May Day

The day of international worker solidarity is rapidly approaching.

It is also the day to commemorate the Haymarket Martyrs. On 3 May 1886, two strikers outside the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company plant were murdered by police during a “fight on the picket lines.” Local anarchists responded by organizing a rally for the following day, which began serenely. As the evening wore on, the police ordered the ralliers to disperse and began to advance upon them–a bomb landed in the police line, killing one man. The policemen began firing into the crowd, killing numerous protestors. The “Haymarket Riot” was sensationalized by the media of the day, which deeply polarized public opinion.

Eight people connected with the rally went to court, including August Spies, who authored the pamphlet “Revenge! Workingmen to arms!” Four of the men were hanged, three were sentenced to life in prison, and one committed suicide on the eve of his execution. In 1893, the three survivors were pardoned by Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld, who had determined all eight men innocent. The case is a superb example of miscarriage of justice, since the prosecution never offered evidence connecting any of the eight men with the bomb, arguing rather that the eight men had incited the act.

1 May has become a day of commemoration and a day of global worker unity because while we may no longer have to fight for an eight hour work day, workers are still exploited and oppressed around the world.

In the United States, of course, there is a separate holiday, “Labour Day,” celebrated on the first Monday of September. Of course, striking on labour day would be silly, since all government and many private workers are given that day off. Labour day is intended to commemorate the work of organized labour, and it does, but 1 May is the day of action.

Arise, workingmen.

In the United States this year 1 May is being marked with a nation-wide boycott, strike, and walkout in protest of HR 4437. Also known as the “Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005,” the bill includes such provisions as installing fencing along the United States/Mexico Border, penalizing visiting students who take less than 12 units, and essentially making illegal immigration a felony. Those who assist illegal immigrants could face heavy fines and prison time–likewise for those who might employ them (even if said immigrant presented impeccable papers). The bill is heavily biased against immigrants from South America (indeed, one might even say primarily aimed at this immigrant group). Much of the language smacks of racism, and Hispanic and Latino immigrants (legal and illegal) are speaking out.

I encourage you to join them in a national day of protest. I may be a white, legal resident of the United States but I am still opposed to turning Latinos into a second class. Especially if you live in California, you have stayed in hotel rooms cleaned by Guatemalans; eaten food prepared by Mexicans; been in offices, banks, and schools cleaned and maintained by Salvadorans; driven on roads built by Chileans; seen children raised by Peruvian nannies, and benefited in countless other ways from the work of Latinos. Without these hardworking men and women, California would be a very different place, and so would the rest of the nation. So give them some respect, show them some solidarity–if you are scheduled to be in school that day, walk out. If you are supposed to go to work, don’t go. Don’t purchase goods and services that day. March in the streets with your working sisters and brothers instead. Have a picnic. Go to the beach. Show the United States Government that you are opposed to this legislation in a direct and simple fashion–with your labour, with your pocketbook, and with your voice.

Immigration is your issue. Rallies are being organized in every major American city–but if you can’t make it, find an economic symbol in your community, and make it a rally point. Organize!

To arms we call you, to arms!

[May Day]