(en) May Day greetings from Ireland

Dr Groove (dr_groove@geocities.com)
Wed, 30 Apr 1997 16:04:07 +0000


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Slightly early May Day greetings from the Workers Soldarity Movement to anarchists all over the world. This is the text of a special May Day Anarchist news we are distributing in Ireland where we will be marching with Red & Black banners and flags.

Anarchist News No 14 May. 1997

May Day: Why we're marching

International Workers Day is a day for all of us. It's an opportunity to celebrate the victories of the last year - most notably the defeat of the water charges by a mass non- payment campaign.

It is a show of internationalism, of support for workers around the world. Injustice does not stop at national borders and neither does the fight against it. May Day is about saying we have more in common with the worker of another country than we do with the boss in Ireland.

It is a reminder that whatever improvements we have seen in our conditions had to be fought for. They were never just conceded without a struggle by the ruling class. And if we don't organise to protect our gains the ruling class will try to take them back (e.g. job losses, health cutbacks, service charges).

It is a recognition that no matter how much guff is talked about 'social partnership', there is a class struggle. The rulers and the ruled have very different interests.

It is a time when we can express solidarity with each other. We can come together and show our support for the locked out Irish Life staff, for the communities tackling the heroin scourge, for all those standing up to injustice and doing their bit to make the world a better place.

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Election advice: vote for no one

The vast majority of people, in every country around the world, are working class. We have to sell our labour (which sometimes means claiming the dole) to earn a living, unlike the rich minority. When the right to vote began to be extended, around the middle of the last century, the rich feared that the poor (ie., everyone else) would use their much greater numbers to vote for a change in the distribution of wealth and a fairer society.

This was why people fought for the right to vote. They wanted an equal say in the government of the land, so they would get a fair share of the goods of the land. As it turned out, the rich needn't have worried. Every time a so-called 'socialist' or 'Labour' party has come to power, they have been almost indistinguishable from their more right-wing opponents. Now we have 'progressed' to the stage where parties don't even pretend to campaign on the basis of representing the working class, but say they are more 'trustworthy', or are a 'safe pair of hands' to control the economy.

But even if we were faced with radically different candidates in the election, they would all have one thing in common. Whether they are conservative or liberal, left-wing or right, they all want to make laws to decide how we live. Of course, this is the way it has always been, and we are told this is the way it always must be, which is why we accept it. But isn't it a crazy idea? That there are some people who can understand the millions of different lives we lead, and can tell what's best for every one of us?

Time for Real Change

There is an alternative. Deciding the issues ourselves, instead of letting others decide for us. By organising ourselves, we were able to defeat the water charges - why stop there? We need better hospitals and schools, not tax amnesties for the rich. We need jobs, where our pay and conditions are more important than the proits our bosses make. In the long run, we need to change the whole system, so it is run by us, directly, in our interests, not by a small minority who say they know what's best for us.

So, when anarchists say you shouldn't vote, we're not just saying that politicians are a shower of liars and cheats (though they are), and that you should wait until some good and honest politicians come along (don't hold your breath) so you can vote for them. When you vote, you are choosing between rulers. Why not choose instead to rule yourself, to organise with others - in your workplace, in your community, everywhere - as equals, and make some changes yourself, instead of waiting for others to do it for you. Spoil your vote - and then go out and make a real difference.

***************

Why we celebrate May Day

Our story starts over one hundred years ago in the United States. On May 1st 1886, strikes in favour of the eight hour day convulsed Chicago, causing one half of the workforce at a local factory, McCormicks to come out. Two days later a mass meeting was held by 6,000 members of another striking union. The meeting was joined by some 500 of the McCormicks strikers.

While anarchist August Spies was urging the workers to stand together and not retreat before the bosses, strikebreakers began to leave the nearby McCormick plant. The meeting marched down the street and forced the scabs back into the factory. Suddenly a force of 200 police arrived and, without any warning, attacked the crowd with clubs and revolvers. They killed at least one striker, seriously wounded five or six others and injured an indeterminate number.

HAYMARKET

Outraged by the brutal assaults Spies called a protest meeting which took place in the Haymarket Square. This was addressed by Spies and two other anarchists active in the trade union movement, Albert Parsons and Samuel Fielden. As Fielden was closing the meeting, it was raining heavily and only about 200 people remained in the square. Suddenly a police column of 180 men moved in and ordered the people to disperse immediately. Fielden protested "we are peaceable". At this moment a bomb was thrown into the ranks of the police. It killed one, fatally wounded six more and injured about seventy others. The police opened fire on the spectators. How many were wounded or killed by the police bullets was never exactly ascertained.

TERROR AND TRIAL

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. Eventually eight men stood trial for being "accessories to murder". They were Spies, Fielden, Parsons, and five other anarchists who were influential in the labour movement, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Michael Schwab, Louis Lingg and Oscar Neebe.

That the eight were on trial for their anarchist beliefs and trade union activities was made clear from the outset. The trial closed as it had opened, as was witnessed by the final words of Attorney Grinnell's summation speech to the jury. "Law is of trial. Anarchy is on trial. These men have been selected, picked out by the Grand Jury, and indicted because they were leaders. There are no more guilty than the thousands who follow them. Gentlemen of the jury; convict these men, make examples of them, hang them and you save our institutions, our society."

On August19th seven of the defendants were sentenced to death, and Neebe to 15 years in prison. After a massive international campaign for their release, the state 'compromised' and commuted the sentences of Schwab and Fielden to life imprisonment. Lingg cheated the hangman by committing suicide in his cell the day before the executions. On November 11th 1887 Parsons, Engel, Spies and Fischer were hanged.

PARDONED

600,000 working people turned out for their funeral. 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 ben the victims of "hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge"

When Spies addressed the court after he had been sentenced to die, he was confident that this conspiracy would not succeed. "If you think that by hanging us you can stamp out the labour movement... the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil in misery and want, expect salvation - if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here you will tread on a spark, but there and there, behind you - and in front of you, and everywhere, flames blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out".

It is in their honour and to continue their struggle that workers march each May Day.

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