Two days ago, I reposted the first in a four-part diary series about the Haymarket bombing in Chicago. The 2006 series originally coincided with a (still unproduced) screenplay I had written about the subject. This week OWS has shone a spotlight on May Day, while the FBI has captured five self-described anarchists (who are merely terrorist thugs with no connection to anarchism). The first in the series is May Day, 1886... and how four citizens came to hang.
More to come on May 4th & May 5th.
It had been some 36 hours since 80,000 workers marched down Chicago's Michigan Avenue. It cut through the heart of the city - the city that big business built on the backs of the immigrant working class.
Now, it was Monday morning.
On the near south side of Chicago, at the McCormick Harvester Works, it was about time for a shift-change. Under the weak and ineffectual leadership of Cyrus McCormick Jr., the son who had inherited the factory after his father's death two years earlier, McCormick's became a powder keg. Since mid-February, the company's 1400 workers were locked out. Strikebreaking Pinkertons were determined to keep the workers from unionizing. Three hundred scabs kept the factory in operation.
Losing McCormick's could be the beginning of the end. It wasn't in the best interest of the business leaders to lose McCormicks. And to protect those interests, police were sent to keep order.
Just a few hundred yards away at a completely unrelated labor event, several thousand striking lumber-shovers were fighting for the 8-hour work day. Helping with the negotiations was August Spies who addressed the crowd of mostly German immigrant workers from atop a train car - if they couldn't win at the ballot box, then the workers had no other option than to use fists, clubs, guns or bombs.
When word reached the lumber-shovers of trouble at McCormicks, some of the crowd marched to the aid of their striking brothers. Among the workers was the fiery, 21-year-old Louis Lingg, who circulated with the most radical elements of the labor movement. They heckled the scabs. Shouted. Threw rocks.
Without warning, two hundred police arrived behind the club-wielding command of Captain John "Blackjack" Bonfield. They were sent there to preserve order.
Then the shooting started.
The sounds of gunfire reached the lumber-shovers and within moments, their crowd of several thousand descended on McCormicks.
By the end of the morning, at least three workers lay dead. Perhaps more as fear kept many from reporting injury or death.
The police and business leaders sent their message - you organize, you die.
August Spies rushed to the offices of The Alarm to tell Albert and Lucy Parsons the news. He then went to the Arbeiter-Zeitung printshop and, with the help of friends Adolph Fischer, Michael Schwab, Oscar Neebe and their wives, rushed a one-page circular into print. When the first one rolled of the press it read:
Revenge!120 years ago today, our business community, our police, our factory owners put their concerns before those of the citizens.
Workingmen, to Arms!!!
Your masters sent out their bloodhounds - the Police. They killed six of your brothers at McCormicks this afternoon. They killed the poor wretches because they, like you, had the courage to disobey the supreme will of your bosses. They killed them because they had dared ask for the shortening of the hours of toil. They killed them to show you - Free American Citizens - that you must be satisfied and contended with whatever your bosses condescend to allow you, or you will get killed!
You have for years endured the most abject humiliations; you have for years suffered unmeasurable inequities; you have worked yourself to death; you have endured the pangs of want and hunger; your Children you have sacrificed to the factory-lords -- in short: You have been miserable and obedient slaves. Why? To satisfy the insatiable greed, to fill the coffers of your lazy thieving master? When you ask them now to lessen your burden, he sends his bloodhounds out to shoot you, kill you!
If you are men, if you are the sons of your grand aires, who have already shed their blood to free you, then you will rise in your might, Hercules, and destroy the hideous monster that seeks to destroy you.
To arms we call you.
Signed, Your Brothers.
They gunned down the workers who had the audacity to ask for 8-hours work for 12-hours of pay.
It was enough to send someone over the edge.
That night, Louis Lingg and others would spend the evening in the apartment of their kitchen making bombs. If the working class could not be heard at the corrupted ballot box, then they would resort to the deafening sound of bombs.