Farrell Dobbs
Farrell Dobbs1
Born: July 25, 1907
Famous For: American Trotskyist leader
Political Beliefs Conservative(until Great Depression),Trotskyism
Died October 31, 1983

Farrell Dobbs was a militant American unionist and Trotskyist leader.

Early Life Edit

Dobbs was born in Queen City, Missouri in July 25, 1907; his father was a worker in a coal mine. They moved to Minneapolis, and he graduated from North High School in 1925. In 1926, he left for North Dakota to find work, but returned the following fall. At this point, he was a conservative Republican and even supported Herbert Hoover for President. However, his viewpoint was changed during the Depression in the 1930's. Seeing the plight of workers in that situation (including himself), he became politically radicalized.

Work With TeamstersEdit

In 1933, while working for the Pittsburgh Coal Company in Minneapolis, Dobbs became involved with the militant Teamsters Local 574 during a period following a coal-workers strike in 1934. While in this group, he first met Teamster Miles Dunne (a Trotskyist and activist from the Communist League of America). Impressed with Dunne's organizing skills, Dobbs managed to convince him to let him into the local Trotskyist circle — which also included Vincent and Grant Dunne and Carl Skoglund. He soon became one of the CLA's best local activists.

Dobbs, Skoglund, and the Dunne brothers initiated a Teamsters strike in Minneapolis. This soon cascaded into a general strike, and (in the words of Prof. Paul Le Blanc) "ultimately made Minneapolis into a union town." Teamsters President Dan Tobin, fearing the growing power of Dobbs and his Trotskyist co-horts in Local 574, reconstituted it as Local 544. However, Dobbs was still elected as 544's recording secretary. He was vital in organizing the Teamsters between 1936 and 1937, eventually drawing in 125,000 members. Tobin hired him as a national staffer in 1939, but stepped down soon after to work with the new Trotskyist party, the Socialist Workers Party.

Meeting TrotskyEdit

As one of the leaders of the new SWP, Dobbs travelled to Mexico and met with Leon Trotsky shortly before the latter's death in 1940. Returning, he was convicted in 1941 of treason under the anti-Communist Smith Act. The Communist Party USA applauded the arrests of Dobbs and the other "unpatriotic" Trotskyists, but they would also be targeted by the Smith Act a decade later.) He served over a year in Sandstone Prison during the end of World War II (1944-1945).

Farrell trotsky

Farrell with Leon Trostsky

After imprisonmentEdit

Once released, Dobbs edited the party paper, The Militant, and became its national chairman in 1949. In 1948, he had become their first candidate for US President with Tom Kerry. He became national secretary after the retirement of James P. Cannon from the party in 1953, and continued serving as their Presidential candidate until after the 1960 elections (when he received 60,166 votes). Angry with his somewhat workerist political stance, some sectarian factions such as the Spartacist League left the SWP in internal disputes.

Dobbs served as SWP national secretary until he retired in 1972. He was pushed to the background as a non-Trotskyist faction, led by Jack Barnes, took over the party and made it into an isolated sect.


He passed away on October 31, 1983. The SWP continues to publish his four well-written books on the Teamsters: Teamster Rebellion, Teamster Power, Teamster Politics, and Teamster Bureaucracy.

Though he was one of the most-dedicated architects of the far left and responsible for the resurrection of the Teamsters, most do not give much credit and many feel that he truly deserves more.


Farrell's Work