Tuesday, 1 May 2018

May Day.

On November 11, 1887, in Chicago,
in the courtyard of the prison,
execution by hanging of anarchists
August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolph
Fischer, and George Engel. [A]

Today workers worldwide commemorate May Day. David Fields tells the brief origins of May Day, and the gross miscarriage of justice that followed, where police, justice, media, middle-class society, and bosses confabulated to imprison and murder workers innocent of the concocted charges they had been accused of.

There's one thing Fields left out in his otherwise excellent and measured account. The anarchism, trade unionism and leftism of the defendants was not the only reason they were scapegoated. They committed other crimes besides asking for an 8 hour work day. Their poverty certainly contributed, but not even that is the whole answer.

Clockwise from the top: Samuel Fielden, Louis Lingg,
Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Michael Schwab,
Albert R. Parsons, August Spies (centre). Oscar Neebe
(not in the engraving) was sentenced to 15 years.[B]

Out of the 8 defendants in the subsequent trial, 6 were either Germans or descendants of Germans (one was born in the USA, the last one, English). At the time, Germans, Italians, Irish, French, Greeks, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, whatever their religions, Catholics, Orthodox, Jews, were all seen by white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant Americans as subhuman. That was another of the reasons those men were ruthlessly persecuted.

Eventually, as we all know, those categories of people have been promoted to full humanity. But this is now, and that was then. When they say "race is socially constructed" that's what they mean.

We workers are not yet fully accepted as humans.

Remember that when you need to choose who your friends are: that day in November, German and American innocent workers hanged together, side by side, from that noose. Wealthy, educated, respectable, middle class white men, fully human, sent them there. A lynch mob may be civilised, well-dressed, articulate, but it's still a lynch mob and whatever the colour of your skin, gender, religion, they know you are not one of them.

Remember that.

Given that anti-Marxist critics often are not particularly well-informed (you know, Marx = Engels, SPD = International), it may be good to add this: May Day, which falls on May 1st, although near enough, is not Karl Marx's birthday, which falls on May 5th.

Just sayin'! :-)

Image Credits:
[A] "Le 11 novembre 1887, à Chicago, dans la cour de la prison, exécution par pendaison des anarchistes August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer, George Engel." Author: unknown. Source: Wikimedia. Work in the public domain.
[B] "Portraits of the Haymarket Martyrs". Author: Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper. Source: Wikimedia. Work in the public domain.

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