Finns were divided on Communism

Recently, some revisiting of New York Mills history has again brought forth their historical connection to communism, a connection that goes back to the 1920s and 30s.

Recently, some revisiting of New York Mills history has again brought forth their historical connection to communism, a connection that goes back to the 1920s and 30s.

Communism found a ready and willing audience in the Finns who, because of language difficulties, felt segregated from the land of opportunity. Shortly after the turn of the century, this feeling led hundreds of them to leave this country for a promise from Russias Stalin that he, not the USA, had the real land of opportunity for them. His promises faded when he himself was loaded into a black limo in the middle of the night, and never heard from again. Eventually, almost all of those Finnish men were also taken in the night, and never heard from again.

Here in this country, around the Mills area and in other similar groupings in other small towns, the Finns found themselves divided down the middle into Red Finns, and White. The Red meant communism. The halls where the Finns gathered together to share their cultural traditions and speak their native language each chose sides in this battle of communism against democracy. Brother was divided from brother, as each side strove to establish the fact that this side was the best side.

In fact, the cooperative movement, if not actually invented in northern Minnesota, rapidly found fertile sentiment in which to expand. This local tendency toward each town having its own coop oil station, hardware, clothing story, and grocery story is only now beginning to fade from view.

When I moved up here 33 winters ago, the coop movementstill, humorously enough spelled co-op, something I still think is more correctwas alive and well, and I went to work for the local co-op hardware store, and began my career in installing and repairing the various mechanical things that go into homes.


One day, when things were kind of slow, the manager called a bunch of us employees together and proclaimed that: Tomorrow, were going to clean the attic of the clothing store. Groans followed. Stuff had been accumulating up there in this buildingthe oldest and most original of the co-ops buildingssince the early thirties, which is shortly after it moved into New York Mills from Heinola, pronounced Hay-no-la. Heinola, about five miles south of town, was the original home of the co-op, but the attraction of the railroad through Mills was too strong.

The next day, as we were maneuvering dusty cardboard boxes around, I ran across a small 10-page brochure entitled: The communist election platform, 1936. I dont know where the original ended up, but I took it long enough to make a copy of it, which I just found in cleaning out my old office at home.

Its amazing how some of what they say is applicable at this point in time. The American people today face the greatest crisis since the Civil War. It goes on to point to the Depressions effects on citizens, lack of jobs, income, farms sold for pennies on the dollar, and so forth.

Full rights for the Negro people is the very first board in this platform. It states that equal rights to jobs, to serve on juries, hold public office, are guaranteed by the constitution.

Raise taxes on the rich comes shortly after that, as it demands that the budget should not be balanced on the incomes of the working class only; that the rich should be equally included. It also calls for no sales tax; for its immediate repeal.

Defend democratic rights goes on to call for the unrestricted freedom of speech, press, assembly, and the right to organize and strike. We stand for federal legislation which will establish labors full right to collective bargaining&

Actually, a lot of whats stated in here isnt all that different from where we eventually ended up, but through it all runs a consistent thread of socialism. Only when socialism will be established, as today in the Soviet Union, will there be no crisis, no poverty, no unemployment, but abundance and security for all, with the gates of progress open to humanity. (That Soviet Union thing didnt work out so well, though, did it.)

Communism is Twentieth Century Americanism. The Communist Party continues the traditions of 1776, of the birth of our country, of the revolutionary Lincoln, who led the blah, blah, blah.


From here on out, its pretty blatant in its call to vote Communism. However, one page says: But a real peoples party is rising. Organized by the workers and farmers themselves, the Farmer-Labor Party is growing& Unable to put up a presidential ticket this year, it is organizing on a national scale. It fights for local, state and Congressional offices. It is the most hopeful sign in American political life. The Communist Party unconditionally supports the Farmer-Labor Party.

This past support is probably not something todays DFL party members are putting on their calling card here in Minnesota, is it?

Oh, one more notable thing: In 1936, they ran a black man for vice-president.

On the back page of this pamphlet was a complete listing of the Farmer-Labor candidates.

And the following statement: For more information, write to the Communist Party.

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