MIA: History: ETOL: Document: Education for Socialist Bulletin: Struggles Against Fascism at the End of World War II 3. Comments on the Minneapolis Antifascist Campaign By Vincent R. Dunne
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—Socialist Workers Party [US] Education for Socialist Bulletins—
Struggles Against Fascism at the End of World War II
Comments on the Minneapolis Antifascist Campaign
By Vincent R. Dunne
The following is an excerpt from the transcript of remarks made by Vincent Dunne to a class on fascism held in Minneapolis on December 30, 1963. Dunne was a founding member of the Communist League of America, the first American Trotskyist organization. He was a central leader of the Minneapolis strikes of 1934. At the time of the 1946 antifascist campaign, he was national labor secretary of the SWP. He was an active leader of the SWP from its founding in 1938 to his death in 1970.
The fascists tried to come back here, long after we were no longer the heroes of the labor movement, after we were imprisoned for our opposition to the war. They came back and tried to rent the auditorium in Gerald L.K. Smith’s name to put on an anticommunist demonstration.
The leader of the Minneapolis labor movement, the Central Labor Union, had become pretty quiet by that time. They were lined up with the Democratic Party, turned over everything to labor boards, were quite satisfied, and didn’t want any more trouble. The former leaders of the truckers were no longer the leaders of the labor movement, but we had been delegates to the Central Labor Union and we knew the leaders well enough to impress them with the danger of this fascist meeting.
We were for the city turning over the auditorium to Gerald L.K. Smith and for organizing a demonstration against him. But they denied him the auditorium. He finally got quite a big hail on Third Avenue.
Now the Minnesota Jewish Council, a petty-bourgeois group, urged the trade union leadership to ignore Smith. Many of the leaders in the Central Labor Union went along with this.
A meeting had been called for the Jewish leaders and the trade union movement. We sent a committee over there of former leaders in the drivers union and asked them to reconsider this. They had agreed not to demonstrate. Give Smith the silent treatment, they said. We said, the silent treatment is no good in a case like this. You’ve got to go down and picket that place. We had the support of two or three of the leaders of the Central Labor Union on this.
A second meeting was scheduled. We turned around the whole meeting that had been called to give the fascists the silent treatment. In the end, one of the rail unions called a demonstration that became a demonstration of the entire trade union movement.
Even the Communist party participated that time, the only united front I remember with the Communist party here. They were quite numerous in Minneapolis. They had some union posts. They supported this. It was overwhelmingly accepted by the rank and file of the trade union movement, so they couldn’t back down.
The trade union movement had charge of the picket line. Many of our comrades were picket captains. Thousands of people demonstrated in front of Smith’s meeting hall. Finally, Smith gave up the idea of having a meeting there and sent in word that they were going to the main ballroom of the Leamington Hotel.
We were aware of this and we sent our pickets down to challenge them when they came out the back door. Pickets were strung along Third Avenue and several other streets so that whatever way they went, we’d catch them.
At the Leamington Hotel, they began to attack us. They sent squads out to brutally attack our pickets. We fought back and when the main body of our picket line got there, there was a melee in front of the hotel. We just marched right into the hotel, challenged them right at their door, drove their sluggers back into the ballroom. Some of the people at the front of the line—I wasn’t there at the moment—broke in the big old doors of the ballroom. Chandeliers went down; everything went down, as the fascists went out the back door. They’ve never been back here since.
There are lessons to be drawn from this. That is the way the fascist threat must be met. And that can only be done by a mass movement of the workers. It can’t be done by petty-bourgeois individuals giving fascists the “silent treatment.”