not long ago, 700          Contents
people gathered in St. Paul's Prom Ballroom to pay
tribute to Elmer Benson, Farmer-Labor governor from
1936-38.  The gathering was sponsored by the Farmer-
Labor Association, an organization of new generation
activists who are reviving the Farmer-Labor Tradition
in Minnesota's Democratic Farmer-Labor Party. Seated
together at the tables were the men and women who
organized the C.I.O., built the Farm Holiday Movement,
fought the battles for women's rights in the _first_ half
of this century, and held elective office in the state
government as Farmer-Laborites. Sitting alongside were
veterans  of the anti-war movement, organizers of today's
rank and file union groups, neighborhood associations,
and women's organizations. Elmer's son, Tom, leader of
the American Agriculture Movement was in the audience.
So was Alice Tripp, protest leader from Polk County and
the new Association's candidate for governor.

        Pete Seeger did the singing--just as he had done
thirty years earlier when he and Elmer Benson shared the
podium at the founding convention of the brand new
Progressive Party of America.  When it was finally his

turn to speak, Elmer pulled out his F.B.I. file. It was    Page: 2
twelve inches thick; larger, by double, than even the
most active 60s activist's present. The gathering howled   Contents
in delight.  The F.B.I. file was a common bond.   We
were all Farmer-Laborites.

        The history of the Farmer-Labor Movement can
best be understood in four stages. In the first stage,
EMERGENCE (1917-24), two broad based organizations, the
Farmer's Non-Partisan League, and the Working People's
Non-Partisan League joined forces to challenge
Minnesota's ruling Republicans by taking them on in the
primaries. Though their immediate aims were different,
the two movements found little trouble agreeing on a
political program. Both opposed the state's business
and political elites who controlled the agricultural
markets, and viciously fought workers' attempts to
organize unions.  Both favored programs to curb corporate
powers through state regulations and public ownership.

        In the Fall of 1917, organizers from the Farmer's
Non-Partisan League crisscrossed the state, signing up
50,000 farmers on an anti-monopoly program patterned
after the successful effort of North Dakota farmers the
year before.  From the beginning, opposition was intense.
League organizing took place during the heat of U.S.
involvement in World War I.   Main Street "patriots"

busted up meetings and ran organizers out of town. The     Page: 3
Republican administration carried on a campaign of
harassment, branding both farm and labor militants as      Contents
disloyal, and jailing leaders for sedition.

        Still, the organizing continued.  In 1918,
Congressman Charles Lindbergh, father of the famous
aviator, came within 50,000 votes of defeating Governor
J. A. A. Burnquist in the primary.  The Farmer-Labor
coalition elected a respectable number of state
legislators and firmly established itself as the second
most powerful political force in the state--well ahead
of the hapless Democrats.

        In 1920 and '22, the two leagues continued their
coalition with even better results, strengthening the
hands of those who favored merger of the two leagues
into a genuine third party.  In 1924 the two
organizations founded the Farmer-Labor Federation-
renamed the "Association" the following year.  This
event marked the beginning of the second stage of
Farmer-Labor history, CONSOLIDATION (1924-30).

        The development of a genuine Farmer-Labor Party
did not result in any dramatic improvement in Farmer-
Labor fortunes--at first.  In 1924, the charismatic
Hennepin County Attorney, Floyd Olson fell short in
his bid to win the governorship. Throughout the rest

of the decade the Association found itself swimming        Page: 4
upstream, keeping its "loyal opposition" status in the
legislature, but unable to catchup with the Republicans.   Contents

        Unlike many third party efforts, however, the
organization held together, less a "movement" now with
all the unfettered energy and participation the term
implies, but a viable organization--nonetheless.  The
continued support of the AFL and the widespread network
of ideologically committed Farmer-Laborites from both
city and country kept the program and spirit alive.

        In 1930 the steady work payed off.  Floyd Olson
was elected governor, beginning the third and most
successful period of Farmer-Labor history, the HIGHTIDE
(1930-38).  The immensely popular Olson was elected
governor three times and was a shoe-in for senator
before he died of a stomach tumor in 1936.  Olson's
success was paralleled throughout the organization.
Dues paying membership in the Association rose to almost
40,000 as organizers setup clubs across the state.
Hundreds of Farmer-Laborites held elected offices at
all levels of government--from city council to U.S.
Senate. In 1936 Farmer-Laborites captured five of
eight Congressional seats, the governorship, and a solid
majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives.

        Political success was buoyed by the spectacular    Page: 5
re-emergence of mass movements.  The Farm Holiday
Movement revived the dormant populist spirit of            Contents
Minnesota farmers as thousands participated in strikes
and direct action tactics to resist foreclosures. In
Minneapolis the Teamsters faced down the Citizens
Alliance, the country's most notorious anti-labor
organization and won an epic strike battle that opened
up the state's largest city to the labor movement.  In
1936-38 the newly organized C.I.O. set the Iron Range
on fire with militant campaigns among the lumberjacks
and iron ore miners.

        Labor and farm organizing was complemented by
other efforts as well.  The Workers Alliance set up
councils of the unemployed across the state, leading
the fight for adequate relief and modern social security
programs.  Coops of all kinds sprung up in town and
country alike: electric power coops, food coops,
marketing coops, hardware stores, gas stations, grain
elevators, . . . . All of these movements allied
themselves with the Association, often times formally,
as affiliated organizations.  The Association became
the political extension of the great social movements
of the '30s.

        But, the '30s ended, and with them, the glory      Page: 6
days of the Farmer-Labor Movement.  In 1938, Floyd
Olson's successor, Elmer Benson, was overwhelmingly        Contents
defeated by a reform Republican named Harold Stassen.
The inability of successive Farmer-Labor administrations
to solve the economic problems of the Great Depression;
the people's weariness of class confrontation politics;
a systematic anti-Semitic and anti-Communist campaign
from both within and outside the Association; and
serious divisions within the Association itself, were
all factors in the overwhelming Farmer-Labor defeat.
The period of DECLINE (1938-48) set in.

        With the U.S. entry into World War II the
economy improved and most Farmer-Laborites joined
enthusiastically in support of the war effort.  There
was little inclination--and less of a constituency--for
vintage Farmer-Labor anti-monopoly politics while the
war continued.  In 1944 the Association merged with the
Democrats to become the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party
(D.F.L.).  Unity prevailed until the war's end.

        In 1946 the struggle for the political direction
of the new party began.  Farmer-Labor opposition to the
consolidation of corporate power and the cold war
politics of the Truman administration met head-on with
the corporate liberalism of the Democrats.  When the

Farmer-Laborites moved to endorse the Independent          Page: 7
presidential candidacy of Henry Wallace in 1948, the
Democrats, led by young Hubert Humphrey united behind      Contents
Harry Truman.  In a bloody six month battle fought in
precinct and district caucuses across the state, the
Democrats soundly defeated their opposition.  The
Farmer-Labor wing never recovered its influence. After
1948, the DFL became "Farmer-Labor" in name only.

        As the preceding summary shows, the Farmer-Labor
Movement did pretty well in conventional political terms.
Not only did it elect hundreds to public office, keep
Minnesota's uninspiring Democrats in their place, and
challenge the dominant Republican Party for the top
rung, it produced in Floyd Olson a political leader of
national stature--"presidential timber" according to
the era's pundits and prognosticators.  But the Farmer-
Labor Movement was far more than an electoral party.
It was a genuine social movement with its own educational
and cultural supports.  It was _participatory_, the
collective expression of thousands: farmers, workers,
professionals, small business people. Many had
inherited their outlook from parents, participants in
earlier populist movements and labor struggles.

Thousands more came to the Association through their       Page: 8
own experiences.
In short, the Farmer-Labor Movement encompassed but
extended beyond the Association itself.  The movement
included the Farm Holiday, the C.I.O., the
cooperatives. In an organizational sense these
movements often connected directly to the Association
as affiliate organizations.  But even when they didn't,
the collective energy of popular protest in Minnesota
formed the social soil in which the Farmer-Labor
Association could take root and grow.  Root and soil,
the two aspects of the Farmer-Labor Movement were
interdependent and inter- twined.  Their history cannot
be understood in isolation.

As participants in a progressive social movement
Farmer-Laborites developed a political viewpoint and
program that was far to the left of either the New Deal
of the '30s or the Democratic Party today.  The
Farmer-Labor program contained "socialistic" proposals
(public ownership of utilities, banks, parking houses,
the railroads) without advocating socialism as a total
system.  Farmer-Laborites believed that economic
democracy was a necessary component of political
democracy, that the unchecked power of monopolies was
the greatest threat to both economic security and
individual freedom, that workers and farmers had the
courage and intelligence to reshape society.

        To be sure, some Farmer-Laborites were             Page: 9
socialists. Veterans of the Socialist Party formed
the nucleus of the Non-Partisan League organizing efforts  Contents
among farmers in both North Dakota and Minnesota.
Socialists were prominent in the Twin Cities labor
movement as well.  They provided much of the ideological
leaven for the foundation of the Farmer-Labor Federation
in 1924.

        The fullest expression of the Farmer-Labor
socialist current was the famous "Cooperative
Commonwealth" platform of 1934.  Its preamble intoned:

    We declare that capitalism has failed and
    that immediate steps must be taken by the
    people to abolish capitalism in a peaceful and
    lawful manner, and that a new, sane, and just
    society must be established, a system in which
    all the natural resources, machinery of
    production, transportation, and communication
    shall be owned by the government and operated
    democratically for the benefit of all the
    people, and not for the benefit of the few.

        The term itself, "Cooperative Commonwealth" was
vintage American socialism.  It symbolized an economic-
political system based on individual freedom and the
common good. It countered the dominant cultural image
of a free individual in a free market with a vision of
a free _people_ controlling both their political and
economic institutions.  The program itself with its
emphasis on grassroots  economic organization through

producer and consumer coops, as well as state ownership,   Page: 10
further reinforced this image.  The "Cooperative
Commonwealth" would mean _more_ freedom for the worker and Contents
farmer.  Its brand of collectivism promised community
participation, rather than bureaucratic control.

        But the imagery and poetry of the '34 platform,
though a reflection of a continuous current within the
Association, went well beyond the center position as it
was expressed over the years.  More typical was the
platform of the Working People's Non-Partisan League
in 1919.  It would serve as a prototype for Farmer-
Labor platforms throughout the 20s and 30s.  It called
for: the eight hour day and forty-four hour week;
the establishment of cooperatives; state compensation
for injured workers; equality of men and women and
equal pay; abolition of unemployment; public ownership
of railroads, banks, terminal grain elevators, and
public utilities.

        The Farmer-Labor Movement was nourished by
diverse social traditions: the radicalism of the Iron
Range Finns, the reform tradition of the Norwegians;
the moral fervor of the social gospel; the crusading
spirit of the temperance and suffrage movements; the
populism of the Red River Valley wheat farmers; the
democratic dream of the Jeffersonian tradition itself.

        The politics of the Association was a conver-      Page: 11
gence of tradition, the ever shifting intersect between
practical program, ideology, and the membership's own      Contents
reflection on the experience of the system they lived in.
The process was both top down and bottom up: an
amalgamation of tradition, rather than an "ism" strictly

        In writing this work, I have tried to ask the
questions that would be most helpful to people who are
itching to put into practice the lessons we can learn
from the Farmer-Labor experience.  What happened to
Association meetings?  Who ran the party press?  How
did the CIO go about organizing the lumberjacks? What
was the secret of farmer-labor cooperatives?  How did
business elites fight farmer-labor initiatives?  What
were the provisions for membership education?

        I have combined broad themes with nuts-and-
bolts descriptions, emphasizing processes over
personalities, movement building over legislative

        The first three chapters provide an overall
summary of the movement with a focus on the relationship
between the political history (elections, platforms,

laws) and movement history.  The last three chapters       Page: 12
focus more closely on specific organizations: The
Farmer-Labor Association itself, the Farm Holiday          Contents
Movement, and the C.I.O.  The approach is suggestive
rather than exhaustive.  In an ever more real sense
than usual, this is a "work in progress."

        Forty years have passed since the great
movements of Depression Era America.  My generation
has experienced great social movements of its own.
Yet, despite the mass radicalization that accompanied
the civil rights, women's and anti-war movements of
this generation, we still have no "Party of the Left"
in this country.  I believe we need one, and I
recommend the work of our Farmer-Labor forbearers as
a strong foundation.

Chapter: 1                                                 Page: 13

ROOTS OF THE MOVEMENT                                      Contents

        One morning in March 1924, the _Minneapolis
Journal_ greeted its readers with news that 32 people were
jailed in a four-day crime drive that one enthusiastic
cop called the "greatest police coup" in years.  Chris
Cacca was shot dead trying to hold up Hohn's drug store
on 24th and Nicollet.  In an unusual display of zeal,
a coordinated Twin City effort at criminal round up
followed.  Highway robbers, burglars, and grand
larceners, were hauled in before the tribunal of

        Meanwhile, justice of another sort was taking
place in Washington, D.C.  The congressional investiga-
tions of the Teapot Dome continued to expose cozy
relationships between high officials in the Harding
administration and assorted tycoons of what has since
become known as the "private sector."  Harding was gone
now.  His successor, Calvin Coolidge, was busy picking
up overwhelming delegate support in Kansas, New
Hampshire, and Colorado, on his march to his first
full term as president.

        Whitney's Department Store in downtown             Page: 14
Minneapolis was having specials:
    - Chocolate Peppermints, 1 lb. at $ .29

    - Spring dresses ("you'11 be surprised at the
      wonderful styles") for $5.00

    - Coconut oil shampoo and cucumber astringent
      cream, $.50

And Jack Dempsey stopped off en route to the West Coast
to announce that he would indeed give Louis Firpo another
shot at the heavyweight title.  Firpo had knocked him
right out of the ring in their first encounter. #1.1

        Inside Richmond Hall on South 5th Street, the
Farmer-Labor Federation was getting itself organized. As
usual. the Farm and Labor contingents began their
deliberations in separate hotels.  In all, there were
over 200 delegates present.  They represented 20,000
members of the farmers Non-Partisan League, central
labor bodies of the states' nine largest cities, 116
local unions, 15 cooperative societies, eight
"progressive clubs" (mostly middle class and professional
people), two socialist groups, and 29 district organi-
zations of the Farmer-Labor electoral alliance. #1.2

        In the morning, the labor contingent voted
overwhelmingly to abandon its separate status as the
Working People's Non-Partisan League and create the
Farmer-Labor Federation.  The farmers were more

hesitant.  Only after five hours of debate did they        Page: 15
accept the Federation plan by a vote of 84 to 79.  A new
organization was born.  It would serve Minnesota           Contents
workers and farmers for the next twenty years, carrying
on the work of the organizations which had given birth
to it.

Section: 1.1 The Non-Partisan League

        In 1916, an outgrowth of the old Midwest populism
called the Non-Partisan League swept into power in
North Dakota.  The League, rounded by a busted flax
farmer, A. C. Townley, took the novel approach of
winning control of the Republican Party to elect
candidates pledged to a tough platform designed to bring
immediate relief to beleaguered North Dakota farmers.

        The platform was simple and direct.  It called

    - State ownership of terminal grain elevators, flour
      mills, packing houses, and cold storage plants

    - Exemption of farm improvements from taxation

    - State inspection of grain and grain dockage

    - State hail insurance

    - Rural credit banks operated at cost. #1.3

        This platform, with its emphasis on state ownership and
regulation, was no socialist pipe dream. It had

powerful appeal for the North Dakota farmers, as similar   Page: 16
programs would for Minnesota farmers.  Since the
rounding of the Grange in the 1870s, and on through the    Contents
Farmers Alliance in the '80s, and Populist Party in the
'90s, farmers throughout the Midwest had organized
political movements aimed at curbing the power of the
trusts and monopolies.  The grain and railroad companies
were favorite targets because they were directly
responsible for making things rough for the farmers.

        Though the farmer grew his grain, he had no
control over the prices he received, the rates charged
by the railroads, or the rating system that determined
the grade of his wheat.  He had no control of the
interest rates charged by banks (often downright
usurious) and couldn't afford hail insurance.  As a
result, thousands of farmers went broke every year. #1.4

        The creation of the League was a masterpiece
of organizing by a master organizer.  Townley himself
described the beginning:

    I roamed around the prairies of North Dakota
    for a year and a half talking to farmers.  I
    used to walk thirty miles a day sometimes
    and talk to different farmers as I came to
    them.  I thought I understood the matter and
    I went from one to another, and I talked to
    them in rounds and discussed things to see
    whether or not there was something that could
    be done. #1.5

        What Townley neglected to describe was his short-  Page: 17
lived career as a member of the Socialist Party, where
he picked up organizing skills.  There he learned the      Contents
importance of giving organizers a Model-T Ford that
could help them cover huge distances in one day,
accepting postdated checks from farmers who couldn't
pay their bills on the spot, and most importantly,
promoting an effective, easily understood program.

        Townley didn't reminisce much about his stint
in the Socialist Party.  Like many agrarian reformers,
he took issue with the Party's "socialist everything"
approach. Apparently "socialist" measures like state
ownership of grain elevators, a state bank, or
nationalization of railroads were popular measures
precisely because they were a means to protect the
independent status of the family farmer.  When pushed
by the Non-Partisan League on that basis, these
measures were accepted by thousands.  When advocated by
the Socialist Party as a means to socialism, the same
measures failed miserably.

        Many Socialist Party members agreed with
Townley's approach and joined the League.  They formed
an elite corps of organizers that Townley sent combing
the wheat belt of North Dakota.  They staffed the
League's newspapers, provided some of its best stump

speakers, and kept the League looking outward for new      Page: 18
alliances.. It was Socialists like Joe Gilbert and
Henry Teigen who would nurture the League's tender         Contents
alliance with Labor in Minnesota, and play a leading
role in the formation of the Farmer-Labor Association
itself. #1.7

        Townley ran a tight ship.  His recruitment
methods featured a brand of psychology worthy of the
most aggressive sales organization.  A correspondence
course for League organizers carried these instructions:

    Arouse interest with your very first statement.
    Your first statements are like headlines in a
    newspaper. Make this sentence for the interest
    of the man to whom you are talking.  Then keep
    control of the interview. Discuss those
    things upon which we all agree, and do not
    waste time arguing other questions . . . .
    Remember that you cannot force him to join by
    physical force and force of argument.  You
    must persuade him as well as convince him.
    It is not altogether a matter of satisfying
    his reason. It is a matter of appealing
    to his emotions as well.  We do not always
    do the things we know should be done.  We
    do the things we want to do .... Remember
    that back of every act is both a thought and
    feeling. You must make him think, and you
    must make him feel. You must appeal to his
    emotions as well as to reason. #1.8

        In 1916, the hard sell paid off.  Having captured
control of North Dakota's Republican Party, the League
farmers went on to win the governorship and House of
Representatives in the general election.  Then they
turned their attention to neighboring Minnesota where

many farmers were equally hard up, the Republican Party    Page: 19
equally in control--and, as events would prove,
moving fast to become equally conservative.                Contents

        By the Fall of 1917, the League's challenge to
the Minnesota's Republican Party began in earnest.
Two-hundred-sixty Fords were purchased, 150 organizers
and speakers were added to those already in the field.
Meetings were scheduled in towns throughout rural
Minnesota.  They served as pep rallies for those
already signed up, and recruiting sessions for the

        The format was simple.  A League speaker, often
Townley himself, would explain the organization's
program, and end for good measure with pleas for
donations to the Red Cross, and purchase of Liberty
Bonds (the U.S. had entered World War I).  At the end
of the meeting farmers would be asked to sign up, often
underscoring their commitment by chanting the Non-
Partisan League pledge: "We'11 Stick!"

        The selling of Liberty Bonds, and spoken
support for the war effort were critical parts of the
League presentations.  The leadership knew that their
opponents would seek to avoid the economic issues by
branding Leaguers as disloyal.  Leaguers tried to work
out a middle ground in which the organization both

supported the war effort and demanded measures to insure   Page: 20
that monopolies didn't get away with enriching them-
selves further at the expense of the people.  The          Contents
League's war program denounced German militarism
and demanded that:

    - wealth be conscripted as well as boys
      (a catchy if imprecise demand)
    - war be financed from corporate profits
    - civil liberties, usually imperiled during
      war, be honored
    - the food distribution system be nationalized. #1.9

        The distinction between this program and
outright opposition to the war was real enough, but the
League's enemies were hardly willing to accept the
subtleties involved in a program that was critical and
supportive of the war effort at the same time.  The
opposition determined to isolate the League through the
time-tested techniques of wartime chauvinism and red
baiting.  The League was "yellow" and it was "red."
The only way it could avoid these charges was to abandon
the field entirely.

        The opening meeting of the Minnesota campaign
was scheduled for Lake City in Wabasha County.  After
pressure from the town's Commercial Club, the owner of
the hall cancelled the agreement for use of the building.

Townley urged 250 farmers to reconvene in Dumfries, 20     Page: 21
miles away, where they were joined by another 150 and
held a successful meeting. #1.10
        Following uneventful sessions in Wabasha and
Litchfield, the League ran into trouble in Mankato where
once again they were denied meeting space.  They
reconvened in Nicollet, where 1,000 farmers stood out
in the bitter cold to hear the League's message.
"What's a matter," asked one disgruntled recruit,
"Ain't farmers legal?" #1.11

        As the Fall progressed, small-town "patriots"
broke up League meetings on a regular basis.  Organizers
and speakers were beaten, tarred and feathered,
threatened with lynching.  Hobs attacked sympathetic
merchants, painting their storefronts yellow and
smashing windows. The suppression was worst where the
League was weakest. By 1918, 19 counties had barred
all meetings of the League.

        Small-town businessmen, and their fellow towns-
people, were often the shock troops of the anti-League
crusade. The League's Minnesota program emphasized
organizing cooperatives, and that threatened commercial
traders where it hurt the most--in the pocketbook.  The
League's emphasis on developing independent newspapers
in places where the local press was hostile did not

endear them to small-town opinion-makers.  Nor were        Page: 22
bankers kindly disposed to their proposals for banking
reform.  More generally, the League's emphasis on          Contents
organizing dirt farmers was a direct challenge to an
established rural hierarchy in which small-town
professionals and merchants outranked the farmers
living in the surrounding fields.  #1.12

        Though much of the battle was fought out in and
around the small towns of Minnesota, the state's Main
Street patriots had support from more prestigious
quarters as well: the captains of the milling industry,
other corporate leaders, the Republican administration,
and the big city press of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
The most visible opposition of all, however, came from
Minnesota's own experiment in political repression,
the Public Safety Commission.

        The bill establishing the Commission was rushed
through the legislature in April 1917, less than two
weeks after war was declared on Germany.  It was
empowered to "do and perform all acts and things
necessary or proper so that the resources of the state
may most efficiently be applied toward the successful
prosecution of such war"--and provided with a one
million dollar budget to undertake its sweeping charge.
As peppery old historian William Folwell put it: "If a

large and hostile army had already landed at Duluth,       Page: 23
and was to march on the capitol of the state, a more
liberal dictatorship could hardly have been conceded       Contents
to the Commission." #1.13

        Whatever the intent of the legislature, the
aspirations of the Commission's Chairman, John McGee,
were clear. On accepting his new post he declared:

    If the Governor appoints men who have backbone,
    treason will not be taught on the streets of
    the city, and the street corner orators who
    denounce the government, advocate revolution,
    denounce the army, and advise against
    enlistments, will be looking through the
    barbed fences of an internment camp out on
    the prairie somewhere.  #1.14

        McGee was chairman of the Grain Exchange in
Minneapolis, a veteran of many heated wars with farmers,
and militant foe of labor unions to boot.  For him,
the Commission was the perfect weapon to club old
antagonists into submission.

        For his part, Governor Burnquist was only too
pleased to oblige his new chairman.  He appointed four
men with "backbone."  The fifth, a representative of
organized labor, had neither "backbone," nor stomach.
He resigned in disgust.

        Burnquist had risen in the ranks of the
Republican Party as something of a progressive.  By
1917, however, he had thrown in his lot with reaction.

With his unqualified support, the Commission lost no       Page: 24
time in saving Minnesota from its citizens.  His view
of the situation in those early months was summarized      Contents
in a retrospective report issued in 1919.

    We had a population of about two million by the
    1910 census.  More than 70 percent of these
    were either foreign born or of foreign parentage
    on one or both sides.  Out of the two million
    people, nearly 500,000 were either born in
    Germany or Austria or of German or Austrian
    parentage. There were many sections where the
    English language was not spoken. Part of these
    had personal associations with Germans before
    the United States entered the war and for this
    reason, wanted Germany to win.

    The public danger came when the anti-war feeling
    assumed the shape of concerted and public
    propaganda, and it assumed this shape here in
    the Spring and Summer of 1917.  The Minnesota
    men who were disloyal formed a constituency of
    considerable size.  And there appeared leaders
    and spokesmen to organize them. Misinterpreting
    the conditional guarantee of freedom of speech,
    these leaders thought they could properly oppose
    the government policies in speech and in writing.
    These leaders were of three classes: (1) pro-
    fessional and theoretical pacifists, (2) men of
    pro-German traditions and sympathies and
    traditions, (3) professional politicians of the
    Socialist or Non-Partisan League stamp . . . .
    The commission undertook to kindle the back
    fires of patriotism among the rank and file of
    this ilk. With the leaders, it used the mail
    fist. #1.15

        An inventory of just a few of the Commission's
valiant strokes in defense of patriotism includes:

    o The investigation and ultimate suspension
      of the mayor and city attorney of New Ulm
      for participating in a rally attended by
      10,000 German-Americans.  The rally was
      held to plead that Germans be allowed the
      option of not fighting on German soil.

    o The enforcement of the dubious sedition and          Page: 25
      criminal syndicalism laws around the state.
      The Sedition Act made it unlawful to                 Contents
      advocate in a public place or meeting that
      people should not enlist in military service.
      The criminal syndicalism law simply outlawed
      the Wobblies.

    o The prohibition of the People's Peace Council
      Convention.  Mayor Van Lear of Minneapolis
      had assured this group of peace advocates
      from around the country the hospitality of
      the city. Upon the recommendation of the
      Commission, Burnquist overruled his political
      enemy and declared Minnesota off limits to
      the convention.

    o The petition to the United States Senate to
      expel Wisconsin Senator Robert LaFollette on
      the grounds that he was a "teacher of
      disloyalty and dissent."  The Commission had
      found some remarks he had made at a Non-
      Partisan League meeting in St. Paul, to be
      of a "disloyal and seditious nature."

    o The dismissal of William Schaper, a professor
      at the University of Minnesota.  The Commission
      had sent a letter to the Board of Regents
      charging that the German Department in
      particular, and others as well, were infected
      with disloyalty.  Needing a victim, the Regents
      settled on Prof. Schaper.  The victim would
      become something of a hero in Farmer-Labor
      quarters. He ran for the Party's nomination
      for governor in 1924 (unsuccessfully), and
      was reinstated at the University a decade later
      through the intervention of Governor Elmer Benson.

    o The wholesale indictment of Bill Haywood and
      165 additional members of the International
      Workers of the World (IWW), in what was surely
      the Commission's "finest hour."  Through
      persistent badgering, the Commission managed
      to enlist the cooperation of the U.S. Attorney
      General's office in a raid on IWW headquarters,
      located in Minneapolis.  The raid yielded so
      many documents that a house had to be rented
      to hold them all.  On the basis of this

      evidence, 101 "Wobblies" were convicted of           Page: 26
      various violations and received sentences
      ranging from three months to twenty years. #1.16
        The most consistent application of the "mail
fist" was reserved for Burnquist and McGee's most
potent enemy; the Non-Partisan League.  Beyond the legal
weapons employed, measures that resulted in the jailing
of Townley and Joe Gilbert, were the tacit approval and
occasional overt support for the terror directed at the
League.  The May 1917 issue of the Commission's bulletin,
for example, carried enthusiastic comments on the
beating of a League organizer: "This (the beating) had
a very salutary effect on the balance of the disloyal
element, and they began to seek information on the war
and its causes in a conscientious manner." #1.17

        In another bulletin, the Commission editorialized
in an even more enthusiastic fashion.

    It is hard to conceive of a more contemptible
    coward than the near traitor and seditionist
    who makes every effort to discourage
    patriotism of the more militant sort.  When the
    patience of the loyalists is thus tried to the
    breaking point, and drastic action is taken
    by the citizens themselves, he is the first
    to emit a squeal of mortal terror, and rush
    the protection of the very law he has scorned
    and defied. . .

    The ever increasing number of cases where mob
    law is used on pro-Germans should at least
    indicate to the near traitor that he is surely
    and certainly bringing the day of reckoning
    nearer every hour.  The time to "get right"

    is NOW, and in a manner that will leave no             Page: 27
    doubt of sincerity.  Noses are sure to be
    counted in every community. #1.18
        Chairman McGee, no slouch at agitation
himself even went so far as to attack one of the
dominant ethnic groups in Minnesota.  Declared McGee:

    The Non-Partisan League lecturer is a traitor
    every time.  In other words, no matter what he
    says or does, the League worker is a traitor.
    Where we made our mistake is in not establishing
    a firing squad in the first days of the war.
    We should now get busy and have that firing
    squad working overtime.  The disloyal element
    in Minnesota is largely among the German and
    Swedish people.  The nation blundered at the
    start of the war in not dealing severely with
    those vipers. #1.19

        Even Governor Burnquist found this brew a bit strong.
Attacking Germans might be good politics, but taking on
the Swedes as well certainly wasn't clever. A few days
after his propaganda chief's statement, the Governor
"clarified" McGee's remarks, insisting that no one
intended to impugn the loyalty of the state's wonderful
Swedish citizens.

Section: 1.2 Labor Forges a Political Movement

        While Non-Partisan League organizers were
stumping rural communities around the state, gathering
strength for the challenge in the Republican primaries
of Spring 1918, events propelled much of organized
labor into an alliance with their militant country

        Minnesota's labor movement was considerably        Page: 28
more progressive than the national norm.  The American
Federation of Labor, under Sam Gompers, was dead set       Contents
against risky coalitions with agrarian crusaders, and,
in fact, preferred to stay out of independent politics
altogether.  The Minnesota A.F.L., however, was more
flexible on the subject. The councils of Minneapolis
Labor, in particular, strongly supported a direct
role in politics.  The sentiment grew from experience.

        Minneapolis was one of the most notorious open
shop cities in America during the first three decades of
the twentieth century.  A semi-secret employers'
organization called the Citizens Alliance effectively
provided support to fellow businessmen beleaguered by
the scourge of unionism.  The Alliance responded to
requests for assistance in a truly fraternal spirit by
providing employees with top-flight legal assistance
and loyal substitute workers (less generously referred
to as "scabs"). If necessary--and it often was--the
Alliance even furnished guards for the protection of
company property. #1.20

        Some of the leading corporate citizens of
Minneapolis blessed the Alliance.  But the bluebloods
seldom carried on the frontline work. Established
money rarely descended to the dirty work of spying and

espionage that kept the Alliance in the know.  That was    Page: 29
left to the merchants and medium-sized manufacturers
whose zeal for the open shop, and 100 percent              Contents
Americanism was of the "born-again  variety that
everywhere distinguishes the marginal convert from the
established and powerful.

        It was only natural that the highly organized
and continuous opposition to unionism would be met by a
vigorous but extremely vulnerable labor movement in
Minneapolis.  And this process was encouraged by the
development of an unusually strong Socialist presence in
both the union movement itself, and the city as a whole.

        Thomas Van Lear led the Socialist Party in
Minneapolis. He was the city's most popular trade
unionist, a former officer and business agent of the
International Association of Machinists, and board
member of the _Minnesota Labor Review_, the official and
staunchly left wing voice of the Minneapolis labor
movement. #1.21

        Van Lear and the machinists had entered the
world of Socialist Party politics in 1910.  Until that
time the Party had been dismally weak in Minneapolis.
But in 1910, Van Lear polled 11,601 votes for mayor and
came within one-thousand votes of carrying the day in a
close three-way race.

        From 1910 through 1918 Socialist politics          Page: 30
flowered in Minneapolis.  Clubs, set up around the city,
featured lecturers, dances, picnics, and rallies. The      Contents
movement's newspaper, _The New Times_, was full of
announcements of Socialist events: a masquerade ball
with "something for everybody, from the hungry wage
slave to the fashionable young lady"; a talent show
featuring a Mr. F. W. Adams, a local talent that class-
conscious Socialists assured their constituents "rivaled
Caruso." On a more serious note, the 12th Ward Club
featured an open forum on economic and social issues
at which anyone could talk.  Another Socialist Club
sponsored a lecture on the "sexual origin of beauty--
sex and the cause of the fine in life."  #1.22

        Foreign language clubs--Finnish, Scandi-
navian, German, Jewish, and Lettish--complemented the
work of the ward organizations.  The Norwegians even
had their own paper, _Gag Paa_ (_Forward_).  The newspapers,
the clubs, the lectures and debates, typified the
passion for education that illuminated so many of the
social movements of the age before mass media and mass
institutions of schoolings. Farm hands, plumbers, mine
workers, professionals--people of all backgrounds who
joined the great movements for change--understood the
importance of _knowledge_, the simple idea that the

common people could learn the essentials of science and    Page: 31
society and thereby direct their own political affairs.
        Meridel LeSeuer writes of the debates within
the Socialist Party at this time:

    It was the time of the mind's forging.  It was
    the time of the great gathering on the prairie,
    of the picnic with the Socialist speakers and
    the arguments in the bunkhouse of the right
    and left of political and economic power, of
    the fronts to fight on and the way to do it,
    of how the worker and farmer might secure the
    land and the machine be operated to get back
    at least some of the products of his labor.
    It was the time of the heated argument in
    the schoolhouse, of the speakers in the rear
    of the wagon who talked against the wind .... #1.23

        Van Lear was a pragmatic leader.  His emphasis
on achieving concrete reforms made it possible to win
the support of the decidedly _non_-Socialist majority of
citizens who were fed up with the shenanigans of
successive Democratic and Republican city administra-
tions.  Still, Socialists kept their ideology out of
the closet. Each municipal platform combined a
practical reform pro,ram with the commitment to class
struggle and socialism.

        The 1912 platform declared, "We wish it
distinctly understood that we advocate these remedial
measures only as a means to the one great end of the
Cooperative Commonwealth." #1.24 And Van Lear, himself,

    Socialism cannot be put into effect in any             Page: 32
    one city. But we know that every Socialist
    elected will use all the power of the office           Contents
    he is elected to in combating the evils of the
    present day, and the final disappearance of
    those evils of capitalism will be hastened by the
    introduction of social, political, and economic
    measures which will have the effect of bettering
    the lives of workers and strengthening their
    positions in society. #1.25

        In 1916, the voters of Minneapolis chose Van
Lear as their mayor.  Two issues converged to provide
him with a solid majority.  The first was a business
scandal.  Citizens of all political persuasions were
upset when the incumbent mayor and Council approved the
streetcar company's bid to renegotiate a franchise
agreement for $15,000,000 more than the actual worth of
the company.  Prominent leaders of the Minneapolis
financial community close to the streetcar company
contributed heavily to Van Lear's opponent's campaign
kitty.  The voters turned in disgust to the only reform
candidate available, Van Lear.

        The second issue was specifically a working
class concern.  A conflict between the Teamsters Union
and employers in a handful of shops had escalated into
a general strike.  The Citizens Alliance brought in
strikebreakers, many of them armed, and Mayor Wallace
Nye supplied scabs with police protection.  Mayor Nye
had been-a public official the conservative A.F.L.

leaders thought they could trust.  But his performance     Page: 33
"fawning and grovelling at the feet of the master
class," convinced even the most reluctant business         Contents
unionist that labor _must_ have its own people running
the city. #1.26

        For both the Citizens Alliance and the labor
movement in Minneapolis, an offense against one became
an offense against all--a condition that strengthened
the hand of Socialists who preached class solidarity
over narrow business unionism, and independent political
action over "reward your friends and punish your
enemies."  In 1917, Governor Burnquist and the Safety
Commission helped forge the statewide expression of the
Minneapolis solidarity when they intervened in a labor
conflict between the Teamsters and the Twin Cities Rapid
Transit Company.  The Safety Commission took the view
that loyalty demanded nothing short of complete
abstinence from organizing new unions.  There were two
honorable options available to able-bodied men during
the war: "Either go to the firing line and fight as no
man ever fought before, or stay at home and work as no
man ever worked before." #1.27

        The state A.F.L. did not agree.  While the war
issue had created a serious rift in the organization
(100 Socialists had walked out of the state convention

in protest over prowar resolutions), and conservative      Page: 34
labor leadership had been prepared to go along with
Burnquist, the administration's heavy-handed strike-       Contents
breaking was too much.

        Non-Partisan Leaguers were quick to exploit the
situation.  They went out of their way to support the
carmen, and arranged a conference to coordinate farm
and union political efforts.  Although no formal
farmer-labor coalition was established until after the
challenge in the Republican primary that Summer, the
foundation was laid for the alliance that would soon
spawn the Farmer-Labor Party.

Section: 1.3 Birth of the Farmer-Labor Movement

        Events had brought both the Non-Partisan
League and a large segment of the Minnesota Labor
Movement into coalition.  On March 19, 1917 Non-Partisan
League members representing 48 of the state's 67
senatorial districts nominated the progressive congress-
man from Little Falls, Charles A. Lindbergh for
governor. In the joint two-day rally that followed,
7,000 farmers and workers celebrated.

        The occasion was a dramatic one.  Townley
himself addressed the final session.  In the middle of

his speech, he paused and asked: "Farmers of Minnesota,    Page: 35
is there any hatred in your heart toward organized
labor?"                                                    Contents

        The farmers shouted out, No!" and Townley
responded: "Those of you who pledge allegiance to the
workers of the city will stand."  Thousands of Minnesota
farmers jumped to their feet. #1.28

        "Workers of the city, if you likewise pledge
your allegiance to the farmers of Minnesota, please
stand." Immediately the rest of the auditorium was on
its feet. Hats sailed through the air, men and women
cried.  The cheers were tumultuous.

        The Farmer's Non-Partisan League had done its
work well.  Despite intimidation, despite legal attacks
that resulted in the jailing of Minnesota leaders, the
League had signed up 50,000 farmers--mostly wheat
farmers from the Red River Valley and the southwestern
counties, sod-busters from the poorer agricultural
regions of central Minnesota, and German-Americans who
were fed up with the wartime persecution suffered at
the hands of the Burnquist administration.

        Opposition to the League in the upcoming
election was led by a Twin Cities group comprised of
top executives of banking, milling, mining, lumbering,
and utilities. They weren't alone, of course.  The more

prosperous farmers of the southeast had little taste       Page: 36
for the Non-Partisan brand of radicalism.  Small-town
professionals had their own economic and political         Contents
reasons for opposition.  Much of the Catholic hierarchy
treated Lindbergh cooly, as they treated anything even
faintly smelling of socialism.  They no doubt
influenced at least some of the faithful.  And thousands
of Minnesotans, regardless of economic position or
religious persuasion, were mesmerized by the persistent
charges of disloyalty that formed the basis of
Republican strategy.

        The Twin Cities group bankrolled its own campaign
of clever stratagems and dirty tricks.  Bribes were
offered League organizers to write "inside stories"
denouncing the League.  A news service was created to
keep the loyal small-town press well stocked with anti-
League news and editorials.  A new magazine was created
for the occasion and sent out free to over 200,000
"potential subscribers."  _Called, On the Square--A
Magazine for Farm and Home_, the journal combined
propaganda with helpful articles on farming and healthy
living. #1.29

        The campaign was the most violent in Minnesota
history. Several times mobs dragged Lindbergh off the
speaker's platform.  Once he was shot at while

escaping.  In Red Wing, citizens hung him in effigy.       Page: 37
In Duluth, the City Council simply banned him from
speaking.  Anoka patriots attacked a parade of 1,500       Contents
Leaguers, beating up men, women, and children, while
Madison loyalists confined themselves to using a fire
hose to break up a rally--evidently their way of
dousing the flames of Kaiserism.

        Throughout the ordeal, Lindbergh conducted
himself with courage.  Country philosopher and anti-
monopolist, ex-Congressman and reform Republican,
Lindbergh was a man of stature--a genuine hero to
Minnesota farmers. And if his speeches were a little
long and a little pedantic, that was all right with

        As the weeks went by, the League campaign
gained momentum.  Giant car caravans paraded through
the countryside, stopping in the towns for mobile
campaign meetings.  The _Non-Partisan Leader_ provided
an alternative source of news for League readers and
potential League voters.

        On June 17, the results came in.  Lindbergh
polled 150,000 votes--three times the League membership
but 48,000 less than Burnquist.  The Republicans had
received large Democratic Party switchover, as
newspapers encouraged Democrats to vote for Burnquist

and "save the state from Socialism."  In all, 168,000      Page: 38
more citizens had voted in the Republican primary than
in the previous election.                                  Contents

        Lindbergh carried the working class wards of
St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Non-Partisan strongholds
of the Red River Valley and adjacent counties, and
German-American territory like Brown and Stearns
Counties.  In all the League carried 32 counties and
nominated 42 senators and 80 representatives.

        The Loyalty Campaign had checked the League, but
it gave birth to a political coalition even more
powerful. The new farmer-labor alliance was just
beginning.  In August, the Farmers Non-Partisan League
and a committee from the A.F.L. met in separate hotels
and negotiated a partial ticket for the general
elections.  A progressive Democrat named David Evans
was the new choice for governor, and Tom Davis, a
favorite of the farmers, was nominated for Attorney
General. Minnesota election laws precluded their running
as Independents, so the name "Farmer-Labor" was used
on the ballot. #1.30

        The final elections in November generally
paralleled the Non-Partisan results in the June primary,
though the campaign itself was less dramatic.  Violence
subsided as Burnquist began to perceive that the

loyalty issue carried to excess could backfire.  When      Page: 39
a Finn from Duluth was found hanging from a tree after
being attacked by an organization called the Knights       Contents
of Liberty and a number of Rock County farmers who
refused to sign a "loyalty oath" were "deported" to
South Dakota, public reaction against the Governor
began to mount.

        In the end Burnquist won easily.  The Farmer-
Laborites, however, kept their coalition together,
won a strong foothold in the legislature, and
established themselves as the second party in the state.

        A precedent for farmer-labor cooperation had
been set. But the formation of a single, unified,
organization was not easy.  The fire of attack that
characterized the great struggles of 1917-18 was
replaced by the tedious necessity of keeping a shaky
coalition together in hard times.  There were major
disagreements on the question of merging the separate
farmer and labor organizations.  Townley and many of
his supporters favored continued efforts to work through
the Republican Party primaries.  William Mahoney,
editor of the _St. Paul Union Advocate_, was the main
leader for the majority of Labor who favored the
formation of an independent political party.  Mahoney
could count on a solid minority of left wing

Non-Partisan Leaguers like Joe Gilbert and Henry           Page: 40
Teigen for support. #1.31
        The Farmers Non-Partisan League slowly lost
ground as the major force in the farmer-labor coalition
after 1918, heightening the fears of some farmers that-
merger would mean loss of influence.  In 1919, the
state Federation of Labor voted to form its own working
people's Non-Partisan League. Within a year, 300 unions
had joined, and  its paid up membership reached 45,000.
In the elections that year, the farmer-labor coalition
won victories in 46 legislative districts, though
failing once again to win statewide office. #1.32

        In 1922, the two leagues (still over the
objection of Townley) stayed out of the Republican
primary for the first time.  They won their first
statewide office with the election of Henrik Shipsread,
a dentist from Glenwood, to the post of U.S. Senator.
Shipstead was a tall, distinguished-looking Scandinavian
who had supported the Non-Partisan League during the war
and got his house painted yellow for his trouble.
Shipstead appealed to farmers.  In fact, his fortunate
ethnic background, and comfortably grave, substantial
demeanor, made him an attractive candidate for all
sorts of Minnesotans.  In the great political wars of

the next 20 years, he would fare better than many more     Page: 41
capable and committed Farmer-Laborites. #1.33
        One of those, a dirt farmer named Magnus
Johnson, became the second Farmer-Labor senator a year
later when he won a special election held to fill the
vacancy of Republican Knute Rockne, who had died in
office.  As it turned out, Magnus's victory was short-
lived.  In the regular election the following year, 1924,
he was defeated.  But the two senatorial victories,
coming as they did in the wake of another one of
capitalism's periodic recessions, strengthened the
hands of those who favored a permanent organizational
structure.  A conference between the two leagues took
place in September 1923, and recommended formation of
the Farmer-Labor Federation.  The joint convention held
the following March ratified the proposal.  In 1925, the
Federation made a few minor changes and renamed the
organization the Farmer-Labor Association.

        An organization unique in the history of
American political parties had been created.  In fact,
the Farmer-Labor Association was not a party at all.  It
was an independent political and educational organiza-
tion resting firmly on the organizational base of the
two great producing classes; the farmers and the
workers.  Education was seen as primary. Experience had

taught that only an alert and educated constituency        Page: 42
could protect itself from the power and tactics of
monopoly.  The Association, through its farm and labor     Contents
organizations and local clubs, would develop platforms
reflecting farmer-labor interests, and then see that
their elected officials honored those platforms.

        The Farmer-Labor Party was simply the election-
year vehicle for carrying on the campaigns of the
Association's designated candidates.  It terminated
itself every year after the election results were in.

        The 1920s would yield no further statewide
victories for Farmer-Laborites.  Yet the new organiza-
tion held its own against the Republican ascendency,
electing a solid corps of opposition legislators to
fight the reform battles of the period. And when the
"Coolidge Prosperity" turned into the "Hoover Nightmare"
of 1929, the party was prepared to move fast.  While
the rest of the country was spinning in confusion,
Minnesota was ready with an organization, a program, and
tested leadership to respond to the crisis of the
Great Depression. #1.34

Section: 1.4 Footnotes: to Chapter 1                       Page: 43

      1.1 Stories from the _Minneapolis Journal_, March    Contents
12, 1924.

      1.2 Arthur Naftalin, "A History of the Farmer-
Labor Party," (unpublished doctoral dissertation,
University of Minnesota, 1948) pp. 47-58.

      1.3 Robert Morlan, _Political Prairie Fire_
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1955) p. 26.
      1.4 Ibid.,  pp.  3-21.

      1.5 _St. Paul Union Advocate_, April, 3, 1927.
      1.6 Ibid.

      1.7 James Youngdale, Populism, _A Psychohistorical
Perspective_ (Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1975)
p. 47.
      1.8 Morlan, p. 29.

      1.9 Carl H. Chrislock, _The Progressive Era in
Minnesota_ (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society
Press, 1971) pp. 147-48.

      1.10 For an account of the League's organizing
campaigns see \Morlan, pp. 150-155.
      1.11 Chrislock, p. 146.

      1.12 Morlan, p. 159. See #1.3

      1.13 William Folwell, _A History of Minnesota_, Volume
III (St. Paul: The Minnesota Historical Society, 1969)
p. 556.
      1.14  Chrislock, p. 121.
      1.15  Folwell, p. 558.

      1.16 Ibid.,  pp.  556-572.                           Page: 44
      1.17 Chrislock, p. 129
      1.18 Ibid.,  p.  131.                                Contents
      1.19 Ibid.,  p.  195.

      1.20 Charles Walker, _American City_ (New York:
Farrar and Rhinehart, 1938) pp. 48-61.

      1.21 For an excellent account of Van Lear's career
see David Paul Nord, "Minneapolis and the Pragmatic
Socialism of Thomas Van Lear," Spring 1976, 45:1,3-10.

      1.22 See New Times, the Socialist Party newspaper.
The 1916 newspapers are available at the Minnesota
Historical Society.

      1.23 Meridel LeSeuer, _The Crusaders_ (Minneapolis:
People's Press, 1954) p. 29.

      1.24 Nord, p. 6.
      1.25 Ibid.,  p. 8.
      1.26 Ibid.,  p.  9.

      1.27 Chrislock, p. 150. See #1.9

      1.28 Morlan, p, 191. See #1.3

      1.29 For accounts of the campaign see Morlan, pp. 187 See #1.3
-201, and Carol Jensen, "Loyalty As a Political Weapon,"
_Minnesota History_, 43:2 (Summer 1972) pp. 48-57.

      1.30 Naftalin, p. 73. See #1.2

      1.31 For an account of the diverse ideological cur-
rents within the early Farmer-Labor Party see #1.7 Youngdale's
_Populism_, pp. 155-174.  For a documentary account of the
running battle between Townley and Mahoney see _Non-
Partisan Leader_, April 28, June 11, and August 15, 1924.

      1.32 See Henry Teigens series on the history of the
Farmer-Labor Party in the _St. Paul Union Advocate_,
June 16, 23, 30 July 7, 14, 21, 28, 1927.

      1.33 Ibid., June 23.                                 Page: 45

      1.34 Naftalin, pp. 137-149. See #1.2

Chapter: 2                                                 Page: 46

CHARISMA AND CLASS CONFLICT--                              Contents

        On Friday, August 30, 1929, the skies of down-
town Minneapolis lit up with skyrockets.  Earlier, John
Phillip Sousa and his 75 piece band, gave the first of
several concerts for the good citizens of the city.
The next day, James Good, Herbert Hoover's Secretary of
War, would deliver an address dedicating the object of
all this civic fuss.  He would assure anxious Minnesotans
that Hoover was a firm believer in navigation, and that
plans were indeed in the making for the development of
a government project to dredge the Upper Mississippi.
This and much more accompanied the dedication of Wilbur
Foshay's Tower, the Washington Monument of the Midwest. #2.1

        _Minneapolis Journal_ was downright poetic
about Foshay's monument. In fact it worshiped business
monuments in general.

    Like veritable temples in business, these
    modern towers rise high in the air and house the
    thousands.  Safe and luxurious elevators lift
    one from floor to floor more dexterously than
    Jacob's ladder, with angels ascending and
    descending upon it.  Modern towers unite people
    rather than divide them.  From their heights

    mightly searchlights guide lone pilots on              Page: 47
    their way to ports and havens safe.  #2.2
        In a few short years, Foshay had created a
holding company that owned a phalanx of public utili-
ties, several choice manufacturing ventures, and three
banks. He was in the process of building an ocean
liner, and had nailed down a contract for supplying the
electric power for the construction of the Boulder Dam.
To keep this empire going, Foshay kept selling his paper
to the speculating public.  When the stock market began
its decline his only source of capital dried up.  Foshay
like so many of his contemporaries, went broke.  His
empire crumbled two months after its greatest monument
was dedicated.  #2.3

        The _Journal_, so proud of the tower two months
earlier, said little about Foshay's downfall. Wilbur's
family had never been well accepted by the old wealth of
Minneapolis.  The Foshays did the right things upon
moving to town.  They became parishioners at St. Mark's
Episcopal Church.  They purchased a three story
colonial on Sheridan Street in the exclusive Kenwood
section of the city, and complemented it with a country
home at Koscoe Point on Lake Minnetonka.  But utility
speculation was frowned upon by the old line milling
and banking families and Foshay's use of union labor

didn't sit well with the open shop leadership of the       Page: 48
Minneapolis business community.  It was with some irony,
then, Foshay's company went into receivership under        Contents
George Chapman, the key operator for the Northwest Bank

        If the _Journal_ took a blase attitude toward the
fall of Foshay, many in the labor movement screamed
"foul."  In banner headlines, the _Minneapolis Labor
Review_, attacked the chain banks for deliberately doing
in Foshay as a reprisal for his support of organized
labor.  Foshay's tower shot up fast while other buildings
far less monumental were stalled with labor trouble.  #2.4

        A year and a half later, Labor's friend was
convicted of fraud.  The jury found that he had falsely
represented his company and the value of shares he had
sold to the investing public.  For this he would serve
two years and eleven months in Leavenworth Prison.

        Another, more tragic episode, concludes the
Foshay saga.  On October 21, 1931, Mrs. Genevieve
Clark, her husband and two children were found dead in
the family car out at Pryor Lake.  They hacked a hole
through the side of the car and had run in a rubber hose
from the exhaust pipe.  During the trial of Foshay,
Mrs. Clark, a former employee, had perjured herself

in defense of her boss.  She was to have begun her         Page: 49
prison term on the day of the suicide.

Section: 2.1 Floyd B. Olson: The Early Years

        The fall of Foshay makes a nice story for
Minneapolis residents who remember the Tower as the
city's most notable skyscraper before, of course,
the IDS Building dwarfed it and every other business
monument in the loop.  But there are other stories to
tell, as well: farmers driven off their land; thousands
of hungry people crowded into the Gateway district, out
of work, and money for the rent; the growth of great
social movements; and the private, quiet courage that
got people through those years of the Great Depression.

        "Hell, those were tough times," said one guy who
lived through them, "but we had our fun too."

        Floyd Olson was part of the fun and part of the
great social movements.  His rise corresponded with
Foshay's fall.  Farmer-Labor governor from 1930 to
1936, he helped build the movement, if only by his
immense popularity.  And though great social movements
are built in the basement by thousands of men and women
whose names never get in the history books, Olson
symbolized this movement for thousands of Minnesotans.

        Ask anybody who lived in the 30s if they           Page: 50
remember Floyd B. Olson, and they'll answer, "Sure I
remember Floyd Olson.  He was a great man.  He really      Contents
cared for the people." #2.5

        Floyd Olson, born in 1891, grew up in a working
class neighborhood in North Minneapolis.  Tall tales to
the contrary, he did _not_ experience grinding poverty.
His father earned a modest, but adequate living as a
railroad checker, and when Floyd got old enough, he
earned some money on his own doing odd jobs: newspaper
boy, candy peddler at the old Metropolitan Opera House.
In high school he took up debate--though he never
excelled at it, and soon after demonstrated his skills
at salesmanship by hustling religious books in Southern
Minnesota.  One biographer notes how Olson used to mount
the pulpit at Sunday services and exhort the faithful--
an obvious parallel to similar, though more secular
activities of later life. #2.6

        Olson was never an ideologue, but his experi-
ence growing up in North Minneapolis gave him a first
hand knowledge of and support for working people; his
people: Finns, Norwegians, Jews, and Swedes. In a two-
year swing across the West, he harvested grain in

Alberta, dug gold in Alaska, and worked as a Longshore-    Page: 51
man in Seattle where he joined the I.W.W.
        In 1913, Olson returned to Minneapolis for good
and earned his law degree.  Following a brief career
with the Democrats, he managed to get appointed County
Attorney by the Republicans in 1920.  He proved a
vigorous and able prosecutor, respected by leaders of
all political stripes.  Even the _Minneapolis Journal_
had good words for him.

        In 1922, he became a hero to the Minneapolis
Labor Movement when he uncovered a frame-up by the
Citizens Alliance.  It seems our favorite organization
of Minneapolis businessmen was milled at a Building and
Trades official by the name of Mahady.  They hired a
few members of Minneapolis's teaming underground to lure
Mahady into a criminal venture that involved blowing up
a safe.  Instead, Mahady blew the whistle. Olson called
a grand jury, and in a public statement filled with
righteous indignation took an unusual step for a public
official of that time: he dressed down the Citizens
Alliance. #2.7

        In 1923, Olson consolidated his status with the
labor movement by calling a grand jury investigation of
the rise in coal prices.  The investigation revealed
price fixing.  R. D. Cramer of the _Minneapolis Labor

Review_ and I. G. Scott, a Farmer-Labor alderman, began    Page: 52
to urge his nomination for governor.  When Charles
Lindbergh added his endorsement to the Olson candidacy,    Contents
the go-ahead decision was made. #2.8

        Olson entered a crowded field of candidates for
the Farmer-Labor nomination.  The new Federation had
just been formed, and five candidates competed with each
other to be the organization's first candidate for
governor.  The battle quickly settled down to a two-way
contest between Tom Davis, veteran Non-Partisan Leaguer
from Marshall, and Olson. Referring to Olson "connec-
tions" with both the Democratic _and_ Republican Parties,
Davis backers wondered pointedly where Olson had been
while Non-Partisan Leaguers were fighting the great
battles of 1918 and '20.  At a time when people were
serving jail terms on dubious charges of disloyalty,
Olson was busy being appointed County Attorney by the
Republicans. #2.9

        In the end, Olson narrowly won the primary,
going on to lose in the general election to the
Republican candidate, Theodore Christianson, in a
spirited election that established him as the Farmer-
Laborites' outstanding political personality. Prefer-
ring caution to crusading, Olson refused to run for

state office again until 1929 when the onset of the        Page: 53
Depression and deep divisions in the Republican Party,
created the opening for Farmer-Labor victory. #2.10
        People who were active in the movement during
the 30s invariably have their favorite Olson stories to
tell. One of the most revealing is a tale told by
Jimmy Flowers.  Flowers was an organizer for the United
Farmers League during this period and an active member
of the Communist Party.  One day he dropped into Olson's
office to dish out some hell about farm conditions in
rural Minnesota.  Olson's schedule was filled up pretty
tight for the day, so he suggested that the two of them
meet at 5:30 and drive to his home and spend the evening

        The first thing Jimmy did on reaching the
Governor's home was take a hot bath (a rare luxury for
a travelling farm organizer), and then he joined Olson
and some other guests Floyd had invited over for the
occasion.  Not all of them were "good Farmer-Laborites"
by any means.  A few hours later, the influentials
departed, and Floyd asked Jimmy what he thought.

        Well, Jimmy didn't think much of the affair,
and he said so in his usually blunt way.  He doubted
the sincerity of the Governor's friends when it came to
helping the farmers.  Olson was equally blunt.  He

walked over to his bookshelf, pulled out a volume of       Page: 54
Lenin's _Collected Works_, and turned to an essay called
_Left Wing Communism and Infantile Disorder_.  "You lousy  Contents
Commie son of a bitch," said Olson (with more good nature
than anger), "You're standing here talking to me about
revolution, and you haven't even got the workers and
farmers organized.  That has to come first, and then we
can move ahead ...." #2.11

        The story is indicative of the Olson approach.
Floyd Olson was a practical politician with a genuine
dedication to the people.  He didn't believe in advanc-
ing policies they would refuse to accept.  He realized
that the degree of change possible was dependent not
simply on a governor's decrees, or high sounding plat-
forms, but the level of militancy and political
understanding of the people themselves.  He would move
left as the people moved left.  He would articulate
that leftward progress, even encourage it, but never
at the price of endangering the Farmer-Labor Movement
in the process.

        Olson was famous for his speeches.  At the 1934
Farmer-Labor Convention he made some remarks that
expressed both his emerging radicalism, and his belief
in the practical, measured way, change must come about.

    Now I am frank to say that I am not a liberal.         Page: 55
    I enjoy working on a common basis with liberals
    for their platforms, but I am not a liberal.           Contents
    I am what I want to be--I am a radical.  I am
    a radical in the sense that I want a definite
    change in the system.  I am not satisfied with
    tinkering, I am not satisfied with patching, I
    am not satisfied with hanging a laurel wreath
    upon burglars and thieves and pirates and calling
    them code authorities or something else.  I am
    not satisfied with that.

    I want, however, an orderly, a sane, and a con-
    structive change.  I don't want any visionary
    things any more than the hardest Tory or
    Conservative wants them.  But I know the transi-
    tion can take place and that, of course, it must
    be gradual.  It can't come overnight, but I want
    to do all I can to set it in motion and keep it
    going steady, not in jerks, or jumps, or in
    spurts, but going steadily ahead .... #2.12

Section: 2.2 A Farmer-Laborite in the Governor's Mansion

        In 1930, Olson defeated Republican Ray Chase for
governor on a program designed to bring reluctant
constituents into the Farmer-Labor fold.  To enroll
town businessmen the party promised action against chain
stores, to good government advocates, an end to the
Republican spoils system, and a pledge to make appoint-
ments based on merit; to farmers, a fair system of
pricing. #2.13

        The campaign slogan was simple: "Throw the
rascals out."  There was no talk of a cooperative
commonwealth, or cooperative anything for that matter.
The Farmer-Labor _Leader_ assured its readers that their

candidate "is not a bitter radical and theorist,           Page: 56
but a well-balanced progressive." #2.14
        The downturn of the economy (most people still
expected it would improve shortly), the sad shape of
the Republican Party, and the help Olson received from
"All Party" volunteer committees of citizens who were
not members of the Association, resulted in a sweeping
victory for Olson, and a general, though less dramatic
rise in overall Farmer-Labor fortunes.  Olson carried
82 of 87 counties.  Association-endorsed candidates won
40 seats in the House, and 29 in the Senate.

        The first administration of Olson reflected the
basis of his victory.  No drastic legislation was intro-
duced, or passed.  Legislative controversies centered
around such prosaic issues as trucking regulation and
sewage disposal.  Olson even refused to call for public
relief for the unemployed.  He suggested a private
philanthropic effort instead, reasoning that the public
would support a state effort only after watching pri-
vate efforts fail. #2.15

Labor wasn't happy with Olson's decision, or
the community fund drives that were supposed to sub-
stitute for a public response.  The venerable William
Mahoney of St. Paul Trades and Labor refused an Olson

appointment to lead the new philanthropic campaign, and    Page: 57
the official labor organizations in both cities attacked
Olson sharply.  The Minneapolis _Labor Review_ published   Contents
a wry poem that captured the attitude of many workers.

    Soon we will have the Community Fund
    (The natural result of the Mad Plunderbund)
    Exhorting and pleading, demanding we give
    That the victims of greed may continue to live.

    Ten thousand dollars the salary paid
    To the main mogel, and I'm much afraid
    By the time his assistants have all had their whack
    There's little left in the Community sack.

    Charity was once bestowed by the rich--
    But now the poor fellow who digs in the ditch
    Is made to contribute, or else lose his job
    So aggressive has grown the Community mob.

    Society's structure contains many flaws
    To sincerely remove them let's tackle the cause
    To wait til the victims are practically dead
    Show something's gone wrong with society's head.

    If Community boosters were willing to learn
    It pays to pay Labor what they really earn
    Attacking the cause--not the consequence
    And thereby displaying some genuine sense.

    We might find ourselves more in accord with a spirit
    That earth's noble natures shall always inherit--
    But while workers groan in a thirty-cent hell
    Please keep your thumb off of Labor's door-bell.

    In a city that's pledged to a starvation wage;
    Whose workers are haunted by thoughts of old age;
    While policy's ruled by a Mad Plunderbund
    You'll need a tremendous Community Fund. #2.16

        Labor didn't have to wait long, however, for a
more militant brand of leadership from Olson.  In the
Spring of 1932, the farmers of western Minnesota began

another chapter in their long struggle for survival.       Page: 58
Their movement, and the growing discontent among all
segments of the population produced the popular base       Contents
for a left turn in Farmer-Labor politics.  By the last
six months of Olson's first term as governor, thousands
of Minnesotans had realized that prosperity was _not_
"just around the corner."

        The Farm Holiday Association was the spiritual
successor of the Non-Partisan League.  It was organized
as an offshoot of the Farmers Union, the most progres-
sive of the larger farm organizations.  During the
Summer of 1932, speakers crisscrossed the state urging
farmers to "take a holiday" by joining the farm strike
scheduled for the coming September.  The Holiday's
plan was simple: force prices up by withholding produce
from the market. #2.17

        On September 21 the strike in Minnesota began.
Strikes were taking place on a generally less massive
scale in a dozen states across the Midwest. Particip-
ation, predictably enough, was strongest in the old Non-
Partisan League strongholds of the Southwest; counties
like Laqui Parle, Yellow Medicine, Swift, Chippewa,
Traverse, Big Stone, Rock, Jackson, Willmar, and
Pipestone.  Roads were blockaded, and produce trucks

turned back.  There were some skirmishes between local     Page: 59
law enforcers and farmers, though on the whole the action
was carried out with very little violence. #2.18
        Although the strike itself was unsuccessful in
raising prices, and had to be called off in late October,
the action did dramatize to the state, and nation, the
severity of the farm crisis.  The Farmer-Labor Associ-
ation swung solidly behind the Holiday's efforts. Olson
stumped Holiday strongholds in the Fall, and convinced
farmers of his sincerity in hard hitting speeches up-
holding their right to strike, in a style that would
become famous in the months ahead.  For its part, the
Holiday rewarded its political allies. Farmer-Labor
candidates did well in all counties with strong Holiday
chapters, and a relationship of mutual support was
established that would continue for the next four
years. #2.19

        The tenor of the 1932 campaign, more militant
than two years earlier, and the results, underscored the
changing mood of the electorate in 1932.  Olson out-
polled Republican challenger Earle Brown 522,438 to
334,081, while Democrat John Regan tallied 169,859.
Five of nine Congressional seats were captured by the
Party, and enough Farmer-Laborites were elected to the
State House of Representatives to ensure a liberal

majority in that body.  However, the State Senate          Page: 60
remained in Republican hands--a fact that seriously
blunted Farmer-Labor legislative efforts and prevented     Contents
a full test of the movement's reform programs.

        Olson's second inaugural address captured the
change in direction.

    We are assembled during the most crucial period
    in the history of the nation and the state.  An
    army of unemployed, some 200,000 homeless and
    wandering boys, thousands of abandoned farms
    are evidence not only of an economic depression,
    but of a failure of government and our social
    system to function in the interests of the common
    people.  just beyond the horizon of this scene is
    rampant lawlessness and possible revolution. Only
    remedial social legislation national  and state
    can prevent its appearance. #2.20

        The remedial legislation Olson had in mind estab-
lished a principle that is largely taken for granted
today: government responsibility for minimum standards
of well being for its citizens.  Olson proposed relief
for the unemployed, a moratorium on farm foreclosures,
and a state income tax based on a progressive rate
structure, as well as reorganization of the state's
conservation efforts, and state support for public

        These measures passed the Minnesota House
easily enough, but ran into a wall of resistance in the
Senate. In radio speeches, at rallies and public events,
Olson attacked the Senate Conservatives in language that

made him a national hero to Progressives--a man many       Page: 61
talked and dreamed about as a radical successor to FDR
himself.  In April, Olson addressed a rally of the un-     Contents
employed at the capital steps and threatened to declare
martial law if the Senate refused to appropriate needed
relief monies to the unemployed.  If capitalism
couldn't prevent the occurrence of present conditions,
he declared, "I hope that present system of government
goes right down to hell." #2.21

        By May, the Senate capitulated on the big issues,
and Olson was able to sign into law the state's first
relief bill, and a moratorium on farm mortgages--an
action that saved hundreds of farmers' homesteads,
around the state.  For both Labor, and the Farm Holiday
Association, a Farmer-Labor government had secured
tangible, even unheard of results.

        The tempo of Olson's second term was matched by
the growing strength of the Farmer-Labor Association
itself.  The founders of the Association had always
envisioned an active rank and file organization with
year-round education and cultural activities taking
place in Farmer-Labor clubs organized on a ward, town-
ship, or county level.  During the 20s, however, few
clubs existed, and the Association functioned more like
a traditional political party than a mass movement.  By

1932, however, every country was organized and Farmer-     Page: 62
Labor clubs grew in hundreds of communities across the
state.  The Association's State Committee sent paid        Contents
organizers around the state, and its Education Bureau
assisted local clubs develop their education programs. #2.22

        This growth had significance for the ideologi-
cal direction of the Farmer-Labor Movement.  The clubs
became classrooms where Farmer-Labor principles were
presented and discussed.  The main teachers were
veterans of the movement: people like Henry Teigen,
O. M. Thompson, Suzie Stageberg, Arthur and Mario
Le Seuer, and Howard Y. Williams.  Most were of
socialist persuasion.  The main text was the _Farmer-
Labor Leader_, the Association's newspaper. Members who
couldn't afford subscriptions could pick them up at
half price, or even free.

        At the 1934 State Convention, this grassroots
approach to political education bore fruit.  The dele-
gates assembled passed the famous "Cooperative Common-
wealth" platform; a Magna Carta of American left wing
politics that remains to this day the most radical
program ever presented by a major (electorally
successful) political party.  It was the clearest
expression of the democratic socialist current within
the Farmer-Labor Movement; the old populist and

antimonopoly ideology for once unharnessed, for once       Page: 63
untempered by the cold calculations of winning election
campaigns and increasing political power.                  Contents

    We declare that capitalism has failed and that
    immediate steps must be taken by the people to
    abolish capitalism in a peaceful and lawful
    manner, and that a new, sane, and just society
    must be established, a system in which all the
    natural resources, machinery of production,
    transportation, and communications shall be
    owned by the government and operated democrat-
    ically for the benefit of all the people, and
    not for the benefit of the few. #2.23

        It demanded "public ownership of all mines,
water power, transportation and communications systems,
banks, packing plants, factories, and all public
utilities."  It called for a state takeover of idle
factories to employ "idle citizens and distribute the
products to the needy."  It pledged state support for
consumer cooperatives, state operated insurance programs,
a two-year extension of the mortgage moratorium, free
textbooks to all students (produced by a state owned
publishing operation), and a steep tax on large incomes
and inheritances.

        Gene Debs would have been proud.

        Despite the initial enthusiasm of the delegates
with the document they had created, the politicians of
the movement were soon gripped by a fear that the plat-
form could well become a last will and testament. Within

days, Farmer-Labor operatives, particularly from rural     Page: 64
areas where strong Association organizations did not
exist, were calling in reports of mass disaffection        Contents
with the sweeping measures of the program.  For many
farmers it simply went too far.  Agricultural coops were
one thing, but the state ownership section seemed to
threaten private ownership itself.  Businessmen and
professionals had similar reactions. No matter that
the platform was calling for an end to _monopolies_,
not "Ma and Pa stores," the distinction was lost on
thousands of the state's business people. #2.24

        The displeasure of at least a section of the
Farmer-Labor constituency was reflected in the
Association itself.  Olson carried on a running war--
fare with the ideologically committed left wing of the
Association.  He insisted on keeping a base that
extended beyond the Association proper and even went so
far as to appoint Democrats and Republicans to important
state positions.

        In this he was backed by the pragmatists who
raised the money and managed the campaigns.  Those
"practical people" recognized that the Association's
base _in itself_, was simply too small to capture state
power. The "uncommitted" Minnesotans held the balance
of power in 1934.

        Faced with a potential political disaster,         Page: 65
Association leadership began a sanitizing operation on
their unwholesome platform.  Within a month, a 5,000       Contents
word "analysis" of the platform was distributed to
party workers around the state.  The section on state
ownership was separated from the rest of the text and
placed under the subtitle "ultimate aims."  Other of the
more controversial planks were "interpreted" in the most
moderate way possible.  The "analysis" became the
"de facto" election program of the Association.  By
summer, the original document could not be ordered
from state headquarters. #2.25

        Olson himself was pleased with the more
moderate tone of the new document.  Without repudi-
ating the platform (or any of its sections) he managed
to minimize the more controversial measures advocated,
while pushing hard on the general theme.  In one of the
most famous of his 1934 campaign speeches, he defended
the platform with references to the Red Cross, Eleanor
Roosevelt, and the Christian Church. #2.26

        In another much-quoted talk, Olson threw back
Republican charges that the Cooperative Commonwealth
program was a threat to individual liberty.

    Whose liberty?  Liberty for what purpose?
    Liberty of the Citizen's Alliance to arm thugs
    to shoot defenseless strikers in the back? Liberty

    of promoters of spurious bank stocks to fleece         Page: 66
    widows and orphans?  Liberty of the millionaires
    to escape all taxation.  Liberty to pay lower          Contents
    wages.  Liberty to make peasants out of farmers! #2.27

        In the end, Olson won another victory.  The
workers of Ramsey, Hennepin, and St. Louis counties
voted more heavily Farmer-Labor than ever before.  The
militant farmers in the Red River Valley and North
Central counties held fast.  The Association lost the
business vote, however, and some of the more prosperous
farmers from the Southern counties. These defections
cost Olson 50,000 votes from his '32 tally, and more
importantly, the progressive coalitions majority in
the state's House of Representatives. Class lines were
drawn sharply in 1934. #2.28

        There are those who like to view the 1934
platform as a temporary aberration; a critical mistake
foisted on an otherwise shrewd political organization by
an overzealous rank and file. Those that hold this
fail to see the '34 platform as part of a rising _class
struggle_, rather than a separate exercise in rhetorical
draftsmanship.  The delegates who assembled in St. Paul
to nominate candidates and approve a platform were not
simply ideologues, operating as isolated individuals.
They were often (though not always) members of labor
unions, farm,organizations, and year-round active

Farmer-Labor clubs.  The programs they adopted repre-      Page: 67
sented the real aspirations of thousands of Minnesotans--
including the most dedicated and active Farmers-Laborites. Contents
The bold statement the "Capitalism has failed," was more
than a visionary prognosis, it was a description of
reality, a statement of the obvious. Capitalism _had_
failed hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans in towns and
cities, in shops and farms around the state.  And, no
doubt, _most_ of those it had failed, appreciated a
political party saying so.

        There were other factors working both to
strengthen the Farmer-Labor Association and weaken it
in 1934.  The implementation of Roosevelt's long-
awaited Agricultural Adjustment Act meant support pay-
ments for holding down production of specified crops,
and a corresponding rise in prices.  For farmers lucky
enough to benefit from either of these circumstances,
the return of (slightly) better times meant a return
to the traditional Republican fold--and a corresponding
diminishing of interest in the mass protests of the Farm
Holiday Association. #2.29

Section: 2.3 The Great Teamster Strike

        But if sections of the farming classes were
retreating from militance in 1934, their brothers and

sisters in the working class were moving with new          Page: 68
force. During the Spring and Summer of 1934, the truck
drivers of Minneapolis fought an epic battle to win        Contents
Union recognition and break the stranglehold of the
Citizens Alliance.  The trucker's strike was one of the
bloodiest and most far reaching of labor conflicts of
the decade; a shoulder to shoulder clash that in some
way affected the lives of every Minneapolis citizen,
and thousands of people around the state.  It was an
event that is well remembered today, as well remembered
as Floyd Olson himself.  And it was an event that would
challenge the political survival of Olson, and the
party he represented. #2.30

        On May 12, 1934, the workers of Teamster Local
574 voted to strike after failing to negotiate con-
tracts with the trucking firms that served Minneapolis's
industrial and commercial establishments.  Large and
small outfits were affected: department stores, facto-
ries, grocery stores, laundries, bakeries, construction
projects, warehouses, breweries. Almost immediately,
the city of Minneapolis was closed down tight.

        Local 574 was an exceptional union with excep-
tional leadership.  Karl Skoglund, the Dunn brothers
(Vince, Grant, Miles) and Farrel Dobbs were members of
the _Communist League_; the Trotskyst wing of the

Communist movement.  They were skilled union orga-         Page: 69
nizers, well schooled in both the tactics of conducting
a strike, and the longer range considerations of           Contents
building a class conscious trade union movement.  They
helped build the Teamsters into the major union in
Minneapolis, and their specific political perspective,
including a general opposition to the Farmer-Labor
Party, and a more vehement enmity toward the Stalinist
Communist Party (a hostility that was thoroughly recip-
rocated) would be a factor in the internal politics of
the farmer labor coalition in the future.

        The Union set up headquarters in an old garage
on 19th and Chicago.  From here the organization con-
ducted strike activities with military precision.
Flying pickets were dispatched to intercept strike
breaking truckers.  An intricate system of surveillance
was set up with picket captains guarding routes and
calling in sightings. Fifty entrances to the city were
covered. The radio in the Union's headquarters
recorded the action.

    Trucks attempting to move loads of produce from
    Berman Fruit under police convoy.  Have
    only two pickets, send help.

    Successfully turned back five trucks from
    entering the city.  Am returning cars 40 and
    46 to headquarters.  #2.31

        Headquarters had its own hospital with two         Page: 70
doctors on duty at all times.  Strike leadership did
not want injured Union 'members detained in the city's     Contents
regular medical facilities.  The Women's Auxiliary ran
a commissary operation, supplied meals to up to 10,000
workers a day.  Regular mass meetings were held in the
lot across from the garage to keep the rank and file
informed and maintain solidarity.

        Support for the strike was not confined to the
workers directly involved.  Thirty-five thousand con-
struction workers, members of unions that understood
from years of first hand experience, the importance of
defeating the Citizens Alliance, walked off their jobs
in sympathy.  Members of the Farm Holiday movement
supplied food for the strikers, and in return, were
allowed to operate their own cooperative marketing
operation in the city.  Hundreds of workers and un-
employed showed up at headquarters and volunteered
their help.

        On May 21, the battle burst into the open.
The night before a group of picketers had been lured
into a trap by an infiltrator who had used the P.A.
system at strike headquarters to dispatch the workers
into the police ambush.  Over a dozen men and women
were beaten badly in a back alley near the Minneapolis

Tribune building.  Karl Skoglund was at headquarters       Page: 71
when the ambushed workers were brought back.
    I remember the night.  They brought the women
    in, and the other pickets from the Tribune alley,
    and laid them down in rows in strike headquarters.
    All the women were mutilated and covered with
    blood, two or three with broken legs; several
    stayed unconscious for hours. Saps and night
    clubs had been used on both the men and women.
    When the strikers saw them lying around with
    the nurses working over them, they got hold of
    clubs and swore they'd go down and wipe up the
    police and deputies.  We told them no, the alley
    was a trap. We'll prepare for a real battle,
    and we'll pick our own battle ground next time. #2.32

        A large battle was at hand.  While Union members
were arming themselves with clubs and planning strategy,
the employers were gathering _their_ forces.  They picked
a committee of twenty-five to coordinate efforts with
Minneapolis police to get the trucks moving again.  A
citizens army of special deputies had been recruited
and sworn in by Chief Johaness, who interpreted it his
duty, as did most law enforcement officials of the day,
to break the strike.

        What followed on Monday and Tuesday, May 21 and
22, has gone down in history as the "Battle of Deputies
Run."  On Monday, men, women, and children joined news-
paper reporters and radio announcers as the battle lines
formed.  They were there to watch a contest.  The ques-
tion at hand was simple: would the Citizen's Alliance

forces (the "deputies" and regular police) move the        Page: 72
trucks and thereby break the strike?  Or would the
workers hold fast?                                         Contents

        The first skirmish went to the strikers.
Fifteen hundred workers soundly thrashed their oppo-
nents in a battle that took place in the marketing
district of downtown Minneapolis.  On Tuesday, the
employers were determined to regain the field.  They
mobilized 1,700 police and special deputies.  Upper
class "gentlemen" showed up battle ready in their
khaki safari outfits. They faced thousands of workers.
A picketer threw a crate of tomatoes through a mer-
chant's window and the battle was on.

        Both sides joined in with night stick, sap,
blackjack, and lead pipe.  Members of the "citizens
army" were special targets of the striker's anger.
Arthur Lyman, a lawyer for the Citizens Alliance was
killed within minutes.  After an hour strikers were in
control of the streets.  Cops and citizen deputies alike
went into hiding, and settling of scores went on into
the night.

        Class war is not a pretty thing.

        The sound drubbing of the alliance at "Deputies
Run" and the intervention of Governor Olson resulted in
an ambiguous settlement that simply delayed further

conflict until July.  The employers had no intention       Page: 73
of honoring the spirit of the agreement, and used the
time to regroup their forces.  Within days after the       Contents
new strike was called, police resorted to terror.  On
July 20, they ran a truck toward picketers massed in
the downtown area.  When the strikers moved in to
intercept, the cops hidden inside opened fire at
point blank range, wounding sixty-seven and killing

        Both sides could now claim their battle dead,
and both sides were determined to win final victory.
At a mass meeting on the night of the shooting, there
was much sentiment for a march on city hall to lynch
the mayor and police chief.  The Union's Trotskyst
leadership knew the difference between a trade union
battle, however violent, and a full scale revolution.
They discouraged any attempt at takeover of the city.

        At the Citizens Alliance headquarters, the
sentiment was for more of the same.  "Nobody likes to
see bloodshed," said one alliance leader in retro-

    But I tell you after the police had used their
    guns on July 20, we felt the strike was broken . . .
    There are very few men who will stand up in a
    strike when there is a question of their getting
    killed.  And I say there are very few of us, in

    view of what Minneapolis is today, who don't           Page: 74
    feel the strike would have been better ended
    that way.                                              Contents

        Three days after "Bloody Friday," the latest
team of federal negotiators presented their proposal
for a settlement: a 2 1/2 cent pay raise, union recognition
for inside workers, and subsequent adjustment of wage
scales.  The Union accepted immediately.  The employers
refused, and Governor Olson declared marshall law.  The
strike had entered its final phase. #2.33

        In calling out the National Guard, Olson set a
historic precedent.  Never before had the military
power of the state been used to actually protect
strikers. The response of the Minneapolis police force
was much more typical.  The equation between crushing
strikes and preservation of "law and order" was almost
uniform across the country.  Now Olson was replacing
Teamster pickets with "tin hats," as a way of avoiding
further bloodshed.  In so doing, he put himself in the
center of a class conflict that almost brought him down.

        To no one's surprise, the employers were out-
raged. They had just sent the governor a memorandum
branding the strike as Communist controlled and demand-
ing he intervene on their side by sending in troops to
reinforce the police force.  "We demand to know whether

you will support local authorities with the military aid   Page: 74b
in the discharge of their duty, or support the efforts of
the few to obstruct the flow of normal traffic in this     Contents
city." #2.34

        Olson replied in an equally public fashion
with a letter that set the tone for future Farmer Labor
interventions on behalf of Labor.

    . . . I do not agree with you that a plea for a
    living wage by a family man receiving only
    $12.00 a week is answered by calling that man
    a Communist.

    Neither am I willing to join in the approval
    of shooting unarmed citizens of Minneapolis,
    strikers and bystanders alike, in their backs
    in order to carry out the wishes of the Citizens
    Alliance of Minneapolis.

    I have never attended a meeting of Local 574
    and am unable to agree or disagree as to your
    claim concerning who controls it.  However,
    I have had numerous opportunities recently
    during strike negotiations to attend meetings
    of employers an in the past years have had con-
    siderable opportunity to observe the action
    of this organization known as the Citizens

    Alliance of Minneapolis, of which you are              Page: 74c
    This organization is controlled and dominated
    by a small clique of men who hate all organ-
    ized labor and are determined to crush it...
    (it) gained its power because of its alliance
    with the big financial institutions, which
    control the two chain banking institutions of
    Minneapolis through the extension of stifling
    of credit.  These chain institutions are able,
    aided by the manipulation of the Citizens
    Alliance clique. to dictate the very destinies
    of the majority of employers in the city of
    Minneapolis. . .

    The Agencies of government do not belong to you,
    as one would be led to believe from reading your
    communication.  They belong to all the people,
    and I propose to use the governmental agencies
    under my jurisdiction, including the National
    Guard, for the protection of all the people of
    the city of Minneapolis, and all people outside
    the city, including farmers, who desire to do
    business within the city.  #2.35

        What caught Olson off guard was the reaction of
the Union.  Within two days workers were hopping mad.
The Guardsmen were simply not stopping trucks.
Thousands were getting through the lines with exemptions
and special permits.  With the best of intentions a
Farmer Labor governor was _breaking_ the strike.  The
Union leadership demanded a moratorium on all truck
traffic for 48 hours, and the right to appoint picket
captains to work with the Guards to overhaul the permit
system.  The governor refused, and the Union resumed
picketing _en masse_.

        Olson was in a corner.  As chief executive

and governor of all the people, he could hardly permit     Page: 74d
this open defiance of public order. As Farmer-Labor
governor, however, it was both politically and             Contents
personally painful to enforce the ban on union pickets.
But enforce them he did. Improvising as he went along,
Olson ordered the arrest of union leaders (only to have
them released two days later), commanded a raid on the
Citizens Alliance headquarters, and enlisted the
support of the Roosevelt administration behind the
scenes, while union leadership struggled to keep their
people's morale from sagging entirely.  Finally on
August 21st, the employers capitulated.  The Citizen
Alliance suffered its first defeat.  Minneapolis
would never be the same. #2.36

Olson's third and last term as governor reflected
the forces that had been set in motion during his second.
Without a working majority in either House of the Legis-
lature, very little legislation of significance

was passed.  The Association continued to grow across      Page: 75
the state, and the labor wars in Minneapolis continued
with  bitter and ultimately successful strikes at          Contents
Flour City Iron Works and Strutwear Knitting Mills.
In the Strutwear Strike, Olson once again called out
the National Guard to prevent the company from using
force to reopen the plant.  This time the U.S. Supreme
Court forced him to rescind the order.

        Signs of continuing militance were everywhere.
Unemployed workers picketed the legislature. Farmers
set up pens on the capital lawn to display their
emaciated cows.  Olson continued his flirtation with
national forces favoring a left wing alternative to
Roosevelt in 1936.  A group called the Cooperative
Commonwealth Federation, organized by Minnesota's
Howard Y. Williams (among others) even offered Olson
the Presidential nomination.

        In the end, however, Olson urged support of
Roosevelt for a second term, while approving the efforts
of the Commonwealth people to run local candidates
across the country, and build for the long haul.  While
officially recognizing the need for a third party "to
preach the gospel of government and collective owner-
ship of the means of production and distribution," Olson
felt that failure to support Roosevelt in '36 could mean

the victory of fascism (read Republicanism).  He           Page: 76
believed efforts to build a new party would have to
be gradual, and include most of the progressive ele-       Contents
ments within the Democratic party.  It was a position
most Farmer-Laborites in Minnesota shared. #2.37

        Olson himself planned to help this process along
as a United States Senator.  At the 1936 State Conven-
tion, he received the party's endorsement. He had
opened the convention with a 2 1/2 hour speech in which
he presented his most comprehensive call for a new
economic order. On August 22, he died at Rochester's
Mayo Clinic of stomach cancer.  Two hundred thousand
Minnesotans passed his coffin in tribute.  A hero had
passed away.

Section: 2.4 Footnotes: to Chapter 2                       Page: 77

      2.1 _Minneapolis Journal_, August 30, 1929.          Contents
      2.2 Ibid.

      2.3 For an account of Foshay's life and career
see: Frances McNulty, William Foshay _The Saga of a
Salesman_.  (Unpublished doctoral dissertation,
Creighton University, 1964.)

      2.4 _Minneapolis Labor Review_, November 8, 1929.

      2.5 For the only book length biography of Olson
available see George H. Mayer, The Political Career
of Floyd B. Olson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 1951).
      2.6 Mayer, pp. 3-16.
      2.7 Ibid., pp. 25-26.
      2.8 Ibid., p. 26.
      2.9 Ibid., pp. 27-36.
      2.10 Ibid., pp. 36-37.

      2.11 Personal interview with Jimmy Flowers, Fall

      2.12 Speech to the 1934 Farmer-Labor State Convention
available at Minnesota Historical Society.

      2.13 1930 Farmer-Labor Platform available at
Minnesota Historical Society.

      2.14 Farmer-Labor Leader, January 24, 1931.

      2.15 Mayer, p. 109. See #2.5

      2.16 _Minneapolis Labor Review_, March 18, 1932.

      2.17 The best book on the Farm Holiday Association   Page: 78
is John L. Shover, Cornbelt Rebellion: The Farm
Holiday Association (Urbana; University of Illinois        Contents
Press, 1965).

      2.18 Personal interview with Holiday leader John
Bosch, Summer 1976.

      2.19 Mayer, pp. 102-106. See #2.5

      2.20 Floyd Olson's Second Inaugural Address
available at Minnesota Historical Society.

      2.21 Mayer, pp. 132-133. See #2.5

      2.22 For a description of the Farmer-Labor Associa-
tion see Ralph Humolda, "The Farmer-Labor Association,
Minnesota Party Within a Party," _Minnesota History
Magazine_, 38:7, September 1963, pp. 301-310.

      2.23 Preamble 1934 Farmer-Labor Platform, avail-
able at Minnesota Historical Society Library.

      2.24 Mayer, pp. 173-177. See #2.5
      2.25 Ibid., pp. 178-180.
      2.26 Ibid., pp. 176-178.
      2.27 Ibid., p. 176.

      2.28 Included in Youngdale, p. 225. See #1.7

      2.29 Mayer, pp. 250-251. See #2.5

      2.30 The best account of the truckers' strike is
Charles Walker, _American City_, (New York: Farfar and
Rhinehart, 1938).

      2.31 Jeremy Brecker, _Strike_, (Greenwich: Fawcett
Publications, Inc., 1974) p. 203.
      2.32 Walker, p. 153.
      2.33 Brecker, pp. 207-208.
      2.34 Quoted in Walker, p. 176.
      2.35 Youngdale, pp. 265-268. See #1.7

      2.36 For two accounts of this period of the strike   Page: 79
see Mayer, pp. 153-158 and Walker pp. 191-203. See #2.5
      2.37 For Olson's most famous statement on the need
for a third party see Floyd Olson, "My Political
Creed: Why a New Party Must Challenge Capitalism,"
_Common Sense Magazine_ (April 1935).

Chapter: 3                                                 Page: 80

THE BENSON YEARS                                           Contents

        In November 1936, Elmer Benson became the
second, and last Farmer-Labor governor.  He won in a
landslide vote; defeating Republican Martin Nelson by
225,000 votes.  Two years later, the figures were
reversed.  A man who had gained nationwide stature as a
two-listed champion of the people went down in smashing
defeat--and his party went with him.  Neither would
gain ascendency again.

        There are times when the personalities of great
leaders symbolize the movement of historical events.
Floyd Olson was a wide-open leader.  He spoke the
language of thousands, capturing their indignation,
tapping their humor, leading by a slap on the back and
a "how are you, Bjorn?  Stop down to my office any time,
and we'll have a chat."

        Floyd Olson could thunder--and wink--at the

        Benson knew only thunder.  Where Olson was broad,
Benson was narrow.  Where Olson was charming, Benson was
blunt.  Where Olson did a two-step, Benson charged the
line, four yards and a cloud of dust.

        Their styles carried over into the movement both   Page: 81
did so much to build.  Under Benson the Farmer-Labor
Association gained in members and strength.  Loyal         Contents
Association men and women were put in charge of the
state's administrative agencies.  Efforts at education
on the club level were redoubled.  Funds collected by
the Association were scrupulously put into the
organizational set up of the Association itself--rather
than reserved for the independent use of candidates. #3.1

        Whereas Olson cultivated an "All Party"
following--welcoming Democrats, independents and
Republicans, into his campaigns, _and_ administration,
Benson saw to it that first priority went to building
up the Association. Leaders were important, but an
educated, righteous, rank and file, believed Benson, was
the first prerequisite for a strong movement.

        Veterans of that movement still argue over who
was the better man.  They remember the capitalist's
complaint. "Floyd Olson used to say all those things,
but this son of a bitch Benson really means them." #3.2

The Education of a Radical

        Elmer Benson grew up on Minnesota's western
prairie in Appleton, Swift County.  Like so many

Farmer-Labor activists, he was weaned on the strong brew   Page: 82
of Midwest populism.  His father, Tom, was an active
Non-Partisan Leaguer who followed Lindbergh from           Contents
Lincoln Republicanism to the Farmer-Labor Movement. His
mother was the granddaughter of Talliev Olavsson
Hurstad--one of the original signers of the Norwegian
Declaration of Independence; a woman who was even more
open to new ideas than her husband. 3.3

        Elmer spent a lot of time around the stove in
his father's general store listening and eventually
participating in the hot talk of Swift County's
outstanding radicals and progressives--members of the
old Populist Party, supporters of Teddy Roosevelt's
"Bull Moose" progressivism, and even an occasional
socialist or two.  The Socialist Party had a chapter in
Appleton.  They brought Gene  Debs in for a talk one
evening--an event that caused quite a stir in sleepy

        Benson wasted little time getting involved in
the political movement.  After earning his law degree
(an experience he found extremely distasteful) and a
brief stint in the army, he returned to Appleton in 1919
to combine a career as banker with an avocation for
politics.  He was an active supporter of the working
alliance between Labor and the Farmers Non-Partisan

League that resulted in the successful Farmer-Labor        Page: 83
campaign in 1922.  In 1924 he personally drove Burt
Wheeler, LaFollette's vice presidential candidate around   Contents
western Minnesota.

        Following the setbacks to LaFollette, Floyd
Olson, and Magnus Johnson in 1924, Elmer dug in to help
build a strong Farmer-Labor organization in Swift
County and throughout his Congressional district. He
did his work well.  Though the town of Appleton itself
remained conservative, the county voted Farmer-Labor
in every election between 1924 and 1938.  This service
established Benson as a trusted Farmer-Labor leader, one
who could be counted on to stand by the organization in
troubled times.

        Benson's political philosophy developed with
experience.  He subscribed to the _Nation_, _New Republic_,
and _LaFollette's Magazine_ (today called _The Progressive_).
He was greatly moved by Woodrow Wilson's _New Freedom_,
and managed to read Karl Marx's _Letters_--though he never
read any of Harx's more substantial works.

        Labels are imprecise.  His political ideology
as it developed during this period was an amalgam of
socialist, populist, and liberal progressive currents.
He occupied the broad middle plane of the Farmer-Labor
ideological spectrum.  He believed in public ownership

of monopolies, supported the principle that government     Page: 84
had an obligation to guarantee minimum economic security
to all its citizens.  He favored the interests of small    Contents
business and cooperatives over large corporations,
shared the populist belief in wild and woolly democracy,
and the socialist insistence on an united farmer-labor
coalition.  He was a radical democrat who believed
that an educated citizenry, acting through a strong
political organization could win at least a small
measure of economic democracy.

        In 1932, Floyd Olson appointed Elmer Benson
Commissioner of Banking.  It was a good appointment.
Benson cleaned house on old Republican holdovers, and
put his small-town banking experience to work in setting
new, more liberal guidelines for bank solvency.
Hundreds of small-town banks were saved from shutting
down thanks to Benson.  His performance produced wide-
spread good will for the Farmer-Labor administration
from an unlikely source--the usually conservative
small-town banker.

        Benson soon became a favorite of those elements
in the Olson administration who ran the _Minnesota
Leader_, and kept the Farmer-Labor Association geared up
and organized.  Little stories about Benson's activities
began popping up in the labor and progressive small-town

press.  Floyd Olson got him to take speaking lessons--     Page: 85
an obvious preparation for the more public role that
lay ahead.  By 1935, the "Association men" had decided     Contents
that Elmer would be the best successor to Floyd Olson.
He was principled, absolutely loyal to the Association,
capable, and progressive.  Other Farmer-Laborites might
be better known, but none could cement a loyal following
from both urban and rural constituencies as well as
Elmer Benson.

        And so Olson appointed Benson to succeed Tom
Schall in the U.S. Senate when Schall died in office in
1935. Olson himself had planned to run against Schall
the following year.  The decision was fateful.  The
temporary senate seat put Benson in the limelight.  He
received the Association's nomination for governor with
little opposition in 1936.

Section: 3.2 Tough Times in the State House

        Benson's landslide victory over Nelson repre-
sented the high tide of Farmer-Labor fortunes. Riding
the crest of public appreciation for the fallen Olson,
and enjoying the tacit support of the state's Democrats
who refrained from opposing Benson in return for
Farmer-Labor endorsement of Roosevelt, the Association

tallied victories at all levels of government.  Ernest     Page: 86
Lundeen was elected senator; John T. Bernard, Henry
Teen, Dewey Johnson, joined Paul Kvale and Knud            Contents
Wefald in Congress.  Farmer-Laborites regained control
of the Minnesota House.  The State Senate however
remained safely--and, as later events would prove,
_significantly_ in Conservative hands.  State Senators
were not up for re-election until 1938.

        Benson's victory surpassed Olson's margin of
1934 by 150,000 votes.  But it did not signify an
increased mandate for the Cooperative Commonwealth
program articulated in the 1934 platform.  In fact, the
'35 state convention had returned to its previous custom
of burying most references to public ownership safely in
the preamble.  The specific proposals were primarily
bread and butter reform programs: a minimum wage and
workmen compensation for labor; a generous old age
pension; an extension of the mortgage moratorium;
provisions for a more equitable tax structure; and
support for consumer coops, credit unions, health,
housing, and rural electrification coops. #3.4

        As an ideological statement, the 1936 platform
put the Farmer-Labor Movement on the left end of the
New Deal rather than totally outside its orbit. There
were other indications of a shift away from a radical,

third party stance.  Roosevelt openly endorsed Benson      Page: 87
while campaigning in Minnesota--he knew a majority
movement when he saw one.  And Benson began what would     Contents
become a habit in the same election.  He endorsed the
New Deal.  Though Farmer-Labor criticism of FDR would
escalate in '37, the leadership quietly abandoned any
lingering consideration of initiating a national
Farmer-Labor Party.

        There is an irony here.  Under the leadership of
Elmer Benson, the Association reached new heights of
militancy in pursuit of increasingly _reformist_ goals.
While the reforms were critical, _ground breaking_ in
the 1930s, the radical vision of economic democracy, of
the Cooperative Commonwealth, was seldom articulated.
In the heat of battle, immediate needs superseded
ultimate ends.  The pragmatic commitment to reform
resulted in the abandonment of efforts to build a
national movement for more basic change. #3.5

        On January 5, 1937, Elmer Benson delivered his
inaugural address.  It was the longest inaugural ever
delivered in Minnesota, an encyclopedia of reform
proposals carefully spelled out, logically and forcefully
presented.  To most Farmer-Laborites it was a symphony.
The Republicans heard it as a declaration of war.

        Even a selective accounting shows the breadth      Page: 88
of the Farmer-Labor reform program.
    - A two-year extension on the mortgage
      moratorium for farmers.

    - A technical assistance program to assist and
      promote cooperatives.

    - Union wages for state employees.

    - The creation of a state commission on youth.

    - Free transportation for rural high school students.

    - Repeal of the criminal syndacalism laws
      (remember the Wobblies?)

    - Creation of a state housing agency.

    - The development of a state owned cement plant.

    - Increased benefits for the disabled, people
      on relief, and the aged.

    - A constitutional amendment enabling the state
      to produce and sell electrical power to

    - A state liquor dispensary.

    - New provisions in the state's unemployment
      benefits--including benefits for striking
      workers. #3.6

        Although more comprehensive than the messages
forwarded by Floyd Olson, the Benson inaugural was cut
from the same cloth.  Creativity was the order of the
day.  In speeches, party platforms, articles in the
_Leader_, the spirit of "social pioneering" of building
the new day, was evident.  It was a time when being a
"liberal" was a good thing; almost a "radical" thing;

when the creation of new government programs represented   Page: 89
triumphs rather than intrusions, when organizing
cooperatives was a small, but powerful act of creating     Contents
a new economic system; when people's political outlook
changed almost overnight--yesterday a powerless worker,
today a trade unionist and Farmer-Laborite to boot!

        Few of Benson's proposals became law, however,
despite their support in the Farmer-Labor controlled
House of Representatives: an extension of the mortgage
moratorium, renewal of decreased interest rates on
rural credit loans, seed loans to farmers, and the
extension of workmen's compensation to state employees
were able to run the gauntlet of the conservative
senate.  In his speech to the Association faithful at
the annual Lincoln Day dinner, Benson summed up the
session this way:

    The slaughter of liberal measures would have
    set a record for the South St. Paul stockyards.
    The conservatives can now ask you to return
    them to office because they administered fatal
    poison to a state labor relations act, the
    anti-lobby bill, and measures to prohibit the
    importation of thugs and strikebreakers during
    labor disputes, permit municipalities owning
    power to extend their lines, limit the hours
    of work for women in industry to forty-four in
    any one week, full transportation of rural
    high school pupils, pass state aid to schools
    in full, and provide adult education.   The
    casualty list is a formidable one.

    This is a record which should make any
    reactionary's bosom swell with pride and I will

    aid them in seeing to it that voters                   Page: 90
    are made quite thoroughly acquainted with that
    record. #3.7
        The lynch pin of the Farmer-Labor program was
the governor's proposal on taxes.  Benson submitted a
set of tax measures that had the combined goal of
raising revenues to pay for needed services, and shifting
the tax burden from workers, small businessmen, and
farmers, to those most able to pay--the wealthy and
large corporations.  Benson made no secret of his class

        The House passed the legislation in full. The

    1.  Completely removed the state tax levy
        from homes and homesteads up to the value
        of $4,000.

    2. Taxed the net income of individuals and
        corporations on a graduated basis so that
        a large share of local school taxes would
        be replaced by state income tax revenues.

    3. Increased taxes on accumulated wealth,
        including the mining companies, so that
        the state budget could be balanced.

    4. Increased taxes on the chain stores. #3.8

        What followed was a battle between the large
business interests in the state, their backers in the
Senate and press, and the Benson administration.  The
issue was a supreme test of the survival of the new
administration. Benson was proposing a significant

shift of the tax burden onto the wealthier classes of      Page: 91
Minnesota.  Unlike most "tax reform" measures proposed
in the national or state legislatures, there were no       Contents
backdoor handouts hidden in the package.

        The conservative senate played a skillful game.
It ignored the tax legislation sent over from the House
until just days before the closing of the session. Then
the senators proposed their own tax bill--an elaborate
package that raised only 1/3 of the revenue proposed by
the governor, and did absolutely nothing to equalize the
tax burden. Inevitably the delayed action led to
deadlock, and a special session of the legislature.  The
tax fight moved to center stage, and the Farmer-Labor
Administration was set up to take a sound thrashing in
the arena of public opinion.

        On the face of it, the tax package had both
science and justice on its side.  The entire set of
measures had been prepared well in advance and backed
by the kind of statistics and tables that characterize
tax policy today.  Projected tax revenue was balanced
with projected expenditures.  New tax sources were
researched to ensure that the bite did not exceed the
ability to pay of the sources in question: corporations,
utility companies, chain stores, the sheltered incomes
of upper income tax payers.  And who could argue with

the equity of easing exorbitant tax burden on those        Page: 92
least able to pay, through a judicious sharing of the
load?                                                      Contents

        But science and justice are not always the
winners in politics.  As the joint committees of the
House and Senate met to resolve the impasse, the Twin
City press ran article after article denouncing the
Farmer-Laborites for dragging their feet on the Senate's
sincere effort to compromise.  Leaders from big business
descended on the capital to aid their spokesmen in the
Senate: Charles Fowler from Northern States Power, Mr.
Montague representing the Steel Trust; Aleck Janes,
Great Northern Railroad; and Aaron Youngquist, Minnesota
Power and Light.  They warned, and the press picked up
the warning--that the Farmer-Labor Association was
driving business from the state.  They played upon the
fears of workers, and the prejudices of the same small-
town businessmen whose interests the Farmer-Labor forces
were trying to protect.

        Benson struck back with stubborn fury.  He
cancelled most appointments, conferred daily, hourly,
with the embattled House committee, issued statements,
made speeches.  In the end a compromise was reached;
slight increases in taxes on iron ore, private utilities,
and other businesses and an exemption from property

taxes on homesteads for the first $4,000 of appraised      Page: 93
value--though the effect of that measure was cleverly
delayed to ensure that the tax payers would not gain       Contents
full benefits until _after_ the next election.

        Benson wasn't the only person in the state
lobbying for the tax bill.  On April 5th 2,000 people
calling themselves the People's Lobby spent a day at
the Capitol putting in a word of their own.  The lobby
represented a broad section of the Farmer-Labor rank
and file: contingents from the Workers Alliance, the
Timberworkers and other C.I.O. unions, the Farm Holiday
Association, and Farmer-Labor clubs from around the
state.  After a harmonious session with a friendly
House of Representatives, the Lobby members spent part
of an afternoon giving the Senate tax committee a hard
time. A smaller group of about 200 Workers Alliance
members spent the night in the Senate Chamber.  Press
reports to the contrary, the only drunks were two
Republicans who couldn't resist the opportunity to make
a speech on behalf of Franco.

        Governor Benson himself addressed the Lobby that

    You are here to enlist for better, decent
    government, not just for a few months, but
    for the rest of your lives.  I hope that when
    you go to the legislature tomorrow that your
    speakers will announce in no uncertain terms,

    that this is not a pink tea party.  It is              Page: 94
    all right to be dignified, _but in a fight
    like this its all right to be rough sometime_.         Contents
    Tell the legislature what is expected of them,
    and tell me, too.

    I don't know how radical you people are and I
    don't care.  I hope you do a good job of it
    tomorrow and I know that you will.  The most
    important thing this legislature can and ought
    to do is pass tax legislation that will make
    the wealthy pay their just share of the taxes.
    It is time for the people to become aroused.
    The great majority of the people-- 95 percent or
    more--are ordinary, plain, common folks. These
    are the people that are producing the wealth,
    keeping our government going, and if we would
    use our common sense, we would make this
    country, the finest, happiest place in the
    world to live in. #3.9

        The whole episode was blown up beyond proportion;
a speech in the Floyd Olson tradition was portrayed by
the press as an incitement to violence. While the tax
fight, more than any single Benson initiative,
contributed to the mobilization of the Republican/Big
Business opposition, the People's Lobby came to
symbolize the growing polarization of Minnesota politics.

        The tax fight set the tone for the entire Benson
administration.  Within three months of riding a land-
slide into office, the administration was in deep
trouble.  True, pitched battles between Senate and the
governor were common occurrences during the Olson
regime.  In fact, the '35 legislative session, with
conservative majorities. in both houses, had been even

more unpleasant than the '36 session.  Nor were the        Page: 95
exit threats of big business a new item either.  But the
public was expecting more than continued warfare between   Contents
the branches of its state government.  And Benson,
unlike Olson, had neither the charm nor the disposition
to smooth over relationships with the more progressive
sections of the business community. #3.10

Section: 3.3 The Communist Party Joins the
             Farmer-Labor Association

        The big battles on the legislative front were
accompanied by changes within the Association itself--
changes that would eventually undermine the unity of the
organization precisely at the time when a unified
response was most necessary to combat the assault of
the state's conservative forces.  The most crucial
development was the increased participation of the
Communist Party in the life of the Association.

        The Communist Party was born out of the great
split in the house of socialism that occurred with the
Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.  The failure of the old
socialist parties that made up the Second International
to keep the proletariat from butchering each other in
World War I contrasted sharply with the success of
Leninism in the Soviet Union.  In the U.S., as in Europe,

Lenin's call to form a new, worldwide revolutionary        Page: 96
cadre, the Third Internationale, was answered with the
formation of the Communist Party--the C.P.U.S.A.           Contents

        During the 20s, the C.P. suffered, as did the
socialist movement as a whole.  The International's
membership dropped from 887,745 in 1921, to 328,716 in
1931.  In the U.S., the Party faced the new decade with
only 7,000 members.  In Minnesota, the Party was
strongest among the Finnish people. #3.11

        But the 30s were a different story.  Later,
historians would call it the "Red Decade."  Most, no
doubt, used the term with genuine relief happy that
had been only a decade after all.  In Minnesota
Communists organized dirt farmers in the central and
northern counties, unemployed people in the Twin Cities,
Duluth and the Iron Range, and workers in the basic
industries that formed the nucleus of the emerging

        They started party units in all sorts of
unlikely places: Moose Lake, Askov, Crookston, Isle,
Cushing, Waseca, Motley, Little Falls, Austin, and St.
Cloud.  Rochester had _two_ units, and the Twin Cities
and Duluth had over a dozen between them. #3.12

        When it came to organizing, the Party had no
peers.  Working in small groups in shops, farm

organizations, student associations, and civil rights      Page: 97
organizations, Party members led day to day struggles
while creating new organizations to meet the immediate     Contents
needs of the people.  These organizations were viewed
as "transmission belts to the masses"--as Clarence
Hathaway, one of Minnesota's outstanding Party members
used to put it. #3.13 The phraseology was ineloquent (an
unfortunate characteristic of much Party writing) but
the concept worked well in practice.  By 1935, the
C.P.U.S.A. had tripled in membership; by '39 it tripled
again.  An organization which had begun the decade with #3.14
the 7,500 members ended it with 90,000.

        In Minnesota, a bright spot for Party activity,
growth was more than proportional.  Thousands of
Minnesotans were either members _of_ or worked closely
with the Communist Party--a fact that foes, both
Republican and Democrat, would put to good use against
the Farmer-Labor Party.  Max Kampelman, a Humphrey
apologist listed five categories of people the Communist
Party "controlled" through its presence in mass

    1. The Party member--under complete
       discipline to the C.P.

    2. The fellow traveler--like a Party member
       except s/he didn't have the guts to carry
       a card.

    3. The sympathizer--translate "dupe."                  Page: 98

    4. The opportunist--goes along with the                Contents
       Communists to advance own interests.

    5. The liberal--"well-meaning"--agrees with
       some of the Party's goals; too "wishy-
       washy" to "stand up to the Communists." 15

        In the language of the Congressional
Investigating Committees and media shows like "I Led
Three Lives," Communist participation in broad based
organizations became "subversion," or "infiltration"--
Hathaway's transmission belt, a conveyance to treason.

        There is another interpretation.  People by the
thousands joined or worked with the Communist Party
because it offered at the time a believable political
alternative to increasing misery.  Take Clara Jorgenson.
She and her eight brothers and sisters grew up on a
farm outside of Askov in Pine County.  Much of the county
was forest land stripped of trees.  The logging industry
had left behind their legacy early--thousands of acres
of half-barren, low productive land.  The soil was
sandy, the landscape dotted with peat bogs.  Not much
good for farming.  The family survived by raising
rutabagas, potatoes, and chickens. #3.16

        Clara was introduced to the Party in 1933 when
her brother-in-law Pete joined up.  Pete was approached
by a "cadre" named Miller; one of the Party's Midwest
farm organizers.  Miller talked Pete into joining a

truckload of farmers who were leaving from Yellow River    Page: 99
for a C.P.-sponsored conference on farm problems in
Chicago.  The Party had its best speakers at the           Contents
Conference.  "A guy like me was bound to be impressed."
Pete signed on the dotted line soon after, and Clara
followed.  "I joined because he did.  I didn't know
nothing about Communism."

        What Clara, Pete, and thousands of farmers _did_
know was that they were in trouble.  All across the
state farmers were organizing.  Where Communist
organizers like Len Harris, Reino Tontala, and Jimmy
Flowers arrived on the scene, small chapters of the
United Farmers League were established to fight farm
disclosures and rally for legislation benefitting the
small farmer.  Where chapters of the larger and more
ideologically diverse Holiday Association existed, Party
members were encouraged to work within it rather than
start up rival organizations.  Pete was elected president
of the Pine County Holiday Association in 1935, as an
open Communist.  "People weren't so afraid of the word
'Communist' then."

        Indeed, the Pine County Chapter had forty
stalwart members during the second half of the decade.
They read their _Daily Worlds_, an occasional Party
pamphlet, and discussed their work in organizations

the Farmer-Labor Association, and Holiday.  Occasionally   Page: 100
they would bring in a movie and invite people from
around the country to attend like Paul Robeson, or         Contents
sponsor socialist dramas like Maxim Gorky's _Mother_.

        The conversion of dirt farmers to Communist
Party members is simple enough to understand.  In a time
of crisis many people were willing to join a militant
organization that offered hope.  Art Borchard was a C.P.
member who doubled as Pine County chairman of the
Farmer-Labor Association during the Benson years.  He
recounted the story of a converted Klu Klux Klan member
who migrated North.  Said the organizer to Borchard:
"I'll sign 'em up, and you can weed 'era out." #3.17

       Mary Andreeson lived in a neighboring county.
In an unpublished autobiography she described her first
meeting with Communists.  It must have been a typical

    As we drove into the yard at Harland's both Fred
    and I felt more than just a little nervous, because
    this was a big milestone in our life. We did
    not so much realize it at the time, but now,
    when we write this story of our lives we can
    see it much more clearly.

    The meeting became very interesting, also very
    confusing. The member of the district committee
    who came up from Minneapolis spoke for almost
    an hour and a half. He explained the causes
    of the Depression. He also spoke about the
    contradictions of the capitalist system and the
    meaning of surplus value. Try to imagine what
    that meant to us who had never before in our

    lives even heard or thought about contradictions,      Page: 101
    in any system, or the meaning of values, except
    the price of beef.                                     Contents

    After the main speaker, Harland spoke very
    briefly and he told us about the need of
    organizing leadership in every community in
    this struggle against foreclosures and
    evictions. He said that wherever there was a
    struggle for justice and progress, that was
    where Communists should be.

    He said much more, but what he said was
    something we could understand because we had
    seen Communists like Harland in action before. #3.18

        The story of Pete, Clara, John Borchard, and
Mary Andreeson was repeated in a hundred variations
across Minnesota.  Jenny Mayville joined the Party as a
result of her experience in the Unemployed Councils in
Minneapolis. #3.19 Jimmy Flowers was introduced when he
joined with a construction crew that was putting up the
locks at the Ford Dam.  The first day on the job he was
confronted by a detachment from the Unemployment Council,
picketing on behalf of the Building and Trades.  Flowers
found he was part of a scab crew!  The Building and
Trades Union provided their unemployed supporters a
bowl of soup in exchange for services at the lock.
Flowers opted for the soup, and within weeks was a
member of the Communist Party. #3.20

        With the exception of a short-lived courting
in 1924, the Party stayed out of the Farmer-Labor
Movement until 1935, and on an official level at least,

was openly hostile to it.  In 1929, this hostility         Page: 102
increased when Stalin declared, and the Comintern (the
official Congress of the 3rd International) ratified the   Contents
"Third Period" doctrine.  National Communist Parties
were instructed to break off any ties they had developed
with reformist political movements, trade unions, and
mass organizations.  The economic collapse that was
plunging the world into the Great Depression was
supposed to make revolution an immediate possibility.
With capitalism on its last leg, there was no room--
or need--for cooperation with other organizations.  The
Party itself would operate through organizations of its
own creation, Trade Union Unity League in the labor
movement, the Unemployed Councils, the United Farmers
League, would lead the proletariat and their rural allies
to revolutionary victory. #3.21

        The "Third Period" doctrine was only the most
sectarian manifestation of what had been the Party's on-
again off-again attitude to other, generally progressive
organizations.  By the early '30s, Communist cadres were
finding it difficult to live up to the line developed in
none too democratic a fashion in Moscow.  What sense did
it make in Minnesota for the C.P. to go down to the state
capitol and sing nasty little ditties against Floyd
Olson, when he and his Party were busy winning the

respect of the working class and farmers with decisive     Page: 103
action on their behalf? #3.22 Why oppose the
Farm Holiday
Association when thousands of farmers were joining up      Contents
to fight against foreclosures, and demand a sane
agricultural policy from the government?  And what good
did it do for local Party workers to peddle the _Daily
Worker_ with its projections of a "Soviet America," when
the Farmer-Labor Party's "Cooperative Commonwealth" was
a more attractive outline of a new society?

       Tactical day to day necessity combined with
international objectives to bring about a new coopera-
tion between Farmer-Laborites and Communists in the
mid-thirties.  In April 1935, the Comintern proclaimed
a new political direction for the international
Communist movement.  Revolution was no longer just
around the corner.  Fascism _was_.  National Parties were
instructed to make alliances with all organizations
willing to support reforms _within_ the capitalist system,
while forging a "united front" that would oppose the
rise of fascism at home and abroad.

        A major motive of the Comintern, which by now
was almost totally subservient to the Soviet Union's
national interests, was the extreme vulnerability
U.S.S.R. to attack by Hitler.  Stalin needed allies in
the labor and social democratic parties of France,

Britain, and the United States.  Since the Communist       Page: 104
movement, even with its recent growth, did not have the
strength to make a revolution, better to unite, to save    Contents
democracy from the fascist scourge, and, in the process,
forge a Western alliance against the axis powers. #3.23

        In Minnesota, the results of this new policy
were not long in coming.  Hundreds of C.P. cadre joined
Farmer-Labor clubs and were active in the 1936 campaign
on the F.L. ticket.  In the Minneapolis mayoral
elections of 1937, Communist Party members campaigned
vigorously for Farmer-Labor candidate Kenneth Haycraft.
Haycraft had won the Party's endorsement against
incumbent Tom Lattimer the previous Spring.  Lattimer,
a Farmer-Laborite himself, had stirred up a hornets'
nest in the Association by using city police to break
the strike at Strutwear Knitting Mills.  Nevertheless,
he retained a reluctant following among A.F.L. unionists
who refused to recognize the Haycraft endorsement in
part, at least, because of the conspicuous presence of
Communists at the nominating convention.  The Haycraft-
Lattimer split proved advance notice of splits to come. #3.24

        Following his narrow primary victory over
Lattimer, Haycraft faced George Leach, a retired Major
General who had served three terms as mayor of Minneap-
olis during the '20s.  On the weekend before the

election, C.P. members hit the streets with a special      Page: 105
edition of the _Sunday Worker_ especially devoted to the
Minneapolis municipal races, and loudly supported          Contents
Haycraft.  It was hardly a tactic designed to quiet
rumors of Communist involvement in the Association. #3.25
Leach won the election handily.

        On the state level, the Party became the
staunchest supporters of the Benson left wing of the
Farmer-Labor Association.  Party organizers used their
influence in the C.I.O. and Workers Alliance to throw
three organizations behind Benson.  The columns of
_Midwest Labor_, the state C.I.O. journal which was edited
by C.P. activists, were filled with praises for Benson,
Johnny Bernard, and the Farmer-Labor Movement as a
whole. #3.26

        In a few short years, the Communist Party had
made a great transformation.  Slogans about "social
fascists" progressives who didn't agree with the Party)
and building a "Soviet America," were replaced by
efforts to carve a niche for itself in the mainstream
of the American reform tradition.  Communists celebrated
Lincoln's birthday with a zeal formally reserved for
that of Lenin.  And no more touching rendition of the
National Anthem was ever delivered than that of the
assembled Communists in Madison Square Garden, 1937. #3.27

        The enthusiastic entry of the Communist Party      Page: 106
into the ranks of the Farmer-Labor Association caused
problems that balanced, in part at least, the benefits     Contents
of their skilled and committed participation.  There
were elements in the Association that were downright
anti-Communist.  Veteran A.F.L. leaders like Bill
Mahoney had been burned in the early days of the
Association when the C.P. first joined the fledgling
Farmer-Labor effort to promote the establishment of a
national Farmer-Labor Party.  The Communist Party did
some fancy maneuvering that got Mahoney in trouble with
the rural elements of the new Association in Minnesota,
and literally destroyed the coalition nationally.  The
Party left the Association as quickly as it entered it,
and Mahoney vowed never to work with the Communists
again. #3.28

        The more basic objective of A.F.L. leaders to
the C.P. resulted from its leadership in the emerging
C.I.O.   The industrial union movement, as detailed in
a later chapter, presented grave competition to the
A.F.L. unions--competition that often meant loss of
membership, and revenue to the A.F.L.  For C.I.O. leaders
of any kind to occupy positions of high counsel in the
Farmer-Labor Association was anathema to many leaders
of A.F.L. unions. #3.29

        Opposition to Communist involvement came from      Page: 107
another wing of the Association as well, the small-town
businessmen and "free enterprise populists" who            Contents
followed Olson into the Farmer-Labor Party because
"something had to be done," but recoiled at the full
complement of Farmer-Labor economic and social programs.
More imbued with the ideology of individualism, by both
training and economic position, the shopkeepers and
professionals of rural Minnesota were the most
susceptible to anti-Communist propaganda.  They would
form the primary constituency for the right wing revolt
within Farmer-Labor ranks in 1938. #3.30

        Controversy about Communist participation in the
Association spread to all sections of the organization
during the Benson administration.  Even the staunchest
left wingers had to consider the question--if only
because of the political hay it provided the' opposition
come election time.  The democratic socialist wing of
the Association, men like Howard Y. Williams and Henry
Teigen who had spearheaded the Cooperative Commonwealth
program in '34, were skeptical of the Communists
commitment to the "democratic road" to socialism.  The
Farmer-Labor Association, after all, had always
maintained that radical reform could and _would_ take
place through parliamentary action.  How did this square
with the Communists continued (though now muted)

adherence to the Leninist belief that a "dictatorship      Page: 108
of the proletariat" was a necessary stage in the
socialist transformation of society? #3.32
        As basic as these issues were in the long run,
however, the majority of the Association leaders around
Benson were united on the immediate priorities of the
reform movement--priorities enunciated in the Farmer-
Labor platform and shared by the Communists.  Purging
the organization of its Communist members was out of the
question.  It would split the most active sections of
the Association, and bring the Movement to an abrupt
halt.  Unity had to be preserved.  The charges of
Communist infiltration would be countered by exposing
their intent.  Hadn't the Association _always_ been red-

        The "Communist issue" was only _one_ of the
tensions that would crack the Association open in 1938.
As mentioned earlier, the competition between the A.F.L.
and C.I.O. shook the traditional labor base of the
Association.  There were internal squabbles over
membership representation within the Association.  Rural
people grumbled about big labor domination.  The Central
Labor Unions (A.F.L.) in both Minneapolis and St. Paul
complained about the domination of small "paper
organizations": foreign language clubs, economic

organizations, and ward clubs that had more                Page: 109
representation in the organizational set up than big
unions with 1,000 or more members.  It was the issue of    Contents
representation that sparked the faction fight between
the A.F.L. Lattimer forces and the "official" Farmer-
Labor-Haycraft forces in the critical 1937 mayoral race
in Minneapolis. #3.32

        There was also the perennial problem of
patronage--who gets the jobs.  Under Benson, local
Association organizations were given the right to suggest
qualified Farmer-Laborites for government jobs.  Where
Olson had bought off opposition by appointing
Republicans, Democrats, and less committed Farmer-
Laborites to government jobs, Benson saw that loyal
Farmer-Laborites were rewarded for their service to the
movement.  This practice helped solidify the core of the
Association, but left thousands of nominal Farmer-
Laborites out of the action. #3.33

        Political differences arose, naturally, over a
whole host of issues.  Orville Olson, Elmer Benson's
Director of Personnel, and member of the Association
brain trust recalls his work carrying the message to the
far reaches of the Farmer-Labor coalition during the
'36-38 period.

    I think we were too hard on the small-town             Page: 110
    people.  We didn't give them enough credit.
    We didn't believe they could learn.  We were           Contents
    in too big of a hurry. . . .

    I remember traveling to some of the small
    towns and rural clubs and talking about the
    Spanish Civil War--how we had to support
    Spain in the fight against fascism.  Of
    course, this was true.  But we hammered on
    it too hard.  It was something many people
    didn't want to hear. . . . #3.34

        Even as the Association grew, there developed an
ever widening gap between the politics of the most active
and educated members and the less involved.  Benson and
the coterie of left leaning intellectuals and ';Movement"
veterans who staffed the administration and
Association itself had built a strong grassroots politi-
cal organization.  But they did it at the expense of
creating a gulf between the organization proper and the
majority of Minnesotans who loosely affiliated with the
Association, or voted for its candidates, but were not
active in day-to-day affairs.  As the class struggle
continued on its sharp and cantankerous course in '37
and '38, that gulf became a chasm.

Section: 3.4 Defeat!!

In the election of 1938, the Farmer-Labor
Association reaped the whirlwind.  Historians rank the
battle as the meanest, dirtiest, and hardest fought

contest since Charles Lindbergh and his Non-Partisan       Page: 111
legions took on Governor Burnquist in 1918.  But the
election fight itself was only the final working out       Contents
of the conflicts that had characterized the Association
since Benson's inauguration: conflicts between the
movement and the state's business elite; and conflicts
_within_ the Farmer-Labor constituency itself.  It was
as if all the antagonisms boiled up in a gigantic
eruption, and when the elements resettled, the Farmer-
Labor Association was reduced once again to the status
of second political party in Minnesota.

        It is impossible to isolate one single cause of
this dramatic reversal.  A major insurrection within the
F.-L. movement, the continued inability of the New Deal
(and by implication of the Farmer-Labor Administration)
to lick the Depression, the new willingness of the
Republican Party to adopt the reform program of the
Farmer-Labor Association, the effective use of anti-
Communist and anti-Semitic propaganda, and the almost
universal opposition of the big city and small-town
press were all factors in the defeat.

        The insurrection within the movement was led by
Hjalmar Petersen, the ambitious editor of the _Askov
American_.  Hjalmar gathered forces on the fringe of the
Association to challenge Benson in the '38 primary.

Petersen had made a name for himself as floor leader of    Page: 112
the income tax bill that passed the state legislature
in 1933.  He was nominated Lieutenant Governor in '34      Contents
and survived the hard fought "Cooperative Commonwealth
campaign" as Floyd Olson's running mate.  Petersen had
his eyes on the governorship, and became permanently
embittered when Olson failed to use his influence to
see that he got it. #3.35

        Most Farmer-Labor accounts of the struggle
between Hjalmar Petersen and Elmer Benson cast the
events as a great morality play; principled righteous-
ness vs. vain ambition; Farmer-Labor Progressivism vs.
small-town reaction.  Although melodramatic, the casting
is not too far from the mark.  Petersen's politics swung
wildly over the years--from left wing Farmer-Laborite
to Republican.  Ironically, the Communist Party favored
Petersen in the initial rounds of his struggle to
succeed Floyd Olson in 1936.  Hjalmar's personal
secretary, Lillian Schwartz, was an active Party
member. #3.36

        Petersen was a staunch supporter of the move to
organize a national third party to oppose Roosevelt in
'36.  One story has it that a leading labor leader from
St. Paul nominated him for Lieutenant Governor in
gratitude for his strong support of the city's workers.

Hjalmar had sent a truckload of rutabagas from Pine        Page: 113
County to feed some strikers. #3.37
        In January 1938, Petersen announced his
intention to challenge Benson in the Farmer-Labor primary.
The themes he sounded served both himself and the
Republicans well.  Hjalmar charged that the Farmer-Labor
Administration was dominated by a small clique of
"Mexican Generals," behind the scenes operators who were
neither representative of or responsible to the public.
He sounded the alarm against government by political
patronage, charging that Governor Benson had allowed his
administration to run on the spoils system.  Most
damaging of all, he accused the Administration of truck-
ing with the Communists.

    The Farmer-Labor Association by its
    constitution, does not admit to membership
    those who believe in the overthrow of
    government by force.  Yet the present state
    administration has eagerly placed on its
    payrolls men and women who for years have
    been active in the Communist Party.  Men
    who damned and cursed Governor Olson are
    enthusiastically accepted by our present
    governor.  Such betrayal of the trust placed
    in him has well nigh destroyed the faith of
    thousands of Farmer-Laborites and independent
    voters who in past campaigns have supported
    our cause.  It is this alignment with the
    Communists that caused thousands of Farmer-
    Labor voters to leave our party in the 1937
    Minneapolis city election ....

    Let me cite an example.  The Communist campaign
    manager in the sixth ward in the 1937 city
    election has been engaged by the state

    administration in the Highway Department, and          Page: 114
    incidentally drives around in a state owned
    car, campaigning for the re-election of the            Contents
    governor.  After bitterly opposing Governor
    Olson in 1934, and in 1937 seeking to defeat
    a Farmer-Labor aldermanic candidate, and to
    elect a Communist, he becomes one of the
    administration henchmen ....

    I abhor the Communist teachings of overthrow
    of government by revolution, and the destruction
    of the church.  I would rather be defeated without
    the support of this un-American element than
    elected with it.  I will not bargain with those
    seeking to lead us from the principles of our
    party and our departed leaders.  My concern is
    the fate of our party and the fate of the great
    liberal movement in Minnesota.  We must purge
    our party of Communists--those borers from
    within--if we intend to keep it a Farmer-Labor
    party. #3.38

The Petersen challenge to Elmer Benson was no
joke.  Petersen managed to gather potent support for
his candidacy.  His attack on the "Mexican Generals" was
an effective rallying cry for disgruntled Farmer-
Laborites--small-town conservatives, disappointed job
seekers, angry A.F.L.'ers, and anti-Communists.
Hjalmar could count on a substantial Republican
crossover vote as well.  He could also count on money,
significantly the kind of money usually reserved for the
Republicans.  The corporate leadership of U.S. Steel
and Northwestern Bank Corporation were big contributors
to the Petersen campaign kitty. #3.39

        Hjalmar ran with vigor.  His efforts sent
ripples through the entire Association   In Districts 2,

6, and 7, Benson supporters passed resolutions affirming   Page: 115
the Association's traditional law forbidding Communist
participation.  They sought to remove the stigma of        Contents
Party involvement in the movement once and for all.
Hennepin County, District 5, struck in the opposite
direction.  The convention passed a resolution calling
for the expulsion of any member who failed to support
the Farmer-Labor platform, and Farmer-Labor endorsed
candidates.  Hjalmar Petersen's name did not come up
in the debate, but the target of the rules change was
clear. #3.40

        This attempt at party discipline--a move one
Association member happily described as "the best
possible example of centralist democracy" provided an
opportunity for criticism that the hostile Minneapolis
dailies were only too happy to exploit.  The _Tribune_
branded the action, "Farmer-Labor Fascism," and the
_Journal_ pontificated:

    The powers that control Minnesota's dominant
    party have got a long way from the principles
    of democracy when a convention, representing a
    small minority of dues paying members assumes
    the right to force its decisions on the rank
    and file and to discipline any party members
    who appeal to the people in the primary.

    The Farmer-Labor Party has been in power in the
    state for seven years.  In that period it has
    moved away from its democratic tradition to
    show the old parties "cards and spades" in

    such things as discipline imposed on rank and          Page: 116
    file from above.  Seven years in power have
    brought a marked change in spirit--perhaps             Contents
    that is what is the matter--too much power,
    for too long a period. #3.41

        The campaign was an old fashioned shoot-out,
and the results embarrassingly close: _Benson_, 218,000,
_Petersen_, 202,205.  Petersen swept the small towns and
villages, carrying 51 counties to Benson's 36.  Benson's
strong showing in St. Louis County (Duluth and the Iron
Range) and the continued loyalty of the state's farmers
provided the margin.  And while even conservative
analysts admitted that 1/4 of the Petersen vote was
Republican crossovers, the Benson margin was anything
but overwhelming. #3.42

        If the results of the Farmer-Labor primary had
been a shock to Association regulars, the Republican old
guard got a surprise in _their_ intra-party contest as
well.  Young Harold Stassen, the eloquent lawyer from
South St. Paul had upset Martin Nelson, mainstay of the
party establishment.  The choice was a fortunate one
for the Republicans.  Stassen was bright, untainted by
the discredited conservative policies of earlier regimes,
and good on the soapbox.  He was a perfect candidate to
carry a Republican reform banner, and that's exactly
what he did.

       The Republican party waged two campaigns in         Page: 117
1938.  One, led by Stassen himself, took the high road.
The other, neither acknowledged nor repudiated by the      Contents
candidate, plumbed the depths of anti-Communism and

        The strategy behind Stassen's high road campaign
was simple: embrace the essential Farmer-Labor Program,
but promise to deliver it without the conflict and
corruption that allegedly characterized the Farmer-Labor
administration.  Stassen understood that most Minnesotans
had accepted the liberal tenets of the Farmer-Labor/New
Deal reform vision.  He also knew that thousands were
tired of the class struggle, had it up to the eyeballs
with People's Lobbies, C.I.O. labor militance, and
populist attacks on fat cat monopolies and fascist
dictators.  What had all the fire brand rhetoric, and
barn burning militance accomplished?  The Great
Depression still lingered on.  In fact, the economy
seemed to be getting _worse_.

        So Stassen gave the people a liberal program
and the hope that he could lead the state to a new era
of class harmony and humane, efficient government.  In
Hibbing he promised the workers aggressive action to
reduce unemployment.  In Minneapolis he pledged never to
call out the National Guard in defense of an employer.

He flatly stated his opposition to the sales tax (a        Page: 118
reversal of traditional Republican tax policy) and even
allowed as to how the Steel Companies should be socked     Contents
with higher taxes on iron ore! #3.43

        Stassen's most popular issue was Civil Service
reform.  Hjalmar Petersen had done an effective job
portraying the Benson administration as a vast
patronage operation--heavily staffed with incompetent
officials appointed solely on the basis of their
loyalty to the Farmer-Labor machine.  Stassen promised
to clean out the "radicals and racketeers" who infested
state government and replace the patronage system with
a modern, up-to-date Civil Service program.  It was a
pledge that the big city press enthusiastically
backed. #3.44

        While Stassen was busy cutting up the Farmer-
Labor constituency with his highly potent brand of
reform Republicanism, allies in the darker recesses of
the party were conducting a vicious campaign that
combined the traditional Republican red-baiting of
earlier years, with the worst barrage of anti-Semitism
in the state's history.

        The architect of this "second" campaign was
Ray P. Chase, dean emeritus of the Republican old guard.
Chase had been elected state auditor in 1920 and got

trounced when he ran against Floyd Olson in 1930.  In      Page: 119
1932 he was elected to Congress and two years later was
defeated after voting consistently against the New         Contents
Deal.  For the rest of his life, Chase devoted himself
to the collection and dissemination of information on
corruption, mismanagement, and Communist activity in
government. #3.45

        The vehicle for Chase's watchdog activities was
the Ray P. Chase Research Bureau.  The bureau was
financed by some of Minnesota's top business elite:
George Gillette, President of Minneapolis Moline; J. C.
Hormel, the meat packet; James Ford Bell, Northwestern
Bank; Colonel Robert McCormick, owner of the Chicago
Tribune; and George Belden of the Citizens Alliance.
Its expressed  purpose was to "block the efforts of the
present governor and his Communistic Jewish advisers to
perpetuate themselves in power     and to block ef-
forts to imitate and promote in Minnesota the Soviet
plan of social ownership of key industries .... "

        Chase set about to accomplish his purpose
through "research"--both legal, and extralegal.  Files
were stolen from the State Relief Department.  Informa-
tion was gathered on Farmer-Laborites who were known or
suspected Communist Party members.  Left wing activity
at the University of Minnesota was especially well

documented.  Dean Edward Nicholson supplied voluminous     Page: 120
information on the dangerous student radicals of the
day--including one Eric Sevareid, a leader in the fight    Contents
against compulsory military training.

        In all fairness to the Republicans, the anti-
Semitism that erupted in the general election had its
roots in the Hjalmar Petersen campaign.  In his attack
on Communists and "Mexican Generals" Hjalmar singled
out JeWish officials like Abe Harris, editor of the
_Minnesota Leader_, Roger Rutchick, Benson's personal
secretary, and Art Jacobs, administrative assistant to
Harold Barker, Farmer-Labor Speaker of the House.  When
challenged, Petersen denied he was campaigning against
Jews as such.  But his emphasis did attract support
from prominent anti-Semites like Luke Rader, a Christian
evangelist from Minneapolis whose pamphlet, _The Sinister
Menace of Communism to Christianity_, called upon all
Christians to support Petersen against Benson and his
Jewish Communist advisers.  Anti-Semitic reaction from
rural areas was strong enough to cause real concern in
Farmer-Labor circles. #3.46

        Ironically, Chase's diligent work also resulted
in a pamphlet: "Are They Communists or Catspaws--A Red
Baiting Article."  It opened:

    This is the story of the self-styled "Great            Page: 121
    Liberal," Elmer A. Benson, governor of
    Minnesota, innocent Elmer, who says that he            Contents
    doesn't know any Communists or anything about

    Of course Communists are "Great Liberals"
    also.  They talk like Elmer, use the same
    language, cuss out America in the same way,
    and preach the gospel of Marx, Lenin, and
    Stalin just as he does.

    But there is a difference and if you cannot
    see it you are a Red Baiter and lower than
    a horse thief.  Even then you are not as low
    as men who panhandle scrub women for 90 cents
    a month to held pay a governor's campaign
    expenses--not that low--but you are pretty

    Why is red baiting vile?  Nobody knows.  It
    is one of life's mysteries.

    Communists, "The Great Liberal" and all other
    radicals bait America and everything
    American--the country, its founders, ideals,
    traditions, institutions, government,
    constitution, laws, courts, churches,
    industries, opportunities, purposes, destiny.
    In their opinion, everything American is wrong,
    while Russia is Paradise.  And they feel free
    to say so.  They deem it their inherent right,
    guaranteed them by the constitution which they
    propose to destroy, to attack everything
    American blatantly and eternally.

    Another trait common to radicals is that they
    arrogate to themselves all virtues and
    ascribe to their opponents all vices.  If an
    American dares to question their philosophy,
    views, arts, or motives they become hysterical.
    Some of them even pound the desk and swear.
    But all of them, without exception, scream Red
    Baiter!  Red Baiter!  It seems to be the
    countersign of the fraternity of radicals--
    or maybe the distress symbol.

    Since radicals love the phrase, we accept
    it and present this factual, Red Baiting
    article to the people of Minnesota to help

    them determine whether or not Communistic              Page: 122
    philosophy is making progress in this state
    under our present state leadership. #3.47
        Following this taunting introduction, Chase
treated his readers to 60 pages of "information  " on the
Jewish-Communist menace in Minnesota, and in particular,
the Benson administration's role in it.  He outlined how
the state was really run by Jewish administrators and
publicists; how the Communist Party was heavily involved
in supporting the "Farmer-Labor experiment"; how Elmer
Benson used public money to attend a Communist-led peace
rally in New York, and delivered the main address at a
"Free Tom Mooney" rally in San Francisco.  Mooney was a
political hero to thousands of people around the country
He had been in jail since 1916 for allegedly dynamiting
a Preparedness Day rally in San Francisco.  Communists
hailed Benson's appearance at the rally as a courageous
act of progressive statesmanship "Catspaws" saw it as
another example of Communist collaboration.

        The pamphlets effect on the voters, by itself,
is impossible to calculate.  But Chase didn't limit
himself to the publishing effort.  With the help of the
well-connected Cyrus McCormick, Chase managed to secure
the services of Congressman Martin Dies, who agreed to
hold hearings in late October on Communist influence in
the Farmer-Labor Party.  Thirty witnesses presented
testimony on Communist participation--most of it

distorted.  By the time Farmer-Laborites were able to      Page: 123
respond, it was too late. #3.48
        The double-barreled Republican attack proved too
much for Benson and the Farmer-Labor Association.  Loyal
Association members fought a hard grassroots campaign.
Twenty-thousand members in 3,747 voting precincts were
given some sort of organizational responsibility.
Every week the state was covered with literature sent
out by truck from the Precinct Captains Bureau. #3.49
Detailed leaflets set forth the Farmer-Labor program,
countered charges that businesses were fleeting the
states and summed up the accomplishments of the Farmer-
Labor Administration. #3.50

        Benson himself toured the state to big crowds.
In his kickoff speech at Appleton he defended the
Farmer-Labor record and challenged Stassen's claim to the
mantle of liberalism.

    Having failed to accomplish their objectives
    by means of the red scare and the scare about
    industries leaving the state, Republicans are
    now saying they believe in everything the New
    Deal and the Farmer-Labor Party stands for--
    but ask that they be assigned the job of seeing
    to it that the program be carried out ....
    We thus find my Republican opponent in the
    ludicrous pose of wearing a fake shield and
    sword of progress while bound on his feet
    are the packing house enemies of the Farmer,
    Citizens Alliance enemies of the worker,
    and monopoly business enemies of the independent

    There were many progressive measures which the         Page: 124
    liberal House passed but which could not run the
    gauntlet of Senate reaction.  These included a         Contents
    measure to permit municipalities owning power
    plants to extend their lines; a 44 hour week
    bill for women in industry; full transportation
    for rural high school pupils; state aid to
    schools in full; an adult education bill;
    a housing act which would have enabled the
    state to have secured millions of dollars
    from the federal government on public housing

    That is why my Republican opponent refuses to
    defend the record of his party.  That is why
    he says what the Republicans did while in office
    is not an issue in this campaign.  That is why
    he calls the Farmer-Labor Party a machine
    instead of a rank and file movement of the
    people.  That is why he says that the Farmer-
    Labor Party is controlled by a handful of
    selfish, radical bosses, when he knows that
    there are no bosses in a movement democratically
    organized such as the Farmer-Labor Party.

    They tell you they are trying to get back
    into power to put our Farmer-Labor program
    into effect; we know they are trying to get
    back into power to kill that program forever. #3.51

        Benson, however, did not succeed in making
Stassen the issue.  The press was almost 100 percent
behind Stassen.  They built up the Stassen image--the
new "Floyd B. Olson"--and kept readers well-informed
about charges of Communist infiltration, graft, and
Benson's bad temper.  Things got so bad that fifty-one
newspaper reporters felt compelled to publish their own
version of the campaign in a pamphlet called
"Deadline." #3.52

        The opposition of the press hurt Benson badly.     Page: 125
So did the opposition of another opinion-making
institution, the Catholic Church.  The hierarchy was       Contents
not happy with the Benson attitude toward the Communist
issue.  As an international institution, Church
leadership understood full well the international
challenge of Communism.  Young Bishop Sheen, already a

leading Catholic publicist, was sent to Duluth where he
denounced Farmer-Labor Congressman John Bernard from
the pulpit.  Bernard, a close ally of Elmer Benson,
had won the Church's  everlasting  wrath for casting the
one vote against the arms embargo to democratic (anti-
Franco) Spain in 1937. #3.53

        In the Twin Cities names were not mentioned,
but faithful Catholics were forbidden to do anything
that "might aid the Communist cause" in Minnesota. The
implication to thousands of Catholics was quite clear. #3.54

        In retrospect, it was only the magnitude of
the Farmer-Labor defeat that was surprising.  The Benson
landslide of '36 was reversed.  Stassen received
678,839 to Benson's 387,263.  Benson lost every county
except six.  He lost St. Paul and Minneapolis by 1/3--
strong indication that the A.F.L.-C.I.O. split had
seriously hurt the movement's strong working class base.
The only good news came from the farm districts.  The

militant farmers of west and central Minnesota voted       Page: 126
Farmer-Labor as faithfully as ever.
        In 1938, the lines were drawn in Minnesota.
The conflict was etched in a way that remains
uncharacteristic of American politics.  On the one side
stood the Farmer-Labor forces; the most militant
Association forces, the great majority of the C.I.O.
unions, the die-hard farmers of western and central
Minnesota, the 30,000 members of the Workers Alliance,
the cadre of the Communist Party itself.  On the other
side, stood the big business interests, the small-town
and big city press, the hierarchy of the Catholic
Church, and a revitalized Republican Party.  In the mid-
dle stood the "swing vote": A.F.L. or unorganized
workers, small business people, professionals, men and
women in all walks of life, who had supported the
Farmer-Labor ticket for the past six years, but whose
allegiance was based on performance rather than
ideology.  It was this "independent vote" that swung
solidly to the Republican side--leaving the Farmer-
Labor Movement with its solid--and impressive core, but
little else.

Section: 3.5 Footnotes: to Chapter 3                       Page: 127

      3.1 James M. Shields, _Mr. Progressive_,             Contents
Minneapolis: T. S. Denison, 1971, pp. 133-134.

      3.2 "Interview, Jimmy Flowers, Fall 1976.
      3.3 Material for the summary of Benson's early
life and career taken from Shields, pp. 13-44.

      3.4 Farmer-Labor Platform, 1936.  Available in
Minnesota Historical Society Library.

      3.5 The most dramatic evidence for this change can
be found in comparing the editorial stance of the
_Minnesota Leader_ of '34 and '35, with that of the
_Leader_ during the Benson years.  The _Leader_ is on
microfilm in the periodical section of the Minnesota
Historical Society.

      3.6 _Minnesota Leader_, January 9, 1937.

      3.7 Copy of speech on file in the library of the
Minnesota Historical Society.

      3.8 Material for section on the tax fight is
taken from R. M. Aalbu's pamphlet, "Deadlocked," 1937.
Available at Minnesota Historical Society.

      3.9 Quoted in _Midwest Labor_, April 10, 1937.

      3.10 Shields, pp. 85-86. See #3.1

      3.11 For an excellent history of the Third
International see, Fernando Claudin, _The Communist
Movement: From Comintern to Corninform_ (New York: Monthly
Review Press, 1975).

      3.12 Material from assorted issues of _Northwest
Communist_, available at the Minnesota Historical Library
in a folder on miscellaneous pamphlets, brochures on the
Communist Party.

      3.13 Clarence Hathaway, "On the Use of Transmission  Page: 128
Belts to the Masses," the _Communist_, May 1931.  A copy
of the article is on file 'in the Hathaway papers at the   Contents
archives section of the Minnesota Historical Society.

      3.14 For a superb summary of Party growth during
this period see, Joseph R. Starobin, _American Communism_
In Crisis (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972)
pp. 20-50.

      3.15 Max Kampelman, _The Communist Party vs. The
C.I.O._ (New York: Praeger, 1957) p. 5.

      3.16 Personal interview with Clara and Pete
Jorgenson, Fall 1976.

      3.17 Personal interview with Art Borchard, Fall

      3.18 Unpublished rough manuscript of Mary Andreeson's
autobiography.  It's in my collection of '30s documents.

      3.19 Personal interview with Jenny Mayville, Spring

      3.20 Personal interview with Jimmy Flowers, Fall

      3.21 Joey Feinglass, "The Communist Party and the
C.I.O.," unpublished paper.  Available in my personal

      3.22 Interview, Jim Flowers.
      3.23 Feinglalss,   pp. 7-26.

      3.24 The Haycraft-Lattimer battle was widely noted,
even at the time, as a serious split for the Association.
See Elmer Davis, "Minnesota Worry Go Round," _Colliers_,
99:26, June 26, 1937.  For the Trotskyst point of view
see Farrell Dobbs, _Teamster Politics_ (New York:
Pathfinder Press, 1975) pp. 93-97.

      3.25 _Sunday Worker_, June 6, 1937.

      3.26 See _Midwest Labor_ 1937-38, on file in the
periodical room of the Minnesota Historical Society.

      3.27 Starobin, p. 38. See #3.14
                                                           Page: 129

      3.28 See Youngdale, _Populism: A Psychohistorical    Contents
Perspective_ (Port Washington: Kennikat Press, 1975)
pp. 177-187.

      3.29 The official A.F.L. attitude toward C.I.O.--
and the Communist Party involvement in it--is well-
documented in the _St. Paul Union Advocate_ and _Minneapolis
Labor Review_ available on microfilm at the Minnesota
Historical Society.

      3.30 Election returns from 1938 show that Benson
lost the small-town vote overwhelmingly.

      3.31 See Teigen and Williams papers on file at the
Minnesota Historical Society.

      3.32 The charge that the C.P. organized "paper
organizations" to increase its influence was a common
complaint among A.F.L. leaders.  In addition to
references in the A.F.L. papers, see Arthur /#1.2 Naftalin,
pp. 194-196.   See #1.2

      3.33 Personal interview with Tony Puglissi, Summer

      3.34 Personal interview, Orville Olson, Spring

      3.35 For an excellent account of Petersen's role
see Hyman Berman, "Political Anti-Semitism in Minnesota
During the Great Depression," _Jewish Social Studies_,
Vol. XXXVIII, Summer-Fall 1976, pp. 250-257.
      3.36 Ibid.,  p.  252.

      3.37 Interview with Sander Genis on file at the
Minnesota Historical Society.

      3.38 Hjalmar Petersen papers, Box 10, Minnesota
Historical Society.
      3.39 Berman, p. 255.

      3.40 _The Minneapolis Journal_, May 16, 1938.

      3.41 _The Minneapolis Journal_, May 17, 1938.

      3.42 Shields, pp. 175-176. See #3.1                                       Page: 130

      3.43 See Arthur LeSeuer Papers, Box 7, for clippings Contents
on Stassen's speeches during the '38 campaign.

      3.44 See Hjalmar Petersen Papers, "Political
Scrapbook," 1938 campaign, Vol. 8, and LeSeuer Papers,
Box 7, for clippings on the Civil Service issue.

      3.45 Berman, pp. 257-262. See #3.35

      3.46 Berman, pp. 255-257. See #3.35

      3.47 Ray P. Chase, "Are They Communists or
Catspaws," p. 3.  Available at the Minnesota Historical
Society Library.

      3.48 See Berman, p. 262. See #3.35   For the Farmer-Labor
Association's response, see _The Minnesota Leader_,
October 22,

      3.49 For an account of F.L. campaign efforts see
Shields, pp. 181-197.  See #3.1

      3.50 See Farmer-Labor Association Miscellaneous
pamphlets for campaign brochures, on file in the
Minnesota Historical Society Library.

      3.51 Quoted in Shields, pp. 190-193. See #3.1
      3.52 Ibid., pp. 210-211.

      3.53 Interview with John Bernard, Spring 1977.

      3.54 Shields, pp. 215-216. See #3.1

Chapter: 4                                                 Page: 131


    Isn't it time to start trusting
    ourselves instead of looking for
    someone else to save us?  We can build
    our own organization, controlled by
    ourselves and our neighbors, city
    people and farmers, and then we know that
    organization wants to serve the common
    people.  If we build it strong, it will
    serve the common people well.
        Minnesota Leader -- July 25, 1936

    If your dues are due, do it now.
         "Notes 6th District Farmer-Labor
         Club,  1926.

        At a recent D.F.L. ward convention in Minneapolis,
Charlie Warner, a neighborhood activist and radical ran
against a mainstream Democrat for alderman.  Warner's
campaign committee drew up a detailed platform that
advocated Farmer-Labor-like approaches to city problems:
support for neighborhood organizations, progressive tax
reform, conversion of absentee-owned apartment buildings
to tenant-owned cooperatives, the development of a
community credit union, and a study to test the
feasibility of municipalizing Northern States Power--
the local electrical monopoly.  There were many other

proposals as well, all nicely packaged, and wrapped up     Page: 132
in an analysis that would have made the old F.-L. 8th
Ward club proud.                                           Contents

        The nominating convention itself was attended
by 180 delegates.  The hot race between ourselves and
the party regulars had stirred up more than the usual
interest among DFLers.  Between balloting, or at other
times when there was no "more important" business to
tend to, the floor was opened for resolutions.  The
Warner caucus introduced eight.  All of them were
passed with a "ho-hum and let's get the show on the
road" attitude.

        One resolution in particular was regarded as
a key test of Warner's strength relative to that of the
party regulars.  It was one of those litmus test issues.
If you were _for_ it, you were a true-blue progressive,
or alternately a flakey radical.  If you were _against_
it, you were a lily-livered liberal or alternately a
constructive, practical candidate--a person with one's
feet solidly on the ground.  I'm referring to the plank
on public ownership of Northern States Power.

        As it turned out, the "true-blue progressives"
won the vote on that issue, 82 to 39.  Warner's opponent,
a man who indeed had his feet solidly on the ground, had

denounced the resolution right there at the convention.    Page: 133
The Warner forces were ecstatic.  Their program was
being passed.  Surely their candidate would win.  But      Contents
heavens to Elmer Benson, it didn't work that way.  The
majority of delegates endorsed the Warner program and
then proceeded, after six grueling ballots, to
nominate a candidate with an entirely different
ideological orientation!

Section: 4.1 The Strength of Thousands

        Unlike today's two major political parties, the
Farmer-Labor Association was an organization that
functioned year-round to educate and involve its rank
and file.  The Association did not exist simply to
elect candidates, but to develop the programs and
platforms upon which elected officials and candidates
would stand.  Candidates were expected to support the
Association platform, and elected officials to do their
best to put it into law.  Consistent refusal to do so,
could, and occasionally did, result in expulsion from
the organization.

        The founders of the Association knew the
difference between a movement that was out to challenge
the monopolies and political parties that were committed
to their preservation.  The Association's Declaration

of Principles, adopted in 1924, clearly laid out the       Page: 134
organization's ultimate purpose:
    We aim to rescue the government from the
    control of the privileged few and make it
    function for the use and benefit of all by
    _abolishing monopoly in every form_, and to
    establish in place thereof a system of public
    _ownership and operation of monopolized
    industries_ which will afford every able and
    willing worker for opportunity to work, and
    will guarantee the enjoyment of the proceeds
    thereof, thus increasing the amount of
    available wealth, eradicating unemployment and
    destitution, and abolishing autocracy. #4.1
                              (Italics mine.)

        Strong stuff.  To be successful, the movement
had to be organized.  It had to have at its base an
educated, committed, and resourceful rank and file: tens
of thousands of people who understood who their enemies
were, how to defeat them, and how to build a better
society in the process.

        In 1935, the Education Bureau of the Farmer-
Labor Association published a pamphlet called "Do
Need the Farmer-Labor Association?"  At a time when the
Association had taken root all over the Minnesota
countryside, the pamphlet reiterated the basic philosophy
of the Association founders.  "The form of an
organization depends on the job being done.  The job before
the American people today is to straighten out our
economic system." #4.2

        To "straighten out the economic system" meant      Page: 135
opposing a determined and powerful class that made its
money and retained its power from the very practices       Contents
that caused the workers and farmers their problems:

_What We Need_              _What Organized Wealth Wants_

We need better farm         They want lower prices,
prices.                     because many of their
                            industries--packing plants,
                            shoe factories, flour mills--
                            buy farm products; the
                            less they pay the farmers,
                            the more money iS left for

We need higher wages.       They want lower wages
                            because their industries
                            hire workers and the less
                            they have to pay, the more
                            is left for profits.

We need lower prices        They want higher prices to
for the industrial          get more money for profits.
products we buy.

We need fair distribution   They want concentration of
of income.  They will       income in their hands, for
give buying power to all    that is their profit, and
people thus eliminating     they blind their eyes to the
the depressions and         cost we pay in suffering.
establishing permanent

We need organization and    They want the workers and
strength to win a           farmers kept unorganized so
greater share of income.    it will be easy for them to
                            collect more profits.

        To carry out the struggle to "get what we need"
Farmer-Labor leaders realized that the traditional, top-
down party was not adequate.  They realized that good

men and women in office could be forced to do the same     Page: 136
things as bad men would do without a powerful rank and
file behind them.  "It is the _organization_ that counts,  Contents
not the individual in office." #4.3

        They also knew from hard experience that the
unorganized following of old-style political parties--
and new parties organized _like_ the old parties--was
easily confused by the propaganda of wealth.  What was
needed, and by '35 was rapidly being built, was a
movement with the strength of thousands; a movement with
its own newspaper, educational program, collective
knowledge; a movement that knew all the tricks of the
opposition because it had seen them before.

        The Farmer-Labor Association was a dues-paying
organization legally independent of the Party.  Its
basic unit was the club, usually organized on a township
or ward level.  Any time ten or more people were
interested, a club would be chartered from state
headquarters in St. Paul.

        Unions and an occasional farm organization also
affiliated with the Association, sent delegates to the
state convention and carried on their own educational
programs.  Throughout the '20s, it was the unions that
kept the Association alive.  The State AFL consistently
supported the Association, and in the absence of a

strong farm organization to replace the Non-Partisan       Page: 137
League, much of the organizational work fell to the
unions.  In the '30s however, they shared power with       Contents
the clubs as thousands of nonaffiliated citizens,
including large numbers of the middle class signed up.

        The second level of Farmer-Labor organization
was the county.  All Farmer-Labor clubs and affiliates
were entitled to send delegates to county conventions
in proportion to the size of their membership.  The
county in turn elected delegates to the all-important
state convention.  Affiliated unions and farm organiza-
tions in a county could elect their state delegates
without going through the convention, but the total
number of delegates from a county, however elected,
could not exceed that county's allotted representation.
The representation was based on the county's vote for
the Farmer-Labor candidate for governor in the previous

       At the state convention, the Association plat-
form was debated and adopted, and candidates chosen for
statewide office.  Between conventions, an elected
state committee was empowered to carry out the mandate
of the convention and supervise the educational work of
the Association.  The Farmer-Labor _Party_, directed
jointly by representatives chosen by the candidates

and the convention, was designed to self-destruct          Page: 138
immediately after the completion of the election
campaign.                                                  Contents

Section: 4.2 Education, Farmer-Labor Style

        The big push to organize Farmer-Labor clubs
began in earnest in 1932, the second year of Floyd
Olson's administration.  The state committee sent out
organizers across Minnesota to set up clubs.  In 1934,
the Farmer-Labor Education Bureau was organized to
supply pamphlets, books, information on issues, agenda
ideas, and above all, _speakers_, to local clubs.  For
the next four and one half years, leaders of the Farmer-
Labor movement journied across the state conducting
lectures and discussions. #4.4

        A look at the topics discussed provides some
clues to both the interests of the members at the club
level, and the varied political interests of the
Association as a whole.  Presentations could be _introduc-
tory_: "The Role of the Farmer-Labor Association," its
organization, purpose, and principles; _broadly
ideological_: "A Discussion on Corporate Control of
Wealth," "The Profit System _vs._ Production for Use," or
_topical_  "Current Events in the Labor Movement,"
"Reforming the Supreme Court," "Events in Spain." #4.5

        Not every educational meeting had outside          Page: 139
speakers, of course.  Open forums, free-form discussions,
readings from current newspapers, were just as important,  Contents
and as frequent.  The _Minnesota Leader_, January 8, 1938
published the following model format for an
educational meeting:

    - Call to order

    - Community sing

    - Old and new business

    - Recitation: "We Claim Him as Our Own" (a
      Christmas Poem depicting Christ as a
      working class Savior)

    - Political Review of 1937, _Leader_, Jan. 1

    - Minnesota Relief Situation, _Leader_, Jan. 1

    - Current events

    - Adjournment

    - Refreshments and social hour

        This program with its social hour, recitation,
and community sing, was indicative of the Farmer-Labor
Association's recognition that lectures, political
discussions, and political organizing in themselves were
not enough to keep an organization strong--or a meeting
interesting.  A manual published by the Education
Bureau emphasized the importance of music and social
events: "Music will ease the tension . . . any local
artist, accordian, piano, violin, banjo, harmonica, are

fine." It went on to suggest that club members organize    Page: 140
card parties, picnics, dances, and amateur shows. #4.6  In
many townships and neighborhoods, the Farmer-Labor         Contents
clubs become major centers of social activity.

        Farmer-Labor clubs were especially important as
forums for discussion of the new social programs
being implemented by various agencies of the Farmer-
Labor state government.  The active intervention of the
government in the economic and social lives of the
people was a relatively new phenomenon in the '3Os.
Talks on social security, the old-age assistance
program, public works and relief efforts, mortgage
assistance and crop support programs--the whole set of
state and national F.-L. and New Deal programs--were
important parts of the Farmer-Labor education effort.
As a political organization that was in the paradoxical
position of acting as an opposition in the legislature
as it wielded executive power through the governor's
office, the Association was faced with the rough job of
winning support for the programs as they existed while
building the power necessary to push through the entire
Farmer-Labor program.

        The Education Bureau took its work of assisting
local clubs seriously.  By 1935, educational
secretaries were designated for each club in the state.

They were supplied with Farmer-Labor platforms, voting     Page: 141
records of opposition candidates and educational
materials on current legislative issues.  An irregular     Contents
publication called "Speakers Notes" provided concise
information on key legislative issues: ammunition for
local Association members to keep their own elected
people in line, as well as the opposition. #4.7

        The Bureau also promoted educational activities
that were more intensive and theoretical than one-shot
lectures and topical discussions.  It circulated an
eight-session study guide on Marxist economics and
encouraged clubs to develop their own "study circles."
Chapters in Montevideo, Red Wing, Sand Stone, and
Whitfield launched coop libraries to make books more
available to their members. #4.8

        Not all the educational efforts of the Farmer-
Labor Association were limited to the clubs, of course.
As organizational affiliates, the labor unions also
made efforts to educate their membership in the
principles of the Farmer-Labor movement.  The Central
Labor Union in Minneapolis organized an educational
project called the Minneapolis Social Science club.  It
began in 1930 when labor leaders decided that not enough
workers were attending public lectures.  The officials
decided that setting up a study club right in the

workers' homes might be worth a try.  After a slow         Page: 142
start, the sessions got so big that new invitations had
to be stopped.  The group studied labor history, farm      Contents
problems, economics, and the "social results of the
system as a whole."  Discussions were informal, all
sides presented, and each member had the responsibility
to prepare for the discussions by boning up during the
week. #4.9

        The St. Paul labor movement also sponsored
workers education projects.  The Cooperative Labor
College provided leadership training to hundreds of
workers.  A 1936 brochure listed the following
introductory courses:

    1.  _Union Meeting_: Special coaching in how to
        make clean-cut, adequate reports; read
        communications; conduct committee meetings;
        keep minutes; make motions; take part in
        meetings; etc.

    2.  _Labor Movement_: (1) The history of important
        labor struggles: how and why they started,
        how they developed, their success or
        failure, what lessons may be drawn from
        them; (2) The organization and structure
        of the international of the  American
        Federation of Labor; (3) Special problems
        of trade union organization.

    3.  _Labor Economics_: (A study of your job and
        pay.)  Study and discussion of such
        questions as the following: Does labor
        organization raise the cost of living?
        Would more foreign markets provide jobs
        for people in this city?  Who carries the
        cost of Unemployment Insurance?  Can
        inflation be prevented?  Would it

        hurt the worker's income?  Is the                  Page: 143
        Townsend Plan "good economics?" #4.10
        The brochure went on to list an advanced course
in public speaking, and seven additional courses that
would be made available on demand.

       1. Cooperatives
       2. Legal Aspects of Collective Labor
           Agreements--especially for business agents
       3. Journalism
       4. Drama--you may join a group whether to
           learn how to act or read a play
       5. Puppetry
       6. Chorus
       7. English

        The consumers and producers coops had their
education programs, too.  The cooperatives were still
membership controlled in the '30s.  They were built
from the bottom up, and combined the self-interest of
good economics with the larger crusading spirit of the
Farmer-Labor movement as a whole.  While thousands of
cooperative members were anything but full-fledged
advocates of the Cooperative Commonwealth, thousands
more saw the coops as part of the movement for democratic
control of the economy.  They understood that democratic
control meant rank and file education, and hundreds of
cooperatives started education committees. to train

their members in both the practices of good business       Page: 144
and the politics of the cooperative society.

Section: 4.3 The Women's Federation

        Women, as individuals, and as a group, were
unusually active in the educational and political life
of the Association.  Farmer-Labor leadership emphasized
over and over again the importance of involving women.
Organizers were cautioned to make sure that at least
three women attended the first meeting of a new club,
and instructed that

    women should be encouraged to attend all
    meetings with the men     activity by women
    is valuable to arrange social functions and
    carry on organizational work
                              (Emphasis mine.) #4.11

        The Montevideo club even went so far as to
pass a resolution establishing a 10 cent fine every time
a husband failed to bring his wife--or furnish a good
excuse. #4.12

        Nor did women confine themselves to social
committees and envelope addressing.  Women like Marian
LeSeuer, Selma Seestrom, Vienna Johnson, Irene Welby,
and Florence Rood held positions of statewide executive
authority.  In fact, the Association adopted a quota,

unheard of at the time, of one woman to every two men      Page: 145
on the Association's State Committee. #4.13
       Most important, women developed their own
organization within the Association, the Farmer-Labor
Women's Federation.  Federation women battled against
discriminatory wage scales, took on the Relief
Department in Minneapolis when it refused to hire young
married women, and carried on educational campaigns
within the Association on the role of women in the labor
force.  In the '30s, like today, big business blamed
the high unemployment rate on the hordes of women
"unnecessarily" entering the labor market.  Their
solution: cut unemployment by cutting women's right to
work.  Women's Federation proposed a different remedy:
cut unemployment by united action of men _and_ women to
insure jobs for all. #4.14

       Women were also active in the peace movement
that emerged in the second half of the decade.  Federa-
tion clubs participated actively in the silk stocking
boycott, an economic sanction against Japan's invasion
of China. #4.15 And scores of Farmer-Labor women were
involved in the Women's International League for Peace
and Freedom, a peace organization that is still active
in Minnesota today.

        Farmer-Labor efforts in education, relief, and     Page: 146
all the programs that now go under the heading "social
welfare" were considered by both women and men to          Contents
represent a special area of women's competence.  Selma
Seestrom's long and militant career on the Minneapolis
Relief Board gained her notoriety throughout the state.
Of even more notoriety was Marian LeSeuer's appointment
to the State Board of Education by Elmer Benson.  The
Senate refused to approve the governor's nominee; 'the
conservative majority thought she was too radical.

        They were right.  Marian LeSeuer _was_ too
radical to represent their conservative interests on the
Board of Education.  She was a feminist in the tradition
of Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Nation, Lucy Stone, and
Elizabeth Cady Stanton.  A circuit speaker for women's
rights in the years before the First World War, head of
the English Department at Eugene Deb's People's College,
staunch supporter of Women's Suffrage, Olson appointee
to the State Planning Board where she led the fight for
rural electrification coops, Association lecturer, board
member of the _Minnesota Leader_, candidate for U.S.
Senator on the Progressive Party ticket in 1952--
LeSeuer's contributions spanned the first five decades
of the 20th century. #4.16

Most of those years were spent in the Farmer-              Page: 147
Labor Movement.  When the Democrats and Farmer-Laborites
merged, she supported the move and became Vice-            Contents
Chairwoman of the new Party.  When the Wallace challenge
to Truman provided the impetus for the duel to the
death between the Humphrey and Benson factions of the
new party, LeSeuer resigned as eloquently as she had

        The contrast between the status of women in the
Farmer-Labor Movement, and the merged Democratic-
Farmer-Labor Party is striking.  The struggle for women's
rights has historically paralleled the fight for human
rights in general: the battle for economic security,
the fight against racism, the opposition to militarism
and war.  As the DFL abandoned the FLA's commitment to
_economic justice_ it likewise abandoned the commitment
to improving the status of women.   Not until the rise
of the feminist movement in the late 1960s did women as
a group play a leadership role in the DFL.  It is as
accurate as it is poetic to call Marian LeSeuer's
withdrawal as Vice-Chairwoman in 1948, "the end of an

        Yet it serves no one's interest to exagerate.
Women did not share power equally with men, in the F.L.A.
The Woman's Federation was a small organization compared

to the Association as a whole.  With the exception of      Page: 148
a relatively few prominent leaders, women still played
the customary "auxiliary" roles assigned by tradition.     Contents
There was no challenge of male supremacy, no feminist
critique of women's role in society, no demands for
"freedom to control our bodies," no feminist caucus.
Women in the Association saw themselves as fighting side-
by-side with their men for economic and social goals
that would benefit them both.  The assertion that women
had an important role to play in that fight accompanied
the struggle.  But the assertion affirmed traditional
roles even as it claimed new leadership.  As veteran
Farm-Laborite Susie Stageburg put it:

    In our country it is becoming increasingly
    necessary to place in positions of high
    authority those in whose hearts the welfare of
    the HOME COMES FIRST.  Then all good things
    will surely be added on to us.  Women are
    natural homekeepers.  They are natural
    conservators of the resources that make
    for home building.  In this enlightened age,
    we ought to have a right to expect to find
    women on conservation commissions, state
    planning boards, pure food commissions, boards
    of regents in co-educational schools where
    perhaps more than half the students are women,
    boards of health and education, as well as
    members of state and national legislatures
    where matters of taxation and general welfare
    are decided upon.  We seem very prone to
    forget that "taxation without representation
    is tyrrany" was the revolutionary slogan of
    our forefathers and that it is still a good
    American principle. #4.18

Section: 4.4 The Party Press                               Page: 149

        If the educational and political programs of the   Contents
Farmer-Labor clubs, Women's Federation, Union affiliates,
and coop supporters comprised the classrooms of the
movement, the _Minnesota Leader_ (until 1935, the _Farmer-
Labor Leader_) was its basic text.  The _Leader_ was both
the house organ of the Association and a mirror of the
diverse and pluralistic nature of the movement as a
whole.  It carried regular stories on the cooperative
movement, covered the progress of the labor movement
in the state and nationwide, and kept its readers
updated on the latest chicanery of big business, the
Republican Party, and later the Hjalmar Petersen faction
of the Farmer-Labor Association itself.  The Roosevelt
Administration was analyzed with a critical eye, and the
accomplishments of the Farmer-Labor government reported
with partisan enthusiasm.

        Nor was the _Leader's_ coverage limited to the
United States.  Social programs in other countries were
noted enthusiastically and examined for possible
applications.  News on Sweden's Social Democracy was
often featured.  Most Farmer-Laborites identified more
closely with Sweden's evolutionary "democratic road"
to socialism than with the Soviet Workers State.  Yet,

the _Leader_ also featured generally positive articles     Page: 150
on the Soviet Union, as well as more extended coverage
on the progress of the socialist left in France and        Contents

        The Leader's coverage of course reflected
another major concern of the movement--the growth of
Fascism.  In article after article, the grim, seemingly
inexorable rise of fascism was reported: Hitler's gradual
consolidation of power in Germany, Mussolini's rise in
Italy, the Japanese aggression against China, the strug-
gle of the Spanish people against Franco and his allies.
The implications for the U.S. were not ignored.  _Leader_
editorialists warned of impending world war and the
possible rise of an American version of fascism.

        As the official publication of a sprawling
political organization, _The Leader_ spoke in many tongues.
It spoke to dirt farmers, professionals, small-town
businessmen, and urban workers.  It spoke to old prairie
populists, and young proletarians.  Often it spoke in a
language that all its readers could understand, the
language of humor.

        Humor brings people together.  It is the bell
that rings with the sounds of shared experience.
Political writing, speaking, organizing, without humor,
is disconnected, hollow, strident.  The music is out of

        The Farmer-Labor people could develop a common     Page: 151
humor because they were part of the shared experience
that makes a true social movement.  O. M. Thompson had     Contents
been a part of that movement since 1910 when he joined
the Socialist Party.  He learned the value of laughing
at himself, chuckling at adversity.  The road, after
all, is long.  In a column, from the _Leader_, Thompson
recalled some of the "early days" for second and third
generation Farmer-Laborites.

    MEMORIES.  When I hear Kate Smith sing
    "Memories," I do not think of Singapore, or
    some other far-off shore.  I keep thinking of
    1911, '12, '13, '14 and so on.  It was back in
    those days that I first met Congressman
    Lindbergh--met him on a train from Sauk
    Center and Little Falls. He was running for
    re-election to congress.  I was the Socialist
    candidate opposing him.  (Very weak
    opposition.)  He said, "I hope if I'm defeated
    you'll get it."  I replied that I hoped I
    would be defeated--and he'd get it.  I got my
    hope.  Ah!  There was a man the likes of
    whom I shall not soon meet again.

    There are other memories that float to the
    surface.  One is how it felt to be pelted in
    the back (cowards always shoot you in the back),
    with eggs while making a speech from a soapbox.
    That was before a lot of folks who are now
    good liberals were born.  I remember once, at
    Blackduck, that after a speech I went into a
    restaurant for lunch.  I ordered eggs, over
    easy.  The cook said he had no eggs--that
    some damned hoodlums used all he had--putting
    'era over hard.  Yes, they put 'era over pretty
    hard but I made my speech, and incidentally,
    told in lurid language what I thought of

    WHAT changes time has wrought!  In those days          Page: 152
    the man who advocated public ownership of even
    hot air had to do it in an alley, a stuffy hall,       Contents
    or be an expert at dodging eggs.  Now we hear
    all kinds of public ownership advocated in the
    marble halls of the state capital.  But eggs
    cost more now than they did then.

    This reminds me of a piece of McGuffey's old
    Third Reader.  "When an old house is pulled
    down," it said, "it's no small job to remove
    the rubbish."  This old house of capitalism,
    built on the ruins of feudalism, has become
    a mighty structure.  And even though it is in
    a state of decay--foundation rotting away--roof
    leaking, yet it takes TIME to remove the

    But there are two sides to that.  As a small
    boy I helped set out fruit trees.  After 40 years
    I went back to the old place.  The trees were
    gone.  In their stead were blackjacks, runoaks
    and briers.  At another place later in life I
    planted some more fruit trees.  Ten years later
    I went back--and people were eating fruit off
    those trees.

    Thus we sow and the briers choke out the
    seed     again we sow and somebody gathers
    fruit.  But that's life.  Today is seed time,
    tomorrow, or the day after--or the century
    after, is harvest time. #4.19

        Abe Harris, thirty years Thompson's junior,
was a city kid from the working class neighborhoods of
North Minneapolis.  As editor of the _Minneapolis Leader_
from 1936 through '38, Harris was a leading opinion-
maker in the Association.  His humor differed
considerably from Thompson's.  It was sharp, and
partisan as the following stingers from his column,
_Firing Line_, demonstrate:

    The reason why Hitler prefers paganism to              Page: 153
    Christianity is becoming quite obvious.
    He refuses to play second fiddle to God. #4.20
    When the Republican Party talks of rendering
    services to the consumers, they refer only
    to those who are engaged in the business of
    consuming the consumers. #4.21

    They have decided to "streamline" the
    Republican platform to fit whatever
    candidate is nominated.  We suggest the
    chameleon as the G.O.P. emblem. #4.22

    One of the big Twin Cities dailies the
    other day said something about "political
    morality."  Sounds like an atheist
    reading a litany. #4.23

    Diplomacy: polished bunk. #4.24

        Both the quality of the _Leader_ and its impressive
circulation (150,000 by 1936) demonstrated the Farmer-
Labor emphasis on education just as dramatically as the
development of the clubs.  The key to any political
organization, many Farmer-Laborites believed, was a
good newspaper.  With all of the big city press and 90
percent of the rural press unsympathetic or outright
hostile to the Association, the _Leader_ was a crucial
weapon in the battle of ideas that was at the heart of
the movement's political wars throughout its history.

Section: 4.5 The Legacy of Hope                            Page: 154

        This then is the Farmer-Labor Association, an      Contents
organization that its founders set up to build an
_educated_, _unified_ movement of farmers, workers, and
their middle class allies to combat their class enemies.
It would be tempting to quantify the educational
experiences that were at the heart of the movements
approach.  How many people went to club meetings, learned
parliamentary procedure at a labor school, joined a
Marxian study circle?  How many of the clubs actually
had extensive educational programs, and how many just
limped along from election to election?  How many rank
and file actually read their _Minnesota Leader_?

        It would be satisfying to go back into time and
give a quiz to a scientifically selected cross section
of the Association.

      1. In 50 words or less, describe the
          Cooperative Commonwealth

      2. True or False: Women should be discouraged
         from working, because it leaves fewer
         jobs for men?

      3. True or False: Public ownership of
         utilities is less efficient and more
         costly than private ownership?

      4. True or False: The Farmer-Labor tax
         program is driving business from the

      5. In fifty words or less, explain what              Page: 155
         workers and farmers have in common.
      6. List five points in this year's Farmer-
         Labor platform.

        Would the average score of such a test be 70
percent, 80 percent, 90 percent?  One can only guess.
Scraps of historical evidence do suggest, however,
that the depth of Farmer-Labor Education efforts far
outstripped those of today's traditional political
parties, despite falling short of the goals set by its
most dedicated leaders.

        The size of the Association was in itself
impressive.  While union affiliation remained steady
in the '30s (between 6000 to 10,000 union members were
affiliated with the Association) the growth of Farmer-
Labor clubs on a county and township basis was
remarkable.  Individual membership, below 1,000 in
1930, had climbed to 14,000 by 1934, and by 1937, at
least 20,000 Minnesotans were paid up members of
Farmer-Labor clubs.  Judging from the circulation of
_The Leader_, as many more were active in an unofficial
capacity. #4.25

        The strongholds of the Association were
predictable enough: old Non-Partisan League counties
like Swift, Chippewa, Isanti, and Itasca; Duluth and
the Iron Range; the working class districts of St. Paul

and Minneapolis.  By, 1934, there was 3,500 Association    Page: 156
members in Minneapolis and St. Paul, with another 1,600
in Duluth.  Minneapolis had eighteen Farmer-Labor clubs    Contents
by 1936, each with its own organizational set up and
program of activities.  Some of them were among the
most active in the movement. #4.26

        Though clubs were eventually organized in every
county in the state and many outfits were put together
in areas with little tradition of progressivism, there
remained a great unevenness in the quality of club
life.  Clarence Hemmingson, for example, recalls that
there were only eighteen active Farmer-Laborites out
of a total membership of 200 in all of Cook County, and
that he was the only member who organized educational
meetings and saw that the _Leader_ got distributed. #4.27
Cook is a sprawling wilderness, North Shore country
sparsely populated with fishermen, loggers, and an
occasional resort owner.  It was a territory for rugged
individualists and frontier people--not particularly
good material for building an organization based on
collective education and unified action.

        One hundred and fifty miles to the south, on
the shores of the same Lake Superior, the situation was
entirely different.  Frank Puglissi was chairman of the
Duluth West End Farmer-Labor club.  He remembers the

club had two hundred members because he addressed the      Page: 157
meeting notices himself.  Attendance and enthusiasm were
high.  Most joined because they had a vague sense that     Contents
the Farmer-Labor Party had the interests of the workers
and unemployed at heart.  Once in the club, they learned
their Farmer-Labor principles well, mostly from movement
veterans whose years of service had been rewarded with
state jobs. #4.28

       Puglissi himself came to Duluth from an
Italian-speaking section of Switzerland.  He learned his
politics from Uncle joe Puglissi, a militant mine
worker and close friend of Johnny Bernard.  Frank
Puglissi was no scientific socialist.  Like most of his
fellow Farmer-Laborites, his political commitments
flowed from a simple and direct solidarity with his own
people, the working class.  And like many South European
Catholics, he traced his own conversion to rebellion
against the "cruel and unusual" treatment priests liked
to inflict on students at their church schools.

        Wulford Engdahl was another activist immigrant.
He arrived from Sweden in 1912, already a socialist,
and determined to help make the working class revolution
in the United States.  He spent his first night in
Minneapolis at the old I.W.W. headquarters at Bridge
Square.  During the '30s he was an active member of the

9th Ward club in Northeast Minneapolis.  He still          Page: 158
remembers the regular monthly meetings in which it was
common for a hundred workers to show up for talks by       Contents
Farmer-Labor leaders like Joe Gilbert, Ernest Lundeen,
and H. G. Creel of the Education Bureau.  No one, said
Engdahl, could explain socialism better than Creel. #4.29

        Orville Olson, on the other hand, had a less
glowing report to make on the rank and file participa-
tion in the clubs he was familiar with.  Olson grew up
in South Minneapolis, worked his way through college,
and eventually got a job first as a relief worker, then
as WPA administrator in rural Minnesota.  His firsthand
experience with the unemployed and desperately poor
people in Bennington County both deepened his political
convictions, and put him at odds with "Olson Farmer-
Laborites," the small-town professional and business
people dominating the county governments who voted for
Olson, but remained largely unsympathetic to the more
extensive social program of the Association as a whole. #4.30

        As Director of Personnel in the Highway
Department under Benson, Orville Olson was one of perhaps
a dozen "Association men" who regularly hit the speakers
circuit to interpret Farmer-Labor Policy to rural
members, and to relay rural feelings back to officials
at the Capitol.  Common topics of discussion in the

field included public ownership of utilities, strategies   Page: 159
to break up the power of the trusts, and an explanation
of the taxation battles taking place in the Legislature.   Contents
Often Olson would simply bring along the _Wall Street
Journal_ and some big city newspaper, read clippings,
and lead an open-ended discussion.

        Olson is not romantic about his recollections
of club life.  Many rural organizations were dominated
by the small-town elites.  Although farmers, particular-
ly in Farm Holiday counties, were the voting power
that put Farmer-Laborites in office, they often left
the organizational machinery to the towns, and to a class
of people that, for the most part, formed the most
conservative element in the Farmer-Labor Coalition, the
small owners and professionals.  These middle class
members were  also   the part of the organization most
susceptible to the splitting tactics of the opposition.

       A realistic look at the Association, even at
its high point in the mid '30s, reveals something less
than a  uniformly  progressive, class-conscious
organization.  Even as the clubs reached their peak of
membership and organization activity, (internal and
external forces) were at play that would bring the
Association down.  But the Association's sharp decline
does not detract from the prodigiousness of its effort

nor the magnitude of its achievement.  Thousands of        Page: 160
rank and file members were participants in a great
educational process unique in the history of American      Contents
political parties.  Alone among the 48 states, Minnesota
built a political organization based on the belief that
ordinary people could develop the knowledge and skills
to create economic democracy.

Section: 4.6 Footnotes: to Chapter 4                       Page: 161

      4.1 Farmer-Labor Association Constitution,           Contents
available in the Minnesota Historical Society Library.

      4.2 The pamphlet, "Do We Need the Farmer-Labor
Association," is available in the archives department
of the Minnesota Historical Society. See, "Farmer-
Labor Association Papers," Box 1.
      4.3 Ibid.

      4.4 For an excellent description of the Farmer-
Labor Association's organizational set up see, Ralph
Humolda, "The Farmer-Labor Association, Minnesota's
Party Within a Party," _Minnesota History Magazine_,
38:7, September 1963, pp. 301-310.

      4.5 From announcements of club meetings in
_Minnesota Leader_.

      4.6 Farmer-Labor Association _Organizers Manual_.
Distributed by the Association's Education Bureau.
Available in my personal collection.

      4.7 Farmer-Labor Association Papers, Box 2;
File 1.

      4.8 _Minnesota Leader_, April 18, 1936.
      4.9 _Leader_, March 28, 1936.

      4.10 A brochure published by the Cooperative
Labor College, in my personal collection.

      4.11 Farmer-Labor Association's _Organizers Manual_. See #4.6

      4.12 _Minnesota Leader_, August 23, 1936.

      4.13 Interview, Vienna Henricks, Spring 1976.

      4.14 _Leader_, May 27, 1937.
      4.15 Ibid., March 31, 1937.

      4.16 For an inspiring and brief biography of Marian  Page: 162
LeSeuer see, Meridel LeSeuer _The Crusaders_ (Minneapolis:
Peoples Press, 1954).                                      Contents

      4.17 LeSeuer's resignation letter is reprinted in
James Youngdale's _Third Party Footprints_ (Minneapolis:
Ross and Haines, Inc.) pp. 343-345.

      4.18 _Minnesota Leader_, May 16, 1938.
      4.19 Ibid., September 6, 1937.
      4.20 Ibid., February 9, 1938.
      4.21 Ibid., June 7, 1938.
      4.22 Ibid., January 19, 1938.
      4.23 Ibid., March 15, 1938.
      4.24 Ibid., February 17, 1938.

      4.25 Humolda, pp. 302-303.
      4.26 Ibid., p. 303.

      4.27 personal interview with Clarence Hemmingson,
Spring 1977.

      4.28 personal interview with Frank Puglissi, Summer

      4.29 personal interview with Wulford Engdahl, Fall

      4.30 personal interview with Orville Olson, Spring

Chapter: 5                                                 Page: 163

THE FARMERS TAKE A HOLIDAY: MASS                           Contents

    We can't continue longer now
    Upon our weary way
    We're forced to halt upon life's trail
    And call a "holiday."

    Let's call a Farmer's Holiday
    A Holiday let's hold
    We'll eat our wheat and ham and eggs,
    And let them eat their gold.
             _Iowa Union Farmer_, Feb. 27, 1932.

        In July 29, 1932, 400 farmers assembled at the
junior high school in St. Cloud to form a Minnesota
Chapter of the Farm Holiday Association.  The meeting
had been preceded by months of organizing throughout the
corn belt.  The farmers gathered at crossroads, village
halls, and theaters, to hear leaders like John Bosch
from Kandyohi County urge a massive withholding of farm
products from the market--a farmers strike!  The pledge
Holiday members took that day in St. Cloud spelled out
their intentions:

    We, the undersigned, endorse the Farm Holiday
    Movement launched in Des Moines, Iowa,

    May 1932, and pledge ourselves in the whole-           Page: 164
    hearted support of the Farm Holiday program
    to withhold our products from the market for           Contents
    whatever period of time that may be elected
    by our officers, or until we have PRODUCTION
    COSTS. #5.1

        The plan was as bold as the problem drastic.
While much of the country enjoyed the relative, if
highly uneven prosperity of the '20s, the farmers were
experiencing serious economic hardship.  The expansion
of agricultural production brought on by World War
and maintained by the increased efficiency of new
agricultural technology conflicted with a shrinking
of foreign markets caused by the economic nationalism
of U.S. postwar trade policy.

        While the high tariff on industrial goods imposed
by the Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover administrations,
served the interests of big business, it put the farmers
in a squeeze.  European countries retaliated with high
tariffs of their own, and foreign purchases of U.S.
agricultural commodities declined sharply.  When the
general economic crisis hit in 1929, what bottom was
left in the farm economy simply collapsed.  From 1926
to 1930, the farmers' average costs were about 35 percent
more than prices, and by 1932 the figure was up to 60
percent. #5.2

        Of more immediate concern to the constituency
of the Farm Holiday movement than these general

economic trends, however, were the actual prices of hogs,  Page: 165
corn and cattle.  Farmers in southwestern Minnesota,
the Holiday's main area of strength in the state, had      Contents
completed a long transition from wheat farming to a
mixed approach.  The disastrous fluctuations of wheat
prices had fueled the rural protest movements that
reached their peak in Minnesota with the Non-Partisan
League.  Now hog prices began to fluctuate as wheat
prices once had done, and hog and corn farmers began
acting like militant wheat growers.

        The situation lent itself to a kind of gallows
humor.  Oscar Torstenson, a farmer from Dawson, remembered
one story that used to circulate among hard-pressed
farmers in southwestern Minnesota:

    You see, the price, it was nothing for what
    you had to sell.  I know one fellah, he
    shipped a cow, and he told me about it.  He
    was on the same school board with me.  He
    asked a trucker to pick up the cow he wanted
    to ship.  When he got the returns, in place of
    getting a check, he got a statement that the
    cow hadn't brought enough to cover the
    freight commission and handling charges.  So
    when he met the trucker in town the next
    time he says, "I plan to ship another one.
    If you take it, you let it ride as long as
    she's got anything to ride on.  After that
    you stop and kick her out." #5.3

Section: 5.1 Stay Home!  Sell Nothing!                     Page: 166

        The national Holiday Association was officially    Contents
born in Des Moines, Iowa in May 1932.  The convention
of 2000 farmers was composed of delegations from 16
states, with its main strength centered in the .Midwest.
Delegates endorsed the strike proposal and elected the
veteran agrarian crusader.  Milo Reno, president, and
the bright young Minnesotan, John Bosch, vice-president.

        The Holiday had not sprung out of the blue.  The
move came as a result of a long debate within the
Farmers Union on a radical four-point program initiated
by militant members from the Minnesota and Iowa
delegations.  The program called for:

    - A moratorium on farm mortgages

    - A price level equal to the farmer's cost
      of production

    - Abolition of the Federal Reserve System

    - A 100 percent tax on corporate profits should
      there be a war. #5.4

The opening drive to implement the four points would be
the farm strike.  Though the Union was more progressive
than its competitors, the Grange and Farm Bureau,
caution dictated that this kind of direct action would
be best carried out by a separate organization: the Farm

The two leaders selected by the Holiday conven-            Page: 167
tion provided a striking contrast.  Milo Reno was an
agrarian militant of the old school, a participant in      Contents
the Populist, Free Silver and Greenback parties.  Out-
fitted in a flaming red necktie and an expensive
10-gallon hat, he laced his speeches with Biblical
quotes and farmyard analogies.  To many he was the
symbol of the embattled farmer, an old-timer full of the
religion of protest.  His political outlook combined,
like so many of the populists', a radical commitment to
very conservative ideas: the sanctity of the home, the
family farm, rural life.  "We believe with Al Goldsmith
that every man should own his own rood of ground." #5.5

        This conservatism led to a belief in quack
remedies for complex social problems, and a weakness for
silver-tongued demagogues like Father Coughlin, the
radio priest with fascist sympathies, or Huey Long, the
fast talking "Kingfish" from Louisiana, Roosevelt's
biggest worry on the "left" until he was shot down by
an assassin on the rotunda of the state capitol at Baton

        Bosch also sprang from militant agrarian
lineage.  His father was hung in effigy for support of
the old Non-Partisan League, and he himself at the
tender age of three had answered a man who had asked

him his name by saying, "I am a populist."  But Bosch      Page: 168
was no barnyard orator.  He looked like a school
teacher--high forehead, receding hairline, and             Contents
spectacles.  He was, in fact, an astute student of
economics, a man who understood the changes that were
accompanying the emergence of the U.S. as the world's
major industrial nation.  In contrast to Reno, he put his
faith in new collective institutions embracing both
the farmer and laborer.  A personal friend of Floyd B.
Olson, influenced early in life by socialism, and willing
to ally himself from time to time with the Communist
Party, Bosch would press for reforms in alliance with
labor through the Farmer-Labor party. #5.6

        The strike began ahead of schedule when angry
Iowa farmers shut down the highways leading into Sioux
City.  The action had begun as a protest against the
J. R. Robert's Dairy which had gained monopoly control
over the dairy business in the area and was doing quite
handsomely for itself by paying low prices to farmers
while charging high prices to consumers.  Action soon
spread across Iowa as farmers by the hundreds took
action quite independently of Reno and the rest of the
Holiday leadership.  Roads were blockaded, produce
trucks unloaded, a judge almost hung.  When some farmers
were arrested in Council Bluffs, 500 of their comrades

surrounded the courthouse where they were being held and   Page: 169
demanded their release.  Mass action led to mass arrests
and occasional gunplay.  In a tactic familiar to mili-     Contents
tants of all generations, farmers let their beards grow
long to look more fierce. #5.7

        After several weeks, nervous Holiday leaders
managed to call a truce.  The action, for all its
intensity, had not resulted in any change in the prices
paid farmers for their products.  Something else had
happened.  The revolt of Iowa farmers had brought home
to Americans across the country the depth of the farm
crisis.  Eastern papers wrote lengthy reports of the
situation.  Commentators and public officials
sounded grave warnings of impending rebellion if
something was not done soon.  An editorial writer for
the _New York World Telegram_ put it this way:

    Americans are slow to understand that actual
    revolution exists in the farm belt.  When the
    revolution springs from old native stock;
    conservatives fighting for the right to
    hold their homestead, there is a warning of
    a larger explosion. #5.8

        From Iowa the center of action moved to
Minnesota.  The leadership believed that a ten-day
withholding action executed across the Midwest could
deplete national food reserves and force prices up.
John Bosch and other Farmers Union activists, wearing

their Holiday hats, crisscrossed the state carrying with   Page: 170
them the slogan "Stay at home.  Sell nothing."
Chippewa County 800 people attended an organizational      Contents
meeting at the opera house.  At Clarkfield Park, the
Yellow Medicine chapter of the Holiday was born, with
1000 people in attendance.  One thousand people also
turned out at Wabesha and sizeable meetings were
reported at southwest Minnesota towns like Marshall,
Worthington and Montevedio.  Civic and commerce
associations supported the Holiday.  Small-town merchants
recognized their own future's dependence on the economic
health of the surrounding farm community. #5.9

       Although Holiday locals were organized in over 50
counties around the state, the Holiday center was in the
prairie country of the southwest.  Counties like,
LacQuiParle, Yellow Medicine, Swift, Chippewa, Traverse,
Big Stone, Rock, Jackson, Nobles, Martin, Kandyohi, and
Pipestone, all had active chapters.

       Newcomers to Minnesota had been slow in settling
this prairie country.  They feared the big winds and
prairie fires and wondered if a soil that did not support
trees would be good for growing much.  With the westward
expansion of railroads in 1870-80, these back counties
beyond the "big woods" were opened.  Sod huts
were soon replaced by do-it-yourself frame houses,
cleverly packaged and prefabricated and shipped by

enterprising sash and frame companies.  Wheat became       Page: 171
"king" and grain elevators were constructed at key points
along the railroads.  The railroad officials decided on    Contents
the sites and awarded friends with opportunities to "get
in on the ground floor" of new town development.  The
railroad depot was soon followed in almost predictable
order, by the elevator, the store, the blacksmith shop,
the saloon, the school, the church, and the post office. #5.10

        This country was strong Holiday territory for
both economic and historic reasons.  Though less
prosperous than Minnesotans who farmed the rich river
valleys to the east, farmers of the prairie were better

off than the men and women who worked the less productive
soil of central and north central Minnesota.  Despite
the hard times, most farmers of the southwest were not
destitute.  In joining the Holiday Movement they were
protecting what they had, a way of life that they knew
was possible.  The Holiday was _not_ a movement of
aspiring tenants.  The people who joined were mostly
land owners, who wanted to stay that way. #5.11

        The Holiday people of the southwest had a long
tradition of struggle on which they could rely.  Farmers
of the region had fought off grasshoppers and grain
swindlers with determination.  Many had supported the
populist movements of the '80s and '90s and the

Non-Partisan League during and after the First World       Page: 172
War.  The Farmers Union, most progressive of the farm
organizations, was strongest in this part of the state,    Contents
just as the militant National Farm Organization (NFO)
would be in the 1960s, and the American Agriculture
Movement is today.

        For a farmer from these parts to insist on
public ownership of the railroads, the banking system,
or talk eloquently of the need to establish the
"Cooperative Commonwealth" was not unusual.  A rough and
ready radical populism was part of the political
culture.  Here's how Roy Peterson, a farmer from Benson,
expressed it:

    What I'd like to see is for the government
    to own the public utilities and natural
    resources.  They should have kept the forests,
    not let guys like Weyerhauser steal them from
    the people and then move out and just leave
    the stumps .... I would like to have seen
    them keep control of iron ore, like North
    Dakota, where the state went into the
    manufacture of flour, saved the farmer a lot
    of money there and paid him for his high pro-
    tein feed.  To me, this means to the Left,
    like the old Farmer-Labor Party and Non-
    Partisan League.  They always put human rights
    above property rights.  For people that are
    to the Right, and are ultra-conservative,
    property rights come before human rights.  If
    a few human beings have to lose their
    lives for them to retain their wealth, or gain
    more, it doesn't seem to bother them. #5.12

        The ideology of men like Peterson combined
both a traditional commitment to private property and a

rural lifestyle with outright antagonism to trusts and     Page: 173
monopolies.  They opposed the trusts because they were
both undemocratic and a grave threat to their way of       Contents
life.  Oscar Torstenson from Dawson reflected this self-
interested strand of Holiday radicalism in this way:

    We were all labeled radicals.  I don't
    know maybe my interpretation isn't
    correct.  But I say a radical is a person
    who knows what he wants and aims to get it.
    A conservative is a person who worships dead

        Like the Farmer-Labor Movement of which it was a
part, the Holiday was a diverse organization ideologi-
cally.  On the one hand were Communist Party members who
either participated directly in the movement as Holiday
members, or in alliance with the Holiday as members of
the C.P.'s own farm organization, the United Farmer
League.  On the other hand were individuals who joined
out of desperation and had little commitment to the
Holiday militant, though hardly revolutionary reform
program.  In the broad middle were Holiday members who
believed that radical reforms--including public ownership
of key industries--was necessary to preserve democracy
and their way of life.

        The date for the big strike was set for September
21, 1932.  The Noble county local, however, jumped the
gun and blocked off all access to Worthington with

pickets and bailing wire.  The bailing wire was removed    Page: 174
two days later, but the site became a training and
dispatching center for Holiday men across the              Contents
southwestern counties.  Meanwhile, action in the other
trading centers began to escalate.  In Montevideo, 200
farmers showed up to begin picketing activities.  In
Dawson, a truck carrying 400 chickens was stopped and
the chickens temporarily "liberated" from their fate
at the processing plant.  A few days later, farmers from
Boyd raided Dawson stockyards and extended the same
favorable treatment to 100 head of cattle.  In Canby,
Holiday picketer, Nordahl Peterson, was shot and killed
by an angry farmer named Ollie Anderson.  Holiday people
believed Ollie had been liquored up by "patriots" in
town and sent out to "do a job" on the pickets.
Anderson claimed he had merely intended to shoot the
shotgun in the air and scare the Holiday men away.                     The
jury accepted his story and found him innocent. #5.13

        The action in southwestern Minnesota posed major
problems for Floyd Olson.  Election time was approaching.
Floyd Olson had the difficult problem of both supporting
the Holiday and escaping the backlash that always occurs
when members of the "producing class" take militant
action on their own behalf.  Though a substantial
portion of Minnesota's citizenry and press was

sympathetic to the Holiday action, time was critical.      Page: 175
If the strike dragged on and began having its economic
impact on middlemen and processors, a counter-attack       Contents
was guaranteed.  With the farmers, Olson had to appear
supportive; to the general public, intent on upholding
the law.  The problem was compounded by the lack of
leverage the state government had over the price of
farm commodities.  Farm prices were a national problem
and only national action could provide a remedy.  Olson
responded with his usual political astuteness.  He was
genuinely supportive of the farmers right to strike and
refused to get the state government involved in the kind
of strikebreaking activities that had taken the steam
out of the Holiday's initial drive in Iowa.  In a series
of hard-hitting stump speeches throughout the
southwestern counties, Olson took up the farmers'
grievances while urging them to stay within the bounds
of the law.  The Holiday people rewarded him and the
local Farmer-Labor candidates with their votes.
Counties with strong Holiday chapters almost unanimously
went for Olson in the elections that fall.

        Meanwhile the strike was running into trouble
in Minnesota and neighboring states.  Many farmers,
particularly those who belonged to the more conservative
Farm Bureau and dairy farmers whose produce was excluded

from the withholding actions because it was perishable,    Page: 176
had never supported the strike in the first place.
Businessmen in towns graced by Holiday pickets often       Contents
withdrew their support from the strike when they
realized that noncooperating farmers were simply moving
their products to other towns not being picketed.  In
fact, the need for force underscored the shallowness of
cooperation from farmers.  The strike was supposed to
have been carried off by voluntary withholding;
policing to the degree it occurred should have never
been necessary. #5.14

        There were major practical problems as well.
With county locals operating almost autonomously, it
was difficult to develop a statewide or even county-to-
county strategy.  That made it relatively simple for
truckers to avoid picketed roads.  After a day or two of
action, pickets would be sitting around with no trucks
to turn back.  Perishable produce was a constant problem.
A statewide Holiday caucus in Willmar, called in the
middle of the strike on one day's notice, approved a
demand from potato farmers in the Red River Valley to
be allowed to market their spuds at 75 cents a bushel, a
price below the Holiday cost of production figure.  With
the same flexibility, the price committee lowered its

"cost of production" figure for poultry and turkeys.

A fluid constituency demanded a fluid policy towards       Page: 177
pricing targets. #5.15
        With organizers racing from county to county,
county chapters were in the strike on one day and out of
it the next.  The strike suffered from farmers differ-
ences of opinion on the wisdom of picketing versus
purely voluntary withholding and from the differences
between farmers of different economic status, and
producers of different commodities.  With farmers
divided over the wisdom of the strike itself, the action
was doomed from the start as a means of directly
influencing prices.  Beyond all tactical problems was a
simple flaw in the approach.  Farmers with no cash
reserves and a cold winter ahead of them could not
afford to keep their goods off the market for long.

        As the November elections approached, the Holiday
quietly suspended activities that could endanger the
success of the Farmer-Labor Party.  By the end of
October strike activity was virtually at an end in
Minnesota.  The end of the strike, however, did not
signal the decline of the Farm Holiday Association.  As
Minnesota autumn began the slow descent into Minnesota
winter, a new and more successful chapter of Holiday
history opened.

Section: 5.2 The War on Mortgage Foreclosures              Page: 178

        One result of the disastrous drop in farm income   Contents
was the increasing inability of farmers to pay their
debt.  Although the price of farm machinery had risen
during the '20s, the value of farm commodities had
declined.  Debts that were incurred by farmers when corn
was $.80 to $1.00 a bushel and cattle $10.00-$15.00 per
hundred weight, were being called in when corn was
selling for 2 cents per pound and beef often didn't bring
the cost of shipping. #5.16 The  result was tragic.
Thousands of farmers lost their land and were forced
into towns and cities where they often swelled the
ranks of the unemployed.  The steady transformation of
the U.S. from a rural society into the urban industrial
society we have today, picked up tremendous momentum
in the '20s and '30s.  Along with that transformation
came the bitter realization that the promise of freedom
contained in the Homestead Act's promise of land, a
promise long celebrated in American lore, was for many,
a sham.

        The farmers who made up the Farm Holiday
Association responded to the threat with a militance
and solidarity that far outshone their efforts in the
strike.  They created a new form of popular resistance:

the "penny sales."  In hundreds of actions throughout      Page: 179
the region, they stopped cold the foreclosure of their
neighbors' lands.  Their activity was illegal.  The        Contents
farmers were interfering with the "machinery of justice."
Many who were not farmers thought these Holiday folks
were trying to make a revolution.  They were simply
fighting in the only way available to them to save their
land and their way of life.

       The penny sale was a simple enough tactic.  When
a farm was up for auction, hundreds of farmers would
gather to attend it.  Although specifics varied from
action to action, the basic approach was the same: all
bidders except Holiday people were "discouraged" from
speaking up.  The Holiday people themselves made the
purchases for pennies.  Often authorized bidders wore
red armbands.  As items came up only "red bands" spoke:
5 cents for a plough, 2 bits for a team of mules.  If the
crowd contained someone foolish enough to try to make a
quick buck at his neighbor's expense he was soon "put
right."  Unauthorized bidders were quietly surrounded
and escorted off the premises.  Friendly words and the
removal of the offender's trousers was one popular way
to end the day's inflationary bidding. #5.18

       A new legality was being forged by direct action.
The farmer made the law; in fact, "the lawmakers only

put it into the books."  For example, when Paul Anderson,  Page: 180
sheriff from Willmar refused to allow a penny auction
for which 1000 farmers had gathered, John Bosch in-        Contents
structed eight men, "two for each arm and two for each
leg," to inconvenience Anderson during the proceedings.
To preclude this Particular form of action from becoming
a staple Holiday tactic, Olson and Bosch worked out an
agreement.  If a sheriff called up the governor with
word of a contested sale, the governor would relieve the
officer of all responsibility and allow the auction to
go on under Holiday terms. #5.19

        Within the Association itself, steps were taken
to systematize the campaign against foreclosures.
County association chapters appointed arbitration
committees which served as a kind of popular court.  The
committees reviewed claims and made suggestions for
settlement on a case by case basis.  If the committee
got the banks to agree to more liberal terms of repay-
ment, the need for direct action was averted.  Although
the vast majority of cases were decided in favor of
the besieged farmer, the Holiday did recognize
situations in which the farmer himself was "at fault. #5.20
By its willingness to take the law into its own hands,
the Association showed that it did not challenge the

underpinnings of that law.  The demand was only to         Page: 181
declare a _moratorium_ on debt, not to abolish debt
entirely.                                                  Contents

        As the winter wore on, Holiday action continued.
On March 22, the State Legislature was greeted by a huge
procession of farmers from all over the state.  They
came by bus, train and auto, 1000 from Madison alone,
15-20,000 in all.  Most wore their overalls, though some
chose to parade in the Sunday best.  The placards were
as specific as their program and their targets.



      THAT THEY STAY HOME! #5.21

        While Holiday representatives were promising the
legislators "worse than the Boston Tea Party" inside the
Capitol building, the farmers listened to their governor
out in front.  They were treated to a blistering attack
on the conservative majority in the state senate and
words of solidarity with the Farm Holiday Movement.
Olson pledged his support for farmers demands for a
state income tax, but pointed out that to change the tax
structure, an amendment to the state constitution was
required, an amendment that was defeated in the previous

session due in large part to the Republican-financed       Page: 182
campaign against it.  As for the mortgage moratorium,
Olson's position was clear.  "Tell the senate, 'you        Contents
helped out banks and insurance companies, now help the
farmers by giving them a moratorium on foreclosures.'" #5.22

        The demonstration, one of the largest of many
that would grace the Capitol through the years of
Farmer-Labor ascendancy, was symbolic of the Holiday
movement in Minnesota.  First, it was a clear
manifestation of the rank and file support the movement
enjoyed.  If anyone believed the movement was the work
of a few agitators and malcontents, the presence of
thousands of genuine sodbusters should have convinced
them otherwise.  Secondly, the demonstration was a
manifestation of the reform orientation of the movement.
Unlike other states where the Holiday was strong,
Minnesota movement had worked out a series of demands
that could be won on a state level, and used direct
action tactics as part of a carefully coordinated plan
to achieve those demands.  The Holiday program called

    - A moratorium on farm mortgages

    - A state income tax

    - Taxes on chain stores and oleo margarine

    - Retaining the state rural credit bureau              Page: 183
      (until something better could be worked out)
    - State ownership of power and power sites             Contents
      An increasing gross earning tax on railroads
      and utilities
    - Cut in automobile taxes. #5.23

If enacted, the proposals would offer some relief to
the farmers and working people generally, while shifting
a greater portion of the tax bill to those able to
afford it.  Mild stuff, all of it, but progressive

        Finally, the demonstration illustrated the close
working relation between the Holiday and the Farmer-
Labor legislators and governor.  In 1933 the Farmer-
Labor Party was truly the political extension of the
Farm Holiday movement.  Elected Farmer-Laborites, for
their part, carried the demands of the Holiday into the
state house and legislative chambers.  The Holiday for
its part, provided the popular mobilization necessary
to keep the pressure on reluctant conservative
officials and elect Farmer-Laborites to office.  While
the Party, concerned as it was with winning votes from
all segments of the citizenry, exercised a moderating
influence on the Holiday, it was equally true that the
farmers as one highly organized constituency of the

party, pushed the Farmer-Labor Party in a more             Page: 184
militant direction.
        Meanwhile, as the farmers were busy at the
Capitol, the sheriff of Dawson decided that one piece
of foreclosure business might be expedited quite
efficiently in their absence.  Sixty Holiday women
got wind of the deed, stormed into town, and locked the
sheriff and deputy in the jail.  The town's volunteer
firefighters launched a counterattack and turned the
hoses on the militants.  With the contest hanging in
balance, the women were joined by reinforcements.
Surging forward, they wrested the hoses from the
grips of their assailants and sent them into ignominious
retreat.  There was no foreclosure in Dawson that day. #5.24

Section: 5.3 A New Deal/A Stacked Deck

        The significance of the penny sales and the
march, and scores of episodes like the one in Dawson,
was not lost on the people of Minnesota, nor on their
elected leadership.  It was quite clear to even the
most die-hard conservatives that there was a "crisis in
the corn belt."  Roosevelt had said as much himself.
And he later confided to Olson that he believed John
Bosch and the Farm Holiday had served the country from

an insurrection in the Midwest by channelling the anger    Page: 185
of desperate farmers into an organization that did not
condone the use of armed violence. #5.25
        As for Olson , he decided that the time for
timid leadership was long past.  In his second
inaugural address, he dismayed conservatives with a list
of proposals that put the state directly in the business
of supporting those hardest hit by the Depression--the
unemployed and the farmer.  For the farmer he proposed
an extension on the mortgage moratorium he had
arbitrarily imposed on February 23.  The bill, which
would pass both houses by May, empowered district
courts to set reduced tax and rental charges for farmers
behind in their payments. #5.26

        The moratorium legislation, however helpful it
might prove to be, was primarily a holding action.  The
farm problem was national in scope and demanded a
national response more sweeping than any in history.  In
Washington, government officials had their own  ideas
about what that response should be.  They proposed the
Agricultural Adjustment Act, better known as the  AAA.

        The  AAA  was a monument to upside-down logic.
In a country where hundreds of thousands were slowly
starving,  AAA  paid farmers not to produce.  It treated
a shocked nation to the spectacle of baby pigs being

slaughtered and crops plowed under.  Eventually, however,  Page: 186
the program accomplished its major objectives.  Prices
were raised, and if the farm problem was not addressed     Contents
in its essentials, enough was accomplished to take the
edge off the farmers' revolt.  The pacifying effect of
AAA and its successive programs would be a crucial
factor in the defeat of Farmer-Labor coalitions in
Minnesota, and throughout the nation in the years ahead.

        In the spring of 1933, however, the  AAA's
impact was hardly apparent in Minnesota.  Olson, himself,
thought the  AAA  scarcity approach repugnant and wholly
inadequate.  He favored an outright price-fixing system
mandatory for all farmers.  Instead of paying farmers
_not_ to produce, he advocated paying farmers for what
they did produce and paying them enough to support
themselves.  In this he had the whole-hearted support
of the Holiday.  While middle-of-the-road to
conservative farm organizations like the Grange and
Farm Bureau welcome the  AAA, the Holiday's hard-core
agrarian radical leadership, demanded nothing less than
that farmers receive their costs of production.  To
hell with the system--farmers should be paid for what
they produce.  It was a position most farmers in the
Midwest supported despite the great regulation it would
entail. #5.27

        Thus Olson and the Holiday found themselves in     Page: 187
alliance as a left wing opposition to the emerging
Roosevelt farm policy.  On May 12, 1933,  AAA  passed      Contents
Congress too late to have much effect on prices over
the summer.  In June and July, hot winds swept over
much of the prairies in presaging the drought of '34
that would do even more to cut down production and
raise prices in southwestern Minnesota in the  AAA.  By
midsummer, prices took a slump downward and the Holiday
prepared for another strike in the fall.  Olson was not
enthused.  Scrambling to force Roosevelt into a more
progressive position, he organized a conference of
midwestern governors in Des Moines on October 29.  The
governors endorsed the Holiday-Olson price-fixing plan
and headed straight for the White House.  On the way up
the steps, Olson made national headlines for himself
with a stirring little speech on the farmer's cause.

    All we are asking is parity prices for him.
    A return to him of his purchasing powers so
    he can buy the goods at a factory.  If you
    can give him this, he will buy all the
    paint you can make, all the leather goods
    you produce and many other products, and
    the Depression will end. #5.28

        Roosevelt was impressed more by the popular
support for the governors' position than by Olson's
fine speeches.  At first he appeared to agree with the
governors' program, but the Department of Agriculture,

and particularly its secretary, Henry Wallace, were        Page: 188
dead set against mandatory price-fixing.  As the
governors were shuttled from one meeting to another, as    Contents
they were fact-and-figured to death, it became apparent
that they were not going to get their way.  In a final
meeting with the Holiday, Roosevelt admitted that he
was not willing to go against the advice of his
Secretary.  He would bet on the AAA  as it stood.  Bill
Langer, Non-Partisan governor of North Dakota, replied,
"We just voted one S.O.B. out of office and we can do
it again." #5.29

        With defeat at the hands of Roosevelt, the
governors could do little to postpone a new strike.  No
one, including leaders of the Holiday, knew what the
outcome might be.  Farmers were angry.  The price situa-
tion had not improved.  Again, newspapers speculated
about the possibility of violence in the cornbelt.
Figures in the Roosevelt administration prepared conces-
sions to the Holiday should the strike prove widespread
and politically threatening.  Milo Reno, bristling
with an indignation toward Roosevelt that would increase
until his death, sent a call to arms to Holiday leaders
across the Midwest.

    We have been betrayed and long suffering.
    We have been made a political football for
    jingo politicians who are controlled by the

    money lords of Wall Street.  We were promised          Page: 189
    a new deal, instead we have the same old
    stacked deck, and so far as the Agricultural           Contents
    Act is concerned, the same dealers. #5.30

        The warnings and premonitions proved exaggerated,
however.  The strike fizzled from the beginning.  In
Minnesota, as in all Holiday states, the action was
sporadic.  The only event of significant scale occurred
in Marshall where S,000 farmers disarmed the sheriff
and overturned a fire truck that was wheeled in to
defend the target of the farmers' hostility, the Swift
processing plant.  In a struggle reminiscent of the
women's victory at Dawson, the Holiday men wrested
control of the offending water hose from the--and cut
it into small pieces about six inches long for
souvenirs.  They followed the contest with a jubilant
snake dance through downtown Marshall. #5.31

        But the action in Marshall was the last hurrah
for the Holiday as a broad-based farmers' movement.
On November 20, Olson sent a letter to Bosch, urging
a halt to the strike and vowing to continue the fight
to achieve cost of production.  By the end of the
month, the strike, such as it had been, was called off.
By March, four months later, the first AAA  subsidy
checks poured into the farm belt.

        From the beginning, the Holiday had been made      Page: 190
up of two elements--those who comprised its dues-
paying corp, and those who had swung into action for       Contents
direct and immediate gains--to save their home, and to
get a better price for what they produced.  Holiday
leadership was willing to call out the farmers to defy
the national administration's preferred agriculture
policy.  The rank and file, whatever they felt about the
official Holiday's position on the issues, were simply
not willing to undertake a seemingly futile strike.
The admonition of more conservative farm leaders to
give Roosevelt's new policy a chance made sense to many
farmers who had participated in the previous failed
strike, and the overwhelming logistical and technical
difficulties involved in pulling off a successful
strike no doubt added to their reluctance to take such
a risky action.

        "Why strike when it won't get us anywhere?"
asked many farmers.  To this the leadership had no
satisfactory answers.  What would have happened if the
farmers had gone out "en masse," is only a matter of
speculation.  They didn't, and wouldn't again.  For the
end of the Holiday as a _mass_ movement was as much a
result of its victories as its defeats.  Thousands of
farmers had been saved from eviction through direct

action, and both state and local government had            Page: 191
responded with laws in the books to assist indebted
farmers as results of the Holiday movement.  The           Contents
passage of the AAA  itself, though actually lobbied
through by the well-heeled conservative Farm Bureau,
could be credited to the public pressures to "do
something for the farmers," created by the strike of

        It's an old song for American protest movements:
The problem is defined through militant action by those
directly affected, but the ensuing legislation fits the
wishes of more entrenched interests.  When the first
AAA  checks came trickling in, the militant base of the
organization began to erode.  In November of 1933,
Roosevelt called the Holiday's bluff and won.  Though
the organization would continue playing an important role
as a lobby and education group in Minnesota, its days as
a grassroots movement with support throughout the farm
belt, were over.

Section: 5.4 Footnotes: to Chapter 5                       Page: 192

      5.1 Strike pledge available at Southwest State
Regional Historical Center, Marshall, Minnesota.

      5.2 John L. Shover, _Cornbelt Rebellion: The Farm
Holiday Association_ (Urbana: University of Illinois,
1965) pp. 3-16.

      5.3 Interview with Oscar Torstenson.  Transcript
available at Historical Center, Southwest State,
Marshall, Minnesota.

      5.4 Interview with John Bosch, Summer 1976.
      5.5 Shover, pp. 25-26.

      5.6 Personal interview with John Bosch, Fall 1976.
      5.7 Shover, pp. 41-46.

      5.8 _New York World Telegram_, October 3, 1932.

      5.9 Arthur FineIl, "The Farm Holiday Movement,"
unpublished paper, Southwest State Historical Center.

     5.10 For a history of the development of Minnesota's
western prairie land see William Folwell, _A History
of Minnesota_, Vol. III (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical
Society, 1969).
      5.11 Interview, John Bosch.

      5.12 Interview with Roy Peterson on file at the
Southwestern Historical Center.

      5.13 Interview, Oscar Torstenson. See #5.3
      5.14 Finell, pp. 15-21.

      5.15 George Mayer, _The Political Career of Floyd
B. Olson_ (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
1951) pp. 102-106.

      5.16 See the _Willmar Tribune_, October 6 available  Page: 193
on microfilm at the Minnesota Historical Center.

      5.17 Leaflet on strike on file at Southwest State    Contents
Historical Center.

      5.18 For a poetic account of a penny sale see
Meridel LeSeuer, _North Star Country_ (New York: Dvell,
Sloan and Pearce, 1945) pp. 272-274.

      5.19 Personal interview with John Bosch, Fall 1976.

      5.20 Bosch, Fall 1976.
      5.21 Mayer, p. 104.
      5.22 Ibid., p. 105.
      5.23 Ibid.,  pp.  105-107.

      5.24 Meridel LeSeuer, "The People Are Together," a
pamphlet available at the Minnesota Historical Society.

      5.25 Interview with John Bosch, Fall 1976.

      5.26 Mayer, pp. 122-123. See #5.15
      5.27 Ibid., pp. 148-158.
      5.28 Ibid., p. 154
      5.29 Ibid., p. 154.

      5.30 Quoted in Shover, p. 129. See #5.2

      5.31 Interview with John Reese.  Transcript available
at Southwest State Historical Center.

Chapter: 6                                                 Page: 194

THE RISE OF THE C.I.O.                                     Contents

        One day late in October 1935, john L. Lewis
grimly walked the long aisle of the hall where the
American Federation of Labor was holding its annual
convention, and socked A.F.L. vice-president William
Hutcheson in the nose.  As the president of the United
Mine Workers rolled on the floor with the 300 lb.
Hutcheson, few of the astonished unionists present
would have guessed the scuffle was premeditated.  In
fact Lewis's assault was an act of high labor stateman-
ship.  He had attacked a man who symbolized more than
any other the stodgy, self-interested opposition to
organizing the mass production industries and his attack
was the dramatic act needed to precipitate a split that
was long coming--the creation of the Congress of
Industrial Organizations.

        For years a battle had been waged inside the
A.F.L. between the so-called "old guard" and the
industrial unionists.  On the side of industrial
unionism stood Lewis himself, his vice-president and
eventual successor as President of the C.I.O., Phillip

Murray, Sidney Hillman of Amalgamated Clothing Workers     Page: 195
and David Dubinsky of the International Ladies Garment
Workers.  They argued that the development of assembly     Contents
line techniques and mass production had rendered the old
craft style organizing obsolete for millions of
unorganized workers.  With the passage of the New Deal's
Wagner Labor Relations Act, the time was ripe to
organize industries like auto, steel, rubber, cement,
and radio.

        On the other side stood the A.F.L. chieftans, the
guardians of craft privilege--the labor aristocrats of
the day.  They were reluctant to share power with
"unskilled" workers, shared racist notions about the
first and second generation immigrants that worked many
of the mass production industries, and were jealous of
the new opportunities to increase membership and
treasury.  _If_ new workers were going to be organized,
they would be organized into existing crafts, declared
the conservative majority of the A.F.L. leadership--a
strategy that had failed dismally after several attempts
in 1934.

        In the years 1936-38, the Committee for Industri-
al Organization (changed to Congress of Industrial
Organization when it became apparent that unity with
the A.F.L. was impossible) wrote one of proudest

chapters in the history of  American popular movements.    Page: 196
Within months of the first organizational meetings,
dramatic confrontations were exploding across the          Contents
country.  Some of them became household words: the
Memorial Day Massacre where hundreds were clubbed,
gassed, and shot by company goons and Chicago police
while peacefully demonstrating at the Republic Steel
Plant; the Flint sit-down strike where workers defied
General Motors and state authority for forty-four
days, while creating a tactic that would be put to good
use by 1/2 million workers across the country--
occupying the plant until strike demands were met.

    When they tie a can to a union man
        Sit down, sit down!

    When they give him the sack, they'll take him back.
        Sit down, sit down!

    When the speedup comes, just twiddle your thumbs.
        Sit down, sit down!

    When the boss won't talk, don't take a walk.
        Sit down, sit down! #6.2

        The C.I.O. was a way of life, a holy war. Under
its banners workers took on the most powerful
corporations in America: Ford, U.S. Steel, General
Motors, General Electric, R.C.A., Westinghouse.  In just
two years, the C.I.O. organized 3,700,000 workers.
Through collective action these 3 1/2 million people
asserted their power, transformed forever the character

of the U.S. labor movement, and won a better life for      Page: 197
themselves in the process.

Section: 6.1 {Needs section heading} "II"

        The militant organizing drive of the C.I.O. in
Minnesota paralleled the national movement.  In 1936
through '39, C.I.O. unions were forged in lumber, steel,
the packinghouses, and the big machine and electrical
plants in the Twin Cities.  Newspaper people joined the
C.I.O.  So did the sailors of the Great Lakes.  By 1940,
75,000 workers were signed up in the new union
organization in Minnesota.  The list was impressive:

    Steel Workers Organizing Committee
    United Packinghouse Workers
    United Electrical, Radio, Machine Workers
    International Woodworkers Association
    United Auto Workers
    Amalgamated Clothing Workers
    American Newspaper Guild
    National Maritime Union
    State, County and Municipal Workers
    United Grain Workers
    Minnesota Artists Union #6.3

        Some of the earliest and most dramatic
organizing efforts took place in the mines and forests
of northern Minnesota.  Steelworkers and lumberjacks
played a major role in the consolidation of the C.I.O.
statewide.  The first president of the Minnesota
Federation had been Jon Van Nordstrand, a steelworker.
The C.I.O. 's state newspaper _Midwest Labor_, was published

                                                           Page: 198
in Duluth, and organized by the ambitious timberworkers. #6.4
The workers of the Iron Range even sent one of their       Contents
own to Congress, John T. Bernard.  Bernard's one term
in Washington established him as the C.I.O.'s most
militant and outspoken advocate on Capitol Hill.

        Though the miners would eventually become a
larger and more powerful union, it was the lumberjacks
who formed the first, and most spirited C.I.O. unit.
They began their surge in mid 1936, when a militant
group of organizers, including a solid contingent of
Communists, obtained a charter from a reluctant
Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and went to work
building a union.  For six months organizers hit the
lumber camps that dotted the long arc of forest
country that stretched from international Falls on the
Canadian border clear down to Cloquet, south of Duluth.
They spread the gospel of unionism and found a
receptive audience. #6.5

        The life of lumberjacks had always been
grueling: 70 to 80 hours a week chopping, sawing,
hauling lumber, slogging through snow and mud, calling
his bunk a home for nine months out of the year.  Camp
conditions were almost universally bad, as this report
to the union illustrates.

    In this particular camp there was a little             Page: 199
    bunkhouse with one window, no drying room,
    very poor blankets or none at all. . . just            Contents
    old ragged quilts     it was crowded, dark,
    and dreary.  Food fair.  There are a lot of
    small camps scattered throughout the territory
    employing from 5 to 15 men, all working under
    miserable, dirty and dark conditions ....
    in most of the small camps the kitchen is in
    the same building with the bunkhouse.  The men
    dry their clothes over the kitchen table. #6.6

        Even worse than camp conditions was the insecur-
ity of the trade itself.  When work was slow the Jack
was laid off, forced to find a living in the bonanza
wheat fields, crowding into the Minneapolis Gateway
District or Duluth's skid row to find odd jobs, and
exist as best he could.  Timberworkers were as
expendable as the pine they harvested.  As one union
member put it:

    How would a man feel if he were sick in a
    lumber camp and the horse in one of the
    stalls was sick too and you were snowed in
    pretty bad, but not so bad that a veterinarian
    couldn't get there to take care of the horse
    while you tossed on a hard bunk with chills
    and fever, wondering why you should rate less
    than a horse. #6.7

        The prelude to the organizing drive of '36 took
place in 1916, when 2,000 "Timber Beasts" (as the
company press liked to label them), went on strike for
a nine hour day, a ten dollar a month pay hike, clean
bedding and sanitary food, and a mandatory cleaning of
the bunkhouse twice a week.  Squads of strikers

followed the logging rail lines and alerted "Jacks"        Page: 200
throughout the timber country. #6.8
        Immediately a labor conflict of the old style
brewed.  On the one side stood the lumber workers, with
a full contingent of "Wobblies" and socialist Finns
providing much of the leadership; on the other, the big
companies and their hired army of strike breakers and
thugs.  Lacking even minimum legal protection, and
confronted by openly hostile "law enforcement" officials,
the lumberjacks were soon defeated.  Hundreds lost their
jobs.  Governor Burnquist's Public Safety Committee
prosecuted dozens of Wobblies under the repressive
Criminal Syndicalism Laws.  One striker was even
arrested for "lurking and lying in wait with intent to
do mischief." #6.9

        The organizers of '36 had two advantages over
their militant forebears: The New Deal's Labor Relations
Act, which guaranteed at least a minimum legal protec-
tion for the right to organize, and the Farmer-Labor
administration of Elmer Benson, which provided the
political support necessary to counteract the economic
power of the lumber companies.  The timber workers could
organize without the mass firings or police harassment
that broke the back of the '16 strike.

        Still, the new organizers had their work cut       Page: 201
out for them.  In the bitter cold of January, the new
union, 7,000 strong, called a strike.  The logistical      Contents
problems were immense.  Four to eight squad cars were
on the road at all times to keep the men in the camps
informed of strike progress.  Relief stations were set
up to provide food and shelter for the strikers. #6.10

        When a timber operator named Ronkainen formed a
farmers organization to combat the strike, the timber
workers were able to get immediate support from
Association farmers.  Typical was this resolution from
the Alango Farmer Labor Club:

    In the recent radio speech and leaflet by
    Mr. Ronkainen of Kettle River, he claims to
    represent the farmers and he attacked the
    Timber Workers Union and the Farmer-Labor
    Governor, Mr. Benson.

    He is attempting to build a "Farmers Protective
    Association" which he claims will protect the
    farmers from the "mob rule" of the timber
    workers.  Mr. Ronkainen does not represent
    the farmers as he himself is a timber operator,
    which fact he tries to hide.

    His leaflet shows his colors when he sheds
    crocodile tears because of the high taxes he
    claims the timber barons pay.

    We, the farmers gathered at the meeting of the
    Alango Farm-Labor Club on May 11, unanimously
    condemn the statements of Mr. Ronkainen.  By
    his action he proves himself a tool of the
    timber barons and he certainly does not
    represent the interests nor the ideals of the
    farmers of this community.

    He is trying to build a barrier between the            Page: 202
    timber workers and farmers which does not
    exist.  We have no conflict with the timber            Contents
    workers.  Most of the farmers have had to
    work in the woods part of the time to make
    a living and we know the conditions the men
    have worked under. #6.11

        Despite all the obstacles, the strike was won.
Within months, the membership voted to affiliate with
the C.I.O.  Over the next two years the union waged a
constant battle to defend and expand its gains,
sending organizers all the way to Michigan to help in
the bloody confrontation between timber workers and
operators that broke out in the upper peninsula.  The
union became a leading force in the Minnesota C.I.O.,
and steadfast affiliate of the Farmer-Labor

        Most significant of all, the timber workers'
union exemplified the pride of people speaking out,
standing up for their rights, exercising social power--
often for the first time in their lives.  The
organization of the union was accompanied by an
outpouring of words: poetry, humor, and testimony that
found its way into the pages of the union paper, _The
Timberworker_.  Editors Sam Davis and Irene Paull
encouraged the Jacks to contribute--often spending
hours helping translate raw thoughts into readable prose.
The effort helped make _The Timberworker_--later renamed

_Midwest Labor_, one of the leading C.I.O. newspapers in   Page: 203
the country.  Only the National Maritime Union's, The
_Pilot_, surpassed it, in reflecting the life and culture  Contents
of union members. #6.12

        The guiding spirit of the paper was Irene Paull,
known to thousands of workers by her pen name, Calamity
Jane.  Every broad social movement has its
propagandists and interpreters: writers, poets, singers,
actors, and poster-makers.  Paull was one of them--a
middle class revolutionary whose weapons were the pen--
and her own courage.

        Irene grew up in Duluth's small Jewish community,
"Little Jerusalem," and after several years of learning
about radical politics and working class life in big
city Chicago, she returned to marry an idealistic young
attorney named Henry Paull.  Irene became Hank's office
assistant.  Together they made the fateful decision to
defend the area's Communist Party members--people who
always seemed to be in trouble with the law over this
or that demonstration.  When the timber workers began
their drive, Hank was the natural candidate for union
attorney.  But Irene's career as legal auxiliary was cut
short when veteran union organizer Joe Liszt walked into
the law office and demanded that Irene leave her

"bourgeois" surroundings to set up a newspaper down at     Page: 204
union headquarters on Duluth's skid row.
        So Irene left, and took the typewriter with
her.  The first thing she did was print up a thousand
copies of a poem she had written called, "The Ballad of
the Lumberjack."  It became the unofficial anthem of
the timber workers union.

    We told 'era the blankets were crummy
    And they said that we like 'era that way.
    We told 'era skunks couldn't smell our bunks,
    But they said that our bunks were okay.

    We told 'era we wanted a pillow
    And a mattress and maybe a sheet,
    And they said where's your guts? Goin soft?
    Are you nuts?
    That hay on your bunks is a treat.

    We told 'era we wanted some water
    And a tub into which it could squirt.
    And they said why wash clothes?
    Wanna smell like a rose?
    Why its healthy to wallow in dirt!

    We said that we wanted some windows,
    And we wanted a little more space,
    'Cause, we said, it was punk sleepin two in a bunk,
    With a guy snorin' booze in your face.

    We said that we wanted some money
    We hadn't enough to get by
    A month in the wood, ten bucks to the good
    But they promised us pie in the sky.

    But one day we all got together,
    And we put the old boys on the spot,
    We laid the axe down and we tramped into town
    And we left their old timber to rot.

    The bosses they crawled on their bellies
    And they wept that they couldn't get by.
    So we melted with pity and passed out a kitty
    To buy the boys pie in the sky. #6.13

The "Ballad of the Lumberjacks" led to other               Page: 205
ballads, contributed by workers themselves--and to
letters.  Once Paull printed a particularly _raw_          Contents
letter from a Jack named Tony.  She printed it just the
way she got it, misspellings, lousy punctuation, half
completed thoughts and all.  The man was humiliated
when he saw it in print.  He taught Irene one of her
early lessons: "Don't write what Tony says, write it
like Tony feels."

        Soon the paper got rolling and Irene Paull
began writing a regular column under the pen name,
Calamity Jane.  "Calamity" was read by workers from
northern Minnesota all the way to the mining and timber
country of the Upper Peninsula in Michigan.  She wrote
of lumberjacks, sailors, miners, and factory hands.
She sung the praises of the C.I.O. and the Farmer-Labor
Movement.  She spun simple lessons on the class
struggle, and need for solidarity among all the workers
of the world. #6.14

        But Paull was best when she was recording the
worker's own stories.  For years the unorganized
workers of the Range were portrayed by "liner society"
as shiftless and crude--incapable of a more "civilized"
life.  It was "blaming the victim" 1930s style,

    I asked the boy's, "How do lumberjacks feel            Page: 206
    about this transient life?  Would they like
    to settle down and have a home and a family?           Contents
    The old Jacks grinned sheepishly, "Naw
    Jacks like this kind of life   . . we
    wouldn't want to live any different.

    The young jack waved his hand.  "Aw, the Jacks
    are just ashamed to admit they'd like to settle
    down and live like other people     they think
    folks'il think they're cream puffs if they shoot
    off their mouths about things like that.  Jacks
    don't talk much about themselves anyway.  They're
    shy, that's all.  But show me a Jack who down in
    his heart wouldn't like to have a home and a
    woman and some kids .

    (and)     these he-men stories of the North
    Woods.  Baloney!  What's romantic about us
    lumberjacks: If we drink heavy and fight hard,
    it ain't romantic.  It's just a damn shame we
    ain't got any better way fill up our lives.
    work and drink and get old and what have we got?
    Do you know why I never got married?  Because
    I'm a straight shooter, that's why.  I think
    too much of a woman to marry her.  I wouldn't
    want to see her starve. #6.15

Section: 6.2 {Needs section heading}  "III"

        The organizing drive of the C.I.O. was backed
by the full force of the Benson administration.  Rarely,
if ever, in American history did a major political
party deliver such consistent and effective support to
a militant labor organization.

        When the lumberjacks went out on strike in
January 1937, Benson directly aided their efforts.  The
"Jacks" had shut down camps from Duluth to International
Falls and were picketing access roads in 40 degree below zero

weather.  With no strike funds, and no winter quarters,    Page: 207
the Weyerhauser Company figured it would be easy enough
to starve them into submission.  Benson, however, had      Contents
different ideas.  He ordered state officials to open up
sleeping quarters in Duluth, Grand Marais, and
International Falls, and soup kitchens in communities
throughout the timber country.

        When the press and employers took the governor
to task for aiding one side over another in a labor
dispute, Benson replied that the government had the
obligation to provide food and shelter to all
Minnesotans, _including_ those in strike. #6.16

        A little over a year later, in the same part of
the state, Benson used the National Guard to counter an
employer/police offensive against the Duluth's branch
of the C.I.O.'s Newspaper Guild.  The Guild had been on
strike against the _Duluth Herald and News Tribune_ for
several days when police charged a picket line with
clubs swinging.  The pickets scattered, and one of
them, Congressman John Bernard, got on the phone to the
governor.  He reported that timber workers and other
Guild supporters were pouring into town ready to defend
the union's picket line with force, if necessary.
Benson decided on a little force of his own instead, and

ordered out the National Guard to keep the peace.  He      Page: 208
also issued a statement blaming the violence on the
employers.  By the morning, the _Tribune_ had              Contents
capitulated, and the Guild got its contract. #6.17

        Nor did the governor confine himself to the
borders of the state.  In one of his more notorious
interventions, Benson took the Michigan Governor, Frank
Murphy, to task for allowing vigilantes  to  beat up
Minnesota labor attorney Henry Paull.  Paull had been
assisting some striking lumberjacks in Muinising,
Michigan.  Vigilantes had been terrorizing the strikers
with the active cooperation of local law enforcement
officials.  Paull himself was clubbed by a mob and
dumped into a ditch across the border in northern
Wisconsin.  When Benson got word of what had happened
he was outraged, and called Murphy on the phone.  "Damn
it Frank, if you can't protect my citizens in your
state, I'll send in the National Guard, and we'll do it
ourselves!" #6.18

        In late July 1937, Benson dropped yet another
bombshell in defense of labor.  He sent a letter to the
Pinkerton Agency refusing to renew their license to
operate in Minnesota.  For over 60 years, employers had
enlisted the services of this private detective agency
in their war against unionism.  Using evidence gathered

by the U.S. Senate's LaFollette Committee on Civil         Page: 209
Liberties, Benson cited Pinkerton's dirty tricks: theft
of union records; investigation of the personal lives      Contents
of union members; spying on government officials;
evasion of state laws; refusal to cooperate with Senate
Investigating Committees.  It was the first time a
governor had prohibited the operations of the
Pinkertons. #6.19

        The Labor policies of the Benson administration
were the direct -- though less ambiguous -- descendant of
the Olson approach.  Both governors believed that the
proper role of the government in a labor dispute was
to _ensure_ Labor's right to organize and bargain
collectively.  If that meant taking over a factory until
employer and employee could come to agreement, so
be it.  If that meant providing food and shelter to
freezing lumberjacks, fine and dandy.  And if that
meant outlawing the strike breaking activities of the
Pinkertons, outlawed the Pinkertons must be.  As Benson
told a labor rally in the spring of '36: "We do not
regard the employer's property right to operate his
plant as any more sacred than the worker's right to
strike to better their working conditions." #6.20

The C.I.O. leadership enthusiastically returned
the support given it by the Benson administration.

Strike leaders sang the governor's praise.  _Midwest       Page: 210
Labor_ featured column after column on the importance of
the Farmer-Labor movement to the C.I.O.  Grateful          Contents
lumberjacks built Benson a cabin in Grand Marais; a
vacation hide-away he uses to this day. #6.21

        The leaders of the C.I.O. reminded the rank and
file that a Farmer-Labor administration in power meant
protection and support for the C.I.O.  Most effective,
for lumberjacks in particular, was a column by
Calamity Jane that compared the situation in the Upper
Peninsula to Minnesota.  Calamity took on a couple of
Michigan cops and demanded to know why they were beating
up the lumberjacks.

    They began to complain . . . protesting that
    they never harmed the lumberjacks, that they
    were just taking the rap for the State Police
    . . . they said they had orders to let the
    scab trucks through and if they didn't obey
    orders they'd lose their job.  "We got to
    protect property . . ." one of them protested.

    "How about life?  Isn't that as important as
    property?  How come we didn't have any
    vigilantes in the Minnesota strike?  How
    come no State Police rob workers in Minnesota,
    beat them up and throw them in the lake?
    How come we didn't have sheriffs and city
    and county police working hand in hand with
    the town gangsters to terrorize the workers?
    We have 'law and order' in Minnesota . . .
    but how come it isn't the kind of 'law and order'
    you have in Michigan?

    Oh, you guys are always talking about how swell
    things were in the Minnesota timber strike
    . . . you don't realize things were different

    there . . . you had a different kind of                Page: 211
    governor . . . we're just taking orders . . .
    we're working men . . . we don't want to be the        Contents
    workers' enemies . . . we got kids too,
    haven't we?"

    If you guys are really honest about being workers
    and wanting to do right by your own class,
    you'll help Michigan get what Minnesota got
    . . . a Farmer-Labor government.  If you don't
    want to take orders from the big operators and
    the Black Legion working through your
    officials, you'll help elect the kind of
    officials who won't give you orders to murder
    and beat your brothers . . . a cop can be a
    decent human being and a civilized worker
    only under a Farmer-Labor administration
    where he takes orders to defend his brothers,
    not to murder them. #6.22

        Whether or not the rank and file needed such
encouragement in 1938 is difficult to determine.  While
it is safe to assume that C.I.O. votes in St. Louis
County helped Benson win his slim victory there, it is
impossible to know how many C.I.O. members in the Twin
Cities' working class wards voted for Benson.
Certainly, many C.I.O. workers returned Benson's
support, but the strength of the anti-Benson sentiment
may have pried away rank and file C.I.O. votes as well.

        One thing _is_ certain, Benson's whole-hearted
support for the C.I.O. did get him into hot water with
the A.F.L.  All across the country the two great labor
organizations were fighting each other for membership.
Jurisdictional disputes, court suits, public name calling
and physical confrontations broke out everywhere. #6.23

    AFL Carpenters     vs.   CIO Woodworkers               Page: 212
    AFL Meatcutters    vs.   CIO Packinghouse Workers
    AFL Electricians   vs.   CIO Electrical Workers        Contents
    AFL Machinists     vs.   CIO Auto Workers
    AFL Teamsters      vs.   CIO Retail Hotel Workers

        In Minnesota, the conflict was contained--at
first.  The Minnesota A.F.L. had been the most progres-
sive state organization in the country.  From the days
Minneapolis Socialist Mayor, Thomas Van Lear, through
the struggles against the Citizens Alliance, the
rounding of the Farmer-Labor Association, and the
Teamsters Strike of '34, a significant portion of the
state A.F.L. took progressive stands on the issues of
the day--and that included industrial unionism.  In 1936,
the Minneapolis A.F.L.'s Central Labor Union sent Sander
Genis of the Clothing Workers to the National Convention
to argue the case for C.I.O. - A.F.L. unity.  He never
got the floor.  By the end of the year, the state A.F.L.
followed the orders of President Green and expelled the
C.I.O. unions from their organization. #6.24

        Following this official schism, A.F.L. and
C.I.O. forces locked horns in battles across the state.
Minneapolis was one of the hottest zones.  Here the
usual interorganizational strife was heightened by
combat between the Trotskyists, with their base in the
powerful A.F.L. Teamsters and the Communist Party, with
its base in the emerging C.I.O.

        The animosity between the Trotskyists and          Page: 213
Stalinists ran deep.  Though both organizations con-
sidered themselves _Communist_ they shared an outright     Contents
hostility toward each other that equalled, if not
exceeded, their common hatred of capitalism.  The roots
of the conflict lay in the long struggle between Trotsky
and Stalin over the leadership and proper direction for
the Russian Revolution and World Communist Movement.
But more immediate issues existed closer to home.

        The Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party was highly
critical of the Farmer-Labor movement in Minnesota.  It
believed the Party was dominated by "petit bourgeois"
professional politicians, and "C.P. hacks."  The
charged (and many A.F.L. leaders argued) that the Farmer-
Labor Association was structured in a way that
guaranteed labor's underrepresentation.  Ward clubs
and "paper organizations" carried far more delegate
strengths than the much larger trade unions.  Farmers,
though admittedly militant in times when prices were
low, did not have the working class outlook necessary
for true revolutionary consciousness to develop. #6.25

        As teamsters/SWP leaders Farrell Dobbs saw it:

    Programatically, the FLP fell far short of being
    a party of the kind the workers needed.  Its
    basic line centered on a call for reforms under
    the existing system to be achieved in a
    gradual and orderly manner through parliamentary

    action alone.  Emphasis was placed accordingly         Page: 214
    on the substitution of reformist politics for
    class struggle actions.  As interpreted by             Contents
    FLP representatives in public office,
    implementation of that policy required blocs
    with liberal capitalist politicians on a
    statewide scale, along with support of the
    Roosevelt Democrats nationally.  The fact that
    such a course violated the interests of the
    workers and small farmers was ignored.  The
    official line was carried out by a machine
    consisting in large part of lawyers, small-
    town bankers, and other business people who
    were ambitious to develop a political career
    for themselves through the reformist movement. #6.26

        What was needed, the SWP believed, was a genuine
Labor Party based squarely on the trade unions.  In
Minnesota, that meant waging a fight to increase the
power of the trade unions within the Farmer-Labor
Association, and insisting that the Benson administra-
tion break its ties with Roosevelt and spearhead a
national campaign to organize a Labor Party.

        The Communist Party took quite a different tack
in 1936-38 from that of the SWP.  Instead of encouraging
the formation of an independent labor party, the C.P.
was urging the Farmer-Labor Party to ally itself with
the Roosevelt administration in a "united front" of
small business people, middle class professionals,
farmers and working people--almost anybody that would
unite against fascism at home and abroad.  According to
the Trotskyists that position was outright opportunism.
They charged the C.P. with abandoning the socialist

goal of working class revolution and replacing it with     Page: 215
class collaboration. #6.27
        So it was with understandable alarm that the
Trotskyists viewed the efforts of Bill Mauseuth and other
Minnesota Communists to organize C.I.O. locals in the
Twin Cities.  While supporting the goals of industrial
unionism, (Teamsters 544 had unsuccessfully applied for
C.I.O. membership in 1936) the Trotskyists believed that
the C.P. was out to capture the emerging movement and
lead it into dead end reformism.  Their case was made
stronger by the fact that several of the C.P.'s initial
organizing campaigns were at plants where the workers
were already organized--under the banner of the A.F.L. #6.28

        The battle began in earnest when the C.I.O.'s
United Electrical Workers challenged the A.F.L.'s
International Association of Machinists at the Moline
Plant in South Minneapolis.  The I.A.M. had been granted
authority to organize along industrial lines--a
circumstance that took some of the original steam out of
the U.E. Campaign.  But the A.F.L. soon botched its
advantage.  The Moulders Union entered the picture, and
demanded jurisdiction over a section of the I.A.M.
membership.  Soon after, U.E. won the election. #6.29

        For the next two years, jurisdictional battles
broke out all over the place.  The A.F.L. charged the

C.I.O. with raiding unions in woodenware, flour and        Page: 216
cereal mills, city and county services, and the
trucking industry.  The _Union Advocate_, the voice of     Contents
the A.F.L. in St. Paul ran a series on the C.I.O. in
1938.  What it had to say was _not_ complimentary.

    In the past year, the C.I.O. has not organized
    a single mass production industry in the state.
    It has not organized a single trade or craft
    which has not previously organized and
    chartered by the American Federation of Labor.
    Instead it has devoted its entire drive to
    raid some of the oldest established craft
    unions in the state.  In Minneapolis the C.I.O.
    has devoted its entire drive to raid some of
    the oldest established craft unions in the
    state . . . it has used every trick known to
    racketeers to break down the solidarity of

    A.F.L. unions and to disrupt the central
    labor body.  It has stooped to the vilest
    methods to inspire distrust of the leadership
    of some of the oldest trade unions in

    How anyone can plead for unity and harmony
    between the American Federation of Labor and
    the mob of disruptionists parading as C.I.O.
    organizers challenges understanding.  It would
    be no less consistent with common sense to
    insist that oil and water mix. #6.30

        A.F.L. attacks on the C.I.O. were joined
enthusiastically by the Trotskyists through the Teamsters
_Northwest Organizer_.  The October 1, 1937 issue carried
a special bulletin on the C.I.O. drive in the Machinists

    During the past two weeks, bands of workers
    wearing C.I.O. buttons have been on the streets
    and in the garages and shops of Minneapolis,
    beating up union workers.

        These C.I.O. workers are not fighting the          Page: 217
    bosses for higher wages.  They are not carrying
    on a struggle for better working conditions.  They     Contents
    are not spreading the gospel of Union Solidarity.
    They are being misled by a Stalinist clique of
    job hungry men, and the most charitable charge
    that can be placed against their leaders is that
    of irresponsibility .... From a trade
    union standpoint, the Stalinist actions in the
    machinist union must be condemned as a CRIME
    against the union movement of Minneapolis,
    endangering all further progress, calling into
    question the very fate of the movement. #6.31

        The C.I.O. was not without _its_ polemicists, of
course.  Calamity Jane and her associates at _Midwest
Labor_ held up their end with little trouble.  But the
heat caused by the A.F.L./C.I.O., Stalinist/Trotskyist
rivalry, occasionally expressed itself in more direct
ways than a editorial.  Neither side was above using
physical force to supplement its appeal from time to
time.  And while organized violence was extremely
rare, the incidents that did occur added still further
fuel to the polemical fires.

        The A.F.L./C.I.O. fighting deeply wounded the
Farmer-Labor Association.  A.F.L. leaders like Bill
Mahoney, Charles Kramer, and George Lawson had rounded
the movement.  Now they were in sharp disagreement with
its official head, Elmer Benson.  Not only was Benson
an outspoken champion of the C.I.O., he could be
sharply critical of the A.F.L. as well.  Benson had no
patience for leaders he considered "labor fakers," and

felt that some of the A.F.L. leaders had lost their        Page: 218
crusading spirit over the years.  He even believed that
some had their hand in the cash box, and characteris-      Contents
tically wasn't afraid of saying so.

        These hard feelings carried over into the
Association as a whole.  In Hennepin County a running
battle developed between the left wing Benson faction
led by Selma Seestrom and the A.F.L. regulars. #6.34 In
Ramsey County, a strong base for the A.F.L., the
Association's Central Committee called for expulsion
of several Communists, in part because of the A.F.L./
C.I.O. split. #6.35  On the Iron Range, A.F.L. leaders
were so put out by C.I.O. advances with steel workers,
timber workers, and sailors, that they endorsed
Republican William Pittinger over Farmer-Labor incumbent
john T. Bernard in the '38 Congressional race. #6.36

        Bernard was the movement's most famous
representative in Congress.  He had been the outstanding
advocate of the C.I.O. on Capitol Hill.  An iron miner
himself, he had spent his life fighting the steel trust.
When auto workers organized their epic sit down strike
in Flint, Michigan, Bernard joined them.  For the
Duluth A.F.L., however, labor solidarity did _not_ extend
to the friends of the C.I.O.

        The political infighting was intensified by the    Page: 219
growing ideological conservatism among A.F.L. leader-
ship.  The defeat of the Citizens Alliance, and the        Contents
passage of the Wagner Act had opened the way to an
enormous growth in A.F.L. membership during the '36-'38
period.  The aggressive, insurgent rhetoric of a
movement fighting for its life was replaced by an
outlook more characteristic of an organization fighting
to keep what it had. #6.37

        In official A.F.L. journals like the _Labor
Review_ and _Union Advocate_, the frank espousal of
Cooperative Commonwealth politics that characterized
the editorial politics of the early '30s gave way to
a new conservatism.

    Labor has a right to view with suspicion
    anyone who comes forward with a program that
    is going to transform this nation into a land
    flowing with milk and honey.  Human progress
    is  slow--as it should be--and the road is hard
    and strong, but that is because human nature
    has made the way difficult through greed and
    bigotry.  No one can undo the habits of
    civilization in a year, a generation, or a
    century.  No one is going to transform the
    present social structure by either legislation
    or direct action, and political platforms which
    undertake to correct all human, social, and
    economic ills, are only bait for the traps that
    are set to establish new tyrannies. #6.38

        Even worse for the Association was the _Advocate's_
nonstop campaign against Communists in the Farmer-Labor

movement--despite efforts by administration officials to   Page: 220
get the paper to stop the attacks.  Charles Cherney, the
_Minneapolis Journal's_ top political columnist, had       Contents
a field day reporting on an alleged encounter between the
stubborn labor press men and the beleaguered Farmer-

    Some of the labor publicists are getting out
    of hand.  They persist in talking about
    Communism in the face of the dictum of Abe
    Harris, editor of the Farmer-Labor Organization.
    He announced that Hjalmar Petersen had proclaimed
    himself an enemy of the Party, and had placed
    himself beyond its pale, by criticizing the
    activity of Communists in party affairs.  Mr.
    Harris called it "Red Baiting."

    Yet the _St. Paul Union Advocate_, organization
    of the trades and labor assembly had been
    going after the Communists right along.  A
    recent visit by three state officials at the
    offices of the paper for the purposes of
    silencing this sort of comment was without
    result.  An effort later to get control of
    the assembly and thus control of the paper
    failed when the so-called conservatives won
    a battle last week in the annual meeting. #6.39

        The battle with the C.I.O., the suspicion of
Communism, the anger at the Farmer-Labor Association,
internal changes within the A.F.L. itself, all
contributed to the A.F.L.'s conservative drift.
Officially the state A.F.L. endorsed the Benson ticket
in 1938.  In spirit, much of the A.F.L. sat out the
election. #6.40

        After the debacle, A.F.L. locals began dropping    Page: 221
their affiliation with the Association.  In 1940,
William Mahoney became editor of the _Minnesota Leader_    Contents
and followed an editorial policy favorable to Hjalmar
Petersen and the Farmer-Labor right wing.  When the
Benson people regained control of the enfeebled
Association, Mahoney was ousted.  The St. Paul Trades
and Labor Council (A.F.L.) dropped its membership in
protest. #6.41

        So the circle was completed.  Bill Mahoney, the
man who more than any other deserved the title "Father
of the Farmer-Labor Association" split with the
movement.  And after his exit, what little A.F.L. sup-
port did exist for the Association virtually

        Unfortunately for the Farmer-Labor Association
the C.I.O. did not move strongly to fill the void left
by the A.F.L.  Though most C.I.O. leadership remained
faithful to the Benson wing of the Association after
1938, they made no effort to reconstitute the base of
the organization through formal affiliation.  And it
was formal affiliation with the membership and the dues
that went with it, that the faltering Association
needed most in 1939.  With its ranks decimated, and
coffers empty, the organization's only hope of

revival rested with the C.I.O. filling the role            Page: 222
formally played by the A.F.L. #6.42
        The C.I.O., however, was headed in a different
direction.  Far from reconstituting the Association's
base, C.I.O. leadership looked forward to an
independent role designed to bring Democrats and Farmer-
Laborites together behind the New Deal program.  At the
organization's 1939 state convention, C.I.O. President
Joe Van Norstrand spelled it out

    The C.I.O. must begin now to protect the New
    Deal in 1940 .... The C.I.O. could be helpful
    in coordinating and unifying the Farmer-Labor
    Party and the Democratic Party behind the New
    Deal in Minnesota for the 1940 election

    Since the objectives of the Farmer-Labor Party
    and the New Deal are in the same general
    direction, we believe a fusion of the Farmer-
    Labor Party and the Democrats, energetically
    backed by the A.F.L. and C.I.O. will guarantee
    a New Deal victory in 1940 .... We wish to
    make it clear to all those interested in
    supporting the New Deal that the C.I.O. is
    ready to lend its whole-hearted support to any
    move for a greater unification of the common
    people of our state to protect it and help
    carry out its common objectives. #6.43

        Van Norstrand himself worked closely with both
the Communist Party and members of the Association.
A.F.L. leaders charged flatly that he was a Party
member.  Regardless, the C.I.O. strategy did meld nicely
with the C.P.'s united front emphasis on cooperation with
the New Deal. #6.44

        But it was more than the C.P.'s influence that     Page: 223
kept the C.I.O. from tying its future to the Farmer-
Labor Association.  The movement of world events           Contents
fundamentally shaped the future political role of the
industrial union movement.  World War II got the U.S.
out of the Depression.  The Cold War _kept_ the country
out.  War production meant jobs, buying power, profits,
the growth of the multi-national cooperation.  Until
the '30s, the mass production workers were exploited
and unorganized.  By the early '50s, they became part
of a new labor hierarchy.  For the C.I.O., the politics
of the Depression--with its implicit anti-corporate
thrust--gave way to the politics of accommodation.
The process was bitter.  It was accomplished over the
ruined careers of many militant leaders who preached
unity in the 1940s.

        The Farmer-Labor Association was born, in part,
from the insurgent politics of an A.F.L. fighting for
its very survival in the years during and immediately
following World War I.  The Association stood by an even
more aggressive C.I.O. in the late '30s.  Stripped of a
clear commitment to independent politics from the Labor
movement, the Farmer-Labor Association could not

Section: 6.3 Footnotes: to Chapter 6                       Page: 224

      6.1 For a moving and highly readable account of the  Contents
early days of the C.I.O. see Richard O. Boyer and
Herbert M. Morais, _Labor's Untold Story_.  (New York:
United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of
America, 1955), pp. 290-328.
      6.2 Boyer and Morais, p. 295.

      6.3 See "Proceedings from 1939 Annual Meeting of
Minnesota C.I.O.," available at the Minnesota Historical
Society Library.

      6.4 The entire set of _Midwest Labor_ is on
microfilm at the Minnesota Society's periodical room.

      6.5 For a short history of early C.I.O. organizing
efforts among the lumberjacks see _Midwest Labor_, March
20, 1937.

      6.6 _Midwest Labor_, January 7, 1938.

      6.7 _Midwest Labor_, March 20, 1937.

      6.8 For an account of the strike see "Revolt of
the Timber Beasts," _Minnesota History_, 42:5 (Spring
1971) pp. 163-174.
      6.9 Ibid., p. 173.

      6.10 _Midwest Labor_, March 20, 1937.

      6.11 _Midwest Labor_, June 11.

      6.12 Personal interview with Irene Paull, Spring

      6.13 Reprinted in _Midwest Labor_, June 18, 1937.

      6.14 See _Midwest Labor_ weekly editions from March
1937, through December 1938 for "Calamity Jane" columns.

      6.15 _Midwest Labor_, August 27, 1937.

                                                           Page: 225

      6.16 James Shields, _Mr. Progressive_.  (Minneapolis:
T. S. Denison and Company, 1971) pp. 114-116.
      6.17 For an account of the strike see Shields,
pp. 148-150.  For a dramatic rendition of the police
attack on the picketers see Calamity jane's column in
_Midwest Labor_, May 27, 1938.

      6.18 Personal interview with Irene Paull  Spring
      6.19 Shields, pp. 142-145.
      6.20 Ibid., pp. 122-123.

      6.21 Personal interview with Clarence Hemmingson,
Spring 1977.

      6.22 _Midwest Labor_, June 18.

      6.23 For a concise account of A.F.L.-C.I.O. battles
of this period see Joseph G. Rayback, _A History of
American Labor_ (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1959)
pp. 361-365.

      6.24 Interview with Sander Genis available at the
Minnesota Historical Society.

      6.25 For the Trotskyist point of view see Farrell
Dobbs, _Teamster Politics_ (New York: Monad Press, 1975)
pp. 61-113.
      6.26 Dobbs, pp. 161-162.
      6.27 Ibid., pp. 85-98, and 161-174.  For examples
of Trotskyist polemics against C.P. see the Teamster's
weekly newspaper, _Northwest Organizer_, 1937-38; on
microfilm in the periodical room of the Minnesota
Historical Society.
      6.28 Dobbs, pp. 99-112.
      6.29 Ibid., pp. 101-108.

      6.30 _St. Paul Union Advocate_, May 9, 1938.

      6.31 _Northwest Organizer_, October 1, 1937.          Page: 226

      6.32 See _Midwest Labor_, August 27, September 10,    Contents
November 11, and November 25, 1937, for charges of
Trotskyist inspired violence against C.I.O. organizers.

      6.33 Personal interview with Orville Olson, Spring

      6.34 See _Minneapolis Journal_, February 1, 1938.
      6.35 Ibid., March 4, 1938.

      6.36 Personal interview with John Bernard, Spring

      6.37 Personal interview with Orville Olson, Spring
1977.  Olson had the opportunity to work closely with
both the A.F.L. and C.I.O.  His observations about the
declining militance of A.F.L. leaders seem born out by
the political direction the A.F.L. followed during--
and after--1938.

      6.38 _St. Paul Union Advocate_, May 16, 1938.

      6.39 Minneapolis Journal, February 1, 1938.

      6.40 Shields, pp. 206-207. See #6.16
      6.41 Ibid., pp. 229-232.

      6.42 Personal interview with Vienna Johnson
Henrickson,  Summer  1976.  Vienna was secretary of the
Association during the years immediately following the
'38 debacle.  She told me about the almost total
collapse of the local clubs, and the severe shortage of

      6.43 Proceedings from the 1939 state C.I.O.
convention available at the Minnesota Historical

      6.44 St. Paul Union Advocate, June 27, 1938.

Chapter: 7 EPILOGUE                                        Page: 227

        Forty years have passed.  Corporate power has      Contents
grown geometrically.  We seldom speak of monopolies.
Instead, we speak of multi-nationals.  The cooperatives
built by farmers and consumers in the 1930s have
themselves become remote institutions.  Today, farmers
in central Minnesota are continuing their three year
struggle against a power cooperative that's building
huge power lines across the prairie that once nourished
the Non-Partisan League and The Farm Holiday.

        It takes a college degree these days to serve
in the legislature.  Our economic and political
institutions are run by experts.  A few giant corpora-
tions retain their stronghold on the printed media,
and corporate television "educates" millions of T.V.
watchers every night.

        It is hard to remember that there was a time
when people dared to understand the world without their
Ph.D.'s, when people without formal education read
books and independent newspapers, and attended by the
thousands political lectures and educational events.
There was a time when the connection between political
ideas and everyday reality was clearly understood.

There was a time when the person who pushed a plow, or     Page: 228
built a house, or fixed a machine, could also be a
great political leader--like Clarence Hemmingson,          Contents
Farmer-Laborite from Grand Marais.

        Clarence's life illuminates the _sense of
possibility_ that's at the heart of any great social
movement.  He was raised on a farm in the lumbering
country of northwest Wisconsin.  His parents were
Norwegians.  His dad believed in cooperation--the kind
of cooperation that brought a whole community of farm
people together to help a neighbor build a barn, or put
up a house.

        In Detroit, Clarence hooked up with the
Proletarian Party--one of several groups that split off
from the Socialist Party because of political differ-
ences, and in response to the Russian Revolution.  The
Party was never recognized by the Third International--
the C.P. beat them to it.  But the Russians did say
the Proletarian Party was the best theoretical outfit
in the American Left.

        Hemmingson went to the Workers College sponsored
by the Party.  He learned the science of socialism, and
the disciplined tactics that go into the organizational
work to build it.  He also learned pipefitting and

became a member of the union in Chicago--but that's        Page: 229
getting ahead of our story.
        In Detroit the young Hemmingson met Gene Debs
and Clarence Darrow.  He experienced the Palmer Raids,
and ended up in jail for picking a fight with a cop.
He remembers his Russian comrades.  Their powerful
singing filled their meeting hall like tongues of
rolling flame.

        In Chicago, his education was completed. His
teachers sent him around the Midwest with a soapbox.
He actually set up the box (really a platform) and a
banner, and talked about American history--never
socialism right out.  The  American people weren't
ready for that, the Party elders insisted (rightly I
think).  He sold literature and took subs for the Party

        One time, on the anniversary of Sacco and
Venzetti's death, he addressed a crowd of 50,000 in
Union Park.

        When the depression hit, Clarence organized
Unemployment Councils.  He claims he was the first
person to use the direct action technique against
evictions.  When the police came to evict an unlucky
tenant, they would be greeted by hundreds of
unemployed people.  No sooner would the furniture be

out to the sidewalk, than it would be placed securely      Page: 230
back in the apartment.  Landlords by the scores became
converts to easy payment plans on the rent.                Contents

        In 1932, Clarence and Edna, his bride, took
Scott Nearing's advice and moved to the wilderness to
survive.  Economics affects even those who most
actively support the Brotherhood of Man.  Clarence had
been bounced out of the Plumbers Union by corrupt
union leadership.  He joined his brother in Duluth, and
from there moved on to Grand Marais.

        Hemmingson became the immediate leader of the
tiny Farmer-Labor contingent in Cook County.  He lost
a bid for the F.-L. endorsement for the legislature in
'36, and the Senate in '38.  He spearheaded the effort
to build Elmer Benson a cabin in gratitude for Elmer's
support of the lumberjacks.

        Hemmingson made some history.  But its the
quality of the man that is intriguing.  Last winter he
read an 800-page book on general science.  He is educated
in a seat of the pants way--like Eric Hoffer maybe.
He _believes_ that its possible to _know_, to understand the
world.  General science, Marx and Engels, making a
speech, reciting a poem, fitting a pipe--all connected;
all part of the _truth_.  He's a throwback, a second hand

Clarence Darrow--a Eugene Debs maybe--but then I           Page: 231
don't know much about Debs.
        On his wall in the living room are two paintings
of Balinese people; a man and a woman.  The woman, full
breasted and naked.  it's kind of startling, those
paintings.  Simple, direct, almost naive in their
harmony and nakedness.  Edna, his lover, companion,
artist, painted those pictures.

        He spoke of Edna.  Showed me her picture.  She
was beautiful, too.  Dark hair, spirit in her eyes.  An
idealist, he said.  And he read me the poem they wrote
together and shared when things got tough between them.

        And he told me the epitaph she made sure would
be put on her grave marker when she died.   I wrote it
down.  It was just four words.


        The "Brotherhood of Man," the "Cooperative
Commonwealth," the faith that working people can manage
their society, the beliefs of Clarence Hemmingson and
thousands like him, are the Farmer-Labor Association's
legacy to us.  We cannot go back.  But we can hear
their hope.  We can struggle under new circumstances,

with new problems and possibilities, to build our          Page: 232
own "Cooperative Commonwealth."
    Harder fights, greater victories, more
    stirring days for the Farmer-Labor
    Movement lie ahead.  As long as depression,
    poverty, insecurity, and unemployment are
    here, our job is unfinished.  We must not
    only have an answer to these problems,
    but build a movement that can put that
    answer into action.  It is pioneering in
    creating the new day for America.

    Don't envy the old timers who got their
    experience in building the foundations
    of the movement.  Get in yourself for
    the building that is ahead.

             _Minnesota Leader_, Aug. 1, 1936

About this document:

Fred H. Olson ( scanned this document
in 1996 from a photocopy of the original typewritten document.  Fred was
a participant in the Farmer Labor Association of the late 1970's and
early 1980's. Macintosh equipment and software for scanning and OCR was
generously made available by Mark Ritchie and associates at the
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (

It is in one large ( approximately 320 K bytes) file to facilitate
portability and downloading. (There has been a version which had one
file per chapter to accomodate browsers and transfer rates made the
large file awkward.) It is a simple html file with enough links to
facilitate navigating the document.

Some other points:

WWW Links from the Table of Contents and from footnotes are to labels
in the same file.  Footnotes are at the end of each chapter as in the
original document.

The few WWW Links to documents outside this file include the URL
as text so they can be found from a captured copy.

To facilitate relating this document to the original:
Lines are formatted horizontally as they were in the original with
a right margin at about 57 characters.

The original document had text double spaced except for longer quotes.
In this version everything is single spaced and longer quotes are
indented as a block by 4 characters.  Thus the number of lines
between page breaks varies considerably.  [To print this document
with the original pagination, write an editor macro to
insert a form feed at the beginning of lines with "  Page:" on them.]

To facilitate navigating this large document on screen, the original
hardcopy page breaks, chapters, sections and footnotes have been
numbered and tagged very consistantly. All chapter and section numbering
is now in Arabic notation (no Roman numerals).

The orignal page breaks are numbered on the first line of the page
starting at column 60.   Because of the narrow format this is always
at least 2 characters to the right of the text of the first line.

Section and footnote numbers are now preceded by the chapter number
and a decimal point.  For example:    #2.23

Numbering summary:          - Unique-
Item                        -- Tag --       - Example -

original hardcopy pages     Page:           Page: 123
Chapters                    Chapter:        Chapter: 1
Sections                    Section:        Section: 3.4
Footnotes                   #               #2.23

Footnote link details:
References to footnotes have been made into hyperlinks.  As in the
original document, footnotes are at the end of each chapter.

References to the first footnote to a given document get a link directly
to the footnote. References to footnotes to the same document get a link
to the first footnote IF the 'Ibid.' is less than 15 lines below it (so
that both can be on the display).  If the 'Ibid' (or whatever) is
further away the link will be to the 'Ibid.' footnote which will have a
link to the first footnote.

Underlined text in the original document is now preceded by an
underline character and followed by and underline character.
Example: _This sentince is underlined._

Reports of typos etc are encouraged to
Fred H. Olson fholson [at]