Allarm (Minneapolis, Minn.) 1915-1918 Browse the title

Allarm began its life in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in December 1915 as the official organ of the Scandinavian branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.). Published by the Scandinavian Propaganda League, Allarm was a 4-page monthly printed primarily in Swedish. Previously, from January to October 1915, it had been published in Seattle with the title Solidaritet ("Solidarity").

The newspaper moved to Minneapolis because of the lack of financial and organizational support in Seattle, and in Minneapolis Allarm had a circulation of about 2,000. The editors in Minneapolis were Carl Ahlteen from 1915 to 1916 and an un-named committee which included Walfrid Engdahl and Carl Skoglund from 1916 to 1918. All three men were Swedish immigrants and labor activists who had been blacklisted and exiled from Sweden after the 1909 General Strike there. By 1917 Allarm became a semimonthly until it ceased publication in May 1918.

Allarm covered local and national news, including reports from I.W.W. chapters and information about labor strikes. It also contained Scandinavian and other international news, and regularly reprinted articles from the anarchist and syndicalist press in Sweden. Allarm included poetry, songs, and political cartoons--all to rally its readership to the cause of class struggle, direct action, and solidarity with other workers.

Frequent Swedish American contributors were Ragnar Johanson, Edward Mattson, and poet Signe Aurell. Johanson was a well-known syndicalist in Sweden before he came to the United States in 1912, and as a leading I.W.W. propagandist he was called a "silver tongued orator." Mattson was an I.W.W. organizer in the Pacific Northwest and editor of Solidaritet in 1915. Aurell immigrated to Minneapolis from Sweden and worked as a laundress, seamstress, domestic servant, labor activist, poet, and translator. She contributed poetry to Allarm which reflected the life experience of immigrant workers. Aurell and others also paid tribute to Josef Hillström (a.k.a. Joe Hill), a fallen I.W.W. activist and song writer from Sweden.

On September 5, 1917, U.S. Department of Justice agents raided 48 I.W.W. halls across the country and arrested 166 I.W.W. members on charges of violating the U.S. Espionage Act. Allarm's editor Carl Ahlteen, business manager Sigfrid Stenberg, and contributor Ragnar Johanson were among those arrested in the round-up. They were tried on five charges, including conspiracy to interfere with the prosecution of the war. (Ahlteen had published an article in Allarm that opposed U.S. involvement in World War I, decrying the "brutal machinery" of the state.) Their arrests and subsequent trial in Chicago in 1918 were covered extensively in the Allarm in its last months, until it ceased publication in May 1918.

Edward Mattson managed to avoid arrest by fleeing to Canada and eventually returning to Sweden, but Ahlteen, Stenberg, and Johanson were all imprisoned. After five years in jail their sentences were commuted on condition of their deportation and swearing that they would never return to the United States. Back in Sweden, Stenberg, Johanson, and Mattson all became leading figures in that country's syndicalist movement. Ahlteen's political work seems to have faded away back in Sweden.

When Allarm ceased, there was an attempt to start a new I.W.W. newspaper in Minneapolis, called Facklan ("The Torch"). The newspaper did not take off and there was likely only one issue ever published on September 1, 1918.

Walfrid Engdahl and Carl Skogland, who had served on the Allarm editorial staff from 1916 to 1918, stayed in the United States and continued as labor activists into their later years. Engdahl joined the Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota in the 1930s and at one time worked for the administration of Minnesota Governor Floyd B. Olson. Skogland played a prominent role in the 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters' Strike, a historic moment for labor union organizing in the United States.