Armenian Libertarian-Socialist Movement

Global, Caucasian and Armenian politics in anarchist perspective

Happy MayDay, comrades! No Pasaran!

Posted by kronstadt on May 1, 2007

May Day leafletMay Day poster

Workers’ rights, peoples’ liberties and fair distribution of economic wealth doesn’t grow on trees.  Neither it is achieved by begging.  It takes struggle!  Long and persistent struggle.  Struggle that aims to take both Production and Distribution back into the hands of the producer.  In other words, the west enjoys relatively higher degree of human rights (compared to Armenia and Caucasus) and civil liberties not because they are “Europeans” or “born civilized”, but because there is a long history of workers’ strugles and worker organization into significantly influential unions.  And that is where the true strength is. 

So what’s the history of the MayDay?  It starts with anarchists of Chicago.  In 1887 four Chicago anarchists were executed.  A fifth cheated the hangman by killing himself in prison.  They are known as the Haymarket Martyrs.  Three more were to spend 6 years in prison until pardoned by Governor Altgeld who said the trial that convicted them was characterised by “hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge”.  The state had, in the words of the prosecution put “Anarchy .. on trial” and hoped their deaths would also be the death of the anarchist idea.

The anarchists were trade union organisers and May Day became an international workers day to remember their sacrifice.  They were framed on false charges of throwing a bomb at police breaking up a demonstration in Chicago (remember the recent charges in Armenia about “assulting the police” with an empty plastic bottle?).  This was part of a strike demanding an 8 hour day involving 400,000 workers in Chicago that started May 1st 1886 .

May Day was originally the commemoration of the Haymarket protests in Chicago in 1886 (which started on May 1): in 1889, the first congress of the Second International, meeting in Paris for the centennial of the French Revolution and the Exposition Universelle (1889), following a proposal by Raymond Lavigne, called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests. These were so successful that May Day was formally recognized as an annual event at the International’s second congress in 1891. The May Day Riots of 1894 and May Day Riots of 1919 occurred subsequently.

In 1904, the International Socialist Conference meeting in Amsterdam called on “all Social-Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on May First for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.” As the most effective way of demonstrating was by striking, the congress made it “mandatory upon the proletarian organizations of all countries to stop work on May 1, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers.”

The anarchist idea did not die in Chicago in 1887.  Today it inspires a new wave of struggle against global capitalism.  Join in this struggle!!!


One Response to “Happy MayDay, comrades! No Pasaran!”

  1. Leilani said

    Youu actually make it seem so easy with yoour presentation bbut
    I find this topic too be actually something which I think I would never
    understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for
    me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try too gget the hang of it!

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