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News ::
Reclaiming Mayday! (english)
22 Apr 2003
Modified: 23 Apr 2003
As workers, we must recognize and commemorate May Day not for historical significance, but also a time to organize around an issue of vital importance to working class people today.

May 1st, International Workers' Day, commemorates the historic struggle of working people throughout the world, and is recognized in nearly every country except the U.S. and Canada. This despite the fact that the holiday began in the 1880's in the U.S., with the fight for an 8-hour workday.

In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (predecessor of the American Federation of Labor) passed a resolution stating that 8 hours would constitute a legal day's work starting May 1, 1886. The resolution called for a general strike to achieve the goal, since legislative methods had already failed. With workers being forced to work 10, 12 and 14 hours a day, support for the 8-hour movement grew rapidly, despite the indifference and hostility of many union leaders. By April 1886, 250,000 workers were involved in the May Day 8-hour a day struggle.

The heart of the movement was in Chicago, Illinois, organized primarily by members of the anarchist International Working People's Association (IWPA). Businesses and the Sate were terrified by the increasingly revolutionary character of the movement and prepared accordingly. The police and militia were increased in size and received new and powerful weapons, including a machine gun for the National Guard to be used against the strikers. Nevertheless, by May 1st, the movement had already won gains for many Chicago workers. But on May 3, 1886, police fired into the crowd of strikers at the
McCormick Reaper factory, killing 4 and wounding many. Anarchists call for a mass meeting the next day in Haymarket Square to protest police brutality (sound familiar?).

The meeting proceeded without incident, and by the time the last speaker was on the platform, the rainy gathering was already breaking up, with only a few hundred people remaining. It was then that 180 cops marched into the Square and ordered the meeting to disperse. As the speakers climbed down the platform, a bomb was thrown at the police, killing one and injuring seventy. Police responded by firing into the crowd, killing one worker and injuring many others.

Although it was never determined who threw the bomb, the incident was used as an excuse to attack the entire radical and labor movement. Police ransacked the homes and offices of suspected anarchists and radicals, and hundreds were arrested without charge. Anarchists in particular were harassed, and 8 of Chicago's most active were charged with conspiracy to murder in connection to the Haymarket bombing. A kangaroo court found all 8 guilty, despite a lack of evidence connecting any of them to the bomb-thrower, who was never caught.
Only one of them was even at the rally at the time of the bombing. Five were sentenced to death. Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fischer and George Engel were hanged on November 11, 1887. Louis Lingg committed suicide in prison. The remaining 3 were finally pardoned in 1883.

It is not surprising that the state, business leaders, mainstream union officials and the media want to hide the true history of May Day, portraying it as a holiday only celebrated in North Korea. In an attempt to erase the history and significance of May Day, the US government, years ago, declared May 1st to be Law Day and gave us instead Labor Day -- a holiday devoid of any historical significance anywhere else in the world.

Nevertheless, rather then suppressing labor and radical movements, the
events of 1886 and the execution of the Chicago anarchists actually mobilized many generations of radicals, and continues to do so today. Emma Goldman later pointed to the Haymarket affair as her political birth. The Spanish National Confederation of Labor (CNT) has made the commemoration of the Chicago Martyrs a yearly event. Lucy Parsons, widow of Albert Parsons, called upon the poor to direct their anger at those responsible -- the rich. Instead of disappearing, the anarchist workers movement only grew in the wake of Haymarket, spawning other radical and anarchist movements and inspiring segments of the labor movement, including the Industrial Workers of the World, both here and abroad.

By covering up the history of May Day, the state, business, mainstream
unions and the media have covered up the entire legacy of dissent and labor radicalism, particularly anarchist labor unionism, in the U.S. They are terrified of what a similarly militant and self-organized movement could accomplish today, and they attempt to suppress the seeds of such organization whenever and wherever they can. As workers, we must recognize and commemorate May Day not for historical significance, but also a time to organize around an issue of vital importance to working class people today.

Workers Solidarity Alliance
339 Lafayette Street - Room 202
New York, NY 10012

tel. (212) 979-8353
wsany (at)
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Boston MayDay events (english)
23 Apr 2003
Reviving Radical Roots MAY DAY 2003

The first of May is the international day of struggle for working people throughout the world. Hundreds of thousands of people across the world have fought together for many of the basic freedoms we enjoy today. The holiday began in the U.S. in the 1880s around the struggle for an eight-hour workday. Ironically, the U.S. is now one of the only countries in which May Day is not recognized or widely celebrated. This history of people fighting together has been all but erased from the memory of this country. We want to reinvigorate this tradition by resisting attempts to take the power and vitality out of our communities. We want to revive the radical roots that grew these struggles and the collective spirit to fight them.


may 1 - 11:30am (copley square) may day picnic and march we'll have a picnic in copley square and a march will leave from there and meet up with a rally for immigrant rights.

may 2 - evening (time/location tba) speaker; art and literature tables Confirmed speakers now include Jon Bekken (IWW) - on the history of Mayday and its continuing relevance today and Bob D'Attilio (Sacco & Vanzetti Project, ex-Black Rose) on immigrant anarchism and the radical workers' movement in Boston, including a film, and possibly John Wiltshire-Carerra (Midnight Notes, also an immigration lawyer) on the war against immigrant workers.

may 3 - noon-6pm (jamaica plain - stony brook T) wake up the earth festival join us for carnival games at this annual event, including games to dunk the landlord, send romney back to utah, pin the bucks on the budget and break down the prison industrial complex. may 4 - 2pm (mission hill - roxbury crossing T) pickup soccer enjoy the weather and join is for a pickup game of soccer.

everyone welcome!

For more information, email r3 (at)