[Marxism] Haymarket

Mark Lause markalause at gmail.com
Mon Dec 16 14:50:41 MST 2013


I probably will write it at some point this coming year, though first claim
are projects that have publishers.

The point isn't that there was little or no evidence that any of the eight
defendants actually threw the bomb.  My recollection is that they were
charged with a conspiracy to create the conditions that led to the bomb's
being thrown.  The law was one of many such absurdities in legal history.
I personally think the radical lawyer who defended them, William P. Black
would have done much better to challenge that directly, but he was
hamstrung by the fact that he wanted to accommodate the conflicting
strategies the accused individuals wanted to pursue.

I have argued for the permeability of the line between anarchism and
socialism (and other currents of nineteenth century radicalism) for many
years.  The IWPA's strategy essentially rediscovered Blanqui's old
insurrectionist strategy--which got a new lease on life thanks to the
vicious repression of the Paris Commune and, closer to home, of the 1877
general strike on the railroads here, coupled to the wave of blatant
electoral fraud that shattered hopes for simply electing labor or socialist
candidates to office. In this particularly case, of course, the IWPA came
right out of the Socialist Labor Party.

However, Bernette Haskell's organization on the west coast had no
connection at all to the IWPA.  The California organization called itself
the International Workingmen's Association (using the name of the defunct
"First International"), and contemporaries distinguished between them by
calling the IWPA "the Black International" and Haskell's organization "the
Red International.

>From my perspective, the issue isn't guilt or innocence, but getting an
accurate handle on what these currents represented and advocated.  Nobody
familiar with the nature of of the Chicago police at the time can doubt
that elements of it would have no problem setting up movement leaders.  But
neither could such a highly politicalized, factionalized, and gang-ridden
organization kept such a complicated scheme secret.  There's as much
evidence against the vicious invisible aliens from Alpha Centauri--that is
none.

On the other hand, you have the IWPA, which openly praised the political
power of bombs, trained people in how to make and use them, and advocated
their use in this particular setting.   There were times when such things
actually had positive results--consider old John Brown's armed raid on
Harpers Ferry.  The initiative in 1886 simply failed to detonate a mass
rising against capitalism.

But to deny who the Haymarket anarchists were in order to gentrify their
image for contemporaries strikes me as the same as redefining Nat Turner as
a civil rights activist or Gene Debs as a man who could write a cracking
good labor law.

Solidarity!
Mark L.



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