Click below to link to BAAM Newsletter (local Boston anarchist collective) site for two good introductory articles about the labor struggles of the 19th century and a biographic sketch of the heroic anarchist (and later American Communist Party member) Lucy Parsons, widow of Haymarket martyr Albert Parson and revolutionary fighter in her own right. While my sympathies are clearly with the communist wing on the left wing continuum, especially the struggles led by Leon Trotsky to save the heritage of the Russian Revolution in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the main points of these articles are made by kindred spirits that all labor militants can stand in solidarity with as part of our common labor history.
THIS YEAR MARKS THE 120TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MAY DAY HAYMARKET FRAMEUPS. HONOR THE MEMORY OF AUGUST SPIES, ALBERT PARSONS, ADOLPH FISCHER, GEORGE ENGEL, LOUIS LINGG, MICHAEL SCHWAB, SAMUEL FIELDEN, OSCAR NEEBE- CLASS WAR VICTIMS OF AN EARLIER TIME. ALSO REMEMBER LUCY PARSONS WHO CARRIED ON THE STRUGGLE FOR VINDICATION AFTER HER HUSBAND’S EXECUTION. LET US REDOUBLE OUR EFFORTS TO FREE TODAY’S CLASS WAR PRISONERS.
FORGET DONKEYS, ELEPHANTS AND GREENS- BUILD A WORKERS PARTY
Politically, the writer of these lines is far distance from those of the Haymarket Martyrs. Their flag was the black flag of anarchism, the writer’s is the red flag of socialism. Notwithstanding those political differences, militants must stand under the old labor slogan that should underscore all labor defense work now as then- ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’. Unfortunately that principle has been honored far more in the breech than in the observance by working class organizations.
Additionally, in the case of the Haymarket Martyrs today’s militants must stand in solidarity and learn about the way those militants bravely conducted themselves before bourgeois society in the face of the witch hunt against them and their frame-up in the courts of so-called bourgeois ‘justice’. Not for the first time, and most probably not for the last, militants were railroaded by the capitalist state for holding unpopular and or/dangerous (to the capitalists) views. Moreover, it is no accident that most of the Haymarket Martyrs were foreigners (mainly Germans) not fully appreciative of the niceties of 19th century American ‘justice’. This same ‘justice’ system framed the heroic anarchist immigrant militants Sacco and Vanzetti in the early 20th century and countless other militants since then. As we struggle in the fight for full citizenship rights for immigrants today we should keep this in mind. Although, as we also know, this American system of ‘justice’ will not forget the occasional uppity ‘native’ political dissenter either.
Most importantly, we must not forget that the Haymarket Martyrs at the time of their arrest were fighting for the establishment of a standardized eight hour work day. It is ironic that 120 years later this simple, rational, reasonable demand should, in effect, still be necessary to fight for by working people. All proportions taken into account since the 1880’s, a very high percentage of the working class still does not have this luxury- given the necessity of two wage-earner families, two job wage-earners, dramatic increases in commute time in order to gain employment, unpaid but mandatory work time (note especially the Walmart-ization of labor time) and a high rate of partially or fully unemployed able-bodied workers. To do justice to the memory of the Haymarket Martyrs this generation of militants should dust off another old labor slogan that used to be part of the transitional demands of the socialist movement- 30 hours work for 40 hours pay. TODAY THIS IS A REASONABLE DEMAND.
Obviously such a demand cannot be implemented in isolation. To even propose such a demand means we need to build a workers party to fight for it. Moreover, and let us not have illusions about this; this capitalist state does not want to and will not grant such a demand. Therefore, we must fight for a workers government. That would be a true monument to the memory of the Haymarket Martyrs.