May Day 2013 in Atlanta’s Coan Park
May 1st is the day that we remember the bravery and sacrifice of August Spies, Adolf Fischer, Louis Lingg, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, George Engel, and Albert Parsons, better known as the “Eight Chicago Anarchists” or the “Haymarket Martyrs.”
The Chicago Anarchists were arrested in the wave of political suppression that followed a bombing against police forces who were attempting to disrupt a workers’ rally during the general strike for the eight-hour workday that had begun on 1 May 1886. The day before the Haymarket incident, striking workers at Chicago’s McCormick Reaper Works had been attacked by police, and several workers had been killed.
There was never any evidence connecting the Chicago Anarchists to the bombing, other than the fact that some of them had delivered speeches at the Haymarket rally. However, the state prosecutor assured the judge and jury that this did not matter, reminding them that “murder is not on trial, anarchy is on trial.” Thus, the Chicago Anarchists were convicted of a crime they did not commit and seven of these men were sentenced to death for no reason other than their political convictions. Samuel Fielden and Michael Schwab later had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. Louis Lingg, rebellious to the very end, and determined to end his life on his own terms, committed suicide in his cell the night before his scheduled execution (although some maintain that he was in fact killed by prison guards). The remaining four, Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel, and Adolph Fischer, were executed on 11 November 1887.
As they approached the gallows that morning, the four martyrs sang La Marseillaise, and just before they fell to their deaths, August Spies delivered his last address, saying: “There will come a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today.” Today, these words are engraved in stone at the Haymarket Martyrs’ memorial in Forest Park, Illinois. Engel and Fischer responded to Spies words with cries of “Hurrah for anarchy!” Fischer added, “This is the happiest moment of my life!”
Every May 1st, we remember the Chicago Anarchists, not simply because of their role in establishing the eight-hour workday, but because they died believing that another world was possible, a world without hierarchy, defined by the anarchist principle of workers’ self-management.
OooA! Publishing invites you to join us today in Atlanta’s Coan Park for our city’s May Day celebration from 4pm-10pm. There will be free food, music, soccer, and we will be tabling with an array of titles by such radical authors as Eusi Kwayana, Ida B. Wells, Maurice Brinton, Modibo Kadalie, Sen Katayama, Kimathi Mohammed, and others available for sale.
This May also marks the one year anniversary of OooA!’s existence, so we would also like to thank everyone who has supported us by making donations, buying books, and spreading the word. Also, please keep your eyes peeled later this year for our new edition of The Famous Speeches of the Eight Chicago Anarchists, by Lucy Parsons. Thank you for supporting independent radical publishing, we’ll see you at Coan Park!