For decades, workers in Europe, South America and China have been celebrated with an official holiday on May Day.
The United States, however, has not followed suit. (And Britain and Canada have tried to wash out the holiday’s leftist hues.) Even though the day’s origins date to a riot in Chicago in 1886 known as the Haymarket massacre, labor is celebrated Stateside in early September.
Socialists and trade union movements have long used May Day as a protest day. And on Tuesday, May 1, the Occupy movement will attempt to bring 125 U.S. cities to a standstill in commemoration of International Workers Day.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is orchestrating what its supporters hope will be a nationwide general strike with students, workers and everyone who is an employee skipping work.
Their lofty goals also include urging people not to buy anything that day. It has been billed as “A Day Without the 99 Percent.”
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Workers in scores of nations each year mark the first of May. Socialists and practicing communists wave red banners in the streets.
Throw in a few anarchists and you have the makings of May Day, the traditional International Workers’ Day celebrated around the world.
But did you know that they are commemorating an event which occurred in Chicago, 124 years ago?
That event was what has become known as the “Haymarket Massacre,” and it looms larger than life for millions of workers all over the globe.
“This is not just an event, over a hundred years ago,” said historian Peter Alter at the Chicago History Museum. “This is an event that still has resonance today.”
It started with a demonstration for an eight-hour day at a McCormick reaper plant on Chicago’s Southwest side on May 3, 1886.
Several of the demonstrators were killed, and workers planned a massive rally in Haymarket Square on the city’s west side for the following night.
“There were anarchists there, there were socialists there,” said Alter. “There were good old bread and butter unionists there.”
It was planned as a rally for 25,000 people, but probably only a tenth of those showed up. Mayor Carter Harrison visited and left.
Most of the crowd, in fact, was starting to drift away when scores of police suddenly showed up, demanding that the remaining onlookers disperse. At that moment, someone stepped out of an alley near Des Plaines and Randolph streets and threw a bomb into the crowd.
There was a massive explosion and a flurry of gunfire.
When the melee had subsided, at least seven policemen and four of the demonstrators were dead. About 60 more police were wounded. Some commanders at the time speculated that many of the officers’ wounds came from friendly fire in the confusion. (One officer died from his wounds two years later). But the public, and especially Chicago’s business leaders, were outraged at the carnage, and called for swift action.
Martial law was declared in the city. Labor leaders were rounded up, including those who were deemed responsible for the rally.
Eight men were eventually charged with inciting what was referred to as the “Haymarket Riot.” On August 20, 1886, seven of the eight defendants received death sentences.
The Chicago Times described the defendants as “arch counselors of riot, pillage, incendiarism and murder.” Other papers called the alleged plotters “red ruffians” or “bloody monsters.”
Two would see their sentences commuted to life and one killed himself in his cell. The remaining four defendants were hanged in the courtyard of the Criminal Courts Building at Dearborn and Hubbard on November 11, 1887.
On the gallows, defendant August Spies declared, “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”
The Haymarket defendants are buried together beneath a monument constructed in 1893 in Waldheim Cemetery in suburban Forest Park. That same year, Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld signed pardons for the three defendants who had drawn life sentences, concluding all eight defendants were innocent.
The bomb thrower has never been identified.
“Certainly there was very limited evidence against the men who were executed,” said Alter. “Some of them were not there! Some of them were only loosely affiliated. What they were tried for, were their points of view.”
Two years later, the first congress of the Second International, meeting in Paris, called for worldwide demonstrations in 1890 on the anniversary of the Chicago protests.
May Day became formally recognized the following year and over the decades became a focal point for demonstrations by workers and labor organizations, as well as various socialist, communist, and anarchist groups around the world.
“It is sacred to the cause of advancement of the working man around the country,” says labor activist Les Orear. “It was such a tragedy, with the interference to the right to free speech, free assembly, our own first amendment.”
UPDATE: As the protests began May 1,2012, A member of Occupy Cleveland says that at least some of the five men arrested in an alleged bridge-bombing plot attended the group’s events but that their actions don’t represent the group.
Occupy Cleveland media coordinator Jacob Wagner says the protest group had no knowledge of the alleged plan to blow up a bridge and would denounce such actions. He says some group members knew the suspects but that the group isn’t commenting further.
The FBI says three of the suspects are self-described anarchists. They were arrested Monday.
Full Story Here
Read old News Articles detailing the Mayhem of the MayDay Protests
Another interesting occurrence right now is the launch of the campaign video: Forward by the Obama Administration.
The Obama campaign apparently didn’t look backwards into history when selecting its new campaign slogan, “Forward” — a word with a long and rich association with European Marxism.
Many Communist and radical publications and entities throughout the 19th and 20th centuries had the name “Forward!” or its foreign cognates. Wikipedia has an entire section called “Forward (generic name of socialist publications).”
“The name Forward carries a special meaning in socialist political terminology. It has been frequently used as a name for socialist, communist and other left-wing newspapers and publications,” the online encyclopedia explains.
The slogan “Forward!” reflected the conviction of European Marxists and radicals that their movements reflected the march of history, which would move forward past capitalism and into socialism and communism
The Obama campaign released its new campaign slogan Monday in a 7-minute video. The title card has simply the word “Forward” with the “O” having the familiar Obama logo from 2008. It will be played at rallies this weekend that mark the Obama re-election campaign’s official beginning.
There have been at least two radical-left publications named “Vorwaerts” (the German word for “Forward”). One was the daily newspaper of the Social Democratic Party of Germany whose writers included Friedrich Engels and Leon Trotsky. It still publishes as the organ of Germany’s SDP, though that party has changed considerably since World War II. Another was the 1844 biweekly reader of the Communist League. Karl Marx, Engels and Mikhail Bakunin are among the names associated with that publication.
East Germany named its Army soccer club ASK Vorwaerts Berlin (later FC Vorwaerts Frankfort).
Vladimir Lenin founded the publication “Vpered” (the Russian word for “forward”) in 1905. Soviet propaganda film-maker Dziga Vertov made a documentary whose title is sometimes translated as “Forward, Soviet” (though also and more literally as “Stride, Soviet”).
‘Plain Words’ was found at the site of a series of bombings against capitalist targets in 1919, including billionaire John D. Rockefeller and Attorney General Alexander Palmer. The primes suspects were Galleanists, followers of insurrectionary anarchist Luigi Galleani (1861-1831), founder and editor of the newspaper ‘Cronaca Sovversiva.’ Published for over 15-years almost entirely in Italian, the magazine made a strong case for “propaganda by the deed,” that is: revolutionary violence as opposed to simply propaganda by the word. The Galleanists tried to put the ideas into practice; for example, a Chicago chef added arsenic to the soup for 200 at a banquet to honor Archbishop Mundelein (no one died – he added too much poison and it was all vomited back up). The June 1919 bombings did kill three – one of the bombers, a woman walking by, and a night watchman; in contrast, from 1914 to 1918, tens of millions were maimed or killed in the capitalists’ first World War.
The powers that be make no secret of their will to stop, here in America, the world-wide spread of revolution. The powers that be must reckon that they will have to accept the fight they have provoked.
A time when the social question’s solution can be delayed no longer; class war is on and can not cease but with a complete victory for the International proletariat.
The challenge is an old one, oh “democratic” lords of the autocratic republic. We have been dreaming of freedom, we have talked of liberty, we have aspired to a better world, and you jailed us, you clubbed us, you deported us, you murdered us whenever you could.
Now that the great war, waged to replenish your purses, and build a pedestal to your saints, is over, nothing better can you do to protect your stolen millions, and your usurped fame, than to direct all the power of the murderous institutions you created for your exclusive defense, against the working multitudes rising to a more human conception of life.
The jails, the dungeons you reared to bury all protesting voices, are now replenished with languishing conscientious workers, and never satisfied, you increase their number ever day.
It is history of yesterday that your gunmen were shooting and murdering unarmed masses by the wholesale; it has been the history of every day in your regime; and now all prospects are even worse.
Do not expect us to sit down and pray and cry. We accept your challenges and mean to stick to our war duties. We know that all you do is for your defense as a class; we know also that the proletariat has the same right to protect itself, since their press has been suffocated, their mouths muzzled; we mean to speak for them the voice of dynamite, through the mouth of guns.
Do not say we are acting cowardly because we keep hiding, do not say it is abominable; it is war, class war, and you were the first to wage it under cover of the powerful institutions you call order, in the darkness of your laws, behind the guns of your bone-headed slave.
No liberty do you accept but yours; the working people also have a right to freedom, and their rights, our own rights, we have set our minds to protect at any price.
We are not many, perhaps more than you dream of, though but are all determined to fight to the last, till a man remains buried in your Bastilles, till a hostage of the working class is left to the tortures of your police system, and will never rest until your fall is complete, and the laboring masses have taken possession of all that rightly belongs to them.
There will be bloodshed; we will not dodge; there will have to be murder: we will kill, because it is necessary; there will have to be destruction; we will destroy to rid the world of your tyrannical institutions.
We are ready to do anything and everything to suppress the capitalist class; just as you are doing anything and everything to suppress the proletarian revolution.
Our mutual position is pretty clear. What has been done by us so far is only a warning that there are friends of popular liberties still living. Only now we are getting into the fight; and you will have a chance to see what liberty-loving people can do.
Do not seek to believe that we are the Germans’ or the devil’s paid agents; you know well we are class-conscious men with strong determination, and no vulgar liability. And never hope that your cops, and your hounds will ever succeed in ridding the country of the anarchistic germ that pulses in our veins.
We know how we stand with you and know how to take care of ourselves. Besides, you will never get all of us * * * and we multiply nowadays. Just wait and resign to your fate, since privilege and riches have turned your heads.
Long live social revolution! Down with tyranny!
THE ANARCHIST FIGHTERS.