In the heart of the Depression, hunger marchers in downtown Minneapolis demand an $8 weekly relief grant.*
Minnesotans fared better than most during the first wave of the stock market crash due to the longstanding tradition of private charity. Eventually these reserves were depleted by the sheer numbers of the homeless and unemployed. Below is a citation of the intensity and desperation here by historian Raymond L. Koch:
“After the fall elections of 1930, which saw the Farmer-Labor party gain prominence at the state level of politics with the election of Floyd R. Olson as governor, pressure for action on relief needs rapidly increased from organizations of unemployed persons which had sprouted immediately after the great crash. The day after Olson’s first in- augural speech, a group of Twin Cities Communists arranged a march to the Capitol and staged a demonstration for unemployment relief. They were led by Karl Reeve, district organizer of the Communist party in Minneapolis and leader of a local chapter of the Trade Union Unity League, a Communist-front organization. The group distributed a circular that blasted the American Federation of Labor and the Farmer-Labor party and even accused Olson himself of being a “henchman of the Steel Trust.” Several weeks later the Trade Union Unity League scheduled William Z. Foster, a leading national Communist figure, to speak on March 2, 1931, in the Minneapolis Gateway district, a haven for transients and local homeless and jobless individuals. Mayor William F. Kunze banned the speech, but the league tried to hold a meeting anyway. The result was the “Gateway riot,” as it was called the next day after police broke up the assembled group.”**
For further amplification of the situation read the excerpt below:
“The summer relief crisis reached a peak on July 8, 1932, when approximately seven hundred “hunger marchers” demonstrated again in front of City Hall. They demanded a five-million-dollar appropriation for city relief, an eight-dollar-a-week grant to un- employed workers, and a slum clearance program. Invading the city council chambers, the demonstrators listened to two Farmer-Labor aldermen protest Mayor Anderson’s reappointment of one of the conservative members of the board of public welfare — Mrs. H. S. Godfrey — to another four-year term.”**
Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer. We seek Your insights into this snapshot of a vitriolic moment in the history of Minneapolis. Will You come and restore us into a right relationship with You and others so we do not replicate its offenses and judgments?
We begin by repenting of self-reliance instead of looking to You. Maybe we forgot the Lord’s prayer; “give us this day our daily bread”? Or the coin did not drop into our hearts until we reached the point of daily and literal hunger? In any case, Minneapolitans have judged You and Your Church as being an incompetent providers. Will You forgive when and where we have denied Your Greatness and clung to our depression?
It also seems apparent that this conflict was not solely about what relief was given, but who would get the credit. Prior to this crisis, it appears we helped the poor by a team effort between the cities’ board of public welfare channeled through the direct care of private charities. Where the politicians sought to convert welfare into votes; have mercy. Where private charities blew their own trumpets, and diverted gratitude rightfully Yours onto themselves; have mercy. Will You restore us as a people so that we are more concerned about aid reaching the needy rather than being publicity greedy?
Another bone of contention between protesters and philanthropies derived from the question how the aid would be given. Some with a Marxist worldview advocated for aid to be in the form of direct cash payments. Traditionalists sought a solution of workfare; those seeking aid could barter their labor for food or other assistance. Will You forgive this offense to You, and the drive to power that couldn’t bear to experiment with both methods?
Ultimately, these events originated a rift still extant: will we be a people who value independence, or dependence? In either case, proponents of both philosophies may deny or contain misbeliefs about the concept of interdependence.
Communism has some inherent motive conflicts; it wants equality of outcomes but must rely on capitalism to pay for its programs. It has inherent paradoxical beliefs regarding land and personal property. Simultaneously, it advocates the abolition of private property while seizing the property of those “haves” in order to give it to the “have nots”. It is also interesting to note in this context, that the proponents of a system which hates capital (money), simultaneously agitates for relief to be disbursed in cash rather than barter or another type of exchange in kind. Will You forgive these offenses within the Gateway Riot and the collectivists of the period?
Capitalism of this era also contains perfidy and forms of double-mindedness. Can a market seek a fair price if it is manipulated by its regulators? How can the Federal Reserve system get by without an audit; ever? Only twenty years after its creation it eliminates the gold standard that facilitates irresponsible investments, public debt, and the stock market bubble? Over 9,000 private banks that it conditioned to act as fractional reserve lenders went bankrupt; yet it had no motive in eliminating competition? If this is not duplicitous, then it appears intentional and criminal. Will You forgive the offenses by those who have manipulated the markets and the value of money?
Let us not forget the divisiveness of the Depression that was pushed by the spirit of religion. By this, I mean religion that exists for its own growth rather than humbly pointing seekers to G-d. Imagine the charity that could have happened in this time frame if the Protestants religious leaders of Minneapolis had cooperated with the Catholic leadership of Saint Paul? Imagine the magnanimous state of Minnesota if the leaders of the religion of the Farmer Labor Party had not fought the leaders of the religion of the Democratic Party who fought the leaders of the religion of Republicanism? Too often, we have endured hardship because of pride. For too long, we have suffered rather than compromise with a religious or worldview enemy! In Your mercy, will You forgive us the worship of the mechanics of our religion rather than You? Will You forgive us the bitter judgments of our religious enemies in Minnesota? Will You heal our double-mindedness as a society? We have demanded a gift rather than asked for it from You and our neighbor. Will You make us poor in spirit so we can be rich in love?
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. The one who fears has not been perfected in love. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.*** I John 4:19-21 NIV
* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm
The Minnesota Historical Society Web site, http://www.mnhs.org, is fantastic! Check it out! Images are from https://images.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl; again, an amazing resource!
** Raymond L. Koch.“The Development of Public Relief Programs in Minnesota, 1929-1941.” University of Minnesota, 1968.