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(en) UK, London, Mayday 2003

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Thu, 17 Apr 2003 11:38:23 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

> From dr.woooo@.SYNTAX-ERROR http://diy.spc.org/ourmayday/index03.html
The tradition of Mayday has always been about the celebration of life, a way of
people coming together all over the world, taking over public spaces, a day of
defiance against authority. Mayday is a chance for us to connect our struggles
with the struggles of others globally, a day when we can collectively voice our
opposition to exploitation, the repression of our desires and dreams, to create
a new world, a stateless world, a world without capitalism...
> War on Terror?
Since September 11th new and more repressive laws have been introduced under
the pretence of a constant threat of war and terrorist attacks. But what is
the ?war on terrorism?? It?s simply a continued war, a war of ?democratic?
governments against their own populations and the dispossessed of the world.
Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran?, North Korea?, China? The list of so- called ?rogue
states? is almost endless -in reality all states are rogue states. This should
not surprise us, as capitalism & war are inseparable. War stimulates the arms
trade and the economy generally. War allows capitalist restructuring and
reinforces national boundaries. It encourages religious, nationalist and
patriotic illusions and submerges other conflicts, like the current fire
fighters dispute. War displaces people, being a key reason for seeking asylum,
whilst the Government scapegoats asylum seekers as ?terrorists?.

Our Pre-Emptive Strike

On Mayday we propose a pre-emptive strike at the future that capitalism
dictates for us, a future that can only offer us more exploitation, boredom,
and submission. An attack on the real weapons of mass destruction: oil
companies, the arms manufacturers, multinationals and banks. Governmental
institutions like the Home Office, Ministry of Defence, and the Department of
Trade and Industry who through their policies and interests destroy lives,
create divisions and misery. To aid the day we are producing a map (send a SAE
to BM Mayday, WC1N 3XX) with 50 targets on which people are encouraged to go
and have a look at and see what?s possible?.

?The rich will not lie down & the powerful will not disappear, neither will
they surrender their privilege willingly. In order to create a future worth
building we must, collectively, together, as one, destroy that which enslaves,
suppresses & hinders us. Mayday is simply a glimpse of that possibility. Our
energy is awe-inspiring, extraordinary, limitless. This is still our day.?

If you are planning an autonomous action for Mayday, and would like us to
publicise it on this page, please email us at: londonmayday@yahoo.co.uk

A map of London with a list of 50 companies and institutions that benefit
from war will be up on this site soon, to give you a few ideas for possible
weapons-inspections, banner-drops etc...

Thursday May 1st, 2003

>> 2pm
Main meet up at:
LockHeed Martin - the biggest arms company in the world - Berkshire House,
corner of High Holborn & Endell St, WC1.

>> 2pm
Critical Mass meet at:
the Home Office Birdcage Walk, SW1

>> 4pm
All converge at:
Shell U.K., The Strand, WC2

Critical Mass...
will start at the South Bank at 11am. They will then ride up to Queen
Anne's gate for a Mayday Picnic at 1pm. At 2pm they will re- assemble at the
Home Office to continue the ride and Mayday actions.

History of Mayday

The Ancient Origins of Mayday

Mayday originated as a pagan festive holy day celebrating the first spring
planting. The ancient Celts and Saxons celebrated May 1st as Beltane, which
means the day of fire. Bel was the Celtic god of the sun. The Saxons began
their Mayday celebrations on the eve of May, April 30. It was an evening of
games and feasting celebrating the end of winter and the return of the sun and
fertility of the soil. Torch bearing peasants and villagers would wind their
way up paths to the top of hills or mountain crags and then ignite wooden
wheels, which they would roll down into the fields below.

The May eve celebrations were eventually outlawed by the Catholic Church, but
were still celebrated by peasants until the late 1700's. While good church
going folk would shy away from joining in the celebrations, those less afraid
of papal authority would don animal masks and various costumes. The revellers,
lead by the Goddess of the Hunt, Diana (sometimes played by a pagan-priest in
women's clothing), and the Horned God, Herne, would travel up the hill
shouting, chanting, singing, and blowing hunting horns. This night became known
in Europe as Walpurgisnacht, or night of the witches.

The Celtic tradition of Mayday in the British Isles continued to be celebrated
throughout the middle ages by rural and village folk. Here the traditions were
similar with a goddess and god of the hunt. As European peasants moved away
from hunting gathering societies their gods and goddesses changed to reflect a
more agrarian society. Thus Diana and Herne came to be seen by medieval
villagers as fertility deities of the crops and fields. Diana became the Queen
of the May and Herne became Robin Goodfellow (a predecessor of Robin Hood) or
the Green Man. The Queen of the May reflected the life of the fields and Robin
reflected the hunting traditions of the woods. The rites of mayday were part
and parcel of pagan celebrations of the seasons. The Christian church later
absorbed many of these pagan rites in order to win over converts from the 'Old

The two most popular feast days for medieval craft guilds were the Feast of St.
John - the Summer Solstice - and Mayday. Mayday was a raucous and fun time,
electing a queen of the May from the eligible young women of the village, to
rule the crops until harvest. Besides the selection of the May Queen was the
raising of the phallic Maypole, around which the young single men and women of
the village would dance holding on to the ribbons until they became entwined,
with their (hoped for) new love. There was also Robin Goodfellow - the Green
Man - who was the Lord of Misrule for this day. Mayday was a celebration of the
common people, and Robin would be the King, Priest or Fool for a day. Priests
and Lords were the butt of many jokes; mummers would make jokes and poke fun at
the local authorities.

The church and state did not take kindly to these celebrations, especially
during times of popular rebellion. Mayday and the Maypole were outlawed in the
1600's. Yet the tradition still carried on in many rural areas and the trade
societies still celebrated Mayday until the 18th Century. As trade societies
evolved from guilds, to friendly societies and eventually into unions, the
craft traditions remained strong into the early 19th century.

In London the May Fayre was transferred from Haymarket in 1686 to Mayfair. The
May Fayre lasted for up to 16 days and it soon became notorious for riotous and
disorderly behaviour. In 1708 the May Fayre was abolished, only to be revived
again with similar results. Building on the site was probably the most
effective way of permanently suppressing the fair and by the mid-18th century
almost the whole of modern Mayfair was covered with houses.

International Workers? Day

The celebration of Mayday as a working class holiday evolved from the struggle
for the eight-hour day in the 1880?s. In 1884, the Federation of Organized
Trades and Labor Unions passed a resolution stating that eight hours would
constitute a legal day's work from and after May 1, 1886. The resolution called
for a general strike to achieve the goal. With workers being forced to work
ten, twelve, and fourteen hours a day, rank-and-file support for the eight-hour
movement grew rapidly, despite the indifference and hostility of many union
leaders. Revolutionaries believed that the struggle for an eight-hour day would
evolve into a struggle to overthrow capital.

By April 1886 hundreds of thousands of American workers, increasingly
determined to resist subjugation to capitalist power, had joined a fledgling
trade union, the Knights of Labor. The heart of the movement was in Chicago,
organised primarily by the revolutionary International Working Men's
Association (the First International). Workers there had been agitating for an
8-hour day for months and, on the eve of May 1st, 50,000 were already on
strike. 30,000 more swelled their ranks the next day, bringing most of Chicago
manufacturing to a standstill, as they took to the streets to demand universal
adoption of the 8-hour day. By May 1st the movement had already won gains for
many Chicago clothing cutters, shoemakers, and packinghouse workers. But on May
3rd police fired into a crowd of strikers at the McCormick Reaper Works
Factory, killing four and wounding many. Angered by the state violence and
murderous police, a group of anarchists, led by August Spies & Albert Parsons,
called on workers to arm themselves & participate in a massive protest
demonstration in Haymarket Square the following evening. 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 from 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, a reign of terror swept
over Chicago. The press and the pulpit called for revenge, insisting the bomb
was the work of socialists and anarchists. Meeting halls, union offices,
printing works and private homes were raided. All known socialists and
anarchists were rounded up. Even many individuals ignorant of the meaning of
socialism and anarchism were arrested and tortured. "Make the raids first and
look up the law afterwards" was the public statement of Julius Grinnell, the
state's attorney. Eight of Chicago's most active anarchists were charged with
accessories to murder. They were August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer,
George Engel, Fielden, Michael Schwab, Louis Lingg and Oscar Neebe.

In a spectacular show trial which opened on June 21st 1886, a kangaroo court
found all eight guilty, despite a lack of evidence connecting any of them to
the bomb-thrower (only one was even present at the meeting, and he was on the
speakers' platform), and they were sentenced to death. Albert Parsons, August
Spies, Adolf Fischer, and George Engel were hanged on November 11th, 1887.
Louis Lingg committed suicide in prison. Read the speech made by August Spies
in court>>>

250,000 people lined Chicago's street during Parson's funeral procession to
express their outrage at this gross miscarriage of justice. The campaign to
free Neebe, Schwab and Fielden continued. On June 26th 1893 Governor Altgeld
set them free. He made it clear he was not granting the pardon because he
thought the men had suffered enough, but because they were innocent of the
crime for which they had been tried. They and the hanged men had been the
victims of "hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge".

For revolutionaries and workers everywhere, Haymarket became a symbol of the
struggle for a new world. In Paris in 1889 the founding congress of the Second
International declared May 1st an international working class holiday in
commemoration of the Haymarket Martyrs and the red flag became the symbol of
the blood of working class martyrs in their battle for workers rights.

The Second International?s commitment to internationalism was shown when they
condemned millions of workers to death in the trenches of the First World War
in defence of ?their fatherland?. After the two world wars, the labour movement
continued to pay lip service to Mayday and the occasion became a day for making
grand speeches, but little else. In London a march continued to be organised,
but this became more and more irrelevant except on the few occasions when it
happened to coincide with a major dispute, the last being Wapping. The annual
march became dominated by Stalinists, which led on one occasion to anarchists
being attacked, and generally went round back streets.

Modern Mayday

In 1998 a number of revolutionaries, most of whom had been involved with the
Class War Federation and paper, organised a conference with the aim of bringing
the broad ?movement? together and opening up new dialogues. The conference was
hosted in Bradford, where local anarchists and others had been attempting to
reclaim Mayday. About 1,000 activists attended the Conference and, although it
was not designed to be a decision-making conference, the result was renewed co-
operation from groups and individuals who put aside personal disputes. This new
found unity was experienced in action a year later at the J18 Carnival Against
Capital in the City of London. The Mayday march itself in Bradford was a sea of
red and black flags and was followed by a gig in the city centre.

In 1999, inspired by the Bradford conference and determined not to tail end the
official march any longer, a small group of activists from Reclaim the Streets
(RTS) and West London Anarchists & Radicals (WAR) set about organising a tube
party in opposition to privatisation of the tube and in solidarity with tube
workers. Mayday fell on a sunny Saturday and over 1,000 people crowded onto a
circle line train, which was symbolically placed under ?workers and passenger
control?. A leaflet, mimicking in style official London Underground information
leaflets, was distributed which declared:

"If we want another world we?ve got to stop maintaining this one through our
action and inaction. The power of our rulers is based on the fact that they
have separated us from each other, and we act as alienated individual workers
and as passive consumers. By endlessly repeating the same patterns - paying our
fares and bills, going to work, watching the world unfold on TV - we recreate
this world every day. Today we attempt for a brief period to upset the normal
pattern, to feel the power that we have when we act together. That we do this
on International Workers? day should remind us that despite the attempt by
Blair and others to consign it to the past, one of the most powerful forms of
direct action remains the withdrawal by workers of their labour. Workers can
bring this world to a halt. Today we attempt to take over the tube, but we do
so in solidarity with the tube workers".

Afterwards we partied on Clapham common at Jayday. This event marked a turning
point: Mayday would never be the same again.

J18 transformed the ?anti-capitalist movement? in the UK and the following year
a much larger group came together to organise a four-day Mayday 2000 - Festival
of Anti-Capitalist Ideas and Action. This began on a wet Friday night with a
Critical Mass cycle ride in Central London and a revolutionary history walk of
the East End. The highlight of the latter was the surreal sight of a group of
revolutionaries standing outside the former Match Girls strike factory, which
is now Yuppie flats, in the pouring rain surrounded by cops! Over the next two
days about 2,000 people attended a well-organised conference with a diverse
range of workshops. Many were from differing backgrounds and political
traditions and there was an exciting exchange of ideas.

On Mayday itself, which fell on a bank holiday, Parliament Square was
transformed by Guerrilla Gardening. "Resistance is fertile" was the declaration
and the banner tied across the treasury building in Parliament Square read "the
earth is a common treasury for all". The enduring image was of the statue of
mass murderer Churchill dressed in a green turf mohican and the desecration of
the cenotaph. Mayday was followed by the official visit of Putin, who had
overseen the death of 20,000 Chechnyans as Russia bombed Chechnya back into the
Dark Ages, but damaged statues are of much more concern to the ruling class. As
RTS said afterwards: "we do not necessarily celebrate the generals and the
ruling class that send these people to their deaths in order to protect the
privileges and control of the few. The abhorrence of sending millions of men to
their deaths in the trenches dwarfs the stupidity of any possible slogan on any
possible piece of stone".

Last year Mayday fell on a working day. The theme of the action was Mayday
Monopoly and participants were invited to consider the possibilities of the
Monopoly board and organise autonomous actions. The beauty of the concept was
that Monopoly is a game played by every child. As the Mayday Monopoly Game
Guide, a well-produced pamphlet circulated for free, put it: "The game of
monopoly is one of accumulation, making it perfect for our times. The aim is
for each player to make profits through the sale of a single commodity - land -
and to expand their empire. In real life one single commodity generates all
profits - our labour power. Since labour power cannot be separated from people,
we are literally bought and sold in the market place".

The cops through the media threatened to shoot people with rubber bullets,
press hysteria reached a new high, Mayor Livingstone took paid adverts telling
people to stay away and even Prime Minister Blair got in on the act, but about
5,000 anti-capitalist protestors turned out to play Mayday Monopoly in London.
The actions included a office invasion against the arms trade, a giant
veggieburger give-away at MuckDonald's, building cardboard homes in Mayfair, a
picket of Coutts Bank for the abolition of money, a demonstration outside HMP
Pentonville, and, for the finale, a party against consumerism in that
metropolis of shopping, Oxford Street. In fact Oxford Street had been boarded
up and thousands of police replaced the shopaholics.

The cops tactic was to pen everyone in. They were assisted by the Trotskyist
front group Globalise Resistance marching into Oxford Circus early and by the
rain. Still, those who tried managed to break out and spread out as a far as
Tottenham Court Road. Central London was closed down and the cost in lost
business was put at £20 million. The end result was the most surreal gathering
ever. The Financial Times meanwhile lamented "Business needs to do more to
demonstrate the benefits... Governments must defend globalisation more
vigorously - Otherwise, [the protesters] may win the battle for public

To be continued ?

Useful Mayday history link: http://www.mayweek.ab.ca/history.html

FROM http://diy.spc.org/ourmayday/index03.html

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