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A.J. Muste

Across the Country
with Cannon and Muste

(2 February 1935)

From The New Militant, Vol. I No. 8, 2 February 1935, pp. 1 & 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

From A. J. Muste, national secretory of the Workers Party, comes further word of the tour he and James P. Cannon, editor of the New Militant, are making to present the program of the W.P. to the workers of the country. Reports indicate that Comrades Muste and Cannon’s tour is a march of triumph.

MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin is becoming more conservative. Phil LaFollette, of the new Progressive Party, is trying his hand at doing something for the masses with a reformist program. He has an alibi, however, since the Progressives do not control the legislature and so the moral may not be so obvious to the masses as it should be.

An old Brookwood graduate, though not a W.P. sympathizer, got up a meeting here at short notice. They planned to have it in a house but had to transfer to a hall because over fifty wanted to come. If the Chicago District got established, it ought to have little trouble in forming a branch here.

Here our first taste of northwestern cold begins. The train is due at 1 A.M. It crawls in about 3. We are due in Minneapolis at 8 A.M. and get there 5 hours late. Over 30 degrees below zero and a cutting wind. What a reception!

* * *

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Those of us who have heard former C.L.A, comrades go into ecstasies over the Minneapolis strikes, Drivers Local 574 and the Minneapolis militants generally, have sometimes said to ourselves: “They may be good in Minneapolis, but they can’t be that good.” There must have been many, too, who have had a fleeting doubt as to whether Toledo and Minneapolis could live up to their reputations, whether the magnificent battles of 1934 had been a “flash in the pan” or were being followed up in a persistent and militant fashion.

Having now spent five days in Minneapolis, maybe I’ll be accused of “putting it on thick”. I must sing the praises of the movement here. Nothing is clearer than that both here and in Toledo our forces are stronger today, have a firmer hold in the unions, and are working harder than they were a year ago.

We tried to have a conference of the trade union members of our branch the other night and had to wait until nearly eleven because a class in Labor Dramatics, a conference of Bakery Workers and an organization committee meeting of Northern States Power employees were on, and our comrades and the 574 boys were taking leading parts in each. While waiting around, we had a session with a group of progressives from the railroad unions. The Northern States Power employees have a charter from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers under which they are building an industrial union of utility workers, including the office force. It looks like the next big achievement for Minneapolis.

A regular and a special meeting of the party branch, a party mass meeting well attended in spite of 30 below zero weather, a rousing banquet at which sympathizers contributed a substantial sum to the Party Foundation Fund, a meeting of several hundred students and faculty members of the University of Minnesota, a forum in St. Paul and another in Minneapolis, a meeting of the Northwest Unity Conference, the organization of militant unionists in these parts – these items contributed a part of the speaking schedule here! But as suggested above, the weather was cold and bracing, so we have survived.

In fact – we had better make it public lest the comrades conclude that Comrade Cannon and I have gone plutocratic or that the party has come into a fortune – we look like new men. Some of the trade unionists here clubbed together and fitted the two of us out with brand new suits, union label and all!

At the Branch E.C. meeting Sunday morning twelve new members were enrolled. It is expected that a party office will be opened soon.

Our stay here ended as might have been expected in this region where one strike follows on the heels of another. Eight or ten of the comrades were in my room at midnight for a last chat. The telephone rang. Miles Dunne was wanted. Fargo, N.D., was calling. Miles has organized the drivers there. They are on strike for union recognition. The call was from a newspaper man in Fargo and conveyed the news that a few hours before the police force, which has sworn in 300 special deputies in that town of about 25,000 inhabitants, had appeared at union headquarters with warrants for Miles Dunne and two local leaders. The union men refused to open the doors and give up their leaders. So the police shot tear gas bombs through the windows, rounded up 94 strikers and threw them into jail. They did not arrest any of the women and children of whom a considerable number were in the hall. The warrants against Miles Dunne and the other leaders charge rioting and inciting to riot. Thus our gathering was transformed into a council of war. Strike and defense plans were mapped out.

The Workers Party, Local 574 and the other unions in Minneapolis, the organized farmers around Fargo, will get those drivers out of jail and call the bluff of the Fargo reactionaries who think that terrorism can stop the militant labor movement of the northwest. The Non-Partisan Labor Defense may be called upon to help.

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