Saturday, November 11, 2006
Other Things to Remember on November 11th.
The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month has since the end of WW1 been set aside for remembrance of the war dead of various countries. Yet this date has a history that extents further back in time to the year 1887, and since then the month of November has figured prominently in the minds of those who want to remember the dead of the class war, another way entirely that pits humanity against the tyrants who order the wars that have slaughtered millions.
November 11th, 1887 was the date on 4 of the 8 Chicago anarchists arrested following the 'Haymarket Riot' in 1886 were hanged by the state of Illinois. The so-called riot in which a bomb was thrown at a force of police gathered to disperse a peaceful demonstration in support of the 'Eight Hour Day' movement was followed by a hail of police gunfire. Four members of the crowd of demonstrators were killed and seven policemen were also among the fatalities. Only one of these had been killed by the bomb. The others were likely killed by "friendly fire" as the police began to fire wildly in the dark and had broken formation.
This "riot" followed on a strike movement organized by the Chicago anarchists for May 1st in support of the eight hour day. This movement attracted about 350,000 workers nationwide. On May 3rd Chicago police attacked the strikers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. plant, killing two strikers and wounding several others. A demonstration was called for Haymarket Square in the early evening of May 4th. The anarchists were poorly organized, and a rain had begun so the rally was ill attended. The police attack on the meeting was unnecessary as the crowd was reportedly totally peaceful.
In the aftermath of the events of May 4th union offices were raided across the country. In Chicago itself 8 prominent anarchists were arrested and charged with murder. Absolutely no evidence was ever presented at the trial connecting the detainees with the bomb. The sole charge was that they were the anarchists who had "incited" the bomb thrower. All were found guilty and seven were sentenced to death. One, Oscar Neebe, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The case was appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court and then to the US Supreme Court. After this Illinois Governor Richard James Oglesby commuted the sentences of two of the defendants, Samuel Fielden and Michael Swabb, to life in prison.
On November 10th one of the condemned men, Louis Lingg, managed to commit suicide in his cell via a smuggled blasting cap, depriving the executioner of one of his victims. On November 11th, 1887 August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fisher and George Engel were hanged for their opinions, not for any crime. They walked to the gallows singing the Marseillaise. August Spies is reported to have said as his last words,
"The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today."
The Haymarket Martyrs were buried at Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois, and Schwabb and Fielden were also buried there when they died later of natural causes. In 1893 the Haymarket Martyrs Monument, by sculptor Albert Weinert, was erected at the grave site. This was later to become the only cemetery memorial to be accorded the 'National Historic Landmark' designation by the US Department of the Interior.
The trial was widely recognized to have been a travesty of justice. The identity of the bomb thrower was never discovered and there has been endless controversy about whether he was indeed an anarchist. Some believe that he was an agent provocateur hired by the steel companies to discredit the strike movement. On June 26th, 1893 Illinois Governor John Peter Atgeld, recognizing the illegality of the trial process, signed full pardons for the three remaining prisoners after having concluded that all 8 were undoubtedly innocent. This ended his political career. In the aftermath of the events international interest was aroused. The Eight Hour Day movement spread and the first Mayday demonstration in Chicago went on to become Mayday, the real Labour Day as recognized by most of the labour movement outside of North America (and to a large extent in NA as well).
To see more about the Haymarket Martyrs look to the following references:
The latter is the Haymarket Affair Digital Collection, and it is the fullest source.
Other November Deaths:
While the execution of the Chicago anarchists was certainly the event that changed history the most there are also other labour martyrs whose deaths fell in the month of November. one actually occurred on Nov. 11th itself. this was the lynching of IWW member Wesley Everest in Centralia, Washington. Everest was a WW1 veteran and rank and file lumberjack in the American West. On Nov. 11th, 1919 a mob of American Legionares had gather at the local Elks' Hall in Centralia, and, incited by the lumber trusts, they marched on the local IWW hall. When they attacked IWW members fought back, and 4 members of the mob were killed. Everest was arrested, and a second mob later broke into the jail, took him out and lynched him. Nobody was ever charged with Everest's murder, but 11 Wobblies were put on trial for the deaths of members of the mob. Six of them were sentenced to 15 years in prison even though there was no evidence to connect them to the deaths.
For the IWW slant on this affair see Ralph Chapman's 'The Centralia Conspiracy" at the official IWW site at
For the fullest historical treatment see History Link at:
For brief summaries see:
November 19th is also the anniversary of the execution of the famous IWW songwriter and poet Joe Hill. He was born in Sweden on Oct 7th, 1879 and emigrated to the USA on in 1902 (but sources vary as to these dates). He joined the IWW around 1910 and was framed for a murder that occurred on January 10th, 1914 in Utah. Despite international pleas for clemency or a new trial from not just labour organizations but also the Swedish government, Helen Keller and even Woodrow Wilson he was executed by firing squad on Nov. 19th, 1915.
For more information on Joe Hill see:
On November 20th, 1936 the Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti(July 14th,1896-Nov. 20th,1936) was killed while defending Madrid against Franco's fascist troops. Durruti had had a
long career as an anarchist and labour militant in both Europe and South America. The 'Iron Column' that he led to Madrid's defence was the best of the anarchist militias. Many suspect that the killer was actually an agent of the Communist Party.
For more on Durruti see:
Finally, lest anyone think all this is a matter of the distant past there is the death of Russian anarchist and musician Timur Kacharava (Aug. 21st, 1985- Nov. 13th, 2005), stabbed to death by neo-fascists in St. Petersburg. This comrade had been active in Food Not Bombs, Critical Mass and the Russian punk rock band 'Sandinista'.
For his memorial see:
The list of labour's martyrs is, of course, much longer and wider than what has been given above. I've only chosen prominent names from the moth of November to illustrate the point that there is more to remember than the fallen who were connived into armies by the ruling class. Not that I don't appreciate the soldiers of the Second World War, just like I appreciate the soldiers of the Spanish Civil War who fought fascism while the Western Powers were appeasing Hitler and Mussolini and later selling out Czechoslovakia. But almost every other war fought has been for monetary interests, including the present one where Canadians are dying in Afghanistan for the interests of the American Empire.