Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day at Daytonology

(great Eric Drooker graphic, huh? I love his stuff)

A holiday associated with military parades in Red Square really got its start in the good old USA, to memorialize events in that most American of citys, Chicago.

But first, here's a famous old socialist song from the 19th century, rewritten to modern form by the English activist/musician Billy Bragg:

The Internationale

Stand up, all victims of oppression
For the tyrants fear your might
Don't cling so hard to your possessions
For you have nothing, if you have no rights
Let racist ignorance be ended
For respect makes the empires fall
Freedom is merely privilege extended
Unless enjoyed by one and all

So come brothers and sisters
For the struggle carries on
The Internationale
Unites the world in song
So comrades come rally
For this is the time and place
The international ideal
Unites the human race

Let no one build walls to divide us
Walls of hatred nor walls of stone
Come greet the dawn and stand beside us
We'll live together or we'll die alone
In our world poisoned by exploitation
Those who have taken, now they must give
And end the vanity of nations
We've but one Earth on which to live

And so begins the final drama
In the streets and in the fields
We stand unbowed before their armour
We defy their guns and shields
When we fight, provoked by their aggression
Let us be inspired by like and love
For though they offer us concessions
Change will not come from above

Words: Billy Bragg Music: Pierre Degeyter

...and a midi to sing (or listen) along with.

The May Day story came out of the great Eight-Hour Day movement of the American and European working class (" Eight hours for work, Eight hours for sleep, Eight hours for what we will!") and worker unrest in Chicago.

A parade and rally at Chicago's Haymarket (a widened stretch of Randolph Street on the near west side, still there and still a wholesale foods place )

....went bad when someone tossed a bomb that killed some cops. Speakers at the ralley were railroaded for the murders, and some were hung, which led to commemorations, really memorials, on the 1st of May.

For more, from the Enyclopedia of Chicago History: Haymarket and May Day

May Day was orginally celeberated on both sides of the pond, but Labor Day became the US workers holiday, while, ironically, the Europeans continued with May Day, which remains their "Labor Day" well as an occasion or traditional day for protests and dissent of various types. One usually doesn't see this in the US, except for the May Day immigration reform marches of a few years ago.

The association with Socialism came with the Second International adopting it as a workers holiday (even though the executed were not really socialists, rather than anarchists).

A famous US anarchist, but from a later era, was Emma Goldman, who actually came to Dayton twice. I'll be blogging on that tomorrow.