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SWP Election Tour

Humphrey and Housing

(7 March 1949)

From The Militant, Vol. 13 No. 10, 7 March 1949, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Minnesota’s Senator Hubert Humphrey is looked up to by American liberals as the new “Messiah.” It is the fond liberal hope that Humphrey will lead them into the “promised land” of “enlightened capitalism,” which will encompass socialized medicine, good labor relations and public housing projects – among other benefits.

But the grim reality of Humphrey’s three-year record as Mayor of Minneapolis is something quite different!

When Vincent Dunne ran as the Socialist Workers Party candidate for Mayor of Minneapolis in May, 1947, he had this to say about candidate Humphrey’s record on housing:

“In a review of his ‘accomplishments’ of the last two years, Mayor Humphrey points with pride to the trailer camp concentrations which have been created in various places around town. These concentration camps are nothing but modern slums. They are only a little superior to the Hoovervilles which were built by the destitute on city dumps during the ’29 depression – under the Republican Hoover.”

The death of three small children in a fire which swept through a quonset hut at the city-owned Johnson St. housing project on Feb. 13 is a tragic confirmation of Comrade Dunne’s characterization of Humphrey’s building projects as “modern slums.” The Johnson street fire was the fourth in a Minneapolis veterans’ project since April 1946.

After two infants were burned to death in their cribs in a housing project fire at the University of Minnesota in January 1948, the Minneapolis fire prevention chief warned city officials that all quonset huts should have at least two exits. No action was taken by the then Mayor Humphrey or the City Council. Now, fire department officers say that the lives of 4-year old Wayne Robison, his 3-year old brother, Thomas, and their 5-year old playmate, Danith Magneson, might have been saved if city officials had heeded the warning of the fire prevention chief a year ago.

But at that time Humphrey was interested in making an impressive record on housing, as well as on cutting down city expenses. The Minneapolis Star of Feb. 17 offers some interesting evidence on this point in an interview with Alderman Frank Moulton. “At the time the emergency housing program was getting under way, he [Moulton] had asked for necessary safety measures. However, former Mayor Hubert Humphrey had declared: ‘To hell with the rules. Let’s get the people off the streets,’ Moulton said.”

A suit charging the city with negligence was filed on Feb. 21 by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Robison. They are asking $20,000 for the loss of their two sons in the quonset hut fire. Of course, they deserve some compensation from the City of Minneapolis. But what parents would take $20,000 – for their two little boys?

This is a choice that Senator Humphrey will never have to make. His little boys sit at home safe and snug in their $28,000 home (four bedrooms, two baths) in an exclusive Washington suburb while their father makes political capital out of his devotion to the “ill-housed” children of the poor!

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