for more see: http://www.hazardscampaign.org.uk
Over the Mayday Weekend, the Square Social Centre is the venue of a series of events, Including a 2 day Anarchism 06 conference.
That's running both afternoons on saturday and sunday, with evening events as well. On the saturday, there's also a special session on union workplace organising with speakers from the industrial Workers of the World union.
Sunday sees sessions on autonomous workers struggles with Gate Gourmet, Laing O'Rourke workers & tube cleaners; the recent anti-CPE uprisings in France from those who have been involved; as well as the recent Broadway Market occupation in Hackney against gentrification, the future of social centres and the significance of Mayday in political struggles....
for the full programme check out:
On Mayday itself in London there's a morning critical mass bicycle ride, meeting at 11am under waterloo bridge...
The annual trade union march is taking place on mayday as well - combined with a National March for workplace justice, as a part of a campaign for 'free unions, fair rights and a trade union freedom bill'.
The march is meting up at Clerkenwell Green, Islington, from 12 noon - the nearest tube station is Farringdon.
It's due to set off at 1pm, passing Red Lion Square and Holborn Tube Station, along Kingsway, past Aldwych, down the Strand and into Trafalgar Square for a rally with loads of trade unions speakers due to start at 2.30pm
for more see:
There's also an autonomous bloc mayday parade organised for the march, which is being held in solidarity with other EUROMAYDAY events happening around europe - the euromayday parades of the last few years have brought together casualised workers, temps and part-time workers, immigrants and the unemployed, organising together around the theme of 'precarity', insecurity and workers rights.
The autonomous parade is also calling for freedom of movement across borders for everyone, and the right for people to stay and mwork in the country of their choosing, with access to all the benefits and freedoms available to that population.
That's meeting at the start of the trade union march assembly point, midday at Clerkenwell Green.
for more see:
Another event worth noting...
The playful folks at the space hijackers are holding a 'Mayday Police Victory Celebration' outside the bank of england, at 2pm, and have invited all and sundry to a big street party, the only stipulation being that people must be in police uniforms
for more see:
There's loads of mayday events going on around the country and the world - for a roundup of what goes on check out the indymedia websites next week... or if you're attending any of the events then please do post a report to the website.
If you know of other events please also post a comment below.
full programme of the anarchism 06 and other events at the square over the weekend see:
more on the spacehijackers event see:
15 rampart street, london E1
May Day returns to its roots
Marches and rallies of immigrants to take place
For many older Americans, "May Day" brings to mind images of phalanxes of Soviet soldiers, goose-stepping through Red Square behind massive tanks, while millions of onlookers obediently cheer. For some, "May Day" is a pagan holiday, Beltane, known more (and loved) for maypoles or other fertility rituals than for political struggles.
But May Day, the political version, is an American holiday -- one celebrated for the last century everywhere in the world except America, and one whose origins are well worth remembering. Because May Day began as a strike for basic workplace rights we're now in the process of losing. And that strike was largely by immigrant workers, which is exactly what America will see when immigrants and their supporters strike, march and rally across the country on a “National Day of Action for Comprehensive Immigration Reform” on this coming Monday -- May Day.
Chicago, in 1886, was a rapidly growing city, a polyglot of immigrant languages and cultures. On the first May Day -- May 1, 1886 -- "International Workers' Day" began as a series of general strikes in Chicago and other Midwestern cities for the eight- hour day. Some 340,000 workers participated; it was a campaign that had already been going on strong for quite some time. But the strike took on particular significance when, two days later, police attacked striking workers at McCormick Reaper, on Chicago's south side. Four workers were killed and over 200 injured. And at a demonstration to protest the police riot on the following day, May 4, a bomb went off at Chicago's Haymarket Square -- the infamous "Haymarket Massacre" that killed eight police and wounded 60. The bombing led to death sentences for eight leading anarchists, including several German immigrants, convicted with no evidence at all for conspiracy to commit murder.
Three of the anarchists were pardoned before their deaths, the other five posthumously. But the public and police hostility to organized labor that was whipped up over Haymarket meant that, in turn, May Day became an international labor rallying cry for the right of workers to organize in general, and for the eight-hour day in particular. By the end of the decade, May Day was a holiday celebrated by workers and workers' movements in every industrialized country in the world.
It still is -- now, in fact, it's observed globally. Except, ironically, in the land of the holiday's birth. The holiday's burgeoning popularity led Congress, in 1894, to establish "Labor Day" in September to honor American workers -- a holiday established, not by ordinary workers themselves as an expression of empowerment, but by big business and their Congressional apologists as a way to try to dictate what workers were and weren't allowed to celebrate. One day belonged to the workers; the other 365 to big business, and we were to work as many hours of those days as business pleased.
The strategy failed, of course. Eventually. It took another entire generation of struggle, but by 1912, federal workers were granted the eight-hour day; and in 1917, while America was desperate for the cooperation of unions in the war effort, the Eight Hour Act became law. And there, one would think, the matter was settled.
Okay, quick: Do you actually work only eight hours in a day? Only 40 hours in a week? Five days?
Not very many of us do, any longer. We stay longer in the office, we take work home with us, we take work everywhere with us, because at some level we fear that if we don't, either the company will fail or it will replace us with people who'll make those sacrifices. Nor, in the land that gave birth to May Day, do workers here get anywhere close to the vacation or sick day benefits we get in other industrialized countries. And let's not even talk about health care coverage, which isn't even linked to one's workplace in most of the industrialized world -- it's accepted as a universal need and right. Here, our system has already rendered health care too expensive to obtain without insurance. Now, it's denying more and more of the workforce health insurance that covers meaningful parts of the cost of actually getting sick, or, for nearly 50 million of us, any health insurance at all. Income for most working families is not keeping up with inflation. And for all of these effective losses in compensation for our work, we're still working harder and longer hours than our grandparents.
It's not too different now, really, from 1886. Then, as now, big business was exploiting the desperation and relative powerlessness of cheap immigrant labor, and in the process trying to depress the wages and establish exploitative precedents for all workers. Then, as now, much of the rest of the public feared and distrusted a part of the labor force that often didn't even speak English. Then, as now, the immigrants had finally had enough. And marched and struck.
On Monday, the largest yet wave of immigrant marches and rallies will take place in scores of cities across the United States. Their immediate focus is proposed Congressional reforms, the most prominent of which is a ruthlessly exploitative “guest worker” proposal backed by President Bush that would leave immigrants' legal standing wholly at the mercy of a single employer. But the larger issue is America's imposition of corporate-friendly trade policies that have decimated economies in Mexico and elsewhere, spurring economic emigration to America, while at the same time exporting millions of better-paying jobs from America itself.
The immigrants' struggle is not just legal, but economic, and a matter of self-respect and self-preservation; it is, in important ways, the leading edge of a struggle all American workers are facing. On Monday, find the immigrant march in your community. Join it.
Happy May Day.
Millions of people on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are expected to take part in an unprecedented May 1 protest in support of the legalization of undocumented immigrants who work and live in the United States. The cross-border action is the next stage in a surprise mass movement that erupted on U.S. streets last month. But a call to action that was originally billed as a general work and shopping strike in the United States has evolved into a more varied protest that will manifest different forms in different places. Protest marches, consumer boycotts, public forums, and even work stoppages are being organized in scores of localities.
David McField, a Los Angeles pro-immigrant activist of Nicaraguan-origin, termed as "mean and ungrateful" the treatment of workers who have made the United States "bigger and more powerful." Said McField, "Latin Americans have had to come here because we haven't had opportunities in our own countries. The U.S. government, not the U.S. people, has helped perpetuate the conditions of exploitation in our countries … that's why we ask that the North American people support us."
Spreading far and wide, the outcome of the pending May Day protest is as unpredictable as the movement few could have envisioned just a couple of months ago. Concerns over reported firings of some immigrant workers who participated in earlier work stoppages and protests on April 10, and fears of an anti-immigrant backlash, are creating tactical differences within the U.S. movement. In Los Angeles, for instance, two broad coalitions, the March 25 Movement and Somos America, are sponsoring separate marches at different times.
Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahoney and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are urging people to go to work and attend school on May 1, but encouraging participation in a mass rally planned for after-hours. Labor unions, which constitute an important sector of the movement, worry that their involvement in work stoppages could be deemed as promotions of illegal strikes. Also, many activists are suspicious of the timing of this month's Department of Homeland Security raids on IFCO company worksites across the United States, which came just days after the April 10 protests and resulted in the arrests of more than 1,100 undocumented workers.
On the other hand, Los Angeles' Continental Front is among movement groups that still endorse the tactic of staying home from work and school. Members of the Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana and allied groups of Mexican immigrant clubs support a variety of May Day actions, depending on the individual possibilities and risks. Some employers have agreed to allow their employees a day off on May 1, however others have not.
Nativo Lopez, the president of the Hermandad Mexicana Latinoamericana said at a recent Los Angeles press conference that he respected students who stage school walkouts, adding that the "best education" young people could receive is to march in the streets for their rights and justice. Lopez said the new movement is following in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Pressed by journalists about the possible firings of workers who participate in the protests, Lopez chided some reporters for having a "patronizing" attitude and ignoring the ongoing firings of workers he said his organization has spoken out against for 50 years.
In many ways taken off guard by the mass upsurge of protests, longtime pro-immigrant personalities and organizations now confront backlashes and racist threats from what is appearing to be a systematic campaign of intimidation. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Los Angeles Police Department are investigating immigration-linked death threats to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, and other officials.
In addition, Joel Magallan, the director of the Tepeyac Association, a leading immigrant advocacy organization in New York City, has reported receiving anonymous threats on his cell phone. In San Diego County, a recent fire at a local bar is suspected of being the work of anti-immigrant forces, The FBI reports more than 2,500 hate crimes against Latinos in the United States since 2000.
In Mexico, what began as a vague appeal for cross-border solidarity on the Internet is snowballing into a movement as well. In various parts of the country labor unions, regional and local business groups, and ex-bracero associations are supporting a one-day boycott of U.S. products and businesses. "For me, the protest serves a double purpose: I get to support the immigrants and I also get to express my slightly anti-Yankee sentiments," said Mexico City cafe owner Joaquin Garcia Nava.
As in the United States, the Roman Catholic Church is adding legitimacy, voice and presence to the movement. Mexican bishops in the border cities of Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana, Mexicali, Nogales, Reynosa, Nuevo Laredo, and Piedras Negras have all endorsed the May 1 action.
Still, "The Great American Boycott" spotlights class and political differences in Mexico over how to advance the legalization agenda in the United States. Clearly concerned about the impact of mass actions in Washington, the Fox administration is quietly telling U.S. Latino leaders to take a moderate approach. Sonora Governor Eduardo Bours, the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico City, and the Mexican Franchise Association, an organization that represents Mexican owners of U.S. brand franchises, all oppose a boycott as either misguided or ineffective while the Mexican employers' association, Coparmex, has declared neutrality. "Coparmex will not take any position in reference to the protest," said Coparmex President Alberto Nunez Estrada, "but let each one of our affiliates make the corresponding decision, because there are pros and cons."
Economic statistics hint at the potential impact of a Mexican consumer boycott. McDonald's and Burger King, for example, count 330 and 155 establishments, respectively, in Mexico. Chihuahua consumers are estimated to spend approximately US$5 billion every year in neighboring Texas.
Meanwhile, class schisms are also surfacing in the U.S. movement. In Los Angeles, the Spanish-language media that were so instrumental in promoting mass protests on March 25 and April 10, are noticeably shying away from boycott actions. One employee of the Los Angeles Univision television affiliate, who preferred to remain anonymous, said supervisors have actually prohibited station employees from using the word "boycott" because it could negatively affect the station's advertisers.
The Minutemen are Back
Hoping not to be politically outflanked, anti-legalization forces in the United States are also mobilizing. In Dallas, the scene of a massive pro-immigrant protest on April 10 that drew perhaps 500,000 people, the Citizens for Immigration Reform is asking sympathizers to do extra shopping on May 1. "We're telling our members if you have a big-ticket item that you want to purchase, wait till May 1 to shop," said Jean Towell, a spokeswoman for the group.
The Minuteman Project plans to stage a cross-country caravan commencing on May 3 in California and culminating on May 12 Washington, D.C. Among other stops, the caravan will pass through Phoenix, Albuquerque and Atlanta, cities with large, active pro-immigrant movements. "Congress doesn't want to hear us," contended Minuteman leader Jim Gilchrist. "We're going to have our voice heard." The group picketed outside a southern California hotel where President George W. Bush stayed on his recent visit to the Golden State. Later next month, Minutemen vow to erect double 15-foot high fences flanked by moats on private lands in Arizona.
The May Day actions in Mexico and the United States will happen when the U.S. Senate is expected to revisit immigration legislation proposals after a two-week break. All eyes will then shift to Capitol Hill, where President Bush is likely to weigh in on the debate. Speaking in Irvine, California, President Bush said this week it is not practical to deport millions of people. Leaning toward the immigration reform bill that will be considered in the Senate, President Bush said he supports a guest worker program.
Sources: El Imparcial (Hermosillo), April 24, 2006. Article by Luis Alberto Medina. Proceso/Apro, April 24, 2006. Article by Enriqueta Cabrera. Univision, April 18, 21, 24, 25, 2006. El Universal, April 22, 2006. Article by Aida Ulloa, Humberto Nino and Jose Manuel Arteaga. KUNM-FM/NPR/Latino USA/Democracy Now!, April 21 and 24, 2006. La Jornada, April 21, 22 and 23, 2006. Articles by Ruben Villalpando, Nelda Judith Anzar, Susana Gonzalez G., the Notimex News Agency, and editorial staff. Dallas Morning News, April 21, 2006. Article by Dianne Solis and Alfredo Cochado. Common Dreams News Center/Financial Times (London), April 20, 2006. Article by Adam Thomson. La Voz de Nuevo Mexico/EFE, April 20, 2006. El Diario de Juarez/Notimex, April 20, 2006. Articles by Jose Romero Mata and editorial staff. La Opinion (Los Angeles), April 19, 2006. Article by Yurina Rico.
Frontera NorteSur (FNS)
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
(Reprinted with authorization from Frontera NorteSur, a free, on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news source. FNS can be found at http://frontera.nmsu.edu/)
May Day with Heart
By PETER LINEBAUGH
The moon and hours have revolved again, dear hearts, and May Day is upon us. Spring has sprung as usual, though a strike, a boycott, a holiday, a refusal--call it what you will--looms hopefully on Monday morrow, and that is unusual. We'll wear white in solidarity with the immigrant worker against rampant criminalization, against the universal miserablism, the broken levees, the constant enclosures, great walls, razor-wired borders, burning frontiers, and the castrametation of the planet by the USA (as the Romans called the science of military base construction).
I asked Massimo De Angelis, a family man, who went up to Gleneagles last year to protest against the G-8, what to say on May Day. He replied, as is his wont, as if he were a hobgoblin sitting on a mushroom. He likes the mushroom because it is nocturnal, it may cause dreams, and many of the fungi are not yet privatized. As for the hobgoblin it is a country figure of tricks and mischief against the masters. Plus, I know he likes Helen MacFarlane's translation of The Communist Manifesto, "A frightful hobgoblin stalks throughout Europe."
"Well," the hobgoblin said to me, says he, "whatever you say, say it with heart."
Very well, but James Green, the splendid labor historian, says that after the terrible events in Chicago beginning on May Day 1886, Americans suffered "a loss of heart." The labor historian tells us we have lost precisely what the hobgoblin asks us to find.
How are we to resolve this dilemma? This year the answer must come from the South. Eduardo Galeano, the historian from Uruguay, reminds us of a simple etymology, that the word "record" as in the record of the past, derives from Latin, to pass again through the heart ("cordis").
We cannot avoid the ache of history; its grief we feel in the gut. In preparation for the May Day general strike (will it be general?) by the undocumented workers we organize our banners (and May poles?), prepare our slogans (open borders, troops home, no enclosures, health care for all), hopefully many will try their hand at a manifesto, and we alert our lawyer friends to prepare defense for the inevitable victims. It is also essential to study our past, and to learn about our May Day. We must study the record. It must pass through our heart again.
So, we take off the classics from the shelf, or make sure our local library has them at hand Martin Duberman's fine novel on Haymarket, Roediger and Rosemont's timeless scrapbook, the late Paul Avrich stirring monograph, or the old CP classic on May Day by Philip Foner. To these we now add James Green's just published Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America (Pantheon Books, 2006). Go get it! We need it for Monday and every May Day thereafter. The book is trying to put some freedom back into history telling us that it could have been otherwise. We call this human agency. The theory is something like this. It's human history, we're humans, history is something we make with our deeds and words. This is where free-will rubs up against determinism. As soon as you put class into the theory it begins to make sense: the ruling class is determined to exploit us, so naturally it says that it can't help it - the steam hammer is stronger than John Henry, you can't stand in the way of progress, and so on. That's the determinism. On the other hand, the working-class will be free. We are not cogs in a wheel; we have not forgotten the good old wooden shoe. We do have choices. We will (for instance) wear a white t-shirt on May Day. Human agency thus resolves itself into the struggle between the classes.
It never took any multicultural brilliance to discern that the actual fundaments of the USA are threefold:
a) it was robbed from the indigenous peoples,
b) its swamps were drained, forests felled, and fields prepared by African slaves, or
c) that the railroads, factories, mills, and mines were built and run by immigrants from Europe and Asia.
The ruling class from Madison on forward knew its duty to keep these three, if not fighting one another, then separated. Thus, radical reconstruction came to an end in 1877 in New Orleans beginning that period of Afro-American history called "the Nadir"; the plains Indians were destroyed in 1877 taking the death of Crazy Horse for a symbol of the destruction, and the third, in a word, death at Haymarket.
The Cuban poet, José Martí, lived in exile in New York at the time and wrote brilliantly on the Haymarket martyrs. Although "the disagreements and rivalries of the races already arguing about supremacy in this part of the continent, might have stood in the way of the immediate formation of a formidable labor party with identical methods and purposes, the common denominator of pain has accelerated the concerted action of all who suffer." Here is heart as a political principle.
James Green recovers forgotten dreams, that one, for instance which tied Abraham Lincoln to the cooperative commonwealth. The great sacrifices included the death of Lincoln whose funeral catafalque came through tens of thousands of mourners in Chicago on May Day 1865, amidst a light drizzle of rain. America could become a cooperative commonwealth instead of a competitive camp of capitalism. William Sylvis, Andrew Cameron, and Ira Steward maintained continuity in the north after the Civil War. William Sylvis rebuilt the Molders' Union, foundry workers at the farm reaper works of McCormick. They were the industrial vanguard by 1865. Andrew Cameron was a Scottish Chartist, and an editor in Chicago of the Workingman's Advocate whose idea was that production should be for use, not profit. Ira Steward, an abolitionist and machinist from Massachusetts, established the Eight-Hour Leagues in 1866, on 2 May of that year in Chicago. A year later the first eight-hour law took effect on May Day, passed by the Illinois legislature and signed by Richard Oglesby, governor and friend of Abraham Lincoln, the rail-splitter. Q.E.D.
What happened in 1886? The context was this. The imperialists had divided up Africa the year before. " accumulating mansions and factories on the one hand, and wretched masses of people on the other," is how Martí painted the background. Otherwise, the founding of the American Federation of Labor by the cigar maker Samuel Gompers, riots in Seattle against Chinese laborers, the capture of Geronimo, the gold rush to Witwatersrand in South Africa, Gottlieb Daimler perfected the internal combustion engine, Das Kapital was published in English, the French Impressionist pointillist canvas Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte is displayed and was designed to erase thoroughly the visual memories of the Paris Commune and la semaine sanglante.
Despite boom and bust of the trade cycle, despite unemployment, union workers "began to anticipate their own emancipation from the endless workday and growing tyranny of wage labor." The Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor, they called themselves, mystical and with a moral code of chivalry and generous manhood. The motto of the Knights was One for All, and All for One." From squalor they proposed nobility. An 1877 circular read,
"Working men of Chicago! Have you no rights? No ambition? No Manhood? Will you remain disunited while your masters rob you of your rights and the fruits of your labor? For the sake of our wives and children and our own self-respect, LET US WAIT NO LONGER! ORGANIZE AT ONCE!"
The freight handlers struck, the upholsterers struck, the lumber shovers went on strike. 400 seamstresses left work in joyous mood. A storm of strikes swept Chicago, on the First of May 1886. The great refusal, Jim Green calls it. It was a new kind of labor movement that "pulled in immigrants and common laborers." Irish, Bohemian, German, French, Czech, Scots, English, to name a few. Socialist Sunday Schools, brass bands, choirs, little theatres,' saloons there was a working-class culture in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune (6 May 1886) hated it and compared the immigrants to zoological nightmares. It demanded deportation of "ungrateful hyenas" or "slavic wolves" and "wild beasts" and the Bohemian women who "acted like tigresses."
In the spring of 1886 strikes appeared everywhere in industrial centers; called the Great Upheaval agitating for shorter hours. Of course they were against mechanization of labor, against the exploitation of child labor, opposed to the convict lease system of labor, and opposed to contract labor. The anthem of the Knights of Labor was the "Eight-Hour Song,"
We want to feel the sunshine;
We want to smell the flowers;
We're sure God has willed it.
And we mean to have eight hours.
We're summoning our forces from Shipyard, shop and mill;
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, Eight hours for what we will.
Sam Fielden joined the International Working People's Association in 1884 after fifteen years hauling stone and digging ditches. His father was a Lancashire handloom weaver and a ten-hour man. Sam was a Methodist.
Thanksgiving Day of 1884 they had a poor people's march and Parsons quoted from James (the brother of Jesus?) chapter five,
"Next a word to you who have great possessions. Weep and wail over the miserable fate descending on you. Your riches have rotted; your fine clothes are moth-eaten; your silver and gold have rusted away, and the very rust will be evidence against you and consume your flesh like fire. You have piled up wealth in an age that is near its close. The wages you never paid to the men who mowed your fields are loud against you, and the outcry of the reapers has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived on earth in wanton luxury, fattening yourselves like cattle and the day for slaughter has come. You have condemned the innocent and murdered him; he offers no resistance."
What a remarkable prophecy! The Sioux Wars removed the people of the Plains, the U.S. Cavalry thundered up and down, murdering Indians, and lathering the land with blood, while the mechanical reaper shaved the grasses. When historians speak of "the open frontier," it means the Indians were wiped out. This is the genocide which led to the agricultural depression in Europe, produced by the mechanical reaper scalping the prairie. No, the reapers were not paid.
Fast Food Nation perhaps may not yet have been up to speed yet the starting gun had been fired. Swift and Armour were the big meatpackers: they organized the mechanization of death, the machines of mass slaughter of cattle and swine. The Union Stock Yards had just been constructed. The employers threatened to employ "the whole machinery of government," including the army, "to enforce the laws of the market." Mechanization indeed was taking command.
On May Day 1886 as the workers of the USA struck for the eight-hour day, the police shot and killed four strikers at the McCormick works. August Spies issued the flyer, calling the workers to rise, to arms, for revenge. On the 4 May strikes resumed, now joined by union switchmen, laundry girls, even students from some of the schools.
At the Haymarket, tons of hay and bushels of vegetables were brought in from the Dutch truck farms. Transportation was by horse power. Indeed, then horses were part of the working class, as Jason Hribal has provoked us to thinking. Haymarket in Chicago in May 1886 was like Guernica in Spain in 1937 when the Condor Legion wiped it out by bombing: that is to say it was a busy, crowded market, ideal for terrorism.
The weather changed, the moonlit sky suddenly turned dark, as a cloud blew over, just preceding the blast. The police advanced. A bomb was thrown. In the mêlée a large number of police were wounded by the friendly fire from their own revolvers. Sam Fielden was shot in the leg. Henry Spies took a bullet for his brother. Seven policemen fell. But who threw the bomb? John Swinton, the most influential labor journalist in the land, argued that the police themselves provoked the violence to stop the strike movement for the eight hour day.
A period of police terrorism ensued. There were hundreds of arrests. There were raids at meeting halls, saloons, and newspaper offices. Captain Schaak put suspects into the sweatbox (small pitch dark wooden container) for hours to make them talk. Albert Parsons fled to Mexico, it was rumored, or was "hiding out among the negroes." That summer there was a trial, conducted by passion, judged by bigotry. Green tells the story with verve and drama. Witnesses were paid off. The jury consisted of salesmen, clerks, a high school principal, well-off all.
Nina Van Zandt, the handsome Vassar graduate and heiress, made eyes at August Spies during the trial. In the jailhouse, the love affair developed. Spies told the court, "Here you will tread upon a spark, but here, and there, and behind you and in front of you, and everywhere, flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out. The ground is on fire upon which you stand."
Michael Schwab defended anarchy saying it was the antithesis of violence. Parsons charged the court with "judicial murder." He explained socialism and anarchism. "I am doomed by you to suffer an ignominious death because I am an outspoken enemy of coercion, of privilege, of force, of authority. your every word and act are recorded. You are being weighed in the balance. The people are conscious of your power your stolen power. I, a working man, stand here and to your face, in your stronghold of oppression, denounce your crimes against humanity." Neebe was found guilty but punished with 15 years in the penitentiary. Louis Lingg killed himself. Fielden and Schwab had their sentence commuted to life imprisonment. Albert Parsons refused alcohol. He sang "La Marseillaise" and songs by Bobbie Burns. August Spies newspaper editor of the Arbeiter Zeitung in 1884. On August Spies had said, "The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today."
We are finding voice. Cindy Sheehan gives us voice. "Si se puede," gives us voice. The Chicago idea' was this: trade unions could take mass action against capital and the state. This idea has been disappeared or throttled. The magical realism of the ruling class proclaims May Day to be Law Day (had they not heard of Ozymandias, or Humpty Dumpty?) None died from a broken neck, all strangled to death, slowly as it appeared to the witnesses, convulsing and twisting on the rope.
That was 11 of November 1887.
James Green tells us that it was a turning point in American history. The killing at the McCormick plant, the bombing at Haymarket, the court proceedings, and the hanging of 11 November 1887 extinguished the Knights of Labor, defeated the eight-hour movement, suppressed the radicals. The Mary Magdalen, so to speak, of the suffering proletariat was Lucy Parsons, widow of Albert, daughter of Mexico. She bore witness to subsequent generations, and touching Mother Jones, Big Bill Haywood, Emma Goldman, Clarence Darrow, Eugene Debs, with the principles of los mártiri. Henry Demarest Lloyd was silenced, then wrote Wealth Against Commonwealth, the exposé of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company, the first of the muck-rakers.
Beneath the concameration of the Great Hall at Cooper Union in New York City Samuel Gompers of the new American Federation of Labor appealed against the death sentence. Instead fifty years of industrial violence, and when workers, especially immigrants, found themselves at war with their employers, the courts, the police, the armed forces. These laid the "bone deep grudges" which Nelson Algren wrote about. James Green concludes, "we are today living with the legacy of those long-ago events."
The 151 foot Statue of Liberty was dedicated only two weeks before the hangings in Chicago. Inscribed on its pedestal were the words of Emma Lazarus
Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
John Pemberton, a pharmacist, who invented a medicine to relieve headaches and alleviate nausea. It combines coca leaves from the Andes with cola nuts from Africa, mixed with water, caramel, and sugar: Coca-Cola, the Atlantic remedy for the ills of the barbarism of capitalism.
Both William Morris in England and José Martí exiled from Cuba in Manhatten likened the Chicago working class to a cornered animal.
William Morris wrote a death march for the funeral of Alfred Linnell, the young man killed by the London police after the 13 November 1887 Trafalgar Square meeting and demonstration. It was two days after the hanging at Haymarket. Alfred Linnell, lo!, will come knocking at the gate, unbidden, insistent, calm, upright. The Harold Pinter moment.
What cometh here from west to east awending?
And who are these, the marchers stern and slow?
We bear the message that the rich are sending
Aback to those who bade them wake and know.
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,
But one and all if they would dusk the day.
We asked them for a life of toilsome earning,
They bade us bide their leisure for our bread;
We craved to speak to tell our woeful learning:
We come back speechless, bearing back our dead.
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,
But one and all if they would dusk the day.
They will not learn; they have no ears to hearken.
They turn their faces from the eyes of fate;
Their gay-lit halls shut out the skies and darken.
But, lo! This dead man knocking at the gate
Not one, not one, nor thousands must they slay,
But one and all if they would dusk the day.
He took it to the street: one week he is beaten up at Trafalgar Square, another week a poor law clerk is murdered by police at Trafalgar Square, and a third time in the streets, to sing this lament. This is heart. With his bids and bides and bades, with the awending and the woefuls, the man is searching for some kind of language that has endurance, that is beneath the radar, off the grid, and might be recognized by hobgoblins and coyotes.
Morris serialized The Dream of John Ball between November 1886 and January 1887. The dates give us the clue, the Haymarket trials had passed. The revolutionary attempt in Chicago had been preempted. The Chicago idea had failed, temporarily at least. In these circumstances Morris dove deep to middle ages, and ranged far, to Afro-America. In that way he maintained his revolutionary commitment. He imagines victory! "To dusk the day," means to win. "They" refers to the police, employers, capitalists, and ruling class. Eloquence arises from silence. He was reading aloud on the same day his own Dream of John Ball and B'rer Rabbit. He is looking for a people's story told in the people's language with the people's future: the opposite of the official story, not at all the evasions institutional prose, nor the commands of cogitation machines.
Prince Kropotkin at the Sunday lecture supper at the Hammersmith socialist hall told the fable of the Russians and the Redskins. He told this story rather than commit himself, one way or the other, to the quarrelsome socialists and anarchists. The African American slave selects a hero, "the weakest and most harmless of animals," Br'er Rabbit of course, "and brings him out victorious in contests with the bear, the wolf, and the fox." Not malice triumphs but mischievousness.
In 1887 Lord Acton wrote "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." U.S. wheat prices fell to 67¢ a bushel, England eats bread from grains of North American plains, indirect consequence of defeat of the Plains Indians and the McCormick workers. Jim Crow law passed in Florida requiring racial segregation among railway passengers.
Pablo Neruda, José Martí, even Walt Whitman had a big, hemispheric conception of America: two continents, half the planet, yet united by the German geographer Humboldt's Afro-America, a big S' New Orleans, Cuba, Venezuela, and Brazil. What happens in one part effects the other sugar, aluminum, gold, bananas, silver, copper, coffee, rum, pot and coke yes, they are the products, the commodities, ripped from the bowels of the earth. They're easier to recognize than the undergrounds of people, whose migrations, sailings, tunneling have preserved the memory of los martiri.
José Martí predicted that "the world's working class will revive them [memories of the Haymarket martyrs] every First of May. That is still not known, but Martí always writes as if hearing, where it is least expected, the cry of a newborn child," wrote Galeano.
In Havana in 1887 the anarcho-syndicalists started a newspaper El Productor which covered the Haymarket tragedy. On 1890 they prepared a May Day Manifesto calling on Cubans to support the international demonstration for the eight-hour day. The workers responded with a unified, musical parade. Speeches calling for equal rights between Blacks and Whites and called for the unity of all workers. The authors of the May Day Manifesto were arrested and brought to trial. Their acquittal was greeted by a huge demo.
May Day celebrated in Mexico in 1913. From then on Primero de Mayo became a national holiday known as the Day of the Martyrs of Chicago. Italy, France, Spain, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico. In 1903 Teddy Roosevelt signed an immigration law denying entry into the US of anarchists, paupers, prostitutes, and the insane.
Galeano celebrated the marriage of heart and mind. "From the moment we enter school or church, education chops us into pieces: it teaches us to divorce soul from body and mind from heart. The fishermen of the Columbian coast must be learned doctors of ethics and morality, for they invented the word sentipensante, feeling-thinking, to define language that speaks the truth."
In Milan on the first international May Day (1890) a correspondent wrote, "On this day laborers all over the world should feel the unity of their class as a bond superior to all others" Is it possible to make such a solidarity? Can heart be so large? On May Day 1894 Coxey's Army of the Commonweal, arrived in Washington to lobby for the unemployed, only to be arrested and imprisoned for walking on the grass. The Wobblies or I.W.W. printed thousands of stickers, reading
I Won't Work More Than 8 hours After May 1st 1912 How about you ?
On May Day 1917 all Petrograd was en fete as the New York Times reported and business was at a complete standstill. In Germany meanwhile the Spartacus group leafleted, "Women workers! Male workers! The last groans of our thousands of murdered brothers and sons, the sobs of the wasted women and children call us forcibly and imperiously to the red worker's May 1st demonstration, with the gleaming words: down with the war! Up with people's brotherliness!" At the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on May Day 1925 garment workers raised their voices to sing the "Internationale." Congress mandated the eight-hour day in the Fair Labor Standards Act. 1886 to 1938 = fifty-two years. In May Day of that year a march on the South Side of Chicago was led by a float featuring a hooded man. In one direction of time, August Spies; in another direction of time, Abu Ghraib.
Galeano visited Chicago but his exploration of Haymarket was fruitless, instead he found an old poster at a bookstore displaying the African proverb, "Until the lions have their own historians, histories of the hunt will glorify the hunter." The hunter had put in 1889 a statue of a policeman at Haymarket. The Weathermen blew up the police monument on 6 October 1969 and then again in 1970.
The urbanocide of Katrina, the castrametation of Iraq, the devaluation of the working class, the absolute rule of the petrolarchs have produced gut-wrenching grief and sorrow. Our head spins and spins in the dizzy search for cause-and-effect, searching the origin of this twisted, agonizing karma.
Half way between the gut and the head lies the heart. The heart and soul of our movement may be found on May Day and it's going to take our arms and legs to find them as well as our brains. So, let us join the hobgoblin.
Take heart with Death in the Haymarket in hand!
All out for May Day!
Peter Linebaugh teaches history at the University of Toledo. He is the author of two of CounterPunch's favorite books, The London Hanged and (with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic. His essay on the history of May Day is included in Serpents in the Garden. He can be reached at: email@example.com
Nelson Algren, Chicago: City on the Make (1951, and reprinted by University of Chicago, 2001)
Massimo De Angelis, www.thecommoner.org.uk
Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy (Princeton, 1984)
Martin Duberman, Haymarket: A Novel (Seven Stories Press: New York, 2003)
Philip Foner's May Day: A Short History of the International Workers' Holiday, 1886-1986 (International Publishers: New York, 1986)
Eduardo Galeano, Memory of Fire, ii, Faces and Masks, translated by Cedric Belfrage (Quartet, 1987)
Eduardo Galeano, The Book of Embraces, translated by Cedric Belfrage and Mark Schafer (W.W. Norton,: New York, 1991)
James Green, Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America (Pantheon Books, 2006)
Joel Chandler Harris, Uncle Remus: His Songs and Sayings (1880)
Rayford Logan, The Negro in American Life and Thought: The Nadir, 1877-1901
Fiona MacCarthy, William Morris: A Life for Our Time (Knopf, New York, 1995)
Deborah Shnookal and Mirta Muñiz (eds.), José Martí Reader: Writings on the Americas (Ocean Press: New York, 1999)
David Roediger and Franklin Rosemont, Haymarket Scrapbook (Charles H. Kerr, Chicago 1986)
E.P. Thompson, William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary (1955, 1977)