Whatcha thinkin about?

Thought it would be worth posting a little about what’s going on and what I’ve been reading and researching.

As I made clear in my last post, I’ve been reading The Communist Party and the Auto Workers Unions by Roger Keeran. Been moving pretty slowly thought it, having started it last fall. But while at Junior Wobblies camp in the Iron Range, I tore thought nearly the whole thing and am almost finished. In the process of making an outline for a review.

Speaking of that book, I typed up a small section of it that centers around the CPUSA and American Workers Party involvement in the 1934 Toledo Auto-Lite strike. It’s part of a personal effort of trying to utilize libcom to build the best resource for articles about the CIO and AFL from the 1920s-1950s. This sort of corresponds to my interest in the Communist Party USA, its associated groupings, and the various Trotskyist splitoffs during the same period. While I don’t necessarily sympathize with the Leninist politics, coming up through anarchism, I never really got a full picture of these groups and that period. Sure, I learned a lot about the Spanish Revolution, May 1968 and the anti-globalization movement, but not much about important American struggles. Some of this is because the history is just not known. For example, I never heard of most of the stuff I’ve posted on Iowa Radical History before stumbling on them during exhaustive Google searches. Even in liberal Minnesota, which as a union and radical history that is fairly well maintained, I had no idea until yesterday that a building in which I spent partying on NYE 2012, as well as being across the street from a warehouse I worked in for 2 years, was the site of a bloody strike in 1935.

Anyway, speaking of Minneapolis history, this weekend was the 80th Anniversary of Bloody Friday, an event during the Teamsters strike in 1934 in which police opened fire on strikers, killing 2 and wounding at least 50. Some local IWWers were heavily involved in Remember ’34, a committee that put on a number of events, such as book releases, movie showings, picnics and marches. They also put on a street festival with music, art and speakers. I took a bunch of pics which you can view here, if interested.

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In between musical acts, a mixture of descendants of strikers and people involved in working class struggle today spoke. I think probably my favorite part was when two older Wobblys who are siblings talked about their grandpa and great-uncles, the Dunne Brothers. I always knew they were related to some key strikers, but I had no idea it was the Dunnes, who were not only former Wobs, but were the key Trotskyist Communist League of America leaders in Local 574 during the strike. Later, Ray got slammed with the Smith Act during WW2. Much of the Trotskyist faction in the Minneapolis Teamsters were imprisoned and their local was purged. Back to the brother and sister IWWers who spoke, one of them has daughters who are active in dual card education organizing here and the other has a son who played Joe Hill in a recent play that was written by someone who was part of the Starbucks Workers Union at the Mall of America in the early 2000s. So here is, in one family, a lineage that goes from some of early IWW Free Speech Fights of 1907 to 2014 Food & Retail and dual card IWW campaigns. This is fascinating to me.

Looking around for stuff on Ray Dunne, I found that he wrote a scathing review of Ralph Chaplin’s autobiography back in 1949. I haven’t read it, but fellow Twin Cities Wob John O’Reilly described it to me as “check out all this cool ass labor shit I did and how I got jailed for it, and that’s why Jesus Christ is my personal lord and savior. Oh, and fuck Communism!” I’m liberally paraphrasing of course. Dunne also wrote an article in 1929 about some meetings in Minneapolis of the Trotskyists who had just been expelled from the CPUSA. Apparantly, the first meeting was attacked and disrupted by Stalinists, so the IWW cancelled one of their own events so the Trotskyists could hold a second meeting, this time with Wobbly security. The last article of note was also written by Dunne in 1929, and describes a conflict between various factions in the Cooperative movement in Northern Minnesota. It mentions Tyomies, which was a Finnish language newspaper that was partial to the CPUSA. Tyomies also had a strong association with Mesaba Co-Op Park, where the relaunched Work People College was held and Junior Wobblies this year. Check out these pictures I took. One of an old picture I found at the camp. Notice the Tyomies sign. The second pic is, if not the same structure, then the same type of structure in pretty much the same place today.

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