Martin Harvey

How Frankensteen Was Defeated

(19 November 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. 9 No. 47, 19 November 1945, pp. 1 & 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

DETROIT – Mayor Edward Jeffries defeated UAW-CIO Vice-President Richard T. Frankensteen by over 57,000 votes in the Detroit mayoralty campaign. Marking the campaign was the extreme bitterness of the electioneering and the record vote of 501,047 which surpassed the previous record for a purely municipal election of over 400,000 votes in the so-called labor campaign of 1937 when the UAW first endorsed a full slate of candidates.

During the whole campaign the initiative was in the hands of the reactionary Jeffries. It was he who determined the issues and set the tone of the campaign. Outstanding in the issues presented by Jeffries was the race question. Jeffries organized a widespread undercover anti-Negro campaign which surpassed his vicious use of the question in the last municipal election. The central idea was white supremacy in the City Hall and the maintenance of the “purity” of the all-white neighborhoods.

Spearheading this anti-Negro campaign were several bitterly reactionary neighborhood papers such as the Strathmore Home Gazette and the Redford Record, which were given city-wide distribution and which featured such front-page scareheads as “White Neighborhoods Again in Peril – Frankensteen Policy Up on Housing Negroes Here.” Combined with this was the secret distribution of thousands of unsigned little cards, which first made their appearance in the last local election, which were distributed in white neighborhoods to spread the fear that the Negroes were attempting to take over the city through Frankensteen. A typical inscription on these cards, which bore no union label, was: “FORWARD! NEGROES! Unite with Frankensteen for Mayor. We Negroes Gave 21,572 Votes to Frankensteen in Primary. LET’S PUT HIM IN NOV. 6. A Negro Vote for Frankensteen Is a Blow to White Exclusive Areas.”

These same elements, however, distributed leaflets in Negro neighborhoods charging Frankensteen and the UAW with being anti-Negro. In the same way they initiated a whispering campaign charging that Frankensteen was Jewish, yet distributed newspapers in the Jewish neighborhoods charging Frankensteen with being a friend of Father Coughlin and an anti-Semite. Even the regular daily press gave support to this campaign by featuring prominently news items on the extent of Frankensteen’s Negro support and charging repeatedly that Frankensteen represented only a minority of the population.

The second major issue in Jeffries’ campaign which was constantly combined with the first was the “red scare” and the charge that the CIO wanted to take over the city. On both of these issues Frankensteen devoted his time to denying the charges. He did not represent the Negroes, he said, but all the people. He was not a red and the CIO did not want to take over the city. He offered no program for the Negroes to put an end to the discrimination and segregation to which they are subjected and he offered no program to labor or the people as a whole on the many vital problems which exist, foremost among them being jobs and security. His only positive statements were devoted to presenting himself as more efficient, as more concerned with improved bus service and cleaner alleys. Without an aggressive program, for labor and the people, without calling on the middle class to support labor in this program, it was impossible for Frankensteen to answer the viciously reactionary charges of Jeffries. If his denials are valid, that is, if he does not represent labor but “all the people,” then why should anyone support him rather than Jeffries, who claims the same thing? If his denials are not true, that is, if he does represent labor, then why should the middle class, the storekeepers, the professionals, etc., support Frankensteen when they see no difference between “labor’s” program and Jeffries’ program?

With Frankensteen presenting ho program, it was easy for the middle class voter to be fooled into thinking that there was some undercover plot involved in which CIO officials were going to use the city government for their own mysterious ends. The result was a sharp division between labor and the middle class which rallied to Jeffries. The key to labor’s participation in politics is the question of how this can be prevented.

There is only one answer – and that answer has been tested by events in the United States and in European countries. For labor to win the support of the middle class it must come forth independently as an organized force, it must propose something new, it must utilize the natural opposition of the lower middle class to big capital by proposing an alliance against big capital and the political representatives of big capital who oppress both labor and the middle class. When the opposite is done, as in Detroit, when labor is made to appear as identical with the ordinary capitalist political, who is out for personal gain, then the middle class chooses the old arid established politician.

Detroit workers, although they have no love for Frankensteen, held high hopes in this election, built up largely by the pro-Jeffries press, which kept calling Frankensteen a labor man. The tragedy of. this election is not Frankensteen’s defeat but the possibility that, having falsely accepted Frankenstein as a labor candidate Detroit workers may become disillusioned with independent labor politics.

This must not be allowed to happen. There was no independent labor candidate in the Detroit elections. Independent labor action did not fail; it Wasn’t tried. What is called for now, as it was called for before, is the formation of an independent Labor Party which can genuinely represent labor and can take the lead in the struggle for political power.

Last updated on 29 January 2018