Wednesday, 30 April 2008

May Day SLLU presentation on Union Island

An article accompanying Forelle Broek's presentation on May Day's launch of Union Island is below.

Please support Union Island and try to get along to this event.

From the SL Union site:

"We’re happy to announce we’re going to be joined for Union Island’ May 1 celebrations by members of the Second Life™ activist group Second Life Left Unity, who will be leading an exploration of the history and continuing relevance of May Day - International Workers’ Day. Come to a short presentation by SLLU’s Forelle Broek on the struggle for decent work and the eight-hour day and the infamous Chicago Haymarket incident, and how they still have echoes around the world to this day."

May Days Past and Present, by Forelle Broek

Each year, working people around the world gather on May 1st to celebrate what Rosa Luxemburg (on the 24th anniversary of these celebrations) called "the living truth and the power of the idea of May Day." "The brilliant basic idea of May Day," Luxemburg observed, "is the autonomous, immediate stepping forward of the proletarian masses" in "a direct, international mass manifestation: the strike as a demonstration and means of struggle for the eight-hour day, world peace, and socialism." What are the origins of this celebration? The holiday has its roots in the worldwide movement to establish the eight-hour workday. According to Luxemburg, "The happy idea of using a proletarian holiday celebration as a means to attain the eight-hour day was first born in Australia," where, beginning in 1856, workers staged annual work stoppages and public demonstrations each year on April 21st. Then, on May 1, 1886, workers in cities throughout the U.S. held mass strikes and demonstrations demanding an eight-hour day. Among the largest of these actions took place in Chicago, where demonstrating workers were assailed by municipal police officers and private Pinkerton operatives hired by employers hoping to stop the workers' movement by force. Two days later, the police and Pinkertons again attacked striking workers outside the McCormick Harvester Company's Chicago factory, leaving six workers dead and many injured. Outraged by these assaults, labor activists called for a protest at Haymarket Square. The choice of location -- a large open square adjacent to a police station -- "was hardly the place to engage in clandestine activity," social historian Richard Sennett notes, "but, for a peaceful meeting, the Square was an ideal forum, since it could accommodate roughly 20,000 people." In the event, only about 3000 attended. Among those who addressed the crowd were two leading radical labor activists, August Spies and Albert Parsons. Contemporary newspaper accounts acknowledged that their speeches were not notably "inflammatory", and Chicago Mayor Mayor Carter Harrison, who was present to observe, later described the event as "peaceable". Nonetheless, what hd begun peacefully would end in violence. As Sennett describes the scene,
just as the Haymarket meeting was falling apart, the police moved in to disperse it by force, and thus brought back to life the temporary spirit of unity and of outrage against the violence at the McCormick Works that had drawn the crowd and orators together.The knots of men moved back from the lines of police advancing toward the speaker's stand, so that the police gained the area in front of the rostrum without incident. Then, suddenly, someone n the crowd threw a powerful bomb into the midst of the policemen, and pandemonium broke loose. The wounded police and people in the crowd dragged themselves or were carried into the hallways of buildings in the eastern end of Union Park; drugstores like Ebert's at Madison and Halstead and Barker's on West Madison, suddenly became hospitals with bleeding men stretched out on the floors, while police combed the residences and grounds of Union Park looking for wounded under stoops or in sheds from the police guns booming in the Square.A total of seven police officers, and four demonstrators, died as a result of the bomb and ensuing police shooting. In the aftermath, numerous labor activists were rounded up and jailed. Sennett notes that "a coronor's jury returned a verdict that all prisoners in the hands of the police were guilty of murder, because Socialism as such led to murderous anarchy, and anyone who attended the meeting must have been a Socialist. Yet this same jury observed that it was 'troublesome' that none of those detained could be determined to have thrown the bomb." Eventually, eight men -- including Spies and Parsons who had spoken at the Haymarket demonstration -- were charged with murder in connection with the deaths of the seven police officers. Their trial was a farce, with the judge (Elbert Gary, who would later go on to co-found the U.S. Steel Corporation with J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and Charles Schwab) and prosecutor ensuring that the jury excluded anyone who might be sympathetic to the cause of labor. Despite the lack of any evidence tying any of the defendants to the bombing, all eight were convicted, based solely on their prior socialist and anarchist advocacy. Seven were sentenced to death. Of those, one (Louis Lingg) died in prison of an apparent suicide, and two others had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. The remaining four -- including Parsons and Spies, along with Adolph Fisher and George Engel -- were hanged on November 11, 1886. As he stood on the gallows, Spies declared, "There will be a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today." Over the next several years, activists, led by Parsons' widow, Lucy Parsons (herself a noted radical activist who would go on to help found the Industrial Workers of the World), continued to protest on behalf of the Haymarket martyrs. Finally, in 1893, the three remaining prisoners -- Michael Schwab, Samuel Fieldon, and Oscar Neebe (the only defendant not originally sentenced to death) -- were pardoned by Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld, who declared his belief that all eight of the Haymarket defendants had been innocent of any crime. In the aftermath of Haymarket, workers in the U.S. and around the world continued to struggle for improved conditions including the eight-hour day. In 1890, at the urging of American delegates, the International Workers' Congress declared May 1st to be a worldwide day of demonstrations in support of the eight-hour workday. Since that time, May Day has been established as International Workers' Day, its significance growing beyond the simple demand for an eight-hour day to encompass the broader struggle for workers' rights, social justice, and world peace. As Rosa Luxemburg declared more than a century ago,
As long as the struggle of the workers against the bourgeoisie and the ruling class continues, as long as all demands are not met, May Day will be the yearly expression of these demands. And, when better days dawn, when the working class of the world has won its deliverance then too humanity will probably celebrate May Day in honor of the bitter struggles and the many sufferings of the past.

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1 comment:

Franz Carver said...

I'm going to TRY and go to...

12:00 GMT
Building for Beginners

17:00 GMT
Using Drupal (web design tool)

and of course...
18:00 GMT
May Day Past and Present.