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The Militant, 31 August 1946

Barbara Bruce

How Anti-Fascist Demonstration
Was Organized in Minneapolis

(22 August 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 35, 31 August 1946, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


MINNEAPOLIS, Aug. 22 – The inspiring united labor anti-fascist demonstration that routed Gerald L.K. Smith’s fascist rally here last night provided a real test of the different policies for fighting fascism advocated in the labor movement.

This demonstration was successfully organized despite efforts of the Communist (Stalinist) Party, which came to the aid of conservative members of the Jewish organizations in trying to prevent any kind of picket line.

In a so-called united front meeting on August 15, sponsored by Samuel L. Scheiner, secretary of the Minnesota Jewish Council, an attempt was made to put over a policy of “silent treatment’’ of Smith. Arguments for this do-nothing policy were made by Scheiner, representatives of the Round Table of Christians and Jews, the Mayor’s Council on Human Relations, the Governor’s Inter-Racial Commission, and the Urban League.

Grace Carlson and Elaine Roseland, Socialist Workers Party representatives at the meeting, led the attack against this policy and called for a vigorous mass demonstration against Smith.

Grace Carlson is a candidate for U.S. Senator from Minnesota on the SWP ticket. She was one of the 18 SWP leaders who were imprisoned during the war for their anti-fascist and revolutionary socialist views.

Communist Party representatives, Martin Maki and Sam Davis, who admitted that they spoke for the CP and pretended to speak for the CIO movement, expressed themselves in favor of the “silent treatment.” These Stalinists, insisted that the most important issue was that “Communist Party representatives can sit down in the same room with the Republican party.” SWP delegates were denounced as “disrupters” for urging that a picket line be organized.

In an attempt to put a straitjacket upon those pushing for militant anti-fascist action, Talmadge Carey, a stooge of Republican Governor Thye, moved that those present be bound by “unit rule.” The meeting broke up, however, when the SWP spokesmen, joined by representatives of the Workers Defense League and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), refused to allow 11 people to stifle the anti-fascist sentiments of the working masses of Minneapolis.

A resolution calling for a mass picket line was adopted by Lodge 102 of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen on August 18. Publicity given in the daily press to this action of the Railway Trainmen smashed the conspiracy of silence.

At a follow-up meeting held on August 19, the united front was bolstered by representatives of AFL, CIO and Railroad unions. Vincent R. Dunne, Socialist Workers Party labor secretary, read the party’s printed leaflet calling upon the labor movement to demonstrate against Smith.

The SWP leaflet declared that “Smith’s Road Leads to Fascism! Because ... like Hitler, Mussolini, Bilbo, Rankin and their kind, he uses prejudice and totalitarian methods against human rights and democratic liberties ... Rats – even small rats – carry plague. The spread of the fascist plague must be halted. It would be criminal to underestimate the danger.”

Many others also denounced the policy of “silent treatment” and delegates present voted for a mass picket line by an overwhelming majority.

Instructions given by the united front grouping to issue leaflets in the name of all participating organizations were violated by the Stalinists, who announced the following day that the name of the Communist Party could not appear on a leaflet with the name of the Socialist Workers Party. The Minnesota Jewish Council, the Mayor’s Council for Human Relations and other such organizations also refused to sign the leaflet.

Despite this disgraceful sabotage, Walter Frank, speaking for the Minneapolis AFL Central Labor Union, was able to obtain considerable publicity in the Minneapolis and St. Paul papers on the day of the demonstration when he called for mass picketing of the Smith meeting. Hundreds of trade unionists were brought to the picket line by the publicity in the August 21 Minneapolis Morning Tribune, under the headline: “LABOR TO PICKET SMITH TALK.”

On Thursday morning, Hubert Humphrey, so-called “labor” mayor of Minneapolis, denounced the demonstration and those in charge of its organization. In so doing, he condemned the very people – AFL, CIO and Railroad Union leaders – who organized the campaign to elect him to office just a year ago. In an official statement, Humphrey said the demonstration was “disorderly” and “ill-advised.”

Minneapolis labor militants, mindful of what happened to the German and Italian workers when their leaders advised the “silent treatment” for the Nazis and Fascists, didn’t agree with Humphrey. Their correct slogan is: “Smash the Fascists, Before the Fascists Smash Us!”

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