Kyle Soller, Ophelia Lovibond, Hugh Skinner, and Phoebe Fox attend the press night after party for ‘The Libertine’ at the Haymarket Hotel on September 27, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)
Today in labor history, May 1, 2015: Happy International Workers’ Day! May Day is celebrated around the world as a day of international working class solidarity and is a national public holiday in more than 80 countries. The date was chosen by the Socialist International Congress (the Second International) in 1889 to commemorate the Haymarket incident in Chicago.
An engraving titled “Anarchist Ammunition,” from Michael Schaack’s Anarchy and Anarchists (1889).
Some of the discussions of dynamite that so inspired and energized anarchists, and angered and terrified their enemies, verged on incantations to the explosive’s magical ability to make a single worker the equal of the gathered minions of capital. An editorial in the Alarm of November 15, 1884 read:
“Dynamite is the emancipator! In the hand of the enslaved it cries aloud: "Justice or—annihilation!” But best of all, the workingmen are not only learning its use, they are going to use it. They will use it, and effectually, until personal ownership—property rights—are destroyed, and a free society and justice becomes the rule of action among men. There will then be no need for government since there will be none who will submit to be governed. Hail to the social revolution! Hail to the deliverer—Dynamite.“
On this day in 1886, in a violent altercation between police and protestors, the Haymarket riot occurred in Chicago. The previous day, several people were injured and one killed when police attempted to break a strike aimed at securing national eight-hour day legislation. In retaliation to such police brutality, a group of anarchist labour leaders organised a meeting in Haymarket Square. The meeting was initially peaceful, but when the police called for the crowd to disperse, one anonymous protestor threw a bomb. In the ensuing chaos the police opened fire, and violence reigned in Chicago’s streets. Ultimately, seven police officers and a few civilians died, with one hundred more people injured. The riot stoked fears of working class militancy, and resulted in a crackdown against labour leaders and immigrants. A group of anarchist leaders, known as the ‘Chicago Eight’, were arrested for alleged involvement in the bombing and subsequent violence. While many of the group were not even present at Haymarket, four anarchists were convicted on slim evidence and executed in November 1887. The surviving three of the group (one had committed suicide) were pardoned in 1893 when the case was reconsidered and thrown out on the basis of poor evidence. While proving a blow for the labour movement at the time, the Haymarket riot - and the martyrdom of the Chicago Eight - has endured as a symbol for labour leaders and activists in America and abroad.
“The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today” - Anarchist August Spies, one of the Chicago Eight, before his execution for alleged involvement in the Haymarket riot
“When we remember that people were shot so we could have the 8-hour day; if we acknowledge that homes with families in them were burned to the ground so we could have Saturday as part of the weekend; when we recall 8-year old victims of industrial accidents who marched in the streets protesting working conditions and child labor only to be beat down by the police and company thugs, we understand that our current condition cannot be taken for granted– people fought for the rights and dignities we enjoy today, and there is still a lot more to fight for. The sacrifices of so many people can not be forgotten or we’ll end up fighting for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day.”
Louis Lingg (1864-1887) was a German anarchist who was convicted and sentenced to hang as a member of a criminal conspiracy behind the Haymarket Square bombing.
Louis Lingg’s statement to the court in Chicago:
“ The rest of the accused have told you that they do not believe in force. I may tell you that they have no business in this dock with me. They are innocent, everyone of them; I do not pretend to be. I believe in force just as you do. That is my justification. Force is the supreme arbiter in human affairs. You have clubbed unarmed strikers, shot them down in your streets, shot down their women and their children. So long as you do that, we who are Anarchists will use explosives against you.
Don’t comfort yourselves with the idea that we have lived and died in vain. The Haymarket bomb has stopped the bludgenings and shootings of your police for at least a generation. And that bomb is only the first, not the last…
I despise you! I despise your society and its methods! Your courts and your laws, your force-propped authority… Hang me for it!! ”
My family and close family friends went to First Night Boston for NYE. We had a great time walking around the city and enjoying the lights, ice sculptures, joyful crowds and the not too cold weather! I’m surprised I haven’t gone First Night ever before… it was all good fun!