1934: Mill City Revolt
The Minneapolis Teamsters Strike
4 years ago

S1E1 - We Have Been Here Before

Introduction

Episode Notes

My first podcast ever! Hi all, welcome to 1934: Mill City Revolt, a podcast that explores the context, lessons, and play-by-play of the Minneapolis Teamsters Strike. In this episode, I compare the situations of 1934 and today, introduce my Marxist perspective, and layout the roadmap for the rest of our story.

This is a totally new experience for me and I am a one-man-show: I do the writing, recording, editing, publishing, etc. Please let me know ASAP if there are audio issues, if I should work on enunciation, speed up the reading, or anything else you may suggest.

If you like what you hear, please leave a tip if you can. I need to pay the rent!

Correction: In the episode I mention the post-war period as quiet with regard to labor struggles. I actually meant the 1970s and 1980s.

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3 years ago

S1E2 - The Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie

Episode Notes

Thank you all for your support! Please check the link to the 'tip jar' below if you would like to support my work!

This episode covers the story's major antagonist, the Minneapolis Citizen's Alliance, and its thirty-year war on organized labor. We cover the reasons for its founding, its capitalist ideology (and a Marxist critique of it), and specific historical instances of the organization at work and the tools they used.

The title comes from Karl Marx who argued that society was ruled by capitalists, both in the economy and in the state (legislatures, courts, bureaucracy, military, police, etc.). While Millikan does not use this term to describe the Citizens' Alliance, the CA's close alliance with the state and its unusual control of the local economy warranted the description, in my view.

I forgot to note that the first strike I cover, the streetcar strike, occurred in 1889.

Major historical source: William Millikan, Union Against Unions The Minneapolis Citizens Alliance and Its Fight Against Organized Labor, 1903–1947 (Minnesota Historical Society: 2003).

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3 years ago

S1E3 - Governor Floyd B. Olson and the Farmer-Labor Party

Episode Notes

This episode we cover the crucial political developments that form the background of the strike: Minnesota's unique second party, the Farmer-Laborites and its moderate/rebellious gubernatorial leader, Floyd B. Olson.

If you can, please consider donating via the tip jar link below or via Venmo @Kele-Cable. Any amount is appreciated!

Main Sources: George H. Mayer, The Political Career of Floyd B. Olson by George H. Mayer (UMN Press, 1951). Gieske, Millard L., Minnesota Farmer-Laborism: The Third-Party Alternative (UMN Press, 1979). Valelly, Richard M., Radicalism in the States: The Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party and the American Political Economy (UChicago Press, 1989).

Note: The gubernatorial candidate Charles A. Lindbergh I mention is not the aviator, but the aviator's father.

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3 years ago

S1E4 - Marx, Skogie, and the Dunne Brothers

Episode Notes

After a longer than intended delay, here is Episode 4, the last of the long background episodes! Today we take on quite a lot: Who was Karl Marx, why did he criticize capitalism and want to overthrow it for socialism? Why did our strikeleaders take on Marx's philosophy? And anyway, who are the strikeleaders?

Following an introduction to Karl Marx, the episode introduces Carl Skoglund, the "Old Swede," and the three Dunne Brothers, Ray, Miles, and Grant. Given Skoglund's and Ray Dunne's own membership in their early years, we also discuss the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) and their political philosophy. We then turn to the Russian Revolution, the formation of the Communist Party, and its later split, and how all of this influenced the political scene of Minneapolis. Like I say in the episode, this is a lot! But it's all necessary.

Because we are discussing the IWW, I want to point out their important ongoing work in helping facilitate the nationwide prison strike. You can read more about it here.

Main Sources (not about the Teamsters): For Marx's ideas, straight from the source itself: Karl Marx, Value, Price, and Profit.

For another take on Marx's political and economic ideas, this 4-minute 8-Bit Philosophy video on Youtube is a good introduction.

For syndicalism, Wobblies, and their interaction with the Bolsheviks: Ralph Darlington, Radical Unionism.

For the Russian Revolution: Victor Serge, Year One of the Russian Revolution.

For a readable account of and introduction to the Russian Revolution, check out October by popular science-fiction author, China Mieville.

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3 years ago

S1E5 - President FDR's Mixed Message to Labor

Episode Notes

One last pre-strike episode! In this very short episode, we patch up a glaring hole so far in the narrative: President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. Rather than a full-blown analysis of the New Deal, we discuss his impact specifically on labor law. It's very much a mixed bag.

Next episode: The February Whirlwind Strike!

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Find out more on the 1934: Mill City Revolt website.

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3 years ago

S1E6 - Introducing... The Teamsters

Episode Notes

An accidental two-part episode! What I recorded came out to over 50 minutes and so I just had to split it in half. If the episode seems to end abruptly, that is why.

This week: building towards the first strike throughout the year of 1933. We introduce Farrell Dobbs, the Teamsters and its national president Daniel Tobin, Local 574 and its president, Bill Brown, and their relationships with the Dunne Brothers and Karl Skoglund. We also bring back the Citizens' Alliance and their previous dealings with the Teamsters back in 1916 as well as their choice of mayor and police chief during the Depression, Buzz Bainbridge and Mike Johannes. There's a lot going on even in just preparing for a strike!

I failed to note in the episode itself that Farrell Dobbs is one of the major historical sources for the podcast, particularly his book, Teamster Rebellion. So he is both a player in the story and one of its storytellers.

Next week: The February Whirlwind Strike!

Sources:

Teamster Rebellion by Farrell Dobbs. Revolutionary Teamsters by Bryan D. Palmer. A Union Against Unions by William Millikan. The Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934 by Philip A. Korth. American City by Charles Rumford Walker.

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3 years ago

S1E7 - The February Whirlwind Strike, or, the Dress Rehearsal

Episode Notes

We have finally arrived! The first strike of 1934!

This episode is technically the second part of what I wrote for episode 6, but to save you from a 50 minute episode, I split it in half. We discuss the Labor Boards, Local 574 organizers' maneuvering around conservative labor bureaucrats, their strategies for timing the strike, and then the 3-day coal yard strike itself. As the title implies, this was only a practice run for the next two strikes in May and July-August.

Also, watch out for the first of the newspaper episodes to come out soon!

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3 years ago

S1E8 - The Unrest Before the Storm

Episode Notes

In this episode we cover the events of February through May as the aftermath of the February Whirlwind Strike continues to take shape. Local 574 continued its impressive organizing campaigns, the unemployed led marches agaisnt the Roosevelt administration, Farrell Dobbs joins the Communist League, small strike within the city faced mixed results, and the Farmer-Labor Governor Floyd B. Olson returns (from Episode 3), endorsing the "union idea." Even when the Teamsters weren't striking, the Minneapolis working class remained in motion.

For more on the unemployed movement, see Poor People's Movements by Frances Fox Piven & Richard Cloward and Impatient Armies of the Poor by Franklin Folsom.

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3 years ago

S1E9 - Negotiations and Preparations

Episode Notes

In the last episode, we discussed the aftermath of the February Whirlwind Strike and the run-up to the May strikes. In this episode, we discuss the negotiations and preparations each side took in the first weeks of May. We finish with a reading from Ray Dunne's article in Militant, the Communist League's newspaper, in which he assessed the situation just prior to May 15th. The next episode: The first few days of the strike, including the Tribune Alley Plot, setting the stage for the Battle of Deputies Run.

I recorded the first minute a few weeks after the rest, so there is a sudden voice change. I apologize for not being able to keep the audio consistent across episodes -- I need a studio!

Happy New Year! Let's Make 2019 A Year of Struggle!

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3 years ago

S1E10 - The Strike Machine and The Tribune Alley Plot

Episode Notes

The May Strike begins!

In this episode, we cover the first four days of 1934's second strike. We discuss Teamster Local 574's tactics and strike headquarters, Governor Olson's attempts to reconcile the two forces, the Mayor's hiring of 500 additional cops plus the Citizens' Alliance formation of a private army, a small battle on Saturday morning, and a treacherous ambush later that night.

The next episode: The Battle of Deputies' Run.

Sources: Teamster Rebellion by Farrell Dobbs. The Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934 by Phillip Korth. American City by Charles Rumford Walker. Revolutionary Teamsters by Bryan D. Palmer.

Support 1934: Mill City Revolt by donating to the tip jar: https://tips.pinecast.com/jar/1934-mill-city-revolution

Find out more on the 1934: Mill City Revolt website.

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