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Carl Cowl

Two Reformist Meets

(April 1932)

Letters from the Militants, The Militant, Vol. V No. 16 (Whole No. 112), 16 April 1932, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. Two state conventions of rival reformist parties were held last week in the Twin Cities – the Socialist Party on April 28th at Labor Headquarters, Minneapolis, and the Farmer Labor Party on April 29th and 30th in the St. Paul Auditorium.

To give a brief political characterization of these assemblies, it can be said that aside from the difference in size and excitement, both have adopted on almost identical program of practical reforms with vague references to a new society.

The Farmer-Labor Party of Minnesota is unique in American politics in being the only third party to elect a governor (Floyd B. Olsen), state and congressional officials and a U.S. Senator (Shipstead). It is not surprising, therefore, that the St. Paul auditorium hall was jammed to the doors (about 1,200) with a motley delegation of farmers, bankers, lawyers, labor officials and a sprinkling of rank and file members.

The Socialist Party state gathering of about 50 met in Labor Headquarters, Minneapolis. I say gathering advisedly, since it was not a delegated body, there being no functioning units in the state. All those who “consider themselves as socialists” were invited to attend the state “convention”.

While the F.L.P. declared for a “new social system”, the S.P. called for “the abolition of capitalism”. The S.P. demand for “Unemployment Insurance, full cost to the boss”, is countered by the F.L.P. “federal and state unemployment insurance ... the industries, corporations ... must bear the burden of this protection.” The socialist proposals for a graduated income tax with emphasis on the rich takes the form in the F.L.P. platform of a “graduated, progressive income tax, the proceeds to be used to reduce the present tax burden of the farmer and small home owner.” They both declare for the old-age pension and the shorter work day.

The only point of real difference in the two parties is the purely parliamentary one of national candidates. The Socialists endorsed Norman Thomas and Mayor Hoan of Milwaukee for the head of their national ticket. The F.L.P. leaders apparently plan an election deal with the democrats behind Roosevelt in return for state support of the latter for the F.L.P. candidates. Therefore, when Slonin, late committeeman of the S.P. and delegate to the F.L.P. convention in an impassioned speech, threatened to withdraw from the body if the “fusion” measure passed, a storm of raillery opened up from the floor. The motion to leave the matter in the hands of the state executive committee finally passed. So the clique in control of this going concern is free to make any deal they care to.

In spite of all the ballyhoo of the liberals there is little indication of a national third party ticket. Julius J. Reiter of Rochester reported a conference of the “National Farmer Labor Party” held at Omaha in February. His heated argument for the endorsement of a third party presidential candidate, or at least, the nomination of F.L.P. presidential electors, fell on deaf ears. The prevailing sentiment, as expressed by numerous speakers, was that the capital of the Party was not to the detriment of the offices already achieved in Minnesota.

Although the S.P. convention elected a state executive, state secretary and state organizer, and some half-hearted speeches were made to stage an S.P. “comeback”, there is nothing to indicate that it will not go back to sleep after the elections for another four years ... at least in Minnesota. The putting up of a socialist ticket in the event of the F.L.P. endorsement of Roosevelt might give it a spurt of life – for the period of the campaign – but little more. I say this in view of the fact that in Minnesota the F.L.P. has completely usurped the functions of the S.P. – in fact, the latter is merely a loose faction of the former.

So much for the news. In next week’s Militant the writer will attempt to present a political analysis and draw conclusions with regard to the role of the Communists and the Left Opposition.

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