The 1st of May marks International Workers' Day, a festival of working-class self-organisation 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 police crackdown followed by a period of anti-labor hysteria.
In 1890, the first internationally co-ordinated demonstration for an 8-hour day was held, in commemoration of those killed in the massacre, and those eight anarchists executed on trumped-up charges after the event.
Here, Verso staff present "A Reading List for May Day", looking at the radical history of the festival in the European and North American labor movements, and how that spirit lives on in grassroots workplace struggles.
I still believe in the old values of the 18th Century Enlightenment; in Reason, in education, in the improvement, if not the perfectability, of human beings, and in the attempts, at any rate, to establish "liberty, equality, fraternity", or "life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness" or any other these other marvellous slogans which we owe to the late 18th Century.
BBC's Archive on 4 special feature on historian Eric Hobsbawm opens with his own words, spoken to Desert Island Discs in 1995. The programme, an hour-long profile of the outspoken Marxist historian, was presented by Simon Schama and laid out the story of Hobsbawm's colourful life: a life which has traced a line alongside the great fissures and faults of 20th Century. The esteemed author, who celebrates his 95th birthday this year, also talks about the life-changing effect that reading The Communist Manifesto had upon him at an early age. That influence continues to this day: eighty years after first picking up Marx's text in his school library, Hobsbawm has written the introduction to a new, modern edition of the Manifesto.
Eric Hobsbawm is an icon of the British Left: an eminent historian, a prolific author and an unabashed communist, he remains a stalwart critic of capitalism and a controversial voice within academia.
Hobsbawm's introduction to The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels is being published in paperback for the first time by Verso on International Worker's Day, May 1st. In the run-up to the launch, Archive on 4 will profile Hobsbawm in a one-hour episode drawing on his life and work.
In the week of Lucio Magri's tragic passing, The Tailor of Ulm: Communism in the Twentieth Century is reviewed in the British press. Magri's book is "one of the most significant and important books I've read on the history of communism during the 20th century," writes John Green in the Morning Star. In Green's words,
Magri's assessments and ideas are not only fascinating for those who are themselves Marxists or communists but would be invaluable to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of our recent history and for ways of overcoming the present global and systemic crisis. Even though the author develops his perspectives from his experience within the Italian communist party (PCI), they have much wider implications and significance.
The Tailor of Ulm sheds light on the centrality of the figure of Gramsci in the history of Italian Communism, a thinker who "can still offer a vital source of creative Marxist praxis—the realisation of theory in practice," Green notes.