‘Sid Hatfield’s Last Stand’ from The Toiler. Vol. 3 No. 185. August 20, 1921.

‘Sid Hatfield’s Last Stand’ from The Toiler. Vol. 3 No. 185. August 20, 1921.

“When the gunplay begins again on battle-scale in Mingo and Logan, I hope you will understand how came it. And when Sid Hatfield is tried for the killing of Albert Felts, I hope plenty of people will back him up for his defense, for I think he’s the kind of man the world needs more of.” So, wrote Bob Minor in his stirring story, “The Wars of West Virginia” in The Liberator a year ago.

Sid Hatfield was freed of the charge of the murder of the coal barons’ gunman, Albert Felts. They couldn’t get him on that. But the gunplay which occurred on the courthouse steps at Welch two weeks ago between C.E. Lively, Baldwin-Felts detective, and Sid Hatfield and Ed Chambers, friends of the miners, left Hatfield and Chambers dead on the scene.

Sid is dead and the Baldwin gunman will probably be freed of his killing. In such clashes not all victories can fall to the workers and the friends of the workers.

Being a friend of the miners cost Hatfield his life. He could just as well (and more profitably) have been their enemy. But Sid, being the “kind of man the world needs more of”, chose his friends from among the coal diggers and not from among the coal owners. That is why he is dead today.

When the wars between the miners and the coal owners of West Virginia took on the phase of gun battles, Hatfield renounced the feuds of his fathers and took his place in the larger class-fight of his mountaineers turned coal miners. The automatic and high powered rifle are ordinary means of settling disputes and establishing the rough justice of those mountaineer settlements where the Hatfields for generations had lived and died. Sid learned to shoot true and quick. He was gunman too, but in the higher sense of the word. His crime was, not that he knew how and did shoot to kill, but that he shot and killed the enemies of the miners. In this consisted his crime in the eyes of the coal barons; in this consisted just cause for his death, so they reasoned.

And now Sid is dead. Sid believed in the Constitution of the United States and in keeping the law as it is written. So he defended the miners against the assaults of the hired thugs of the coal owners. Because this belief in the fundamental laws of the country, he ran foul of the Law the Coal Barons who own and rule In West Virginia. So Sid had to be gotten rid of- no matter how.

The coal miners have lost a friend and fighter. The coal owners have their vengeance. But the war between them goes on. Sid Hatfield is dead but others from the ranks of the miners will take his place. They MUST take his place. The fight for unionism in the Mingo coal fields demands more men like him. The surest vindication of his death is to develop more men of his kind. Only when this done can the fight for unionism in West Virginia be won.

The Toiler was a significant regional, later national, newspaper of the early Communist movement published weekly between 1919 and 1921. It grew out of the Socialist Party’s ‘The Ohio Socialist’, leading paper of the Party’s left wing and northern Ohio’s militant IWW base and became the national voice of the forces that would become The Communist Labor Party. The Toiler was first published in Cleveland, Ohio, its volume number continuing on from The Ohio Socialist, in the fall of 1919 as the paper of the Communist Labor Party of Ohio. The Toiler moved to New York City in early 1920 and with its union focus served as the labor paper of the CLP and the legal Workers Party of America. Editors included Elmer Allison and James P Cannon. The original English language and/or US publication of key texts of the international revolutionary movement are prominent features of the Toiler. In January 1922, The Toiler merged with The Workers Council to form The Worker, becoming the Communist Party’s main paper continuing as The Daily Worker in January, 1924.

PDF of full issue: https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/thetoiler/n185-aug-20-1921-Toil-nyplmf.pdf

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