|National Secretary of the |
Socialist Workers Party
|James P. Cannon|
|Born||July 25, 1907|
Queen City, Missouri
|Died||October 31, 1983 (aged 76)|
|Children||Carol E. DeBerry, Mary Lou Montauk, Sharon Lee Finer|
|Parents||Isaac Turl Dobbs, Ora Lenore Smith|
|Occupation||Politician, trade unionist, historian|
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 (Minneapolis, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.