Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Work in the Factories

A Report on the Atlanta Conference

“Every Factory a Fortress!”

The October League organized a conference on “Communist Work in the Factories,” which was held in Atlanta. Ga., during Thanksgiving holiday and attended by more than 100 delegates.

The delegates came from communist organizations and collectives from around the country all working primarily among factory workers. Unity on many important strategic and tactical questions was reached including unity around the idea of a common effort in the upcoming labor struggles in 1973.

The Conference signified an important step forward within the ranks of the movement since 1969. It showed the developing integration of Marxism-Leninism with the newly rising workers’ movement within the U.S. It also signified the defeat in large areas of the movement of many petty-bourgeois theories which attacked the vanguard role of the working class within the revolutionary movement. Such concepts as “student or lumpen-proletariat vanguardism” have been widely discredited along with the theory of the “bought-off” or “disappearing” working class.

The delegates heard several speakers make presentations on various aspects of working class organizing including Sherman Miller, Chairman of the Mead Rank and File Workers Caucus; Don Williams, a leader of the Black Workers’ Congress; Odis Hyde, a veteran communist, active in many of the organizing drives of the old Communist Party.

Miller summed up the lessons of the seven-week Mead wildcat strike showing the various methods used to develop communist work and communist leadership in the daily struggles of the workers. He stressed the special need for work among white workers, a weakness in the Mead strike.


Miller criticized those groups who limit their work to “simply talking to the two or three advanced workers in a plant.” Stressing the need to build the united front against imperialism among the masses of workers, he called for communists to integrate into the day-to-day struggles of the workers for their basic needs and rights.

A film about the strike called “Strike at Mead,” was shown after Miller’s speech. The film, made entirely from live footage of the Mead struggle, showed the political character of the strike and the role that communists played in it.

The film also demonstrated the merging of the workers’ struggle with that of the national movement of the Afro-American people, especially in the South.

Odis Hyde then spoke on the “Role of Black Workers in the Class Struggle.” He traced the history of the Afro-American struggle from the period when they were “captive, slave labor” through their positions as share-croppers in the plantation system of the rural south and up to their present status as wage-slaves. Blacks now, for the most part, are scattered throughout the urban centers of the United States.

From this history of oppression and exploitation, he drew important lessons, stressing the need for both working class leadership in the black struggle as a whole and the necessity for class unity between black and white workers. He pointed out that the history of the black struggle in the U.S. has seen most leaders emerge from ranks of the preachers, intellectuals and Democratic party politicians. But few if any from the ranks of the black workers themselves (who make up over 90% of the black population).

Hyde, a black worker himself in Chicago during the 1930’s, described how and why he became a member of the Communist Party at that time. “I never heard people talk like this before–about Jim Crow, about lynchings, about unemployment insurance. ..” He then made the point that the communists did more than just talk, they acted. “When a family would get evicted, black and white communists would move their furniture in off the street back into their house.” By defending the rights of black people in practice, often in violent struggle against the landlord’s police, the communists won the respect of thousands of black workers like Odis.


Williams gave a presentation on the tactics of in-plant organizing. He stressed the need to base our tactics on the concrete conditions within the plant and called for careful investigation of the issues which the workers themselves feel are important. He urged the development of left rank-and-file organizations and caucuses and the need for communists to light for political content beyond the economic issues which arise.

The Conference heard a proposal calling for the establishment of such left rank-and-file workers’ organizations, called “Solidarity Committees” which was proposed by one of the workshops.

Williams told the delegates that “an organizer cannot expect to go in and work miracles overnight but must have a long-term point of view and patience.” He then went into some of his experiences in working with such organizations as Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement (DRUM) in Detroit several years ago.

Joe Dougher, a long-time worker and organizer who sat on the National Committee of the CPUSA in this earlier period, stressed the need to build a new communist party. “Without a communist party, the people have nothing.” His talk centered on the role of the CP as a once-valiant fighter and leader of the U.S. workers’ movement and how it degenerated into the swamp of revisionism, corruption and abandonment of the workers’ movement.

Dougher said that communists must “never abandon even one tenet of Marxism-Leninism, because if they do, all the others will soon follow.” He stressed the need for “an iron will and strict discipline,” pointing up the need for organization based upon democratic-centralism – that is, democracy within our own ranks and in our relationship with the people and strict centralism and unity in action.


Other speakers at the meeting hammered home the need not only to “build the party at the point of production” in the form of factory nuclei, but also the need to develop the new upsurge of the workers towards the formation of left workers organizations with a mass character. These Workers Solidarity Committees, (anti-imperialist workers groups) “are needed to give expression to the militant sentiments of the workers in both the economic and political struggle and to oppose the collaborationist policies of the trade union bureaucrats who attempt to sabotage the workers movement.”

Through the meeting, stress was laid on “practicing the mass line”, and the need to get involved in the day to day struggles, no matter how small. This was said to be the basic method for accomplishing the organizational tasks in the factories.

Workshops were held during the conference, on such topics as: “Building Solidarity Committees and Rank-and-File Organization”: “Organizing the Factory Nucleus”; “Work with Women Workers”; “The National Question in the Plants”; “Agitation and Propaganda”; and “Strike Strategy”. These workshops gave people an opportunity to exchange experiences from different cities and industries and reach unity on a common approach to practical work among the workers.

The following day, each workshop presented a statement giving guidance to factory work for each of these areas. Some excerpts from these reports appear in this supplement. As well as clarifying long-range goals for work at the point of production, conference speakers and participants agreed that the next period will be a crucial one for the development of the U.S. workers’ movement.

One speaker stated that, “with the sharpening of the crisis and imperialist contradictions, the Nixon administration will more and more adopt policies to shift the burden of the crisis onto the backs of the U.S. workers and people with increased speed-up, ’productivity campaigns,’ wage cutting, lay-offs, and new slave labor programs for those on welfare. Increased political repression will also become the order of the day.”


Given these objective conditions and the surety of a new mass upsurge against these attacks, the conference delegates began laying some concrete plans to prepare for 1973, a year of intense labor struggles. A special workshop was held on “The upcoming Struggle m the Auto Industry.” Looking to when the UAW contract expires next fall, auto organizers from plants across the country discussed possibilities of a united Left effort in the strikes. Such questions as a possible one-year contract and the fight against Nixon’s economic policies were also discussed.

A real tone of unity prevailed throughout the conference. This was made possible by a conscious fight against sectarianism, a self-critical approach and most importantly because the political unity reach was based not on abstract phrases but on actual practice of the participants and organizations involved.

Some of those groups attending the meeting were: The Black Workers’ Congress, The Boston Workers’ Group and a collective from Cambridge, Mass., Communist Workers’ League (Baltimore), Red Flag League (N.Y.), Red Star League (Chicago), People’s College (Nashville), Association of Communist Workers (Louisville), as well as organizers from North Carolina, Chinatown in New York, Chicago and community workers from both the Chicano and Afro-American communities.

The Conference ended on a note of unity with the singing of the “International.”