Labor Day vs May Day
zodiac at gold.interlog.com
Mon Sep 4 10:59:09 MDT 1995
BREZHNEV NEVER SLEPT IN CHICAGO
Another Labor Day gone
Into the alley march 180 cops, boots splashing the rain puddles.
And the damp crowd hushes.
The public speaker looks down from the truck wagon he's using as
platform. His speech about the cops shooting dead four strikers only
yesterday afternoon trails off...
The grim-faced police captain holds up his hand and the column halts.
It's maybe three metres from the platform. Each cop brandishes two
loaded revolvers. Cops and workers stare at each other in the nightime
Captain turns to the audience. He inhales deeply and announces: "I
command this meeting immediately and peaceably to disperse."
No one moves.
Reinflating his lungs, Captain reiterates his order. This time, he
points to people he recognizes in the audience, ordering them home.
Speaker moves toward the captain. His voice is defiant: "We are
And -- at this exact moment -- with all eyes on the impending
confrontation of labor and The Law -- someone lobs an oddly shaped
object into the police unit. No one sees who. No one will ever know
who. But if anyone notices the object itself, they only have a few
seconds to ponder what it could be before it explodes.
It's a dynamite bomb.
It blasts cops and workers in all directions. Many are downed. But
while the civilians stand stunned, these cops, "the flower" of the
force, maintain enough composure to level their pistols and randomly
fire into the dazed bystanders. Hundreds are cut down. A few return
fire. The flower of the force then reloads and continues firing at
anything that moves.
TIME: 10 pm, May 4 1886.
PLACE: Chicago's Haymarket Square.
BODY COUNT: How many workers are killed is never known; around 200 are
wounded. Seven cops die, and about 70 are injured (mainly from police
bullets, shot from behind).
AFTERMATH: The state unleashes a massive terror campaign against labor
leaders. The State Attorney counsels: "Make the raids first and look up
the law afterwards!" Houses and offices are broken into without
warrant. Hundreds are arrested without cause and beaten.
SHOW TRIAL: Eight workers are tried. (Not surprisingly, the defendants
are mainly "dirty immigrant scum" -- Germans.) No evidence is presented
connecting these men to the bombing. The state openly admits the men
are being tried for their opinions. They are to be a blood sacrifice.
SENTENCE: Seven are condemned to death. Four are executed (a fifth
commits suicide 90 minutes before execution).
PARDON: Six years later, a new Illinois governor pardons the remaining
men. He states the Haymarket Eight were victims of a stacked jury and
biased judge. Sorry about killing those other guys.
Welcome to the "Haymarket Affair," one of the most important events in
North American working class history.
ORIGINS OF MAY DAY
So another Labor Day has passed.
Big fucking deal.
Labor Day never meant a thing in our family's existence, which seems
standard in Canadian society. Canada has around 40 per cent of its
workforce unionized. I always wondered why Labor Day signified nothing.
Well, it's because Labor Day is bullshit. May 1 is "international labor
day" every where in the world -- except Canada, the US and South
_That's_ why I grew up never hearing about Haymarket. _That's_ why I
grew up thinking May Day was some parade where dour-faced, overstuffed,
medal-festooned, sea walrus Russian Commucrats, perched atop concrete
embattlements, wave emphysemically at shiny artillery.
Which is exactly what the ruling class wants: "May Day is a dirty
Russian Evil Empire holiday." And, as nine out of ten doctors attest,
_real men_ don't go in for Commie holidays.
But May Day is a homegrown holiday, born right here on the Great Lakes.
The propaganda hype wafting out of today's neo-conservatives is that
"raw capitalism" holds the answers to all our social ills. Well, raw
capitalism was tried: it was called the 1800s. Ever read about the hell
holes euphemistically called 19th century cities? While the neo-cons
pine for some mythical light-n-airy romp of capitalism, historians have
amply detailed the reality of raw capitalism on the working class.
Historian Lewis Mumford writes:
"In both the old and the new quarters a pitch of foulness and
filth was reached that the lowest serf's cottage scarcely achieved
in medieval Europe. It is almost impossible to enumerate
objectively the bare details of this housing without being
suspected of perverse exageration."
Work was even worse.
Labor organized not because it was a fun idea but because their lives
depended on it. And North American unions set May 1 1886 as a deadline
for employers to institute eight-hour days for all employees or face
strikes that would paralyze the economy -- which scared (and scares)
the shit outta the ruling class.
So, on May 3, cops shot to death four strikers.
And, on May 4, they used the Haymarket Massacre as an excuse to suspend
civil liberties and arrest labor leaders.
Around the world, May 1 became a class symbol of the repressive
violence the ruling class will use to suppress even a democratic
majority when their interests are threatened.
But North American bosses wanted to remove the politically-charged
holiday from worker culture. So they erased May Day and "gave us" the
meaningless Labor Day.
Labor Day _is_ a celebration of labor -- the boss's celebration of
having such a boundless reservoir of compliant human tools.
It's enjoyable to occassionally do more than merely report _on_ the
net, but contribute _to_ the net.
So here's the deal: you can read the complete autobiographies of the
Haymarket Eight in _eye_'s web site. That's right, we transcribed them
-- no small amount of work, easily 100 hours. But worth it.
It takes traditional publishing one step further. No way _eye_ hardcopy
can print 'em all. And not everyone is walking distance from the Metro
Reference Library. So we put 'em on your virtual bookshelf. You -- and
anyone else around our beautiful blue planet -- can read the stories of
the Haymarket Martyrs.
In their own words...
Lest we forget... http://www.interlog.com/eye/Misc/Labor/Haymarket
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