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Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project: Interview with Max and Shevi Geldman
BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Max Geldman was born in Warsaw, Poland, on May 8, 1905, and immigrated to New York when he was eight. His father was a garment worker and a member of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Max's formal education ended after the eighth grade, when he started to work in the needle trades. Later on he attended the City College of New York for two years. Mr. Geldman became active in the labor movement during the 1926 strike of textile workers in Passaic, New Jersey, and the concurrent campaign to save the lives of anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. He joined the Young Communist League but soon was drawn out of it by the force of Leon Trotsky's criticisms. In 1930 he joined the Trotskyist Communist League of America, and remained in Trotskyist parties until 1983. He moved to Chicago just in time for the stock market crash of 1929, and began a decade of organizing activities among the unemployed. In Chicago he met his first wife, Goldie Cooper, who came from Chaska, Minnesota. Through her, Mr. Geldman became acquainted with the Trotskyists in Minneapolis. The Geldmans did not settled in Minnesota immediately, however, for the party reassigned Mr. Geldman to New York until 1934. As organizing efforts in Local #544 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Minneapolis heated up, the Geldmans relocated to be part of this struggle. Mr. Geldman worked particularly with unemployed workers, to persuade them to support the teamsters' strikes rather than using them as opportunities to gain employment. From 1935 to 1939 he organized with the Federal Workers Section of Local #544, demanding better pay and working conditions for the unemployed who were in the Works Progress Administration program. In 1939 a cut-back in federal funding for the WPA set off a wave of strikes by WPA workers across the country. In Minneapolis the conflict was particularly intense, and one worker died in a clash with police. Mr. Geldman was arrested for his role in the strike, and convicted of conspiracy to violate the Woodrum Act. He served a year in the federal prison at Sandstone, Minnesota, for this offense. Shortly after his release he was rearrested under the Smith Act. He and seventeen other leaders of the Socialist Workers Party were found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government through force and violence in 1941. Mr. Geldman returned to Sandstone after appeals were exhausted, on the last day of 1943, and stayed there for thirteen months. Upon release, he moved to Philadelphia and became the SWP branch organizer there. In the 1950s, Mr. Geldman took party assignments in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Newark. In the early 1960s he moved to Los Angeles, where he lived the rest of his life. In 1983, organizational and political differences led him out of the SWP, and he became a founder of Socialist Action. Later he left that organization, too, and helped establish Solidarity. Goldie and Max Geldman had two children before Goldie's death in 1952. Two years later Mr. Geldman remarried, and he and Mrs. Shevi Geldman had two more children. At the time of the interview Mr. Geldman was retired and living in Los Angeles. He died on December 2, 1989. (Information from obituaries in the Militant and Socialist Action.) SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: European emigration. Sacco and Vanzetti trials. Citizens' Military Training Corps. Language federations of the Communist Party. Communist League of America. Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union strike of 1934 (New York). Minneapolis truckers' strike of 1934. Unemployed Councils. Minneapolis Organizations of All Workers. Federal Workers Section of teamsters' Local 574/544. Works Progress Administration projects. Workers' Alliance. WPA strike of 1939. Workers' Education. Program of the WPA. Smith Act Trials of 1941. COMMENTS ON INTERVIEW: The audio quality on the first tape is poor, since there was a loud machine running in the background. The transcript is only partially edited, and the spellings of many names are approximate. RESTRICTIONS ON USE: The tapes and transcript cannot be quoted directly for publication.
3 hours sound cassette
30 pages transcript
Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
03:06:27 running time
Interviewee: Geldman, Max
Interviewee: Geldman, Shevi
Interviewer: Trimble, Steve
Creation: Approximately 1977
|Holding Type||Oral History - Interview|
OH 30 (Library Call Number)
AV1990.228.58 (Accession Number)
MHS Library Catalog
Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Twentieth Century Radicalism in Minnesota Oral History Project'