My May Day celebratory post apparently never made it up to the blog. So here it is, half a month late.
The best day of the entire year. From Peter Linebaugh’s famous article on May Day, “The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day,”:
Nationally, May First 1886 was important because a couple of years earlier the Federation of Organized Trade and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada, “RESOLVED… that eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor, from and after May 1, 1886.
On 4 May 1886 several thousand people gathered near Haymarket Square to hear what August Spies, a newspaperman, had to say about the shootings at the McCormick works. Albert Parsons, a typographer and labor leader spoke net. Later, at his trial, he said, “What is Socialism or Anarchism? Briefly stated it is the right of the toilers to the free and equal use of the tools of production and the right of the producers to their product.” He was followed by “Good-Natured Sam” Fielden who as a child had worked in the textile factories of Lancashire, England. He was a Methodist preacher and labor organizer. He got done speaking at 10:30 PM. At that time 176 policemen charged the crowd that had dwindled to about 200. An unknown hand threw a stick of dynamite, the first time that Alfred Nobel’s invention was used in class battle.
All hell broke lose, many were killed, and the rest is history.
“Make the raids first and look up the law afterwards,” was the Sheriff’s dictum. It was followed religiously across the country. Newspaper screamed for blood, homes were ransacked, and suspects were subjected to the “third degree.” Eight men were railroaded in Chicago at a farcical trial. Four men hanged on “Black Friday,” 11 November 1887.
“There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today,” said Spies before he choked.