haymarket

In person, it can sometimes be tough to jump right into a debate with someone who adamantly defends the status quo, someone who uses extensive bourgeois ideology and “common sense” to defend the capitalist mode of production. We all naturally get frazzled because it’s an uphill battle trying to win people over, away from the safe ideology they’ve grown up absorbing. Not only that, but there’s also a whole set of ideas and facts (noted in the above picture) that probably need to come together for someone of that nature to arrive at socialism. Trying to condense all of the above facts into quick little soundbites is a super uphill battle, and I wish there was some way we could have this process made easier for the lot of us. 

Most capitalism-apologists rely on a few basic ideological points, each of them off-base. Here are eight of perhaps the most important:

  1. Capitalism is about voluntary exchange and it’s pretty much any economic activity that doesn’t involve the state
  2. Capitalism is the end of history and the pinnacle of human development
  3. Capitalism is the same thing as markets
  4. The state is antithetical to the interests of the capitalist class
  5. Socialism is when the government does stuff; the more stuff the government does, the socialister it is
  6. “Small government” and anarchism imply laissez-faire capitalism
  7. There can only be top-down control of the economy by a bunch of separate capitalists (private capitalism) or top-down control of the economy by a concentrated state apparatus (state capitalism)
  8. Imperialism is caused by corrupt politicians, disconnected from an economic system that demands endless growth and capital accumulation among elites

I feel like the above picture covers most of these ideas in a very quick way and puts them to rest; further elaboration on each of the points is necessary of course, but that’s to be expected. Destroying these bullshit claims ought to be of paramount importance if you ever find yourself in some kind of political argument with a cappy. 

All being said, I can totally understand if there are those of you who just have no fucking interest in debating cappies. It’s a draining, disheartening process. Avoiding debate can be a self-care tactic, honestly. I generally only recommend it if you think there is any chance of converting them – if they’re running around in expensive suits handing out Cato Institute newspapers, then our arguments about capitalism being a particular historical development rooted in bloody conquest will probably have little to no effect whatsoever. There are, however, plenty of working-class and middle-class people who may be much more receptive if you meet them where they’re at, point to history, and commit some time and energy to talking to them about the topic; usually this works best with people you already know. 

Any further input on this topic is encouraged and appreciated.

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.“

3

May 4th 1886: Haymarket Riot

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

Shortly before nine o'clock in the morning, the day before the scheduled execution, Louis Lingg apparently used a cigar to light the fuse on a detonating cap that he had placed in his mouth. The source of the cap, like that of the bombs found in his cell, and where he concealed it, is not known. When the terrified jailers reached the cell, they found Lingg’s head slung over the edge of his bed, bits of teeth, flesh, and bone on the walls and floor, and blood everywhere.

A terrible gurgling sound indicated that the prisoner was still alive. They carried him to a nearby bathroom and summoned physicians, who did what they could to comfort and revive him. Lingg remained conscious but unable to speak, and he twice wrote out requests to be propped up so he could breathe better. He somehow lasted a full six hours, finally passing away around three o'clock.

The image, titled “Horrible Suicide of Lingg,” is from the Pictorial West of November 20, 1887.

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.

Facts From Episode 7

While The Knick is a work of fiction, it is based on exhaustive historical research. Below, the show’s writers share some of the true facts of the era that are depicted in this episode.

William Stewart Halsted, who visits The Knick in a flashback, was one of the great surgeons of the era, as well as a cocaine addict. (photo courtesy of the Burns Archive).

Dr. Osler was one of the founding fathers of Johns Hopkins Medical School, famous for his speech “Aequanimitas." (photo courtesy of the Burns Archive).

The "Thackery Point” where the appendix is located is actually “The McBurney Point,” named for a doctor at Bellevue. 

The stabbing is a true story. When an undercover cop accused his girlfriend of prostitution, Arthur Harris took exception. 

Cops didn’t just let the riot continue, they actively participated in it. 

Horse thievery was so common that there were “chop shops” where stolen horses were dyed quickly before being returned to the streets. 

Before anesthetic and ether, speed was the most important factor in performing amputations. (photo courtesy of the Burns Archive).

It really did rain that night, which finally quelled the riots. (photo courtesy of the Burns Archive).