Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Work in the Factories

A Report on the Atlanta Conference

Odis Hyde, veteran revolutionary, traces history of communist movement at Atlanta labor conference

The first time I saw a big communist demonstration was in the campaign of 1932 (the communist election campaign of Foster and Ford). They had a big march, a demonstration and a political rally at what is known as the Wabash Coliseum–15 Wabash in Chicago. The reason I went, and let’s get this straight, was it was rumored, it was well-known that after the meeting, the communists fed you. I went for no other damn reason.

I wasn’t talking then about changing the world, but when I got there the things they were talking about sort of made an impact on me. The fact that they had a black cat running for vice-president James Ford came from Fisk University down in Tennessee. That impressed me a lot. I had never seen white folks talking like that in the midst of black folks, and black folks talking like they talked: about Jim Crow, lynching, and the poll tax. About unemployment – “People should get money whether they work or not, you had to eat!” The whole theory of unemployment compensation, that people should get just as much money when they ain’t working or when they’re too old to work as when they worked, cause it costs just as much to live for one as for the other. And these kinds of things impressed me.

The next thing that really shook me up, they got me reading them books. Then came the Scottsboro Boys case, then the Angelo Herndon case. And I never saw white folks do what I saw them do, fighting the police in the streets about black folks. Going to the relief stations and saying “we ain’t gonna leave–we want food, we want money”. You call it welfare now – cash relief.

And the other thing that impressed me was the transformation of words into deeds. Back in those days you couldn’t pay no rent – you didn’t have the money. There was no such thing as unemployment compensation, no organized welfare and they kicked you out of your home. I remember when the streets on South side of Chicago was not lined with cars but lined with furniture. The communists would come out in the streets saying “FIGHT DON’T STARVE! Don’t let them put you in the street!” And they would help people put the furniture back in. They’d get put in jail. And that moved me, man. I knew the wealthy blacks wouldn’t do it. I knew the preachers weren’t doing it. They said that Jesus existed to resolve all these matters, that he had all power. All you had to do was to put your hand in Jesus.

These people were doing some real things. They got me involved. When you got involved, you got involved in everything, the labor movement, the community – the labor movement wasn’t separate from the community in those days...

–excerpts from a speech by Odis Hyde