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Grace Carlson

The Vote for Trotskyism in Minnesota

(February 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 6, 8 February 1941, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

When 8,761 workers and farmers in Minnesota record their support of the Trotskyist program by voting for the Trotskyist candidate for U.S. Senator, and when this represents 6,050 more votes than the Stalinist candidate for president received, that is, in the words of the National Committee of the Communist Party, “something to think about.”

If a worker does think seriously about the meaning of these election returns, he can come to only one conclusion, namely that the advanced workers and farmers of Minnesota, who have had a long acquaintance with Trotskyists, realize that the Trotskyists and not the Stalinists stand for militant working class action.

Workers Remember Stalinist Crimes

For the Minnesota workers and farmers have had a long acquaintance with Stalinism too. They recall vividly the criminal and irresponsible attacks made by the Stalinist officials on the valiant leaders of the truck drivers strikes of 1934. They haven’t forgotten the adventuristic Stalinist criticism made against the Trotskyism leaders for “accepting the support” of the Farmer-Labor Governor Floyd Olson in the victorious settlement of the strikes. As late as October 1934, the Communist Party published a 58-page pamphlet entitled, Permanent Counter-Revolution: The Role of the Trotskyites in the Minneapolis Strikes, and written by two Stalinist big-shots, William F. Dunne and Morris Childs. Despite the plain evidence of the success of the great strikes, and the growth of the General Drivers Union on the distributed pamphlet sought, to prove that the firm foundation of that Trotskyists had sold out the strikes. Try and find a copy of that absurd pamphlet in a Stalinist bookshop now! The growth of Minneapolis into the best-organized city of its size in the country, thanks to the drivers’ victories, has made that pamphlet a curio worth having. And we have copies that any interested worker can see.

Minnesota workers and farmers also have long night turned from a policy of attacking Farmer-Laborites to the “Popular Front” policy of capturing the Farmer-Labor Party and pushing it far to the right. The small-town banker, Elmer Benson, who was elected Governor in 1936, was an easy stooge for the Stalinists, and turned over all patronage to the C.P. machine. Minnesota Farmer-Laborites remember very well the bitterness felt by those rank and filers who had fought in the ranks of the F-LP for years to see a group of C.P. carpet baggers come in to the state, take over their Party by control of state jobs and turn it into an appendage to Roosevelt’s machine.

Stalinists Wrecked Farmer-Labor Party

Farmer-Labor workers don’t forget that the many attempts to “broaden” the Farmer-Labor Party into a Popular Front by coalition with the Democrats and “liberal” Republicans were Stalinist-engineered. These reactionary proposals were repudiated lime and again by the advanced workers in the trade unions affiliated with the F-LP.

Because of the succession of C.P.-inspired outrages, Benson was defeated in the 1938 election. The Socialist Workers Party gave critical support to Benson in the election against the Republican Stassen. In an Open Letter to Governor Benson, presented to him during the campaign, we warned that he could not rally the workers and farmers unless he made “a sharp break with the Democratic machine nationally” and “a clear ideological break with Roosevelt’s most vociferous supporters, the most determined pro-war group in the country today, the Communist Party.”

With the signing of the Nazi-Soviet pact in 1939, the Communist Party again changed its line, and it now tries to use for the new line the remnants of the Farmer-Labor party which survived after the disastrous defeat of 1938. And with no explanation of the somersault.

Nor can the Communist Party of Minnesota erase from its record its shameful, union-smashing campaigns of 1937 directed against the organised machinists, hospital workers and others in AFL unions. Working in the name of the CIO, Bill Mauseth and other Stalinist leaders succeeded in reducing strong and powerful AFL unions into weak “paper” organizations in the Stalinist-dominated CIO movement in Minnesota. This whole program of union disruption was carried on with the fullest cooperation of the Stalinist-controlled Governor’s office. The bona fide CIO national movement suffered as a result. Despite all efforts of the Minneapolis union leadership – who are pro-industrial union and recognize the progressive and major role of the CIO nationally – many workers identify the national CIO with the caricature concocted by the Stalinists in Minnesota.

The thinking worker can therefore easily understand that advanced workers and farmers of Minnesota responded eagerly to the proletarian, revolutionary program of the Socialist Workers Party in the 1940 election campaign.

The Trotskyist Record Is Clear

For, unlike the Stalinists, the Trotskyists have a clear record of unswerving support of the Marxist method of struggle. The Marxist method is the method of support of all of the day-to-day struggles of the workers against the bosses, and of militant struggle within the Farmer-Labor Party to draw the workers further along the road of independent working-class action.

The militant activity of the Trotskyists in the great strike struggles of 1934, in the demonstrations and struggles of the unemployed and WPA workers during the past six years, in the campaigns of the trade unionists and organized farmers of the Farmer-Labor Party against the reactionary Republican and Democratic machines, is well known.

The militancy and working class solidarity demonstrated by the Trotskyists of Minnesota have won them the respect of the vast majority of the organized workers of Minnesota and the hatred of the capitalists and their government. The ranks of the Trotskyists of Minnesota number many class-struggle fighters who have been imprisoned because of their activities iu behalf of trade union and unemployed workers.

The 1940 Election Campaign

This is the stainless record of the Trotskyists in Minnesota, and none of the smearing attempts of the Stalinists could blacken it in the eyes of the workers and farmers of Minnesota. We appeared on the ballot as the “Trotskyist Anti-War Party.”

We were careful in all of the speeches, leaflets and radio propaganda of the campaign to make clear that our attacks on the Communist Party were attacks of revolutionists against reformists. One of the planks in our platform called for “Defense Of the Soviet Union Against Imperialism and Stalinism.”

We appealed to the Communist Party workers in our election literature to “restudy Stalinism in the light of the writings of Marx and Lenin.” We expressed confidence that such a study would lead them to a break with the Stalinist Party and unity with the Bolshevik program of the Socialist Workers Party.

In sections of the state, particularly among the iron miners on the Range, there are a large number of former C.P. members who have for years supported the Russian Revolution. Impressive totals for the Trotskyist candidate were recorded in those sections.

A heavy registration of votes for Trotskyism were also recorded in those areas of the state in which there are industrial workers, such as the packinghouse workers, timber workers, drivers, miners, etc. The word “Trotskyist” stands for militant working-class action to these workers, who have understood the role of the Trotskyists in the militant Minneapolis labor movement.

The largest vote for the Trotskyist candidate came from the three industrial centers of Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth. In Minneapolis and St. Paul alone, our Party received a larger vote than the C.P. obtained in the entire state.

It is a great gratification to note how deeply the ideas of Trotskyism have penetrated among the Minnesota masses. Undoubtedly the recent tragic death of Leon Trotsky at the hands of Stalin’s agent dramatized the program of the Fourth International for thousands of workers and farmers in Minnesota as well as through the nation. I am very sure that many hundreds of votes were cast for me as the Trotskyist candidate in order to do honor to the murdered hero who symbolizes for the oppressed the revolutionary struggle against the capitalist system of exploitation.

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