BY ED FELIEN
Halfway through my two-year term as City Council member I had to start running for re-election, and I was so obtuse I didn’t realize I’d made just about everybody mad at me.
Good friends of mine who had started the co-ops were now Maoists and members of the CO (the Co-op Organization). They were intent on taking over co-ops by brute force and imposing canned goods and ketchup on people who wanted organic vegetables and brown rice. They took over the People’s Warehouse on 26th Street and drove out the PW people who worked there. I was torn. I wanted to support their objectives—to mainstream food to working people—but I hated their tactics. But when the PW called the police to get the CO out, I called the police and told them it was a family matter and the police shouldn’t get involved. When they called the electric company to turn off the electricity, I called the electric company and told them to turn it back on. My friends had fallen under the spell of a charismatic black gangster Marxist who later on shot and killed someone in a dispute over rent.
What had happened in Minneapolis in 1975 was much the same thing that happened in Massachusetts in 1981 when some members of the Weather Underground came under the spell of black gangster Marxists who said you weren’t really revolutionary unless you robbed banks. They robbed a Brinks truck and killed two police officers and a guard. Probably the most famous black gangster Marxist was Donald DeFreeze, aka General Field Marshal Cinque, who was responsible for killing Marcus Foster, the Oakland, Calif., school superintendent, and kidnapping Patty Hearst.
I wrote a four-page pamphlet and placed copies in the co-ops: “What’s happening in the Co-op Movement?” [https://secureservercdn.net/188.8.131.52/439.739.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Scan_0004.pdf] I argued the CO was being left-dogmatic. They were bullying people and turning people off on co-ops, co-operation and socialism. The CO collapsed shortly after.
But the damage had been done. Friends for years were too busy being real revolutionaries driving hippies and natural foods out of the co-ops to help with my campaign, and people who loved their co-op were upset that I was friends with their mortal enemies.
My support of municipal ownership of the electric company had alienated the labor bosses who supported the sweetheart contract between lineman and the company. The head of the local AFL-CIO claimed some credit for my defeat saying I had lost because of “a little push from behind by labor.”
I proposed a half of one percent tax on the transfer of stocks and bonds. Why should stockbrokers be exempt from a sales tax? The hearing for my proposal was standing room only. Stockbrokers came out of the woodwork to speak against it, and they were happy to contribute to anyone who would run against me.
My rent control proposal alienated everyone who owned rental property.
My criticism of police abuse and demand for an investigation when a cop shot and killed a young black kid in my ward motivated the captain of the local precinct to campaign with my opponent and talk about respect for law and order.
But the issue that he used most effectively against me was my authorship of the Gay Rights Ordinance and my support for Gay Pride Day. The good church-going people of South Minneapolis thought Gay Pride was a bit too extreme in 1975.
I lost to Tommy Ogdahl—2,565 to 2,842.
Friends told me after my loss, “This is great. Now, you’re back with us. Protesting the government.”
I tried to tell them we need to move beyond protest. We need to take power and use it to make things better.
Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, murdered by Chicago police in 1969: “If you dare to struggle, you dare to win. If you dare not to struggle then god damn it, you don’t deserve to win. Let me say peace to you, if you’re willing to fight for it.”
Bobby Seale: “By any means necessary.”
Ed Felien: “By every means available.”