ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Remembering May Day

Should we not honour the Haymarket martyrs and help revive international working-class solidarity?

Four decades of assaults carried out by the capitalist ruling class globally seem to have forced the working class to repress its own radical past. How else could workers have forgotten the origin of May Day? Maybe its history has remained untold even in the labour movement during these difficult years. Labour’s long repression of its radical past has been happening at a time when more than ever before we need to recover the cultures of resistance that working people developed in the course of the class struggles they engaged in from below. Even then—the late 19th century—“the only thing worse than being employed, was being unemployed.” And, for capital, as today, labour was simply a cost of production. But, the workers dared, fighting for their rights, including the eight-hour workday.

On the first May Day, 1 May 1886, hundreds of thousands of North American workers were mobilised to strike for the eight-hour workday. Chicago was then a key centre of working class organisation, the heart of the left wing of the labour movement, with the anarchist International Working People’s Association in the lead. As was to be expected, the labour movement had to face the organised opposition of the capitalist class who were backed by the commercial media and the police, the latter, known for its brutality. Four men, totally innocent, were executed after being falsely charged and unfairly convicted for exploding a bomb at Chicago’s Haymarket Square in May 1886, among them, the anarchists August Spies and Albert Parsons, whose only “crime” was that they were radical labour militants who were relentlessly fighting for the rights of workers, including the eight-hour workday.

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Updated On : 27th Aug, 2017

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