Tuesday, May 1, 2018

May Day Freedom From Chains

May Day 2011 and I’m sitting in a Tokyo Airport bound for Bangkok. A two week unpaid holiday, since Manny decided to stiff my vacation pay. The 82 year-old diamond dealer said, “I gave one week in January.”

“You gave me butkis then.” I had been a math major in college and had a very good head for numbers.

“I remember one week.”

“Because you want to remember one week. You’re wrong, but then bosses are never wrong these days.” Manny was an old curmudgeon, but I had counted on him for a job since 1989.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“That you fire two employees and had me work harder without giving me a raise.” "You're lucky you have a job."

"He was right in some ways, only because everyone around the world was a wage slave grinding out a subsistent living.

Years ago unions protected the workers. The bosses fought the 40-hour week, the end to child labor, and other workers’s rights as was to expected from the filthy rich, since they represent the haves, who don’t want to spit to the have-nots. I hung up saying to Patrick, "See you when you get back." then muttered, "Fuck the rich."

I have belonged to three unions; IBEW for the telephone company, IBT driving taxi in Boston, and the union of drifters. I believe in the power of labor and every May 1 workers of the world march in many countries.

Originally the day was a pagan holiday for the first day of spring, although in a different month than the present Julian calendar. Peasants adherents to the old religions danced around the Maypole. The Catholic Church suppressed the practice by naming May the month of Mary.

As a child at parochial school the nuns would parade us around the church with the girls wearing white dresses and flowers in their hair. The boys had white jackets and slacks. Parents would take snapshots of their angelic children.

Years later we abandoned this pious procession to march in the May Day protests against the Cambodian Bombings.


Washington, Kent State, Kissinger, Nixon talking to the protesters.

May Day for the Left honors seven Haymarket anarchists executed for participation in Chicago’s Haymarket Riot of 1886 in Chicago.

May 1 1886 was the start date for the 8-hour day. Big business wasn’t happy with this new law and workers staged a series of protests. Anarchists met in Haymarket Square. The gathering was peaceful until someone threw a bomb into the police ranks, killing one officer. In the ensuing violence more died on both sides.

Hence ‘bombing-throwing anarchist’ entered the American lexicon.

The subsequent trial of eight anarchists based the accusations on hearsay. Evidence revealing the involvement of the Pinkerton Detective Agency in the bombing didn’t prevent the death sentence for seven of the accused.

Public pressure for leniency forced the governor of Illinois to commute the capital charges against two ‘conspirators’.

On the eve of the execution Louis Lingg offed himself by exploding a dynamite cap in his mouth.

The remaining four, Spies, Parsons, Fischer, and Engel were publicly hung, but not before they sang the Marseillaise, the anthem of the international revolutionary movement.

All eight were exonerated in 1893 and May 1 became a rally day for labor throughout the world, although in the USA it is called Loyalty Day.

Thailand gives the day off to workers, 70% who have decent jobs say they are happy with their present situation. Others are less so.

In honor of the Haymarket martyrs I’m taking the day off too.

Power to the people.

One more thing.

Fuck the rich.

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