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The Farmers Union, McCarthyism, & the demise of the agrarian left
by William C. Pratt



The cold war took a toll on U.S. liberalism. Subjected to McCarthyite attacks, liberals often had to defend themselves rather than advance their agenda. In many cases, besieged reformers adopted a defensive strategy, attempting to portray themselves as more anti-communist than their conservative opponents. Recent scholarship on these subjects provides us with a rather tarnished image of U.S. liberalism. In a manner of speaking, the liberal response to McCarthyism itself often was illiberal. The country's leading liberal farm organization - the National Farmers Union (NFU) - coped with cold war pressures in the decade after 1945 by moving toward the political center and assuming a more conservative stance. Thus, the cold war years marked a major transition in the history of this farm group.(1)


The NFU was formed in 1902. Its organizers were veterans of the populist movement and the organization claimed a populist image for much of its history. It was not a political movement but rather a farm organization, more like a trade union than a political party. It built cooperatives, educated farmers and their families, lobbied state legislators and congressmen, and often sided with organized labor. The Farmers Union was the country's third largest farm organization and the only one consistently left-of-center. Its membership was concentrated in the Upper Midwest and on the plains, with its greatest influence in states such as North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma. In the late 1930s, a pro-New Deal faction took over the national leadership and remained in control throughout the period covered in this study.(2)


The NFU played a major role in the left wing of the New Deal coalition in the 1940s. Its president, James G. Patton, was a national figure with a standing in liberal circles, and he was not publicly identified as a strident anti-communist. His organization seemed part of a left-liberal political movement or what some historians have characterized as popular front liberalism. Patton and the Farmers Union often had the hacking of communists in the 1940s and there was no public parting of the ways until the 1948 Wallace campaign. Even then, the NFU leadership remained critical of the Truman Doctrine and the administration's internal security program. One 1950 observer claimed: "Proud of the fact that it consists of basic American radicals, the Farmers Union has, by word and deed, shown that it will not be dissuaded by red herrings and witch-hunts from winning its objectives of fighting monopoly and building up regional developments, improving public health and educational services and liberalizing our foreign policy." Yet, there was a considerable range of opinion on many issues within the organization. Until 1950, a left-liberal grouping made national policy while more conservative elements within the union were normally outflanked. This would change with the outbreak of fighting in Korea.(3)


There were strong conservative pockets in the Farmers Union, such as the Nebraska organization, but they were unable to find a more conservative candidate to challenge Patton at a national convention. By 1948, Patton himself had become reconciled to Truman, largely because of the appointment of Charles Brannan as secretary of agriculture. Still, many NFU members had little enthusiasm for the Truman candidacy. A number of influential Farmers Union members had publicly backed Henry Wallace and others, including Patton privately, often agreed with the former vice president on foreign policy. The NFU continued to resist efforts to ban communists from its membership or adopt a strident anti-communist stance. None of its functionaries were fired or expelled for endorsing Henry Wallace's 1948 candidacy or for opposing the Marshall Plan. As late as 1950, the NFU stood in marked contrast with liberal organizations such as the American Veterans Committee (AVC), Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) on these issues.(4)


By the 1948 Wallace campaign, mainstream liberal groups had endorsed the Truman administration's policy regarding the cold war and were unwilling to tolerate those who urged cooperation either with the Soviet Union abroad or with communists at home. Although liberal leaders may have been unenthusiastic about Truman as the Democratic nominee, they agreed that Wallace's third-party candidacy should be opposed. In fact, support for the former vice president's campaign often was seen by these organizations as pro-communist and any involvement with it was suspect. The ADA, formed in early 1947 as an anti-communist Liberal group, became a severe critic of the third-party effort that emerged. In 1948, the AVC expelled Communist Party (CP) members from its ranks, while the CIO required support of the Marshall Plan and opposition to the Wallace candidacy from its affiliates. In the next two years, the CIO booted out eleven unions, including the United Electrical Workers (UE), one of its largest affiliates, for alleged "communist domination." In each case, the expelled organization had left-wing leadership and had not lined up with the CIO on foreign policy.(5)


The NFU seemingly followed the beat of a different drummer in this era, but there were elements within the organization that sought to have it take a strong anti-red stand. One of the leading proponents of this position was Kenneth Hones, president of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. In the fall of 1947, the state board removed a local president in Clark County because he was a communist. Then, in early 1948, Hones terminated a husband-and-wife team who worked in the state office, allegedly because of their communist sympathies. These steps were followed at the 1949 state convention with the adoption of an anti-communist membership provision. But a similar measure never got to the floor of the 1950 national convention. The NFU leadership was perturbed by the Wisconsin measure and tried to pressure Hones into repealing it, because it conflicted with the national constitution that forbade political tests for membership. Hones was not reelected to the executive committee of the national board at the 1950 meeting and was replaced by the president of the Montana affiliate, who had had left-wing backing in the contest.(6)


Hones' defeat did not mean that there were no fissures in the left-liberal coalition. Left-wingers in and near the NFU were well aware of their differences with Patton; his chief ally, Glenn Talbott, president of the North Dakota affiliate; and M. W. ("Bill") Thatcher, head of the Grain Terminal Association (GTA), which was the Farmers Union's most important cooperative enterprise. Some of these differences related to U.S. foreign policy and others to organizational politics, but there were no open fights over these issues. The 1950 national convention was marked by a great deal of harmony between the Patton-Talbott forces and the left. One left-wing observer reported: "The Patton-Thatcher-Talbott forces leaned over at the convention to embrace the left in order that they might show a united front to the administration. They worked hard to keep any anti-red resolutions off the floor."(7)


The outbreak of fighting in Korea came as a great shock to Americans. Although almost all liberal groups in the country, including the AVC, the ADA, and the CIO, had already signed up with the anti-red campaign, they and their congressional supporters were often subjected to bitter assault from conservative rivals. Many liberal politicians went down in defeat in the 1950 primary and general elections. The right wing chewed up their defenses, along with their efforts to seize the anti-red banner. During this election campaign, the Farmers Union found itself in the midst of a controversy that had far-reaching consequences.(8)


In early September 1950, Senator Styles Bridges launched a blistering attack on the liberal farm group. The New Hampshire Republican charged that communists had wide influence in the NFU and that its leadership often followed the communist line. During the long speech, Bridges mentioned by name a number of Farmers Union luminaries, including Patton and Talbott. The thrust of his attack was that Patton and others had tolerated communist efforts within the NFU and that it was virtually a communist front.(9)


Liberal senators such as Hubert Humphrey (Minn.) and William Langer (N.D.) rose to defend the Farmers Union, and a few of their right-wing colleagues, including Karl Mundt (S.D.) and Joseph McCarthy (Wis.), testified to the pro-Americanism of the NFU affiliates in their own states. Still, Bridges' speech had a tremendous impact on the organization. Conservative opponents publicized the speech and sent copies to rural box holders in some states. Although aggressively defending itself from the Bridges assault, the NFU also assumed a more conventional anti-communist position than previously and made an effort to silence elements within the organization that opposed Truman's Korean policy.(10)


One of the most notorious episodes involved the Iowa Farmers Union. This organization was headed by Fred Stover, who had been a strong supporter of Patton prior to the 1948 Wallace campaign. Stover had enlisted in the Wallace crusade as soon as it was announced and had given the nominating speech for Wallace at the Philadelphia convention. When the Truman administration intervened in Korea, Stover emerged as an opponent of this action. He was the only state president at a NFU board meeting who voted against a resolution of support for U.S. policy. While Stover received a brief mention in the Bridges speech, Patton began to pay attention to him. The Iowa state convention was scheduled for late September, and Patton attempted to intervene so that Stover would not be reelected as president. The Des Moines Register published a Patton statement that both defended the NFU from Bridges' charges and opposed Stover's view on the Korean War: "I feel certain that the members of the Iowa Farmers Union, too, almost to a man, disagree with him. Our national board disagrees with him." The NFU leader also sent a communication to the convention in which he noted that a state charter could be lifted "in the case of intolerable departures from the democratically-adopted policies."(11)


What happened at the 1950 convention and immediately after is complicated. Stover remained as president, however, and the validity of his continuing as Iowa's president was upheld by a court derision. The national office encouraged Stover's opponents for years, but he managed to keep control of the small Iowa organization. Although Patton maintained he had taken "a hands-off" stance on this controversy; he reportedly told a Denver FBI agent in 1951 "that he had been instrumental in stirring up a fight in the Iowa state organization with the idea in mind of unseating FRED STOVER."(12)


Soon after Patton intervened in Iowa, the Utah Farm Bureau referred to the NFU as "communist dominated" in a mailing to its board of directors and the charge subsequently was reprinted in several newspaper accounts. In response, the Farmers Union sued the Utah farm group for libel. The case came to trial in Salt Lake City in the spring of 1951. For the NFU, there was a great deal at stake. If it lost the case, Bridges' charges would be confirmed in the court of public opinion. In the mid-1940s, the Farm Journal had published an article on the Farmers Union titled "Communist Beachhead in Agriculture." Archie Wright, state president in New York, had sued the magazine for libel on the same grounds that the NFU later brought in 1951. The initial verdict in the Farm Journal's favor was reversed on appeal. However, Wright decided not to pursue the case, his attorney later explaining "that the prevailing sentiment was such that it was impossible to win a witchcraft case." The fact that the New York farm leader had not obtained a favorable verdict was used for years to "prove" that he was a communist. Bridges himself cited this incident and the Farm Journal article in his bill of particulars against the Farmers Union. On the other hand, if the organization was successful in the 1951 suit, it was hoped that the verdict would go a long way toward immunizing the NFU from further right-wing attack.(13)


Soon after the decision was made to sue the Farm Bureau, a controversy emerged in the NFU's national office in Denver. One of its newly hired attorneys was Clifford Durr, a former member of the Federal Communications Commission and, more recently, president of the National Lawyers Guild. A native Alabaman, he was a dose friend of Aubrey Williams, a New Deal relief administrator in the 1930s who was president of the small Alabama Farmers Union. Durr was a well-known critic of J. Edgar Hoover and his employment in Denver had not gone unnoticed in Bridges' speech.(14)


The Denver Post reported in late February 1951 that Virginia Durr had signed an anti-Korean War petition. Unlike her husband, she had been a political activist and a strong Wallace supporter in 1948, running herself as a Progressive Party senatorial candidate in Virginia. As soon as the story appeared, Durr's boss at the Farmers Union office prepared a statement for Virginia Durr to sign, disavowing the petition. The details of the incident are opaque, but Virginia refused to sign the document. Clifford backed her decision and lost his job. Later, Patton reportedly told the FBI "that he fired CLIFFORD DURR ... because his wife associated herself with the American Peace Crusade" and "he felt that Mrs. DURR's connections with the American Peace Crusade had caused embarrassment to the National Farmers Union." Thus Durr, because of his wife's signature on a petition, was deemed too controversial to work for the organization. His firing attracted some criticism and alienated Aubrey Williams, who had been a close personal friend of Patton. Although never saying anything publicly, Williams became disillusioned with the NFU and later bitterly criticized it in his private correspondence.(15)


The 1951 trial in Utah proved a disaster for the Farm Bureau. One of its witnesses was Robert Cruise McManus, the journalist who had written the 1944 Farm Journal article. During the trial, it was revealed that McManus had also researched and prepared Bridges' speech. That fact, combined with a $25,000 judgment against the Farm Bureau, provided a big boost for the Farmers Union. The following year, the verdict was upheld on appeal. Although the NFU was able to use this decision to counteract right-wing attacks, Bridges' speech or versions of it often reappeared and the organization never developed a strategy that fully immunized it from charges of communism. Still, the verdict was a welcome development for Patton, and the Farmers Union often used it to pressure others to retract similar charges.(16)


This victory was not enough to reassure the NFU leadership, and it continued to maneuver against Iowa and the Eastern Division, another small affiliate based in New Jersey and Pennsylvania that had left-wing leadership. Initially, there was reluctance in some NFU circles to remove the charters of these organizations, perhaps because there was no legal basis to do so.(17)


A major battle ensued at the 1952 national convention, which marked the Farmers Union's fiftieth anniversary. The leadership's strategy was to change the constitution so that a state charter could be withdrawn if the membership dropped below a minimum of 3,500. This minimum was fixed high enough to make it unlikely that either Iowa or the Eastern Division could meet it by 1954. The left-wing forces organized a floor fight against the amendments under the name of the Farmers Union Rank and File Committee. Although they lost the baffle, their efforts received a large amount of publicity and reinforced the divisions within the organization. They also battled over the NFU program to be adopted at the convention. In place of an endorsement of the free enterprise system, the Rank and Filers called for "the establishment of a cooperative commonwealth which can and will adapt itself continuously to the common good." This measure, along with every other proposal the group advanced, was handily defeated. Another sign of opposition to the NFU leadership was a challenge to the incumbent vice president. The left nominated a North Dakota farm woman who ran on an end-the-war platform. But her meager vote was an index of the weakness of the dissenters' forces.(18)


By the time of the 1952 NFU convention, the left in agriculture was a mere shadow of what it had been. The CP seldom devoted much attention to farmers, and its dwindling band of supporters in the countryside received little reinforcement in the postwar era. The only NFU affiliate with communist leadership in 1952 was the Eastern Division. Its membership included a number of communist poultry farmers in New Jersey and a handful in eastern Pennsylvania. A 1953 FBI document stated "that ... all officers of the NFU-ED including the editor of the 'Eastern Union Farmer' are members of the Communist Party and of the eleven members of the Board of Directors, seven are either present or past members of the Communist Party." Even here, however, most Farmers Union members were not communists and some were hostile to the CP.(19)


In New York, the NFU affiliate lost its charter in 1951, officially for nonpayment of national dues. Its key leader, Archie Wright, was one of the most capable left-wing farm figures. Although he had worked with the CP from time to time, he called the shots for his group regardless of whether they conformed to communist positions. Wright's views on foreign policy were almost the same as Stover's, and the attention he was given in Bridges' speech embarrassed the NFU. The New York affiliate's failure to pay national dues made it easy for the Patton-Talbott leadership to remove its charter. Although Wright offered moral support and advice to Farmers Union left-wingers, neither he nor his small organization were in any position to provide real assistance to them.(20)


Outside of New Jersey, communist farmers in this era were found scattered across Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. By 1952, it seems unlikely that there were as many as two hundred of them in these states. However, the left in the countryside was not limited to CP members. Others, frequently with family and neighborhood ties to earlier radical causes, were part of the forces that alternatively pressured or backed the Patton-Talbott leadership from the left. These people or their parents often had helped organize the Farmers Union in their communities and felt betrayed by the new direction of their organization. Many of them had earlier worked with communists in a common cause and, despite the cold war, saw little reason to change that approach.(21)


This view perhaps best describes the attitude of Fred Stover. He saw himself as a disciple of Franklin Roosevelt and explained his positions on issues in terms of the New Deal and anti-fascism. Many left-wingers cloaked their views with these banners for tactical reasons. In Stover's case, they were basic convictions that he did not abandon. Here Stover stands in contrast with some of his dose friends and allies such as Elmer Benson, the former Minnesota Farmer-Labor senator and governor, who often criticized FDR. Due to his tenacity and organizational base in Iowa, Stover emerged as the key opposition figure to the Patton-Talbott leadership. A tireless fighter, he attracted a small but devoted following among left-wingers in the Upper Midwest and on the northern plains.(22)


Although Stover's public positions on some issues were seemingly indistinguishable from those of the CP, the party was concerned that he might emerge as the leader of a new farm organization. The CP wanted communists and others to remain inside the Farmers Union, so when Iowa and the Eastern Division lost their charters, it discouraged the formation of an alternative group. One FBI document, reportedly minutes of a 1954 CP Midwest Farm Commission meeting, reads:


There is no guarantee that the Iowa Farmers Union will proceed on the right path. There is no CP there. To some extent a tin god has been made of Stover, who is really a bourgeois and anarchistic, no organizer, a good salesman, a fighter, but with no clear and consistent program or fundamental understanding of social forces.


We must stop the business of our people writing for advice to Stover. He is not capable of giving them proper advice, and such practices inflate his ego and spur tendencies to "go it alone." There should be absolutely NO jo[in]ing the Iowa FU by people in other states.(23)


Ironically, Stover then was suing the Des Moines NBC affiliate over a radio program that had identified him as a communist since the early 1930s. That program had been broadcast a few weeks prior to the 1954 NFU national convention and had received widespread attention. Despite public perceptions, the agrarian left was divided and that contributed to its growing ineffectiveness.(24)


Following the 1954 national convention, the NFU notified in writing individual members in Iowa and the Eastern Division that their organizations no longer existed. That step obviously caused confusion, but both groups managed to continue some of their activities. The Eastern Division was more vulnerable because much of its membership was enlisted through local Farmers Union cooperatives. Some of them quickly dissolved their ties with the state organization in an attempt to maintain their association with the NFU. In Iowa it seemed business as usual for a while. State NFU organizations in this region and on the plains obtained much of their income from education funds distributed by Farmers Union local and regional coops. Although Iowa's sums were much smaller than those in North Dakota or Montana, they still were significant. Most of their education funds came as a result of business with the GTA, the Farmers Union grain marketing cooperative. Although NFU leaders were unhappy that GTA payments continued to be sent to Iowa, they could do nothing about it. GTA boss Bill Thatcher followed his own counsel, and he and Stover maintained a reasonably cordial relationship for several years. Perhaps Thatcher opposed the drastic measures taken or perhaps it was another reminder to Patton and Talbott that he could do things his own way.(25)


The NFU campaign against the left did not end with the 1954 expulsions. The national organization next threatened the New York, Eastern Division, and Iowa groups with legal action if they did not cease and desist from using the Farmers Union name. Both New York and the Eastern Division had made slight changes in their names, but Stover refused to budge and his organization was sued by the NFU. This was only one of numerous legal fights the Iowa group had with the Farmers Union or its coops. Because Iowa was more important to the national organization than the eastern states, Patton was convinced that the Stover organization had to be eliminated if the NFU were to have a chance to reestablish itself there. Although it is true that there was real potential to organize Iowa farmers in the 1950s, the Patton-Stover fight continued for years and the Farmers Union was unable to take advantage of the widespread rural dissatisfaction that exist. The NFU won its suit against Stover, but by the time it chartered a new affiliate in 1957, the National Farmers Organization (NFO) swept across the state.(26)


Although the timing was important, it is questionable whether the Farmers Union could have organized as effectively as the NFO in this era. Patton's organization had lost much of its populist image and had assumed more domesticated trappings. Patton was alarmed in 1954 when some Wisconsin members planned to take a casket full of petitions to a hearing of the House Agricultural Committee. Upset by this protest tactic, he stated that "had the casket arrived before or while we were testifying, [it] would have been almost tragic." But "fortunately," a committee staffer, who was "a very good friend," interceded to prevent the incident. By the end of 1950 at the very latest, Patton had completely hitched the NFU wagon to the mainstream of the Democratic Party. A persistent critic of the Republican secretary of agriculture in 1953, Ezra Taft Benson, Patton went so far as to denounce the Eisenhower administration when it considered selling agricultural products to the Soviet bloc. Journalist I. F. Stone asked: "After all these years of being Red-baited is Jim Patton trying to prove he's more anti-Soviet than the Republicans?"(27)


This is not to suggest that the Farmers Union became a conservative farm organization or sold out all its basic principles. It continued to identify itself with the family farmer, to call for high price supports, and to support civil rights, civil liberties, and many of its other traditional planks. But the NFU had discarded excess ideological baggage on its trip to the "vital center" during the crucial cold war years of the late 1940s and early 1950s.


McCarthyism is not the only explanation for these changes. Farmers Union business enterprises, including the regional coops, fertilizer operations, and especially insurance, had become increasingly important in this era, and their activities played a role in the "deradicalization." Decisions to line up with the Truman administration on both domestic and foreign policy, to endorse the free enterprise system, and to kick out dissenting state affiliates were based on political judgments and should not be accounted for primarily in terms of sociological determinants. The NFU - like the CIO, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Association of University Professors - did not give up everything it had stood for. But, none of these groups were as outspoken in the McCarthy era as they had been previously. Some members and ex-members of the Farmers Union were convinced that the Patton-Talbott leadership had sold out completely.(28)


Yet there was no consensus on the left. Stover and others in his camp were alienated, but the CP never gave up on the NFU. By 1956, the party had pretty much written off the Eastern Division and criticized earlier positions that had contributed to the isolation of the left. A 1956 New Jersey CP discussion bulletin summarized the "errors of a 'left' nature" that had weakened the eastern group, including "taking of advanc[e]d positions on various matters outside of the farmers' immediate interests; and the taking of positions on foreign policy which were identical with positions advanced by the Soviet Union." Although Stover rebuffed suggestions that he stop fighting Patton, the only remaining Pennsylvania local in the Eastern Division reportedly tried as late as 1956 to be re-admitted to the NFU.(29)


"Rejoin the mainstream" was the CP approach by the mid-1950s, and communists and their supporters were encouraged to abandon left-wing organizations such as the Progressive Party and the UE. In agriculture, this meant going back to the Farmers Union or perhaps experimenting with the NFO. The shift was not as disruptive here as in labor, as a number of radical farmers had remained in the NFU and the left-wing farm groups never had a large following. There were not very many agrarian radicals in the U.S. in this era. The left in agriculture had virtually disappeared.(30)


Only the Stover-led U.S. Farmers Association (USFA) remained by the early 1960s. It published a monthly newspaper and held an annual convention. Eventually, it became more of an eclectic grouping of left-wingers opposed to mainstream liberalism than a farm organization. During the Vietnam War, Stover emerged as an anti-war farm leader and attracted attention to his group through that role. Although the USFA had few activities, it provided an organizational home for some figures who later emerged as leaders in the rural insurgency of the 1980s, including Merle Hansen, who became the president of the North American Farm Alliance, and Dixon Terry, who served as a spokesman for the Iowa Farm Unity Coalition and later co-chairman of the League of Rural Voters.(31)


The agrarian left had almost disappeared by the late 1950s, and the liberal mainstream represented by Patton and the Farmers Union was more moderate than it had been in the previous decade. In this sense, the NFU story is similar to that played out in the CIO and other liberal groups. The timing of these developments differed from organization to organization, but the basic similarity on several key points remains. For agriculture, an era ended that had dated back into the late nineteenth century. Left-wingers and liberals often had had an uneasy coalition in farm movements for decades, but the cold war issues finally destroyed those bonds. By the mid-1950s, the left in the countryside was purged or isolated. That the liberal mainstream in agriculture became more conservative reflects both its own move toward the center and the demise of the historic agrarian left.


1 Mary Sperling McAuliffe, Crisis on the Left: Cold War Politics and American Liberals, 1947-1954 (Amherst, Mass., 1978). For a recent study on McCarthyism see Richard M. Fried, Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective (New York, 1990).


2 John A. Crampton, The National Farmers Union: Ideology of a Pressure Group (Lincoln, Nebr., 1965); Theodore Saloutos and John D. Hicks, Twentieth Century Populism: Agricultural Discontent in the Middle West, 1900-1939 (Lincoln, n.d.), chap. 8. See also Michael W. Flamm, "The National Farmers Union and the Evolution of Agrarian Liberalism, 1937-1949," Agricultural History 68 (summer 1994): 54-80.


3 Alonzo L. Hamby, Beyond the New Deal: Harry S. Truman and American Liberalism (New York, 1973); Lowell K. Dyson, Red Harvest: The Communist Party and American Farmers (Lincoln, 1982), 190-97; William C. Pratt, "The Farmers Union and the 1948 Henry Wallace Campaign," Annals of Iowa 49 (summer 1988): 349-70; A. G. Mezerik, "Report From the High Plains," New Republic 122 (5 June 1950): 13; Patton was not always a supporter of popular front liberalism in this era. In 1946, he briefly flirted with an anti-communist third-party effort modeled on Canada's Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. William C. Pratt, "Glen J. Talbott, the Farmers Union, and American Liberalism after World War II," North Dakota History 55 (winter 1988): 4.


4 Pratt, "The Farmers Union and the 1948 Henry Wallace Campaign," 356-69.


5 McAuliffe, Crisis on the Left; Steven M. Gillon, Politics and Vision: The ADA and American Liberalism, 1947-1985 (New York, 1987), chaps. 1-2; Robert L. Tyler, "The American Veterans Committee: Out of a Hot War into the Cold," American Quarterly 18 (fall 1966): 430-33; Bert Cochran, Labor and Communism: The Conflict that Shaped American Unions (Princeton, 1977), 297-315; Harvey A. Levenstein, Communism, Anticommunism, and the CIO (Westport, Conn., 1981), 224-29, 280-307.


6 Owen (Wis.) Enterprise, 16, 23, and 30 October 1947; K. W. Hones to Fay Child, 10 October 1949, Kenneth W. Hones Papers, box 1, folder 3, State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin [hereafter SHSW]; K. W. Hones to William Sanderson, 20 March 1950, Wisconsin Farmers Union Papers [hereafter WFUP], SHSW, box 41, folder 5; Glenn J. Talbott to James G. Patton, 25 March 1949, Talbott Family Papers, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, North Dakota [hereafter TFP], box 8, folder 21; K. W. Hones to James Patton, 31 October 1950, WFUP, box 53, folder 4; Tony Dechant to Jim Patton, 30 August 1949, James G. Patton Papers, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado [hereafter JPP]. For Montana Farmers Union in this era see William C. Pratt, "The Montana Farmers Union and the Cold War, 19451954," Pacific Northwest Quarterly 83 (April 1992): 63-69.


7 Bob [Coe] to Jimmy [Youngdale], 15 March 1950, Elmer A. Benson Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. See also Lem Harris, "Making Hay," Worker (New York), 2 April 1950.


8 See Richard M. Fried, "Electoral Politics and McCarthyism: The 1950 Campaign," in The Specter: Original Essays on the Cold War and the Origins of McCarthyism, ed. Robert Griffith and Athan Theoharis (New York, 1974), 190-222, 331-41.


9 Congressional Record, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., 96 (7 September 1950), 14276-87.


10 Congressional Record, 81st Cong., 2nd sess., 96 (7 September 1950), 14310-26, and (23, September 1950), A7009-10; K. W. Hones to James G. Patton, 22 May 1951, WFUP, box 53, folder 5; K. W. Hones to Tony Dechant, 7 December 1954, WFUP, box 49, folder 10.


11 See Mark R. Finlay, "Dashed Expectations: The Iowa Progressive Party and the 1948 Election," Annals of Iowa 49 (summer 1988): 329-48; James G. Patton to K. W. Hones, 21 September 1950, WFUP, box 53, folder. 4; Des Manes Register, 22 September 1950; statement attached to James G. Patton to Betty Lownes, 19 September 1950, Fred Stover Materials. These materials will be added to the Fred Stover Papers at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa.


12 Unpublished accounts on aspects of this topic are found in George Rinehart, "Iowa Farmers Union: An Historical Survey," Stover Materials; Stephen A. Chambers, "Relations between Leaders of the Iowa and National Farmers Union Organizations, 1941-1950" (honors paper, University of Iowa), Fred Stover Papers, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa; Marc Geller, "Fred Stover and the Farmers Union in Cold War America" (seminar paper, Grinnell College), National Farmers Union Papers, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado; James G. Patton, 3 June 1953, FBI File 77-58032-20.


13 National Farmers Union Service Corp. et al. v. Utah State Farm Bureau Federation, et al., Record Group 21, Records of United States District Courts-Utah, box 225, Civil Case File 1923, National Archives-Rocky Mountain Region, Denver, Colorado; Robert. Cruise McManus, "Communist Beachhead in Agriculture," Farm Journal 68 (October 1944): 23, 84-86; Meyer Parodneck to James G. Patton, 11 April 1950, Consumer-Farmer Milk Cooperative Papers, Consumers Union, Mount Vernon, New York.


14 John A. Salmond, The Conscience of a Lawyer: Clifford J. Durr and American Civil Liberties, 1899-1975 (Tuscaloosa, 1990); John A. Salmond, A Southern Rebel: The Life and Times of Aubrey Willis Williams, 1890-1965 (Chapel Hill, 1983).


15 Robert M. Cour, "New 'Front' Here Backed by Reds; Demands Peace," Denver Post, 21 February 1951; Cliff [Durr] to Hugh [Wilson], 4 March 1951, Clifford Judkins Durr Papers, State of Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama; Report of Denver Meeting by Aubrey Williams, in Minutes of Board of Directors of the Alabama Farmers Union, [12 April 1951], Aubrey Williams Papers, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York [hereafter AWP]; Virginia Durr, letter to author, 25 March 1980; Salmond, Conscience of a Lawyer, chap. 8; Hollinger F. Barnard, ed., Outside the Magic Circle: The Autobiography of Virginia Foster Durr (University, [Ala.], 1985), chap. 16; James G. Patton, 3 June 1953, FBI File 77-58032-20; Aubrey Williams to Don [West], 12 February 1953, AWP; Aubrey Williams to Archie Wright, 22 March 1954, AWP.


16 National Farmers Union Service Corp., et al. v. Utah State Farm Bureau Federation, et al.; Utah State Farm Bureau Federation v. National Farmers Union Service Corp., 198 F. 2d 20; National Union Farmer, May-June 1951, June 1952; Ever Try to Smear a Dirt Farmer? (NFU leaflet), National Farmers Union Papers. McManus had been retained by the Farm Bureau to help in the preparation of the case in early 1951. Later, he obtained a position with the U.S. Senate Sub-Committee on Internal Security. [Baltimore] to Director and SAC WFO, 15 June 1953, FBI File 77-58032-31.


17 Glenn J. Talbott to Leo Paulson, 18 October 1951, TFP, box 9, folder 31. The Eastern Division had endorsed Wallace's third-party candidacy in 1948, and Patton had misgivings about this affiliate well before the outbreak of the Korean War. James G. Patton to J. K. Galbraith, 8 October 1948, JPP.


18 The controversies of the 1952 convention received wide coverage in the Dallas and left-wing farm press. See Iowa Union Farmer, March 1952; Eastern Union Farmer, April 1952; Facts for Farmers 11 (April 1952). In addition, the Rank and File Committee issued a leaflet, Whither the National Farmers Union? TFP, box 10, folder 7.


19 Director, FBI to SAC, Newark, 21 September 1953, FBI File 100-45768-150. For CP involvement with farmers see Dyson, Red Harvest; William C. Pratt, "Farmers, Communists, and the FBI in the Upper Midwest," Agricultural History 63 (summer 1989): 61-80.


20 James G. Patton, 3 June 1953, FBI File 77-58032-20. For Wright's career until his group affiliated with the NFU in 1943 see Dyson, Red Harvest, 172-85.


21 By 1950, CP membership in North and South Dakota had dropped to 52 and 38 respectively. Pratt, "Farmers, Communists, and the FBI in the Upper Midwest," 73, note 44.


22 These comments are based in part on interviews and conversations that I had with Stover and others over a number of years. For a sympathetic portrait see Biographical Sketch of Fred Stover (Hampton, Iowa, 1985).


23 SAC, Chicago to Director, FBI, 21 September 1954, FBI File 100-3-79-323.


24 Stover ultimately lost the suit. U.S. Farm News, January-February 1959. For FBI interest in Stover see Tom Knudson, "Seeking Communist ties, FBI trailed farm leader Stover," Des Moines Register, 7 August 1983; Tom Knudson, "Files detail FBI tracking of farm activist Fred Stover," Des Moines Register, 3 September 1984.


25 Bert [Bertha Zoda] to Fred [Stover], 23 April 1954, Stover Materials; Communist Infiltration of the National Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of America - Eastern Division, 10 November 1954, FBI File 100-45768-234; "Iowa Farmers Union To Get GTA Educational Funds," Iowa Union Farmer, December 1951; Fred W. Stover to Directors and Officers, 18 November 1954, TFP, box 11, folder 16; Fred [Stover] to Bill [Thatcher], 3 December 1956, Stover Materials; Tony Dechant to James G. Patton, 8 December 1954, TFP, box 11, folder 61.


26 Eastern Union Farmer, February 1955; Crampton, National Farmers Union, 136; National Union Farmer, May 1957. In 1957-58, there was an unsuccessful effort to merge the Iowa NFO with the Fu. Stover's group apparently provided some assistance to NFO forces that opposed the move. F. W. Stover to Gordon Roth, 4 March 1958, mimeographed, Stover Materials.


27 James G. Patton to K. W. Hones, 19 April 1954, Hones Papers, Box 1, Folder 4; I. F. Stone's Weekly 3 (26 September 1955), 4.


28 For FU business enterprises see Archie Wright to County President, 26 March 1952, Farmers Union of the New York Milk Shed Papers, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; Crampton, National Farmers Union, 201-10.


29 Communist Infiltration of the Eastern Farmers Union (EFU) - Independent, 31 March 1958, Philadelphia FBI 100-24505-712; Communist Party, USA - District 14, Newark Division, 19 October 1956, FBI File 100-3-28-2264; SA [name deleted] to SAC, 4 June 1956, Philadelphia FBI File 100-24505-637.


30 For the impact of this policy on the UE see James Weinstein, "The Great Illusion: A Review of 'Them and Us'," Socialist Revolution 5 (June 1975): 95-96. The FBI continued its surveillance of a small number of farmers in Minnesota and the Dakotas into the 1950s. See Verl Cliffton Moore, 24 September 1959, FBI File 100-381813-12.


31 Eastern Union Farmer, February 1959; Lowell K. Dyson, Farmers Organizations (Westport, 1986), 130, 345-48; William C. Pratt, "When the Old Agrarian Left Meets the New: Fred Stover and the U.S. Farmers Association, 1959-1990," paper read at the Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, 14 April 1994.


William C. Pratt is professor of history at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a trustee of the Nebraska State Historical Society. He acknowledges financial support from the University Committee on Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
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