Born on April 8th 1911, Douglas Hyde came from a Methodist background. He would attend “Spouters’ Corner” on the BristolDowns and, after hearing Wal Hannington speak on the executed Sacco and Vanzetti, he joined the International Class War Prisoners’ Association in 1927.
Hyde joined the Communist Party, aged 17, and, looking for work as a dental technician, moved to north Wales, where he was so isolated that he was the only Party member between Chester and Holyhead. He worked at first within the ILP, until he established Communist Party branches and Left Book Club groups. During the Spanish Civil War, he organised activity for the Spanish Medical Aid Fund managing to enrol Megan Lloyd George as its president.
After eight years, he moved to the London area where, on Party instructions, he joined the Woking Labour Party, secretly recruiting many of its members to the Communist Party and then pulling out blocks of members in stages, each time announcing the formation of a new Party branch. Producing ostensible local Labour Party journals, such as one called “Atom”, developed Hyde’s journalistic skills to such an extent that he was taken on by the Daily Worker. Hyde was exempt from military service for medical reasons so, as staff were called up, Hyde found himself being given editorial responsibilities.
When the January 1941 ban on the paper was imposed, Hyde was given the job of setting up an underground press and a distribution system for an illegal newspaper. He gave literally hundreds of Marxist education classes for the Party and was the London District’s “tutor of the year” in 1940.
By the time of his once infamous break with the Party, he was tutor to the Party’s Musicians’ Group, largely drawn from the big bands that were typical of the period, including that of the famous `Geraldo’. The strains that came with the cold war saw a former friend, fellow Communist and wartime staffer on the Daily Worker, Ludwig Freund, who had become Czechoslovakia’s economy minister, executed for espionage. Hyde’s disillusionment came out in a desire to be inducted into the Catholic church, which he did whilst still working for the Daily Worker. In 1948, a Party member saw him leaving church after receiving mass and Hyde resigned as news editor of the Daily Worker and from the Communist Party. His action was blown up out of all proportion by the media of the day, which had a field day. His 1951 best-seller, “I believed”, became a key ideological weapon against the Communist Party.
During the 1960s, Hyde’s Catholicism took on a liberation theology edge and he was much associated with campaigning for the release of political prisoners in Africa, Asia and Latin America. He himself spent two and a half years in Asian jails. But the Catholicism of the Vatican began to alienate him and, as Communism became less associated with the dark days of the cold war, Hyde began once again to identify with Marxism. He was still strongly influenced by the materialist conception of history and valued Communist Party members as stalwarts of the struggle for a better society. Hyde died on September 19th 1996, aged 85.
Source: Guardian 21st September 1996