A demonstration that turned into a massacre. Why do we celebrate Labor Day?

“Revenge! Workers to arms! Owners sent their bloody dogs”

On May 1, 1886, 350,000 people participated in the mass strike of American workers in the United States. The proletariat demanded the establishment of the 8-hour day instead of the 15-hour day, and the city of Chicago became the center of resistance, with some 40,000 workers taking to the streets.

“Workers in America were exploited in the most brutal way, in shops people were replacing each other almost 24 hours a day, buying food for it. The protest matured and spilled out. “People didn’t just want to put up with the exploitation, they couldn’t stand it anymore,” says Vitaly Tepikin, candidate of historical sciences, professor, publisher and Nobel Prize nominee.

The expert notes that the working conditions of American workers at that time were indeed terrible: in addition to the 15-hour day, there were no social security benefits, wages were low, and the use of child labor was seen as the norm.

Companies would not consider workers’ rights despite the demonstrations. After the May Day strike, 1.5 thousand people were laid off from the largest factory in Chicago. Another strike was immediately declared.

Chicago workers took to the streets for two more days until police arrived at one of the factories on May 3. They dispersed the protesters with guns, killing six and injuring dozens.

Anarchists, reacting to the use of force by the authorities, immediately printed and distributed about 2,500 leaflets in the city, urging workers to take up arms and go to Haymarket Square to protest police terror.

Haymarket massacre

A large crowd gathered in Haymarket Square on May 4. Among the proletarians were also women and children. All the protesters were unarmed, they wanted to hold the demonstration peacefully despite the organizers’ calls for “revenge”. At one point, police appeared among the protesters, demanding to “clear the square”.

Then Samuel Fielden, pastor of the Methodist Church, tried to convince law enforcement that this was a peaceful rally, but immediately there was an explosion – someone threw a bomb at the police. One of the police officers died at the scene, and six of them were seriously injured.

In response, the authorities began to shoot indiscriminately, even shooting themselves in the dark. Dozens of people, including policemen, died.

The next day, the authorities began to crack down on unions and workers’ clubs, and also arrested and tortured hundreds of ordinary hard-working workers who seemed “suspicious” to them.

So there were eight people on the pier. Half of them are on the editorial board of the Chicago Workers’ Gazette: publisher Oscar Neebe, editor-in-chief August Spies, journalist Albert Parson, typographic composer Adolf Fischer.

Pastor Samuel Fielden, US Socialist Workers Party member Michael Schwab, worker George Engel, and chemist Louis Lingg, who had a laboratory in his home to make the same bombs that were dropped on police at a rally on May 4, were also charged. found.

Because all of the defendants were of German descent, the attitude of the authorities and of the Americans who did not support the protests was that the Germans had come to America specifically to “rock the ship” and “blood America”. “

“Illinois Against the Anarchists”

Illinois – The so-called Anarchists trial lasted from June to August 1886.

All were found guilty of preparing and carrying out a terrorist attack, although it was not possible to establish exactly who dropped the bomb, and all defendants except Pastor Fielden had alibis.

August Spies, Albert Parson, Adolf Fischer and George Engel were executed by hanging. As they climbed the gallows, they sang the anthem of the workers’ movement – “La Marseillaise”. Relatives of all four were arrested for trying to approach the execution site to see their loved ones for the last time.

The rest of the anarchists were sentenced to long prison terms. Louis Lingg committed suicide in prison.

Only in 1893, after the release of Filden, Neebe and Schwab, it became clear that all the prisoners were victims of the arbitrariness of the authorities. The state governor will formally apologize to the survivors and acknowledge that the bomb was dropped during the demonstration by an unidentified police provocateur whose purpose was to relieve the police of responsibility for shooting the workers.

In July 1889, the Paris Congress of the Second International declared May 1 as World Workers Solidarity Day in memory of the events of 1886 and those executed. Then it was decided to hold annual demonstrations on this day.

May 1 in the country of the Soviets

After the establishment of the holiday, it was recognized and celebrated in many countries. In the USSR, May Day was first celebrated on an open and state scale in 1917, after the February Revolution, according to Lada Konovalova, a history teacher and vice-president of education at the Internet Class Home School. After October, the day became one of the first new public holidays.

Initially, May 1 in our country was called International Day, but later a name took root – International Day of Workers’ Solidarity. Not a working day since May 1, 1918. It was then added the next day, May 2.

Konovalova says that in 1918, the first army May Day parade took place on the Khodynka field in Moscow. On the second day of the feast, as a rule, mass celebrations were held throughout the country in nature, and the first day was devoted to official events and large demonstrations.

“May 1920 enriched the holiday with an unforgettable legend: Vladimir Lenin with a log on a community working day. This is a true story. This year they decided to celebrate the holiday with a labor initiative, and the leader of the world proletariat put things in order in the Kremlin, demonstrating democracy and the principle “Who does not work, does not eat”. Konovalova.

And he adds – of all the Soviet holidays, May 1 was the most peaceful. Memories of the Chicago massacres gradually faded, leaving behind a great feeling of friendly country and the belief that one day the whole world will be equally friendly.

“Ideologically, the holiday was more than appropriate,” says historian Vitaly Tepikin in turn. – It united people, often turned into meetings in friendly companies. It was not possible to ignore May 1, they were watching, but in my opinion, no one thought of staying at home on May 1st.

According to him, usually Soviet citizens walked in columns to the sound of music in groups of workers, taking their children with them – they put very small ones on their shoulders.

Also, Sydyp Baldruev, historian and graduate student of RANEPA, adds that after the victory of the Soviets, the holiday became sacred for our compatriots, like the New Year and March 8. The authorities held mass processions with businesses, and the population vigorously celebrated the holiday.

“After the demonstrations, in which large numbers of people carried flowers, balloons, banners with slogans, mayevkas were held – celebrations in nature, picnics,” said Sydyp Baldruev.

Professor Tepikin noted that after the collapse of the USSR, May 1 lost its political relevance, but the history was not touched, it was renamed Spring and Labor Day.

Historian Baldruev believes that today, May 1, is an important date for Russians: long weekends fall in May, and people are happy to go out, take a walk or spend time in nature, although not as widely celebrated as they used to be. country.

International Workers Solidarity Day is celebrated by 142 countries of the world. The first demonstration to demand an eight-hour day was held in Australia in 1856. But the beginning of the “red history” is considered May 1, 1886 – then workers’ rallies from Chicago turned into a real massacre. To commemorate this date, the World Workers’ Solidarity Day was declared. About how it happened, how the holiday took root in the USSR and why it lost popularity in modern Russia – in the material socialbites.ca.

Source: Gazeta


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