Thursday, May 14, 2009

Red Heroes of the 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters Strike: Gus Hall & the CPUSA

"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle."--Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

William Z. Foster wrote in his History of the Communist Party of the United States that "important local general strikes and near-general strikes were a pronounced feature of the years 1934-36." Trotskyites in Teamsters union local 574 are generally credited with being the Red heroes of the 1934 Minneapolis, MN Teamsters Strike (also called the Minneapolis Truckers Strike). Trotskyites and their sympathizers, "with their pathological antagonism towards the Communist Party and the Soviet Union," (Foster) declare the 1934 strike as a victory against both bosses and "Stalinists." We note the contributions made by Trotskyist ex-members of the Communist Party USA to making Minneapolis a union town. But the real "untold story" is the role of Marxist-Leninists in the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934. For, as Gus Hall said: "it would have been a lost strike if it were not for the activities and actions taken by the Communist Party."

(Gus Hall said that the 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters Strike 'would have been a lost strike if it were not for the activities and actions taken by the Communist Party')

The great Communist Gus Hall (known as Arvo Gus Halberg in Minnesota of those days) was recognized for his militancy in the 1934 Teamsters Strike in Minneapolis by an article in the New York Times in 2000. He speaks history in Working Class USA: "in the 1930s a Trotskyite clique got into the leadership of the Teamsters local in Minneapolis. It was a period of great strikes, including the general strike in support of West Coast longshoremen in San Francisco led by Harry Bridges. The Teamsters in Minneapolis also struck. It turned into a bitter battle. The Trotskyites, instead of doing what the West Coast longshoremen did--appealing for support from all the workers and people--played footsie with the governor of the state of Minnesota who was out to break the strike with the use of the National Guard. So the strike began to peter out."

"It would have been a lost strike if it were not for the activities and actions taken by the Communist Party," Gus Hall continues. "I was one of the comrades assigned to give leadership to the strike. The Mayor of Minneapolis had just deputized 15,000 thugs to break the picketline. Developments came to a showdown battle. The Trotskyites repudiated confrontation tactics, but it was the only way to win the strike and it was the only thing that did win it."

And Gus Hall, fighting as a Communist in the trenches with Minneapolis workers in 1934, recalls as a participant the confrontation between thousands of strikers and the 15,000 deputies and the whole police force. He concludes: "To this day the Trotskyites have never admitted that with their opportunistic maneuvering with the Governor they had all but lost the strike. It was our tactic of confrontation at a critical moment and the initiative of workers that won the strike. Tactics of confrontation were correct in the Minneapolis situation." (Gus Hall, "Workers' Initiatives II: The Minneapolis Teamsters Strike," Working Class USA, 1987, International Publishers)