Communists and the unemployed—The story of the moldy Thuringer
A Paul Bunyon statue holds a giant sausage in the town of Atlanta, Ill. | Illinois Office of Tourism

This short story is an installment in the People’s World series 100 Years of the Communist Party USA. See below for details on how to submit your own contribution. And a note for those not in the know: A Thuringer is a sausage, much like a hot dog.

In the Depression of the ’30s, the Unemployed Councils, organized by Communists, fought to get people the things they needed. In a little town on the edge of Chicago, John Wright, an unemployed Communist, was a leader in the movement.

When people didn’t get what they needed from the Relief Office, they often sat down and refused to leave. It got to the point that when they saw John coming with a crowd, Relief officials would rush to lock the doors of their office.

One day, John’s friends drove up to his home in an old car. They said to his wife, Anna, “John’s been arrested! They are taking him to court in Countryside.” He’d been down at the Relief Office again.

The family all piled into the car with their friends and headed down to the courthouse. John came out with blood on his face. It was running down from where he had been hit on the head by police.

The judge looked at John and said, “I don’t know what is wrong with you people. You are never satisfied. We give you food. We give you clothing. We give you kerosene for your stoves. And yet you keep causing a ruckus.”

A demonstration by thousands of unemployed people in Chicago in 1932, organized by the Communist-led Unemployed Councils. One sign expresses the slogan of the Councils: “Don’t starve, fight!” | Encyclopedia of Chicago

As the judge was talking, John’s friend slipped up behind him and handed him something.

John held up a moldy Thuringer and said, “Judge, would you eat this?”

The judge stopped, looked at the sausage, and grudgingly said, “Case dismissed.”

As they were leaving the court, a policeman called John aside and said, “How do you people get things for people? My mother lives in Chicago, and she has no money. She went to the Relief Office, and they told her, ‘Sell your furniture and when the money is gone, then come back.’”

John, still roughed up from his earlier “discussions” with officers, looked at the policeman. With no more than a moment’s pause, he then proceeded to tell him how his mother could contact the Unemployed Council.

Once back home, John, his family, and friends all sat in the kitchen laughing about the incident.

Said one friend, “Did you see the look on that judge’s face when he saw the moldy Thuringer?”

2019 marks a century since the founding of the Communist Party USA. To commemorate the anniversary of the oldest socialist organization in the United States, People’s World has launched the article series: 100 Years of the Communist Party USA. Read the other articles published in the series and check out the guidelines about how to submit your own contribution.


Pamela Wright
Pamela Wright

Pamela Wright is a longtime beekeeper in Missouri.