Tuesday, 1 May 2012

May Day 2012

Its that time of year again, Happy International Workers day, or May day to give it its common title. Official days to respect and acknowledge societies down trodden and oppressed stretch back quite a ways, feudal Europe had Fool festivals and Pauper parades, where for a day (and only a day) the mass of serfs and free peasants could frolic and play pretend nobility. Sort of like the Sword of Damocles set in a fairground. Those however were drawn up by the nobility (actually there learned advisor's) as a clever way to defuse tensions between the rich and poor. The whole festivals where nothing but propaganda that said "see, the Duke/King/Crown Prince/Emperor ain't such a bad sort after all". May Day is of course different it was a Day demanded by Workers to Commemorate Workers and its date was chosen to remember a great injustice by the rich and powerful too ordinary workers. By which I refer to the bloody suppression of a demonstration in Chicago in 1886. For a bit of a recap, on the 4th of May local workers staged a demonstration for better working conditions, most prominently an 8 hour work day. In a curious quirk of history the police decided to violently break up the demonstration, such unprecedneted behaviour is no doubt shocking to you I'm sure. During the head cracking another rarity occurred, an Anarchist throw a bomb into the police lines*, this gave the police the excuse to start firing and when the smoke had cleared seven policemen and four demonstrators had been killed and dozens where injured. In the trial that followed eight Anarchists where found guilty, however they were unable to prove which of them (if any) threw the bomb, in fact the prosecution had to admit there was no evidence that these eight were the bomb men. But the court decided not to split hairs and have seven them hung anyway, with the remaining defendant getting fifteen years. But thats not the end of the story, two of the seven were commuted to life in prison and one other Louis Lingg committed suicide on the eve of his execution. The rest where hung on the 11th of November 1887, they sang the Marseillaise as that was the Anthem of the Revolutionary movement at the time. One of the executed August Spies reportedly said this as his final words "The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!". After the executions the surviving men where pardoned and the investigating officer was relived of duty under allegations as serious as forging evidence.
The events of Haymarket demonstrate both the challenges facing working people, police violence, possible infiltration, biased courts and demonisation in media, and the supreme importance of solidarity and organisation needed if we are to defend ourselves and change the world for the better. My own personal tribute to those men. *Since the real culprit was never identified a number of potential perpetrators have been looked at by historians several of which where known police informants. Personally I think it could easily have been either, this was the same time period that Anarchists where trying out the infamous "propaganda of the deed" and police and soldiers where quite trigger happy when faced with picket lines. Though if it was the Anarchists they probably would have took credit for it, which they didn't, in fact several Anarchist suspects publicly stated they didn't do it but wished they had.

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