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The Truth About May Day

Politics / Social Issues May 01, 2014 - 06:01 PM GMT

By: Jeff_Berwick


As I write this police are using tear gas on protestors in Istanbul. It appears as if it is going to be another rowdy May 1.

Today is International Worker's Day, which is a celebration of labor and the working classes. May 1 is a national public holiday in more than 80 countries, though in some countries it is called Labor Day or something similar. Almost every year capitals across the world erupt in protest.

May 1 commemorates the Haymarket affair in Chicago that occurred May 4, 1886. It was chosen by Socialists and Communists as a way primarily to fight for the eight-hour workday.

In the US, Labor Day was put off until September. US President Grover Cleveland was fearful the day would be used to commemorate the Haymarket Affair. World parliaments have also looked into changing the date, possibly hoping to push the celebrations away from the spring time, when passion is in the air.


On May 4, 1886, police attempted to disperse a public assembly during a general strike in favor of the eight-hour workday. An unidentified person threw a bomb at the police and the police responded by firing on the workers, killing four demonstrators.

"Reliable witnesses testified that all the pistol flashes came from the center of the street, where the police were standing, and none from the crowd. Moreover, initial newspaper reports made no mention of firing by civilians. A telegraph pole at the scene was filled with bullet holes, all coming from the direction of the police."

The court case was internationally publicized, in true show trial style, and eight anarchists were convicted of conspiracy. The evidence was mostly pitiful. One of the defendants might have built the bomb, but none of those on trial seemed to have thrown it. Seven were murdered and one had a term of 15 years in prison. The death sentences of two of the defendants were commuted by Illinois governor Richard J. Oglesby to life terms, while another committed suicide in jail rather than face the gallows. The remaining four were hanged on November 11, 1887. In 1893, Illinois' new governor pardoned the remaining defendants and criticized the trial.

"No single event has influenced the history of labor in Illinois, the United States, and even the world, more than the Chicago Haymarket Affair. It began with a rally on May 4, 1886, but the consequences are still being felt today. Although the rally is included in American history textbooks, very few present the event accurately or point out its significance," according to labor studies professor William J. Adelman.

According to historian Carl Smith:

"I think most of (the Haymarket defendants) are nonviolent people. They were convicted for what they said, not what they did. But yes, they certainly rhetorically preached violence as a solution. They preached a sense that violence is being practiced on them, day in and day out in the system — the billy clubs of the police. In their worldview, it was a life-and-death battle."

Although the movement has been paraded by the international Communist and Socialist workers parties, all eight defendants were called anarchists. I couldn't find much information on what sorts of anarchists these individuals were, but I do know there was an anarchist movement in the US at this time, though it was drowned out by the US socialist movement. 

In his preface to the fourth German edition of the Communist Manifesto, written on May 1, 1890, Engels wrote:

"As I write these lines, the proletariat of Europe and America is holding a review of its forces; it is mobilized for the first time as One army, under One Bag, and fighting One immediate aim: an eight-hour working day, established by legal enactment.... The spectacle we are now witnessing will make the capitalists and landowners of all lands realize that today the proletarians of all lands are, in very truth, united. If only Marx were with me to see it with his own eyes!"

May Day is very much a socialist and communist meme. Engels approved of it himself. You see how he writes of how the people are looking for an eight-hour working day "established by legal enactment." In other words, most everything will stay the same as before.

May Day has become an official holiday in many countries and is often a day of demonstrations by socialist, communist and certain anarchist groups. Communist nations celebrate May Day harder than ayone. The People's Republic of China, North Korea, Cuba and the former Soviet Union all host elaborate military parades to celebrate the workers.

The bombing at Haymarket Square was used by people in power to destroy the labor movement. The eight-hour work day was won, but here we are just over 100 years later and the eight-hour work day is once again no more. People are worse off than ever.

I wish I could work an eight-hour work day. I usually end up working all day, with breaks for family time. I do know that one instrumental way to helping people work less and make more money would be to get rid of the government.

With its taxes and regulations it burdens people enough. But when you include that it subsidizes its cronies in certain industries - the most hated industries on the planet - you start to understand what function the state has, and how it makes it hard for people to get by.

For me every single day is a holiday. I don't need a Worker's Day to tell me when to do something out of the ordinary. Everyday is an opportunity for that. Until the countless people who celebrate May Day realize that, they don't see how the system really works.

Today the system is much like the way it was in the 1880s, and all throughout the 20th century. It is quite predictable. Learn more in The Dollar Vigilante Newsletter.  

Anarcho-Capitalist.  Libertarian.  Freedom fighter against mankind’s two biggest enemies, the State and the Central Banks.  Jeff Berwick is the founder of The Dollar Vigilante, CEO of TDV Media & Services and host of the popular video podcast, Anarchast.  Jeff is a prominent speaker at many of the world’s freedom, investment and gold conferences as well as regularly in the media.

© 2014 Copyright Jeff Berwick - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

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