Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day 2013 -OR- Same Shit; Different Century


"FRIENDS-The speakers of the evening not having arrived I shall entertain you a-few minutes. I am told that a number of patrol wagons, carrying policemen, were sent to Desplaines street station, and I understand that the militia have been called under arms. There seems to prevail the opinion in certain quarters that this meeting has been called for the purpose of inaugurating a riot, hence these warlike preparations on the part of so-called "Law and Order." However, let me tell you at the beginning that this meeting has not been called for any such purpose. The object of this meeting is to explain the general situation of the Eight-Hour Movement, and to throw light upon various incidents in connection with it.

For more than twenty years have the wage workers of this country begged and prayed their masters, the factory lords, to reduce their burdens. It has been in vain. They have pointed out the fact that over a million of willing and strong hands were in a state of enforced idleness and starvation, that to help them to obtain employment it would not only be advisable, nay, it was necessary to reduce the hours of daily toil of those who were fortunate enough in having found a buyer for their 'muscles, their bones, and their brain. The masters of this earth have treated them with contempt, have condemned them to vagabondage whenever they insisted. The legislatures have been called upon, one petition has succeeded the other, but with no avail.

At last the condition of the disinherited producers has become unbearable. Seeing that neither "boss" nor law would concede anything to them, they have organized for the purpose of helping themselves -a wise and prudent resolution.

All over the land we behold vast armies of producers, no longer begging, but demanding that eight hours shall henceforth constitute a normal working day. And what say the extortionists to this? They demand their pound of flesh, like Shylock. They will not yield one iota. They have grown rich and powerful on your labor. They amass stupendous fortunes, while you, who bring them into existence, are suffering from want. In answer to your pleadings they ask for the bodies of your little children, to utilize them in their gold mints, to make dollars out of them! Look at the slaves of McCormick! When they tried to remonstrate with their master he simply called upon "the protectors of these free and glorious institutions" -- the police -- to silence them. And they did silence them.

You have no doubt heard of the, killing and wounding of a number of your brothers at McCormick's, yesterday. Mr. McCormick told a Times reporter that Spies was responsible for that massacre committed by the most noble Chicago police. I reply to this that McCormick is, an infamous liar. (Cries of "Hang him.") No, make no idle threats. There will be a time, and we are rapidly approaching it, when such men as McCormick will be hanged; there will be a time when monsters who destroy the lives and happiness of the citizens (for their own aggrandizement) will be dealt with like wild beasts. But that time has not yet come. When it has come you will no longer make threats, but you will go and "do it."

The capitalistic press, like the "respectable gentleman" McCormick, howls that the anarchists are responsible for the deeds of violence now committed all over this country. If that were true one would have to conclude that the country was full of anarchists, yet the same press informs us that the anarchists are very few in number. Were the "unlawful" acts in the Southwestern strike committed by anarchists? No, they were committed by Knights of Labor, men who never fail to declare, whenever there is an opportunity, that they are law and order abiding citizens. The attack upon McCormick's yesterday -- Was it made by anarchists? Let us see. I had been invited by the Central Labor Union to address a meeting of lumber yard laborers, on the Black road. I went out there yesterday at the appointed time, about three o'clock in the afternoon. There were at least 10,000 persons assembled. When I was introduced to address them a few Poles or Bohemians in the crowd cried out: "He's a socialist." These cries were followed by a general commotion and derision -- "We want no socialist; down with him." These and other exclamations I was treated to. Of course, I spoke anyway; the crowd became calm and quiet and fifteen minutes later, elected me unanimously a delegate to see their bosses. Nevertheless, you can see that these people are not socialists or anarchists, but "good, honest, law-abiding church-going Christians and citizens." Such were the persons who left the meeting, as I afterwards learned, to "make the scabs at McCormick's quit work." In my speech I never mentioned McCormick. Now you may judge for yourselves whether the anarchists were responsible for the bloodshed yesterday or not.

Who is responsible for these many "lawless" acts, you ask me? I have told you that they are generally committed by the most lawful and Christian citizens -- in other words, the people are by necessity driven to violence, they can't carry the burden heaped upon them any longer. They try to cast it off, and in so doing break the laws. The law says they must not cast it off, for such an act would alter, yea, revolutionize the existing order of society! These acts of violence are the natural outgrowth of the present industrial system, and everyone is responsible for them who supports and upholds that system.

What does it mean when the police of this city, on this evening, rattle along in their patrol wagons?

What does it mean when the militia stands warlike and ready for bloody work at our armories?

What are the gatling guns and cannons for?

Is this military display of barbarism arranged for your entertainment?

Ail these preparations, my friends, ARE made in your behalf!!

Your masters have perceived your discontent.

They do not like discontented slaves.

They want to make you contented at all hazards, and if you are stubborn they will force or kill you.

Look at the killing of your brothers at McCormick's yesterday. What did they do? The police tell you that they were a most dangerous crowd, armed to their teeth. The fact is, they, like ignorant children, indulged in the harmless sport of bombarding McCormick's slaughterhouse with stones. They paid the penalty of this folly with their blood.

The lesson I draw from this occurrence is, that working men must arm themselves for defense, so that they may be able to cope with the government hirelings of their masters.

I see Mr. Parsons has arrived. He is a much abler speaker in your tongue than I am, therefore I will conclude by introducing him."

The "Law" hung Mr. Spies for his words.
If the theme and content of Mr. Spies' speech sound familiar, as though they could be re-spoken today with only minor update, you're absolutely right.
His sacrifice and memory have been blurred into "history". Today, we should remember.


amber ladeira said...

[Good golly, the two previous posters sure didn't stay on point; I know why, it happens on my blog too.]

Back to the ACTUAL TOPIC here: Thanks for the reminder about the Haymarket Tragedy. Then only positive in the situation I can recall is the governor of that time
trying to do the right thing, and he paid for it with his political career, courtesy of Illinois' idiotic voters. I will pay my respects soon at their cemetery marker. Everyone who can do so, should.

amber ladeira said...

I'm plagued by the evil extra "n" typing problem. It should be "the only positive...". Sorry, and best to you and yours.