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Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Fred Fine
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Fred Fine was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1914, to a Ukrainian-American family. His father, Julius Fybusowich, had immigrated in 1910; his mother, Doris, was born in Canada. Fred was named Maurice, and used that name until he moved to Minnesota, where his Communist Party associates gave him a new name to avoid confusion with another Morrie. Fred's family was active in the left-wing Jewish labor movement in Chicago, and he joined the Young Pioneers and Young Communist League at an early age. He was only sixteen when he attended the national convention of the YCL in 1931. He went to Tuley High School, and left in his senior year to devote himself to political activities. Among other things, he organized workers in the steel mills of Chicago. Mr. Fine's first extended visit to Minnesota happened in 1935 and 1936, when he was sent by the YCL National Committee to work with Carl Ross, who was then the YCL district organizer in the Minnesota-Dakotas district. Returning briefly to Chicago, Mr. Fine worked and organized with merchandise workers until March 1937, when he replaced Carl Ross in Minnesota. (Mr. Ross became the national secretary of the YCL.) Mr. Fine remained in Minnesota until 1940 or 1941, when he was reassigned to the Michigan district before enlisting in the Army National Guard during World War II. As part of his service, Mr. Fine guarded German prisoners of war at Camp Ripley, Minnesota. After the war, Mr. Fine resumed his role as a Party functionary, eventually becoming the organizational secretary of the CP. At the Twentieth Party Congress in 1957, he argued strongly for reforming the Party and its strategy, in the wake of revelations about the true nature of the Stalin regime in the Soviet Union, and the Soviet invasion of Hungary. When this did not happen, he joined the mass exodus from the Party. Back in Chicago once more, Mr. Fine became a salesman for an automobile bumper replating business. Later he went to work for the Fruehauf Truck Corporation, but quit in protest of their contracts with the Department of Defense during the Vietnam War. Next he went into business with a friend, booking concerts for folk and rock musicians. When this business was sold to the Madison Square Garden Corporation, Mr. Fine once again worked in New York for a year. Returning to Chicago, he developed a program in the performing arts for Columbia College, which he directed until the mid-1980s. At that time he was appointed Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for the city of Chicago, and developed a long-term plan for the promotion of the arts in that city. At the time of the interview, Mr. Fine was once again working for Columbia College, as director of public affairs, and serving on the boards of numerous artistic organizations. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Relationship between the Communist Party and the Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota, 1938-1940. Communist activity in the Congress of Industrial Organizations. Comparisons of Floyd B. Olson and Elmer A. Benson. Anti-Semitism in Minnesota prior to and during the 1938 gubernatorial campaign. Memories of Carl Winter and Nat Ross (CP district organizers in Minnesota, 1935-1942), and Samuel Darcy (National Committee representative, 1938). Effect of the Finnish-Soviet War on the Minnesota CP (1939-1940). Reflections on the Popular Front period, 1935-1940. Degree of independence of the CPUSA from Soviet control. Make-up of the leadership of the CP, and life among rank-and-file members. Degree of independence of CP leaders in mass movements from Party control. Regional differences in the CPUSA. Estimation of Earl Browder and his policies. Experiences in the labor movement. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: Mr. Fine is a thoughtful and articulate commentator on the events he lived through. His memories are very clear. The interview tends to focus on national conditions and events more than on ones particular to Minnesota. The first side of the first cassette was accidentally not recorded. There is a fair amount of background noise, and the interviewer's voice is faint.
3 hours sound cassette
25 pages transcript
Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
01:42:01 running time
Interviewee: Fine, Fred M.
Interviewer: Ross, Carl
Made in: Palm Springs, Riverside County, California, United States
|Holding Type||Oral History - Interview|
OH 30 (Library Call Number)
AV1990.228.16 (Accession Number)
MHS Library Catalog
Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project'