Helvi Savola

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Helvi Savola in July 1990

Template:TOCnestleft Helvi Savola (born in 1916, died in November 2007 in Wausau, Wisconsin age 91) lived in Wausau since 2000, after retiring from many years of leadership in the Minnesota/Dakotas District of the Communist Party USA.

Early life

Born in Wakefield, Michigan, in 1915, Helvi grew up in a family that was deeply involved in the Finnish Workers Federation.

Helvi was active in the federation and subsequently joined the Young Communist League USA in nearby Ironwood. In 1937, she went to work in Superior, Wisconsin, for the Farmers and Workers Cooperative Unity Alliance, and in September of that year received a call to work for Local 15 of the Timber Workers Union in Marenisco, Michigan, where she met future husband Matt Savola, the leader of the union.

Helvi and Matt were married in October 1939. They spent time in Butte, Montana, where Matt worked for a few months in one of Anaconda’s copper mines. From there, the couple returned to Michigan. Helvi served as manager of the Ironwood Co-op Store for a period of time.

Communist activism

During the McCarthy period, Helvi and Matt answered an advertisement in the "progressive" Finnish-language newspaper Tyomies for a management team for the Clifford Co-op Association in Tripoli, Wisconsin. They stayed there for 21 years, until Matt’s retirement in 1972.

Shortly after, while spending time relaxing in California, the couple was approached[1]by Gus Hall, then general secretary of the CPUSA, who asked them to help lead the party in Minnesota. They promptly agreed to do so.

Among their many interests, Matt and Helvi were acutely sensitive to the plight of small farmers, and often spoke at national meetings of the party about the ravages of corporate agribusiness on rural America.

After Matt died in 1977, Helvi continued organizing for the CPUSA for another 20 years. She and fellow organizer Helen Kruth teamed up to put out the Peoples Path, a bimonthly progressive newsletter for political activists in Minnesota and the Dakotas. They spent a good amount of time selling Marxist literature at the Paul Robeson Bookshop in Minneapolis.

Helvi Savola was active in groups ranging from the Mesaba Co-op Park in Hibbing, Minnesota, to the Twin Cities Peace and Justice Coalition. She was also on the board of a progressive, nonprofit foundation, the John E Forchette Foundation, at the time of her death.

Minnesota chair

In the summer of 1995 Doris Marquit and Erwin Marquit then went to Helvi Savola to tell her that they were rejoining the Communist Party USA. Shortly afterwards, Janet Quaife and Harry McAllister also rejoined the Party. The Independent Communists of Minnesota never met again.

The Party’s policy was to welcome back those who left, although one of the veteran Minnesota communists, Clara Jorgensen, from one of the former farm clubs denounced their readmission.

At the District Convention in 1996, Janet Quaife, Harry McAllister, Doris, and Erwin Marquit were elected to the DistrictCommittee. Helvi Savola still served as chair.[2]

CPUSA Farm Commission meeting

CPUSA Farm Meeting Attendees.jpg

In December 1999, a Communist Party USA meeting was held at the May Day Bookstore in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the purpose of re-establishing the Communist Party USA Farm Commission.

Party members present were Erwin Marquit, Helvi Savola, Jack Brown, Peter Molenaar, Morgan Soderburg, Bill Gudex, Mark Froemke, Scott Marshall, Gary Severson, Mike Madden, Becky Pera, Charlie Smith and Tim Wheeler.[3]

Mark Ritchie (now Secretary of State for Minnesota) also attended and addressed the meeting. In a written report on the meeting by Tim Wheeler, Ritchie is referred to as a "non-party friend" of the Communist Party. The report was marked "not for publication". Click here for the entire report.[4]

Communist gathering

Many comrades have fond memories of Helen Leiviska Kruth and Helvi Savola during this time. One instance was at a historic gathering in 1977 at Mesaba Park to recognize Minnesota Congressperson John T. Bernard. Representative Bernard, from the 8th Congressional District in the Iron Range (1937–39), was the only legislator who voted to continue to send armaments to Republican Spain. He was also famous for ensuring that the last ship carrying weapons to Republican Spain delivered its cargo by debating against the arms embargo until the ship was safely out of U.S. territorial waters. Present at this Mesaba Park event was Congressperson John T. Bernard, Governor Elmer Benson, General Secretary Gus Hall, Helen, Helvi, and many veterans from the Spanish Civil War.



  1. http://www.pww.org/article/articleview/10400/
  2. [ http://www.tc.umn.edu/~marqu002/Chap33.pdf CHAPTER 33. Mostly Unimpeded Academic, Political, and Ideological Activities, 1985−2000 Doris and I rejoin the CPUSA in the summer of 1995]
  3. CPUSA Farm Commission report, Tim Wheeler, December 16, 1999
  4. CPUSA Farm Commission report, Tim Wheeler, December 16, 1999