Friday, May 1, 2009

Hooray Hooray? -OR- 9 to 5 Thanks

"THERE WILL be a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today." August Spies

Will you pause and reflect at all today for the people still slogging each day for the workers? Or will you be too busy at your job? Thankful that you still have a job? Fearful of losing your job? Grateful to your boss for allowing you to have one?

If you are one of the lucky ones who love your job please understand that the workers' movement is not about you. or your boss. or your working conditions. If your company understands, values and acknowledges the symbiotic relationship that is represented by labor and management, then you are indeed lucky.

Would that all workers enjoyed your satisfaction, but please consider the plight of the unlucky ones. Those whose bosses see them as a fungible, expendable commodity. Who would be jailed for treating animals as they do their workers. Who use fear and intimidation to prevent organizing among the workers.

For me today is a day of clarity. I will take the walk. I will pay my respects.

Then I will look for ways to honor such fallen and largely forgotten heroes.
Albert Parsons, August Spies, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden, Adolph Fischer, George Engel and Louis Lingg. Sentenced to hang, partly, for the crime of advocating an eight-hour workday and humane working conditions, but more for the potential danger of an organized labor force.

Fielden and Schwab's applied for clemency and their sentences were commuted to life in prison. Lingg allegedly committed suicide the night before the scheduled November 11th executions.

It's hard to imagine a collection of men more demonized for thinking. Impossible to think of a equivalent peer group in today's landscape. Such extremists then, so mainstream today? The defendant pool, chosen by committee, tried by its judicial arm in a complete sham of a trial.

"Law is on trial. Anarchy is on trial. These men have been selected, picked out by the grand jury, and indicted because they are the leaders. They are no more guilty than the thousands who follow them. Convict these men, make examples of them, hang them, and you save our institutions, our society."- prosecutor Julius Grinnel in his summation to the jury.

Such an open admission that the case was not about a crime, but rather the ideas of the men selected to be tried. All but one of the defendants sentenced to death for their IDEAS. All eventually pardoned, but never "cleared".

"If you think that by hanging us, you can stamp out the labor movement...the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil in want and misery expect salvation--if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here you will tread upon a spark, but there and there, behind you and in front of you, and everywhere, flames blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out." August Spies statement before his hanging

Oscar Neebe the lone defendent not sentenced to die, nonetheless got 15 years for KNOWING and agreeing with the condemned. You'd think he'd be grateful to be spared?

"There is no evidence to show that I was connected with the bomb-throwing, or that I was near it, or anything of that kind. So I am only sorry, your honor-that is, if you can stop it or help it-I will ask you to do it-that is, to hang me, too; for I think it is more honorable to die suddenly than to be killed by inches. I have a family and children; and if they know their father is dead, they will bury him. They can go to the grave, and kneel down by the side of it; but they can't go to the penitentiary and see their father, who was convicted for a crime that he hasn't had anything to do with. That is all I have got to say. Your honor, I am sorry I am not to be hung with the rest of the men."

Will we ever learn?


Connecticut Man1 said...

You certainly did these working class heroes some justice in your writeup, where the peers of their time did not.

Larue said...

Happy May Day, Comrade . . . ;-)