Saturday, May 1, 2010

Happy (Real) Workers Day

This is a repost from a previous May Day. It is as applicable now as it was then.

If you lived in the US, and never traveled outside, you would think May Day was a Soviet holiday from the Cold War past. You would never know that the International Workers' Day started after the Haymarket Affair (in 1886), in which several anarchists and union activists in Chicago were strung up and executed by the state of Illinois for a deadly firebombing they never committed (and a massacre precipitated by the heavy handedness of the Chicago Police Department). So, if an act by international workers and unions to commemorate this day, our day, is ignored by the state, we should rectify this now.

The history of American labor is one steeped in blood and violence, and it is one that is no longer taught in most of our schools, least the stockholders at Norton, Pearson, or McGraw Hill take offense. From the massacres at Homestead, the Pullman Strike, the Ludlow massacre (when National Guard troops mowed down strikers and their families), the Reading Railroad massacre, the Lattimer massacre (the greatest slaughter of immigrant strikers in US history, at the hands of local law enforcement thugs), the Everett massacre, and the Columbine Mine massacre (yes, the same Columbine that was to become the sight of the largest school shooting years later), the Centralia Massacre, US labor history is a long sad trail of massacres, mostly of workers by local cops, National Guardsmen, and company goons. The only reason I know about them is because I come from four generations of a union family and had it pounded into my head as a child, and yet even I was never taught about any of this at school. Even in college, during my undergraduate years, my US history courses concentrated on other issues (and only mentioned labor unions in passing when covering the life and times of Andrew Carnegie and his fellow robber barons).

This is and should be our labor day. The only reason it is not is because the state does not want workers to remember our history. This is why during the Cold War, Congress turned May 1 into Law Day (to brainwash the population into following orders, such as ordering executions of or issuing injunctions against strikers). It is even less of an accident that the state switched our labor day to September, several months away, safely and far away from being forced to recognize what happened at Chicago 122 years ago this week--a mass slaughter of our people, who were demonstrating for something even those most virulent anti-union Republican takes for granted today, the eight hour work day.

For those of you who work, you should be thankful for these people. They gave their lives so you would not have to work six days, seventy two hours a week, as was the norm then. Here are some real heroes, the kind you will never see celebrated by the Wall Street Journal editorial page or Fox 'News.'

August Spies (murdered by hanging by the state of Illinois on November 11, 1887)

Albert Parsons (murdered by hanging by the state of Illinois on November 11, 1887)

Adolph Fischer (murdered by hanging by the state of Illinois on November 11, 1887).

George Engel (murdered by hanging by the state of Illinois on November 11, 1887).

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