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Farmer–Labor Party (United States)

Farmer–Labor Party of the United States
Founded 1918
Dissolved 1936
Preceded by Labor Party of the United States
Succeeded by
Political position Left-wing
International affiliation None
Politics of the United States
Political parties

The first modern Farmer–Labor Party in the United States emerged in Minnesota in 1918. Economic dislocation caused by American entry into World War I put agricultural prices and workers' wages into imbalance with rapidly escalating retail prices during the war years, and farmers and workers sought to make common cause in the political sphere to redress their grievances.

Delegates of First National Convention of the Labor Party, 1919, Chicago, Illinois


  • Labor Party of the United States 1
  • Farmer–Labor Party of the United States 2
  • Federated Farmer–Labor Party 3
  • 1924 conferences 4
  • National Farmer–Labor Party 5
  • Congressmen and Senators 6
  • In Song 7
  • Notable members 8
  • Footnotes 9
  • Further reading 10
    • Archives 10.1
  • External links 11

Labor Party of the United States

One primary contributing stream to the Farmer–Labor movement was the Labor Party movement. An

  • Tim Davenport, Farmer–Labor Party (1918–1924): Organizational History," Early American Marxist History] website, Corvallis, OR. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
  • The Grassroots Labor Parties of 1919-1920: A Missed Opportunity for Labor, Socialist Organizer.
  • "Profile of the Farmer Labor Party," Buttons and Ballots, Issue 10, July 1997. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

External links

  • William Morley Bouck Papers. 1918-1941. .11 cubic foot plus 10 items. Contains records from Bouck's running as vice president of the United States on the Farmer-Labor ticket. At the Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.


  • Luoma, Everett E.: The Farmer Takes A Holiday. Exposition Press, 1967.
  • Mollie Ray Carroll. Labor and Politics. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1923.
  • Hamilton Cravens, "The Emergence of the Farmer–Labor Party in Washington Politics, 1919-1920," Pacific Northwest Quarterly, vol. 57, no. 4 (October 1966), pp. 148–157. in JSTOR
  • Farrell Dobbs, Revolutionary Continuity — Volume 1: Birth of Communist Movement, 1918-1922. New York: Monad Press, 1983.
  • Nathan Fine, Labor and Farmer Parties in the United States, 1828 - 1928. New York: Rand School of Social Science, 1928.
  • Millard L. Gieske, Minnesota Farmer-Laborism: The Third Party Alternative. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1979.
  • Harry W. Laidler, Toward a Farmer–Labor Party. League for Industrial Democracy, New York. 1938.
  • David Montgomery, The Farmer–Labor Party,in Paul Buhle and Alan Dawley, editors, American Workers from the Revolution to the Present. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985.
  • Robert Murray, Red Scare: A Study in National Hysteria, 1919-1920. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1955.
  • C.E. Ruthenberg, The Farmer-Labor United Front. Chicago: Literature Department, Workers Party of America, 1924.
  • Carl Sandburg, "The Farmer-Labor Conference," Survey, vol. 48 (February 21, 1920), pp. 604–606.
  • Stanley Shapiro, "Hand and Brain: The Farmer–Labor Party of 1920," Labor History,Vol. 26, No. 3, Summer 1985; pp. 405–422.
  • Richard M. Valelly, Radicalism in the States: The Minnesota Farmer–Labor Party and the American Political Economy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.
  • James Mickel Williams, The Foundations of Social Science, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1920; pg. 494.
  • Robert H. Zieger, Republicans and Labor: 1919-1929. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1969.

Further reading

  1. ^ The Labor Party Convention. by A.S. Carm. Published in The Weekly People, Socialist Labor Party, v. 29, no. 36 (Dec. 6, 1919), pg. 1.x
  2. ^ Work, John M. (October 20, 1919). "Rethinking the Labor Party" (PDF). Milwaukee Leader 8 (268): 2. Retrieved 2014-10-01. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Solon DeLeon and Nathan Fine (eds.), The American Labor Year Book, 1929. (NY: Rand School of Social Science, 1929), pg. 144;
  5. ^ Theodore Draper, American Communism and Soviet Russia. (NY: Viking, 1960), pp. 29–30.
  6. ^ 1920 Presidential Election Statistics
  7. ^ 2004 Presidential General Election Results
  8. ^ Willis Fletcher Johnso, Roscoe C. E. Brown, Walter Whipple Spooner, and Willis Holly, History of the State of New York: Political and Governmental. The Syracuse Press, 1922; pp. 347–348, 350.
  9. ^ James Oneal, American Communism, (NY: Rand Book Store, 1927), pg. 162.
  10. ^ Theodore Draper, American Communism and Soviet Russia, pg. 39
  11. ^ James Oneal, American Communism, pp. 162–163.
  12. ^ C.E. Ruthenberg, "Report of the Central Executive Committee," in The Second Year of the Workers Party of America. (Chicago: Literature Department, WPA, 1924), pg. 17.
  13. ^ James Oneal, American Communism, (NY: Rand Book Store, 1927), pp. 168–169.
  14. ^ C.E. Ruthenberg, "Report of the Central Executive Committee," in The Second Year of the Workers Party of America. (Chicago: Literature Department, WPA, 1924), pp. 18–19.
  15. ^ Theodore Draper, American Communism and Soviet Russia, pg. 75.
  16. ^ Solon DeLeon and Nathan Fine (eds.), The American Labor Year Book, 1925. (NY: Rand School of Social Science, 1925), pp. 145–148
  17. ^ Daily Worker, March 13, 1924, pg. 2.
  18. ^ 2004 Presidential General Election Results
  19. ^ 2004 Presidential General Election Results


  • Konrad K. Solberg – Minnesota legislator and the 27th Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, 1933–1935.
  • Elmer Austin Benson – U.S. Senator from Minnesota, 1935–1936; Governor of Minnesota, 1937–1939
  • Magnus Johnson – U.S. Senator from Minnesota, 1923–1925; U.S. Representative from Minnesota, 1933–1935
  • Ernest Lundeen – U.S. Representative from Minnesota, 1917–1919 and 1933–1937, U.S. Senator from Minnesota, 1937–1940
  • Floyd B. Olson – Governor of Minnesota, 1931–1936
  • Hjalmar Petersen – Governor of Minnesota, 1936–1937
  • Henrik Shipstead – U.S. Senator from Minnesota, 1923–1941 (switched to the Republican Party during the 1940 election and served another term as a Republican)

Notable members

Woody Guthrie wrote the song "Farmer-Labor Train".

Folksinger and Farmer-Labor supporter Jim Garland wrote the song "I Don't Want Your Millions, Mister," in which he sings, "Take the two old parties, mister,/No difference in them I can see./But with a Farmer-Labor party,/We will set the workers free."

In Song

Henrik Shipstead - March 4, 1923, to January 3, 1947
Magnus Johnson - July 16, 1923, to March 4, 1925
Elmer Austin Benson - December 27, 1935, to November 3, 1936
Ernest Lundeen - January 3, 1937 to August 31, 1940

During the same period, Minnesota was represented in the United States Senate at various times by four Farmer-Labor senators, either for full terms or partial terms:

1918 - 1 seat
1920 - No seats
1922 - 2 seats
1924 - 3 seats
1926 - 2 seats
1928 - 1 seat
1930 - 1 seat
1932 - 5 seats
1934 - 3 seats
1936 - 5 seats
1938 - 1 seat
1940 - 1 seat
1942 - 1 seat

The Farmer–Labor Party continued to exist as a successful state party in Minnesota until 1944, when it merged with the Democratic Party of that state to form the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL). Minnesota elected Farmer-Labor candidates to the United States House of Representatives in all but one election between 1918 and 1942:

Congressmen and Senators

There were subsequent attempts to reconstitute a national Farmer–Labor Party into the 1930s, without the participation of either the CPUSA or the Socialist Party. Frank Webb was the remnant party's candidate in 1928. For the 1932 Presidential election, Jacob Coxey campaigned as the Farmer–Labor Party candidate in a few states. In neither election did the party receive more than 8,000 votes.[18][19]

The demise of the Federated Farmer–Labor Party did not mean an end to the Farmer–Labor Party movement, however. The regular Farmer–Labor Party continued to exist at the state level, with state and local organizations in Minnesota, Colorado, Utah, Illinois, Kentucky, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Missouri, Washington, the Dakotas, and elsewhere. The national organization continued under the leadership of National Chairman W.M. Piggott and National Secretary Bert Miller. The group's 1920 Presidential candidate, Parley Parker Christensen, attended the Dec. 12, 1924, meeting of the National Committee of the Conference for Progressive Political Action and was made a member of the committee of arrangements for the CPPA's forthcoming February 21–22, 1925, conference. A Convention of the loyal members of the Farmer–Labor Party was called for that same time and place, where it aimed to cooperate with the CPPA in the formation of a labor party.

National Farmer–Labor Party

The June 1924 Convention of the Farmer–Labor Party (in which the Federated Farmer–Labor Party participated as a member organization) was attended by over 500 delegates representing 26 states. The convention discussed the upcoming run of Sen. Robert LaFollette, Sr. for President. LaFollette, a bitter opponent of the Workers Party of America, did not seek the endorsement of the convention, which proceeded to nominate its own candidates for President and Vice President of the United States—Duncan McDonald and William Bouck, respectively. The National Committee of the FLP met in Cleveland on July 4 and elected delegates to the Conference for Progressive Political Action. W.M. Piggott of Utah was re-elected as National Chairman and Bert Martin of Denver as National Secretary. On July 10, 1924, after the endorsement of LaFollette by the CPPA at Cleveland, a majority of the National Executive Committee withdrew the nominations of MacDonald and Bouck and pledged support to an independent campaign of the Workers Party. By the end of 1924, the Federated FLP had ceased to exist.

There was pressure placed on the Farmer–Labor Party to purge itself of Communists and to postpone its next convention until July 4, 1924, so that it might meet jointly with that of the Conference for Progressive Political Action. On March 18, 1924, National Secretary Jay G. Brown wrote to the National Committee asking for a vote on the question of holding a convention on July 4 at Cleveland. This convention was not called. Brown resigned as National Secretary, to be replaced on a temporary basis by Robert M. Buck, who soon resigned as well. National Chairman W.M. Piggott then appointed Bert Martin as National Secretary and headquarters were moved from Chicago to Denver.[16][17]

An effort was made by some members of the Farmer–Labor Party of the United States to merge the convention of the FLP with that of the Conference for Progressive Political Action, an attempt which was unsuccessful. This group also attempted to remove all national political parties from the convention call—the intended effect being to exclude the Workers (Communist) Party from participation. This effort failed as well.

A Conference of the Farmer–Labor Party was held in St. Paul on March 11–12, 1924, at which it was decided to hold its next National Convention on June 17 in that same city. A convention call was issued for that gathering, which called for farmer, labor, and political organizations to send delegates provided that they subscribed to a five point "tentative program" that called for public ownership, government banking, public control of all natural resources, restoration of civil liberties, and the abolition of the use of the injunction in labor disputes.

1924 conferences

The notion of a "Federated Farmer–Labor Party" closely paralleled the organizational ideal for a third party then currently being advanced, the Socialist Party—an organization modelled upon the British Labour Party to which political organizations (like the WPA and the SPA) might affiliate without losing their independent organizational identity. The Socialist Party sought the establishment of an American "Labor Party" via the CPPA—and failed. The Workers Party successfully "captured" the Farmer–Labor Party organization, only to lose the allegiance of the mass organizations that they with which they so eagerly desired to unite.

[15] The Workers Party gained a majority for its program and established a "Federated Farmer–Labor Party" at this convention. Structural iron worker

The July 1923 Conference of the FLP was attended by approximately 540 delegates. The Workers Party seems to have made every effort to capture a majority at the gathering. At the convention itself, it used a disciplined caucus system, with groups of ten on the floor led by a group captain.[13] The Workers Party delegates to the July 3 Conference were guided by a steering committee of the Central Executive Committee. During debate on the organization plan at the conference, [14]

Federated Farmer–Labor Party

[12] In the middle of June 1923, a subcommittee of the Central Executive Committee of the

In March 1923, the Farmer–Labor Party of Chicago broke away from the CPPA and decided to proceed to the immediate formation of a national Farmer–Labor political organization. Circa May, over the signature of J.G. Brown of the Farmer–Labor Party of the United States there was issued a call for a "Monster Political Convention of the Workers of America" to meet in Chicago on July 3. The convention call was issued to trade unions, state Farmer–Labor Parties, the United Front strategy. The Socialist Party on the other hand, was extremely hesitant. The SPA carefully considered this matter at its May 19–23, 1923, New York Convention before declining to participate in the FLP Convention, instead seeing the CPPA as the vehicle for a new Labor Party.[10][11]

The Farmer–Labor Party sent delegates to the second conference of the Conference for Progressive Political Action, which met December 11–12, 1922, in Cleveland. The conference defeated a motion to establish an independent political party by a vote of 52–64, with the Socialist and Farmer–Labor Party delegations on the short side. At the close of the conference, the Farmer–Labor Party delegation announced that they would no longer affiliate with the CPPA.[9]

The 1922 Convention of the Farmer–Labor Party was attended by 72 delegates, representing organizations in 17 states. British Labour Party.

In November 1921, as part of a lengthy world tour, Parley Parker Christensen obtained two interviews with Lenin in Moscow. The official organ of the Farmer–Labor Party was a newspaper published in Chicago called The New Majority. Editor of this paper was Robert Buck, a Fitzpatrick-Nockles loyalist.

In July 1920, the Labor Party of the United States changed its name to the Farmer–Labor Party. It nominated Utah lawyer Parley P. Christensen for President of the United States. Christensen finished particularly strongly in Washington, netting over 77,000 votes in that state alone.[6] In total, Christensen received over 265,000 votes from voters of the 19 states in which the Farmer–Labor Party was on the ballot.[7] Also during the 1920 election, the Farmer-Labor Party candidate for the United States Senate in Washington state, C. L. France received 25% of the vote, coming in second place. This was the best performance by the Farmer-Labor Party in a state election outside Minnesota, which would soon become its main stronghold. The party's candidate for Governor of New York was Dudley Field Malone, a former Democratic Collector of the Port of New York, who achieved 69,908 votes in the state election, versus 159,804 for the Socialist candidate Joseph D. Cannon. However Rose Schneiderman, the party's candidate for U.S. Senator from New York only received 15,086 votes versus 151,246 for Socialist Jacob Panken.[8]

Farmer–Labor Party of the United States

One important gathering that was a precursor to the establishment of a national Farmer–Labor Party was the Cooperative Congress, held in Chicago on February 12, 1920. The gathering included participants from the Plumb Plan League. The congress elected a 12 person All-American Farmer–Labor Cooperative Commission. The event was closely reported in the pages of The Liberator by Robert Minor.[3][4][5]


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