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(en) France, Alternative Libertaire AL #261 - 1886: The case of the Haymarket Square and we (fr, it, pt) [machine translation]

Date Tue, 21 Jun 2016 12:56:00 +0300


In May 1886 take place in Chicago events behind the May 1: a workers' revolt brings death to police and in retaliation, the conviction of four anarchists to hang. Normand Baillargeon, libertarian philosopher and activist Quebec, talks about this episode. ---- We will struggle to understand the profound impact of the events of May 4, 1886 and their meaning if we do not take the time to locate in the historical context in which they occur. Failing to do so, as we risk losing sight of the fact that this tragic story, far from being stuck in a past we would have nothing more to learn, still today a real impact since that it is referred to by seeking to understand what it can teach us - especially in terms of political struggle and militancy.

The historical context in the second half of the nineteenth century in Chicago, metropolis experiencing rapid population and economic growth, is well known and usually adequately exposed, for example in French in the easily accessible text Aviv Etrebilal, which I will [ 1 ].

It has striking similarities context with the current situation in the US, at least judging by the presence of the Tea Party, by rising, that symbolizes Donald Trump, a certain xenophobia, directed Chicago against strong immigrant communities and even against some of them, more militant, the presence of substantial economic inequality and violent class struggle, both economic and ideological.

The situation of workers is very difficult and getting worse the civil war (1860-1865), then with the great fire which badly hit the town in October 1871 and leaving some 100,000 homeless. But resistance by the labor movement is organized in Chicago and elsewhere. The organization Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor, in other words the Knights of Labor, was also born in 1869. As one might guess, this resistance is strongly opposed, legal, economic, political, and sometimes even illegal often violent.

In Chicago, as in many other municipalities, anarchists are firmly established among others by the activity of members of immigrant communities. Libertarians appear daily in different languages and immigrant communities. The most famous anarchist newspapers of Chicago, the Arbeiter-Zeitung, takes in 1886 to over 25 000 copies.

For the 8-hour day

In 1886, precisely, the labor movement struggle in the US for the 8 hour day. The typical work week then extends over six days of 10 hours or a little more and typically account for some 60 to 65 hours. Strikes are at that time so many and so frequent that the time will be called that of the Great Upheaval, the great upheaval. The cause of the 8-hour day is an important battle and around which the major trends of the labor movement can regroup. Anarchists are engaged in it, but with their customary lucidity: the eight-hour day for today, certainly, but without losing sight of the real goal is the abolition of wage labor.

The word general strike of May 1, 1886 is widely followed, particularly in Chicago [ 2 ].

That day, August Spies, a well known activist in the Windy City, is one of the last to speak before the large crowd of protesters. When they disperse the demonstration, hitherto quiet and peaceful, turns to tragedy: 200 police burst and charge workers. There will be one dead and dozens injured. Spies leading the Arbeiter-Zeitung and writes a call for a protest rally against police violence. It is held on May 4 at Haymarket Square in Chicago.

Again, everything happens first in peace. Spies takes the floor, and two other anarchists, Albert Parsons and Samuel Fielden. Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, attended the event and, while it ends, he is convinced that nothing will happen. He therefore advised the police chief, Inspector John Bonfield, and asked him to send home the police stationed nearby. It is ten o'clock. It's raining heavily. Fielden finished his speech, the last on the agenda. The protesters disperse and soon it remains a few hundred in the Haymarket Square. Suddenly, 180 policemen arise and rush to the crowd. Fielden protested. Then, coming from who knows where a bomb is thrown at the police. It caused one death and dozens wounded, including six police officers who die from their injuries. The police opened fire on the crowd, killing one will never know how many people.

A witch hunt is launched throughout the city. The authorities are furious. It must be the culprits. September anarchists were arrested. They are: August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Michael Schwab, Louis Lingg and Oscar Neebe. An eighth name is added when Albert Parsons engages in the police, convinced that they will sentence him to anything because it is innocent, like the others. In fact, only three of the eight suspects were present at Haymarket Square on the evening of May 4 this fatal.

The trial of eight opens June 21, 1886 the Criminal Court of Cook County. We can and we can not prove that none of them has thrown the bomb, had relations with the head of such acts or had even approved. From the outset, one thing is obvious to all: this trial is less one of these men as the labor movement in general and anarchism in particular. Jury selection farcical and eventually bring together people who share their hatred of the anarchists. Y same seat a parent killed the policeman.

Gary judge does not make a mistake over the prosecutor Julius Grinnell says that, in his instructions to the jury:

There is only steps from the Republic to anarchy. It's the law here undergoing trial along with anarchism. These eight men were chosen because they are leaders. They are no more guilty than the thousands who follow them. Gentlemen of the jury: convict these men, make of them an example, let them hang and you save our institutions, our society. It is you who will decide if we will take this step towards anarchy or not.

On August 19, all were sentenced to death, with the exception of Oscar Neebe, who gets fifteen years in prison. The trial has been so grotesque that a broad international protest movement is triggered. He manages to commute to life imprisonment the death sentences of Schwab and Fielden. Lingg, meanwhile, hangs himself in his cell. On November 11th 1887 Parsons, Engel, Spies and Fischer were hanged.

Commemorating the 100 years of the Haymarket affair on May 1, 1986 in Forest Park.
Half a million people in the funeral

They are the ones that history suggests speaking of the martyrs of Haymarket. More than half a million people flock to their funerals. Neebe, Schwab and Fielden will be officially released June 26, 1893, their innocence is recognized, and the fact that they were victims of a campaign of hysteria and a skewed and biased trial. What remains clear, however, what are the intentions of those who condemned the martyrs of Chicago: breaking the labor movement and kill the anarchist movement in the United States.

The same day was announced the death sentence of four anarchists had been communicated to workers in Chicago slaughterhouses that from next Monday, they should again work ten hours a day. One result of this history is of course the custom, widespread throughout the world, to celebrate the May 1 International Workers Day. I say that this practice is widespread because in other countries, such as Canada or, and this is remarkable, the United States is celebrated instead (or also, as applicable) on Labour Day, it ' is to say either the party workers but ... work! This takes place in early September.

however, an issue remained unresolved to this day: that launched this bomb? Many hypotheses have been advanced, starting with that accusing a policeman working for Bonfield. Others are more recent times and sometimes question the innocence of the accused.

Commemorative plaque of the internal department of the United States, vandalized by activists: "First they take your life, now they exploit your memory."
A new quarrel historians

Some, like Etrebilal Aviv city at the beginning of this text, the defendants argue that, at least some of them were indeed guilty. By immigration, ideas and practices relating to the propaganda of the deed were imported from Europe and have led a good part of the American anarchist movements, including Chicago, where they would have found many insurgent.

A historian, Timothy Messer-Kruse [ 3 ], for its part, recently argued in a book, the idea qu'aveuglés by their political convictions, historians of the New Left (New Left) knowingly concealed their selection and interpretation of facts beliefs that inspired the anarchists involved in this event, which they yet have never made any secret, that violent acts and the use of explosives are needed to bring about an anarchist society .

The thesis Messer-Kruse defends is that the famous bomb was actually the agreed signal the beginning of an anarchist insurrection to launch coordinated attacks against police stations in the city. But once the bomb dropped, the other conspirators were frightened and retreated.

The quarrel historians will probably continue and it is important that it be: the interpretation of facts implies that we first establish the serious and objectively as possible. For my part, I confess, (without being a specialist in the subject, it nevertheless interested enough to follow the publications on ...) that nothing I read recently leads me to reject the usual interpretation facts.

Obviously I could be wrong, and also that new facts or arguments may lead me to revise my position.

For now though, I think it qu'avançait long ago already the historian Henry David recalling the reasons which had led in 1893 the governor of Illinois, John Peter Altgeld, to release the three survivors recognizing innocent remains true: "a biased jury, a judge prejudiced, false evidence, indefensible and an extraordinary conspiracy theory and anger of the city of Chicago led to this verdict. But facts have never been able to prove their guilt [ 4 ]. "

But once the facts established, it is possible to interpret and evaluate various ways. One can for example be convinced of the guilt of the accused and regret that it has been obscured and even applaud the actions they asked.

Etrebilal Aviv, quoted above, advance precisely that it is because of their guilt to be welcomed five Chicago and refuse what he described as their regenerative powers (current):

A huge work has been done to "rehabilitate" these companions in the eyes of the law and public opinion. But we refuse sharply to participate in this, and prefer to reaffirm that these companions were not innocent, and that is why we wish to salute their memory and "rehabilitate" our turn to celebrate their insurrectionary struggle.

Further, he wrote:

Obviously, this attempt insurgency was a technical failure, but what we learned from all this is that it is possible to try something, and it will be perfect over the attempts. As revolutionaries, this piece of history is directly in the book of our experience and a memory, rather than locking us into a distant folklore, should help us think this an existing that it remains to destroy [ 5 ].

I think, with the nuances made above, that the verdict was wrong and that historians have done their job. But I also think that there is considerable work to do to get the facts, especially in the United States where they occurred and where the link between these events and the May 1 are extraordinarily little known.

There is an important educational work to do. And since ignore the past is often condemned to reproduce the worst legacies, this educational work should be an opportunity to recall shaped warned against the ease with which the powers are exploiting these situations invoke terrorism or the threat of terrorism to justify their actions, before a population is maintained in fear.

Finally, I especially think this duty of memory should be an opportunity to remember the ideals for which these people have fought. Voltairine so aptly said I'll just quote it:

That's telling people that the only way out of poverty was to first learn what their rights on this land [that these five men were killed]. What they represented was a very high and noble ideal of the human race, and that it why they were hanged was to have preached to the common people - the common people who were also willing to hang in their ignorance, the court and prosecutors were in their malice! [...] These were men who had a more enlightened vision of human rights that most of their peers and who, moved by profound social sympathy, wished to share their vision with their peers by proclaiming in public [ 6 ].

This is what activism and ideals that I hold the greatest and most inspiring lesson of Haymarket Square.

Normand Baillargeon

Normand Baillargeon is an essayist and Quebec anarchist.
[ 1 ] Aviv Etrebilal, the five martyrs of Chicago: innocent or guilty?

[ 2 ] I am here my presentation of events in the order less power , Agone and Lux, many reissues. I also highly recommend, for his extraordinary iconography and collection of texts, Franklin Rosemont and David Roediger, Haymarket Scrapbook , Charles H. Kerr Publishing Co and AK Press, Oakland and Chicago, 2012

[ 3 ] Timothy Messer-Kruse, The Haymarket Conspiracy: Transatlantic Anarchist Network , University of Illinois Press, Champaign, 2012

[ 4 ] Henry David, The History of the Haymarket Affair , Russel and Russel, New York, 1936, p. 541

[ 5 ] It is interesting to read about this article by Eve Darian-Smith telling his stupor to discover the extent of the ignorance of his university students the facts of May 1st and history Haymarket. See: "Precedents of Injustice: Thinking about History in Law", Politics and Society, vol 41, 2008, pp. 61-81

[ 6 ] Voltairine, "November 11, 1887", in D'hope and reason , Lux, Montreal, 2008.

http://www.alternativelibertaire.org/?1886-L-affaire-du-Haymarket-Square
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