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Vincent R. Dunne

Stalinists Raid the Co-ops

The Party Wins Another “Victory” in Superior!

(December 1929)

From The Militant, Vol. II No. 19, 7 December 1929, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The Communist Party in the Minneapolis-Superior district has just committed the crowning blunder of the long series since the expulsion of the Opposition. Not that it is a district matter alone; far from it. It is merely the scene, because of the location of the cooperative movement in Superior and it makes Karl Reeve, Party district organizer, the official splitter of the movement and places heavy responsibilities upon the comrades of the Communist League here.

As is already known, the Party, because of the Third Period, must secure a stranglehold upon all the auxiliary organizations. The bell has been sounded now for the cooperatives. The Party has therefore mobilized its most reckless crusaders and marched into the North country.

The Hi-Jackers at Work

The professional disrupters and faction agents, Minor and Stachel, were sent together with a host of others to demand that the Cooperative Central Exchange not only donate $3,000.00 for the T.U.U.L. convention and $5,000.00 for other Party work, but in addition that a yearly assessment be levied by the Party upon the Exchange to the amount of one percent of the gross sales, which would amount to about $17,000.00 this year. Also, that all the employees of the Exchange and its member stores should be Party functionaries, that is, the salesmen, truck drivers, clerks, etc., must devote the major part of their time to the organizing of the iron miners and Party units, and in spare time, build the cooperatives.

The Party hi-jackers demanded as a first step that George Halonen (“as the outstanding Right winger”) be removed from his post as Educational Director of the Exchange. This suggestion was not well received by the Executive Board. In fact, the Board – of 13, I believe – voted unanimously against it although there are seven Party members on this body. The Board issued a statement for publication in Tyomies, the official organ of the Exchange. At that time the Party had somewhat a better (or worse?) crew in charge of the paper who not only refused to publish the statement but came out with a long and vicious statement against the Board in general and Halonen and Ronn in particular.

As, its next move, the Executive called seven sub-district meetings of the cooperatives which were, of course, attended by hundreds of members, at which their statement was read, discussed and indorsed overwhelmingly.

Reckless Party Adventure

One might think that these developments would give the Party pause. Not at all. It seems that they were overjoyed. Had not these cooperative comrades proved that they were agents of the capitalists? Of course. Then more pressure, still more pressure! The cooperatives must be saved or destroyed! Reeve, Pobersky, Bernick, Puro, Heikkinen and a dozen more small fry, together with an unnamed representative from the Party center, and TWO representatives of the Comintern, were wheeled into position. The conferences and meetings which had been going on almost without number were pushed on to new and higher levels – the situation growing more tense and the Party steadily losing ground.

The Executive Board had in the meantime prepared the Pyramid Builder, the monthly organ of the Central Exchange, containing the statement of the Board. The P.B. however, is printed in the Tyomies plant. Now it seems that the Stalin men had not thought of this until it was already being run. I am sure that the natural and orderly processes of publication were somewhat hurried by the workers in the plant who are to a man in sympathy with the Executive Board. At any rate, about 3 out of the 5 thousand copies were carried away by individuals in private cars while the Stalin boys were on the lookout for the Executive’s truck.

When they finally came to and discovered what was going on, Reeve, with a group of Y.C.L. members and a few others, rushed the plant and succeeded in burning some of the remaining copies. A free-for-all started in which Reeve and the others were driven up the street with heavy losses.

Result: Superior is an armed camp. Guards of the Party are posted in the Tyomies and the Hall. The other comrades have complete control of the Cooperative Central Exchange which is also under armed guard. The Party has lost the control and sympathy of the cooperatives, with their 20,000 members. The control of the Tyomies is at best a doubtful one.

The situation is extremely tense and unless the proper steps are taken there can be grievous consequences for the whole labor and revolutionary movement in this section of the country at least. Most of the workers have broken away from the Party essentially because of its wild and devil-may-care policy of arbitrary, mechanical control – or destruction. But the struggle against this policy of the Party is not sufficient or an end in itself. Unless this movement is enriched with a program which sees the roots of the difficulties in a broader field than the cooperative movement, which sees them in the whole present course of the leadership of the Communist International and its American counterpart, it will inevitably lead in the wrong direction.

No Turning from the Left!

It is not difficult for this movement to become – under the provocations of the Stalinists and the maneuverings of the Allanes and other outspoken Right wing elements – an anti-Communist movement, which will end in transforming the cooperatives into a plaything of the reactionaries and discrediting its leaders. The entirely factional and reckless policy of the Party for years has led up to this climax. The militants have the hard job of preventing a move in this direction and guiding it instead into healthy working class channels.

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