Voices of a People’s History of Communist Organizing in the Dynamo of Dixie, Part One
The following primary documents are from the initial organizing efforts of the Communist Party in the South as well as the establishment of the Trade Union Unity League’s headquarters in Chattanooga and includes: songs, an informational flyer, and a petition delivered to Chattanooga Mayor Bass by the Unemployed Council of Chattanooga as part of International Unemployment Day.
The following primary documents serve to support the information provided in the first post of the a multi-part series on the history of Communist Party organizing in Chattanooga beginning in the Great Depression. You can read the first part of the series HERE.
Songs Taught to Gastonia, N.C. Loray Mill Textile Workers and Their Children by Communist Party Organizers During the Strike
The following songs was provided by Bruce H. Abernethy, corporate spy for the Manville-Jenckes Company, Northern owner of the Loray Mill, to the United States House of Representatives Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities in the United States on Nov. 13, 1930:
HOLD THE FORT
We meet to-day in freedom’s cause
And raise our voices high;
We join our hands in union strong
To battle or to die.
Hold the fort for we are coming,
Union men be strong;
Side by side we battle onward
Victory will come.
Look, my comrades, see the union
Banner flying high;
By our numbers we shall conquer,
Victory is nigh.
Long and fierce the battle rages,
But we shall not fear;
Hope will come when help is needed,
Cheer, my comrades, cheer.
BYE AND BYE
Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell us what’s wrong and what’s right;
but when asked how about something to eat,
They’ll answer with voices so sweet:
You’ll eat bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky way up high.
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.
And the Salvation Army comes out,
And they ding and they preach and shout
Till they get your last coin in the drum,
And they’ll tell you when you’re on the bum.
Holy Rollers and jumpers come out
And they roll and they jump and shout;
Give your money to Jesus to-day,
He will drive all diseases away.
Workingmen of all countries unite,
Side by side for freedom we’ll fight;
When this world its wealth we shall gain
To the masters we’ll sing this refrain:
You’ll eat bye and bye.
When you learn how to cook and to fry;
Chop some wood, ‘twill do you good,
And you’ll eat in the sweet bye and bye.
The workers learn their lessons now,
As everyone can see;
The workers know the bosses are
Their greatest enemy.
We’ll fight and fight until we win
A final victory.
Through one big solid union.
For the union makes us strong.
The men all stick together and
The boys are fighting fine;
The women and the children are all
On the picket line.
No scabs, no threats can stop us
When we all march out in line
In one big solid union.
Policemen’s clubs can’t frighten us;
Of bullets we’re not scared.
They may trample down our women and
Our children worse may fare,
But we’ll show these big fat bosses
That their slaves can cost them dear
Through one big solid union.
Arise, ye prisoners of starvation,
Arise, ye wretched of the earth,
For Justice thunders condemnation,
A better world’s in birth.
No more tradition’s chains shall bind.
Arise, ye slaves, no more enthrall.
The earth shall rise on new foundation.
We have been nought, we shall be all.
‘Tis the final conflict,
Let each stand in his place;
The International Soviet
Shall be the human race.
We want no condescending saviors
To rule us from a judgment hall;
We workers ask not for their favors-
Let us consult for all,
To make the thief disgorge his booty,
To free the spirit from its cell,
We must ourselves decide our duty,
We must decide and do it well.
Toilers from shops and fields unite,
We the party of all who work;
The earth belongs to us, the people,
No room here for the shirk.
How many on our flesh have fattened-
But if the noisome birds of prey
Shall vanish from the sky some say
The blessed sunlight still will stay.
Flyer Distributed on the Streets of Chattanooga Inviting Unemployed Workers to Attend Mass Meeting
The following flyer was provided by Bruce H. Abernethy, corporate spy for the Manville-Jenckes Company, Northern owner of the Loray Mill, to the United States House of Representatives Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities in the United States on Nov. 13, 1930:
UNEMPLOYED MASS MEETING, ON TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 11 A.M., AT 16 ½ MAIN STREET WEST
Unemployed workers, would you rather starve than fight?
Thousands of unemployed workers are tramping the streets of Chattanooga looking for jobs, but there are no jobs for them. Hundreds if not thousands of families are facing hunger and cold. This will be a black winter for the unemployed.
CITY WON’T HELP UNEMPLOYED
The bosses and the city government are doing nothing to help the jobless workers. They are calling a “fake” relief conference for the unemployed, but this is done in order to fool the workers, to make the workers believe that the government is helping them - to stop the workers from organizing and demanding “work or bread.” This fake relief conference no doubt will be followed by more lay-offs, more wage cuts, and more starvation for the workers. This was the result of the face conferences called by President Hoover and Governor Horton. Far from helping the unemployed workers, the police round them up and railroad them to the chain gang under charges of “vagrancy,” “loitering.” The Community Chest, the Salvation Army, and the rest of the charity organizations talk about helping the workers who face starvation, but all they do is talk while the workers starve.
NO CHARITY WANTED
The workers of Chattanooga who are out of work don’t want charity. They want work, and if they can’t get work, they demand immediate relief from the city and the bosses, not as charity, but as their right. There is only one way we can get relief for the unemployed and that is to organize and fight for it.
REFUSE TO STARVE - ORGANIZE AND FIGHT
Unemployed workers, fight for immediate relief, for free food, free clothing, and street-car fare for the children of unemployed workers, against eviction of unemployed workers from their homes for not paying rent, for free heat and light for the unemployed, for unemployment insurance for every worker out of a job. Fight for work or bread. Don’t starve quietly.
Come to the mass meeting. Organize together and fight for relief.
Auspices: Chattanooga Unemployed Council.
Letter from the Unemployed Council of Chattanooga to Mayor Bass, Delivered on International Unemployment Day
The following letter was provided by Paul J. Aymon, president of the Tennessee Federation of Labor, to the United States House of Representatives Special Committee to Investigate Communist Activities in the United States on Nov. 13, 1930:
Unemployed Council of Chattanooga
No. 16 ½ Main Street, Chattanooga, Tenn.
City Hall, Chattanooga, Tenn.
HONORABLE SIR: We, the Council of the Unemployed, Chattanooga branch, bring to the attention of the city council the growing misery and starvation of the 18,000 unemployed workers, men and women, in the city of Chattanooga.
These thousands are unable to pay rent, are facing evictions, can’t pay for groceries, electric, gas, and water. These conditions are lowering the standard of living of the workers to the point of starvation. Hunger diseases, such as pellagra, rickets, are endangering the vitality of these workers and their families.
Very few industrial establishments are running full time, or with a full force. Crane Enamel, usually employing 3,500 men and more, now employs 150. The Southern Railroad shop cut its force from 300 to about 50. Casey Hedges has reduced its force from 960 to about 250. Lay-offs of a mass nature are taking place in all factories.
Side by side with this, those workers still employed are only working two and three days a week, are receiving one wage cut after another, and are driven at a death pace, resulting in bigger lay-offs.
The bosses, through their boss-ruled organizations, such as the Salvation Army, Associated Charities, Community Fund, Red Cross, etc. are proposing fake employment schemes, to prevent the workers from fighting for real relief. Their proposals for “free” meals at 15 cents or relief of $2 for a limited number of married men, are nothing but evasions of the seriousness of unemployment and also a manner of confusing the workers.
The city government is cynically throwing unemployed workers into the jail and chain gangs for vagrancy, for periods averaging from three months to a year. This system of convict labor is still further increasing unemployment.
We, of the unemployed council, demand that the city council no longer hypocritically evade the question of unemployment, and take the following steps for relief:
- Prohibition of eviction of unemployed workers from their homes for nonpayment of rent.
- Prohibition of cutting off lights and water by power company.
- Immediate listing of all vacant homes, to be improved by the city and to be turned over to unemployed workers through the unemployment council, the city to pay fixed minimum rent to owners.
- Free hospital service to unemployed workers and their families.
- Free street-car fare and meals for school children.
- Seven-hour day, 5-day week for municipal workers in all public jobs, at regular union rates without discrimination because of color. These workers have the right to organize.
- Abolition of all city support to Community Fund, Associated Charities, Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc. and prohibition of collections by these organizations in shops, factories, homes, and schools. The funds of these organizations to be turned over to the committee elected by unemployed workers at mass meetings, called by the unemployed council and these funds to be administrated by this committee.
- Immediately putting all public buildings, such as armories, at the disposal of the unemployed.
- Free use of schools and other public buildings by unemployed for mass meetings, etc.
- Immediate repeal of all vagrancy, loitering and free grabbing laws and chain gang system.
- Full support for the social insurance bill sponsored by the Communist Party which provides a minimum of $25 to be paid to all unemployed workers and those unable to work, because of sickness, old age, accident, etc.
- Recognition of the Soviet Union, which will mean the opening up of a tremendous market.
The unemployed council is electing a committee to take this mater and their entire program up with the city council on Tuesday.
C. O. Alexander,