Read Part 1 of this May Day excerpt from Philip S. Foner and David R. Roediger's Our Own Time: A History of American Labor and the Working Day here.
Set in this context of continuing struggle over the working day, the FOTLU’s decision to press on with its bold 1884 plan to enforce the eight-hour system with a mass strike on May 1, 1886, was not extravagant. The demand was well timed — raised during a depression which made unemployment an issue and maturing during a recovery which made workers readier to strike without fear for their jobs. Of the seventy-eight FOTLU unions polled in 1885, sixty-nine supported the May 1 plan. Working-class militancy meanwhile grew in early 1886 as the Knights of Labor led the Southwest strike against Jay Gould’s railroad empire and attracted hundreds of thousands of new members.
In celebration of May Day, we present an excerpt from Philip S. Foner and David R. Roediger's Our Own Time: A History American Labor and the Working Day. Read Part 2 here.
(Strikers outside Eddy Bros. Mill in Bay City, MI. Via Bay-Journal)
Albert Parsons. August Spies. Adolph Fischer. George Engel. Michael Schwab. Samuel Felden. Oscar Neebe. Louis Lingg. The names of the victims of the governmental violence which took place after a bomb exploded in Chicago’s Haymarket Square during the unprecedented strike wave of May 1886 deserve pride of place in any account of the movement for a shorter working day during the 1880s. But the very nature of the Haymarket events, with all the excitement and heroism that surround them, has somewhat overshadowed other important considerations in understanding the period and Haymarket itself. This chapter describes Haymarket and its relationship to a continuing tradition of class struggle over hours, to the interaction between skilled and unskilled works, to ethnic interplay in the labor movement, and to the development of new organizational forms.
May 1st marks International Workers' Day, a festival of working-class self-organization stretching back over 130 years. It was originally inaugurated to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in Chicago, where a bomb thrown during a worker's strike kicked off a period of anti-labor hysteria.
May Day 2015 in London saw a rally of trade unions, migrant workers & London’s many communities and other organisations finishing in Trafalgar Square. 2016 demos include speakers such as Yannis Gourtsoyhannia (from the Junior Doctor’s dispute), Christine Blower (the General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, to talk about the government’s attacks on education), Frances O'Grady (TUC General Secretary), Jeremy Corbyn, and John McDonnell. See the full details here!
In New York there's a rally and march in Union Square on Sunday starting at noon, in Los Angeles there's a May Day March and Bernie Sanders rally on Saturday starting at 3pm, and in Oakland there's a rally at the Fruitvale Bart starting at noon. See an incomplete list of May Day activities here.
This May Day we bring you the following reading list, AND we're doing a FLASH SALE with 50% off all of them! Don't forget - we have free worldwide shipping and free bundled ebooks where available!
Workers and Migrants of the World Unite! We have nothing to lose but our chains! Join workers around the world on Sunday, May 1st, as we show that there is another world possible, a world where forced migration due to neoliberal policies no longer happens, where refugees and migrants don’t have to flee their homelands and go to countries as exploited workers, where refugees and migrants are not criminalized, where families are not torn apart, where families do not have to fear deportation, detention and raids, where black lives matter, where our workers have sustainable wages, where we are liberated. Join one these events happening around the country and around the world on Sunday, May 1st, and make your voice heard!
Our May Day flash sale with 50% off selected books (with free worldwide shipping and free bundled ebooks where available) runs until Monday, May 2 at 11pm ET.
Extract from Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London by Matthew Beaumont
In the dead of night, in spite of the electric lights and the remnants of nightlife, London is an alien city, especially if you are strolling through its lanes and thoroughfares alone.
In the more sequestered streets, once the pubs are closed, and at a distance from the twenty-four-hour convenience stores, the sodium gleam of the street lamps, or the flickering strip-light from a soporific minicab stand, offers little consolation. There are alleys and street corners and shop entrances where the darkness appears to collect in a solid, faintly palpitating mass. There are secluded squares where, to appropriate a haunting line from a poem by Shelley, night makes ‘a weird sound of its own stillness’. There are buildings, monuments and statues that, at a distance, and in the absence of people, pulsate mysteriously in the sepulchral light. There are foxes that slope and trot across the road, in a single motion, as you interrupt their half-shameful, half-defiant attempts to pillage scraps from upended bins. And, from time to time, there are the faintly sinister silhouettes of other solitary, perhaps homeless, individuals – as threatened by your presence, no doubt, as you are by theirs. ‘However efficiently artificial light annihilates the difference between night and day’, Al Alvarez has commented, ‘it never wholly eliminates the primitive suspicion that night people are up to no good.’