Farrell Dobbs

Farrell Dobbs
Born (1907-07-25)July 25, 1907
Queen City, Missouri
Died October 31, 1983(1983-10-31) (aged 76)
Pinole, CA
Occupation Politician, trade unionist, historian
Spouse(s) Marvel Scholl
Children Carol E. DeBerry, Mary Lou Montauk, Sharon Lee Finer
Parent(s) Isaac T. Dobbs, Ora Lenore Smith

Farrell Dobbs (July 25, 1907 October 31, 1983) was an American Trotskyist, trade unionist, politician, and historian.

Early years

Dobbs was born in Queen City, Missouri, where his father was a worker in a coal company garage. The family moved to Minneapolis, and he graduated from North High School (North St. Paul, Minnesota) in 1925. In 1926, he left for North Dakota to find work, but returned the following fall. At this point, young Farrell Dobbs was a conservative Republican, and supported Herbert Hoover for president in 1928.

Moves leftward, connects with Teamsters

However, his political viewpoint was changed during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Seeing the plight of workers in that situation (including himself), he became politically radicalized to the left.

In 1933, while working for the Pittsburgh Coal Company in Minneapolis, Dobbs joined the Teamsters. After getting to know the three Trotskyist Dunne brothers, (Miles, Vincent and Grant Dunne) and Swedish socialist Carl Skoglund, he joined the Communist League of America. Dobbs was one of the initiators of a general strike in Minneapolis, and for a while worked full-time as a union organizer.

He was influential in the Teamsters' shift from emphasis on local delivery work to over-the-road traffic, which keyed their great expansion towards becoming the largest union in the United States.[1]

Dobbs quit in 1939 to work for the new Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Dobbs met the Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky when he visited Mexico shortly before Trotsky's death in 1940.

Mentors Hoffa

Dobbs served as mentor and advisor to a young Jimmy Hoffa, while Hoffa was making his rise within the Teamsters, eventually becoming its president in 1957. Dobbs primarily inspired Hoffa with his view that the capitalist system was a Darwinian struggle, where power, rather than morality, was the primary factor determining the eventual outcome.[2]

Jailed under Smith Act

For opposing World War II, he and other leaders of the SWP and the Minneapolis Teamsters were convicted of violating the Smith Act, which made it illegal to "conspire to advocate the violent overthrow of the United States Government." He served over a year in Federal Correctional Institution, Sandstone, from 1944 to 1945.

Presidential candidate, supports Fidel Castro

After his release, he became the editor of the SWP's newspaper, The Militant. From 1948 to 1960 he was the SWP's candidate for President of the United States, running in four elections. He succeeded James P. Cannon as national secretary of the party in 1953, serving until 1972.

In 1960, Farrell Dobbs and Joseph Hansen, Trotsky’s former secretary in Mexico, went to Cuba to experience the revolutionary movement there. The two American Trotskyists decided to fully support the Cuban Revolution and the leadership of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

Later life

Farrell Dobbs retired in 1972, but remained in the party until his death in 1983. He devoted the later part of his life to historical documentation of the American leftist movement and the Minnesota Teamsters. Dobbs was the author of a four-volume history / memoir of the Minneapolis struggles: Teamster Rebellion, Teamster Power, Teamster Politics and Teamster Bureaucracy. He had completed two volumes of a planned history of the Marxist movement in the United States at the time of his death, titled: Revolutionary Continuity: The Early Years, 1848-1917 and Birth of the Communist Movement, 1918-1922.

Major works

See also


  1. The Kennedys: An American Drama, by Peter Collier (political author) and David Horowitz, Summit Books, 1984, New York, ISBN 0-671-44793-9, p. 221
  2. The Kennedys: An American Drama, by Peter Collier (political author) and David Horowitz, Summit Books, 1984, New York, ISBN 0-671-44793-9, p. 221

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Socialist Workers Party nominee for
President of the United States

1948, 1952, 1956, 1960
Succeeded by
Clifton DeBerry
Preceded by
James P. Cannon
National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party
Succeeded by
Jack Barnes
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