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The origins of May Day and why it’s relevant today


May Day holds a mythical position among the international workers and union movements. Its origins can be traced back to Australia in 1856 when stonemasons and builders in Melbourne downed tools on the 21st of April and marched on Parliament to demand an eight hour working day without any deterioration in pay. In 1884 the Chicago Labour Movement adopted the eight hour working day as their core demand, declaring that May 1st 1886 would mark the beginning of the 8 hour working day being a standard. They famously campaigned for this using the slogan “eight hours of work, eight hours of sleep, eight hours of recreation”. This slogan had first appeared in the UK during the Industrial Revolution.

On Saturday May 1st 1886 workers in 12 000 factories throughout the United States went on strike. Estimates vary widely as to how many workers were on strike with figures between 200 000 and half million being disputed. Chicago was the centre of the Labour Movement in the USA and it saw between 30 and 40 000 workers on strike. A Chicago paper reported that “no smoke curled up from the tall chimneys of the factories and mills, and things had assumed a Sabbath-like appearance.” The first day passed off without any trouble and workers held the first May Day parade in Chicago’s history, with the procession being lead by Albert and Lucy Parsons. They proudly chanted, “Whether you work by the piece or work by the day, Decreasing the hours increases the pay” as they marched up Michigan Avenue.

Both May the 1st and 2nd passed off peacefully but on the 3rd of May clashes between locked-out workers and police occurred. At the McCormick Harvester factory police were guarding both the entrance and exit to protect “scabs” who had taken the place of the 1 400 workers on strike. As the “scabs” were leaving the factory that night clashes erupted, these culminated in police charging at the protesting workers. Four workers were killed and sixteen were seriously injured. News spread quickly and the German-language anarchist newspaper Arbeiter Zeitung printed and distributed leaflets urging workers to assemble at Haymarket Square the following day, the 4th of May, to protest against the police brutality.

On the morning and afternoon of the 4th of May there were sporadic clashes between Chicago police and strikers who had assembled on the city’s streets. The Mayor of Chicago permitted the workers to hold their protest meeting in Haymarket square and an audience began to assemble from 7.30pm. What followed were impassioned speeches by Albert Parsons, August Spies, and Samuel Fielden. Just as Fielden was drawing his speech to a close the peaceful demonstration was interrupted by 200 police officers who had marched from the local station. Just as they arrived in the square a make shift bomb was thrown at them, this exploded killing one police man instantly and mortally wounding six more. In the chaos that followed shots were fired from both sides with four workers being killed.

In what later became known as the Haymarket Affair Labour leaders Parsons, Spies, Fischer, and Engel were hanged for “conspiracy”, and other militant leaders of the Chicago Labour movement were imprisoned. Parsons gave a passionate speech from the dock in which he declared that the working class, “possess nothing but their empty hands. They live only when afforded an opportunity to work and this opportunity MUST BE PROCURED FROM THE POSSESSORS of the means of subsistence – capital – before their right to live at all or the opportunity to do so is possessed”. Following conviction and as he faced his fate on the gallows August Spies adamantly declared “the day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”

When May Day was celebrated again in 1890 it had become a truly international affair with workers taking the opportunity to fight for better working conditions across Europe and the US. Yet where does May Day stand in an Irish context? Clearly our economic and social conditions are vastly different to those of both Europe and the USA in the late 19th century. The Irish economy is presently heavily dependent on intangible goods. It would seem obvious that our current crisis, while severe, follows a well worn path of boom and bust that has plagued the country since its foundation.

May Day presents us with an opportunity first for a celebration of the victories that have been won, but secondly and more importantly in the current crisis it can provide a focal point for a period of reflection and growth. As we face into our 6th year of austerity it must be noted the lack of a legitimate coherent alternative being offered by any political group in Ireland.

With the recent rejection of Croke Park II we could be seeing the beginning of the end of social partnership. Or, instead is it could be the dying breath of any form of resistance, with the rejection followed by union posturing. Social Partnership was introduced in 1987 and some claimed it to be one of the most important contributing factors to our “economic success”. Yet we have been propelled into a situation of unparalleled uncertainty. With emigration reaching levels not recorded since the famine and a junior coalition party coming under increasing pressure the time is now fertile for the left to make itself relevant and offer an alternative to the current crisis.

It is becoming obvious that the growing disquiet across the country needs a focus. On the 13th of April 8 000 people took to the streets of Dublin to protest against the Property Tax. This followed on from the mass non-payment of the Household Charge last year. With promises of further cuts to expenditure planned for the next two budgets it would seem we have reached another cross-road in the post Celtic Tiger narrative. The only fear being that there might not be many more.

via The origins of May Day and why it’s relevant today | Irish Student Left Online.

via The origins of May Day and why it’s relevant today | Irish Student Left Online.

UK OK Nazi Law


Secret Courts

British human rights group Amnesty International and legal charity Reprieve have condemned the British government‘s secret courts passed in the House of Lords as a “terrible day for British justice”

“This is a terrible day for British justice. After fierce lobbying by the government, peers have failed to restore even minimal amendments previously included to this deeply damaging bill,”

The cherished and vitally important principle that justice must be done and seen to be done has been dealt a serious blow this evening,” said Tim Hancock, Amnesty International’s UK campaigns director.

Legal Agency Reprieve executive director Clare Algar said the secret courts will “do irreparable damage. It is deeply shameful that the government has been allowed to push these plans through parliament, despite the total lack of evidence that they are needed. Secret courts will ….. do irreparable damage to our reputation as a country which respects fair play and the rule of law,” she said.

British secret service officials, claim the Bill is designed to protect national security by preventing informers from being exposed.

Amnesty International said earlier, that the plan gives the British government the power to “simply play the ‘national security’ card whenever it wants to keep things secret”. The British government only needs the Queen’s Royal stamp of approval, to start the secret courts as new law in Britain.

Some of the public’s reaction in Britain is as follows.

All those lives lost in WW2 just to be ruled by Nazi-s again. Those that died in WW2 must be somersaulting in their graves.- Vincent

When those who oppose some British Government policies like the welfare cutbacks, bank bailouts and banker bonuses, privatisation and illegal foreign wars (like me) or those who complain about injustice start disappearing, losing their citizenship, being renditioned and killed by armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV drones) then no one in any central or local government roles including ALL employees, councillors, MP’s, and other politicians can be trusted. The number of people who criticise the British Government will rapidly reduce when the secret courts starts. It will not affect organisations like the SWP, EDL, BNP as they are funded by the Zionists, Bankers and operated by the security services MI5 and MI6 in order to control and suppress dissent among the sheople.- Student

The silence from the British legal fraternity in academia and in legal practice is shocking and a shameful indictment on the” profit without ethics” system that has pervaded every aspect of British life today. Justice must not only be done but be SEEN to be done. Having secret courts is an attempt to avoid scrutiny of checks and balances, to ignore rules of evidence and deny an accused person the right to defend themself agianst the mighty apparatus of state.

– jam

That’s why UK raceist authorities have been busay to make fake-secret documents against people they have targeted. They abuse people in UK and claiming that they have secret information about them, the information they have fabricated. UK has returned back to the medieval time. – Pam Cox

UK abused people for years and now want to kill them through their secret court so that nobody will realise what happened to them. UK is just trying to destroy the evidence of their abuse and mistreatment for the past decade so that created a legal support for themselves. I’m sure that the lives of thousands innocent people in the UK are at risk. – A Solicitor

My God, my ancestors will be turning in their graves. The Tories are finally realising what they have long dreamed of – throughout the years of the post-war settlement, they moodily incubated a determination to reverse the social and economic gains fought for and won by people of unparalleled toughness and determination, people who took on the might of privilege and wealth and defeated it. This is the New Tory moment; this when they come out from behind their cosmetic masks of reasonableness and fairness and social concern and display their true dark hearts before the world.

But I reserve my greatest contempt for those of us on the left; this is all happening on our watch. We betray those people I mentioned above, who vanquished the landowners and the factory and coal owners. And what are WE up against? a couple of Bullingdon hooray-henries and a leadership reject with the political acumen of petrified bird droppings . But the neoliberal apologists and careerist politicians that have infested the Labour Movement see only the votes of bigoted Middle Englanders and the ignorant Sun reading dross that posts here waiting to be harvested. The latter busy calling for their own enslavement, too ignorant or misinformed to notice the turkey staring back at them in the mirror of a Christmas Morning. And in the new Dark Age heralded in by IDS, every morning will be Christmas Morning for the beneficiaries, the businesses who will exploit this measure to access free labour, the talk of charities being a transparent smoke screen to hide the fundamental dismantling of the human right for a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

Make no mistake, this is just the beginning. Anyone who thinks that once the principle of unpaid labour has breached the social repugnance it generates that it will stop at a month’s work for ‘idlers’ is the kind of fool the Tories are relying on get this through. These are the descendants of people who built vast fortunes and empires on the sweat and death of their factories and workhouses; they are past masters at dressing up inequality and evil in Protestant work ethics and biblical rhetoric denouncing the peril of idleness – except where it’s practised in its purest forms of course, by digital fortune shufflers and land owning parasites drawing their subsidies while they indulge Mediterranean waves with their oversized cock-yachts.

Shame, shame on us all. Tolstoy said everyone was innocent. I say everyone is guilty. And our children will never forgive us for allowing this to happen. The Tories talk of not saddling future generations with our debt; I think only of future generations facing the return of evils greater than any debt, that we had long thought banished from the lexicon of social intercourse and post war economics, all presented as some kind of economic panacea. Who is really ‘taking the piss’ here?

No doublethink, no prevarication, no quarter.

via UK OK Nazi Law – Indymedia Ireland.

via UK OK Nazi Law – Indymedia Ireland.

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