A note to my dear readers – I’ve been very busy over the past two weeks and haven’t been able to post much – for that I’m sorry. While writing has always been one of my biggest passions, it sometimes has to take a back seat to real-world action and organizing. There would be little point to writing about these issues if I weren’t willing to put in some real-world effort to change things, nor would there be much point in reading my words if I didn’t have years of experiences to base my insights on. As such, I’ve done a lot of organizing lately and haven’t had a lot of time for blogging. The last weeks of April are to anarchists what the last few weeks before Christmas are for most – a mad, hellish scramble to get everything together for the big day. Which day, you ask?

mayday3 smallThis coming Wednesday, the world will once again celebrate “International Workers Day”, commonly known as Mayday. For well over a century now it’s stood as a time to celebrate workplace resistance, and it’s been making something of a comeback of late. As mass-movements around economic justice start to re-emerged, so did the kind of large-scale strikes and street actions historically seen around Mayday. Last year saw enormous celebrations spanning several continents, some of the largest celebrations in memory. This year, we see if such festivities can, again, become a tradition.

Mayday’s origins trace back to May to at least 1886. On the first of that month, a general strike that had been planned for years swept across much of the United States, demanding an eight-hour workday. This met with cops, scabs and strikebreakers, and by the third several workers had been gunned down by police outside the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago. This inflamed tensions and prompted several notorious anarchists to call a rally in Chicago’s Haymarket Square the next night where they gave fiery, revolutionary speeches to a crowd of a few hundred or thousand. As the last one ended, police charged and a massive battled ensued killing several and injuring dozens. In the fray a bomb was thrown at police, and while it’s unclear to this day who (or even which side) was responsible, authorities decided to round up group of organizers including August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Adolf Fischer, Albert Parsons and others. Their trial became an international sensation – lacking evidence relating to the bomb itself, they were prosecuted on the basis of their anarchists beliefs, speeches and pamphlets, with prosecutors arguing that their fiery rhetoric had inflamed the crowds.Following the notoriously rigged trial they were found guilty and several were publicly executed. This shocked and angered workers and movements worldwide, and by the end of the century yearly demonstrations in May had become a tradition.

For Hamiltonians, this story hits home in a few fascinating ways. Since the very beginning, Hamilton has been an important centre of the labour movment. The Nine-Hours movement began here in 1869, and quickly swept across a young Canada with the demand for a shorter workday. In May of 1872, we held one of the continent’s first “general strikes” to demand it and marched on the Crystal Palace (now Victoria Park). Combined with the legendary Toronto Printer’s Strike in the same year, they (largely) succeeded. It’s even been alleged (and I’m desperately searching for a real source on this) that Hamilton was an inspiration to the American strikes a decade later which led to the Haymarket affair. True or not, it’s certainly plausible as we’ve long been connected through organizations like the Knights of Labour to cities like Chicago. In the years that followed, the “Crystal Gardens” became a site of yearly remembrance ceremonies for the Martyrs. Next time you’re in Victoria Park, take a moment to read the plaque and think about the generations who’ve echoed that first springtime march up King Street.

Over the generations, Mayday has taken on many different meanings as struggles evolved. In some places, like the former USSR, it became a nation patriotic spectacle. In others, like the US, it was recently the day chosen for a coordinated national action of millions protesting immigration law. In the last few years, as economic collapse and austerity drives have swept the globe, as well as “Occupy” and similar movements overseas, it’s began again to resemble it’s roots in poor, working and radical populations. What’s stayed constant in spite of over a century of changing demands is the underlying theme – that this is about much more than whatever we’re demanding at the moment.

11509_425401574223348_750428851_n This year events are planned broadly – there actions in New York, Toronto, Vancouver among countless others, and of course a general strike planned in Greece.

In Hamilton, there’s a number of events and actions planned, along much the same lines as last year. The Anticapitalist March will be meeting up at the McNab St Bus Terminal (King & MacNab) for 12:30, then leaving for an early-afternoon stroll around the downtown core. If that isn’t enough marching for you, the Steelworkers will be assembling at 3:30 for a march around the industrial core followed by a BBQ, beginning at their union hall (350 Kennilworth North, across from the former Centre Mall). Barbeque and Block Party festivities downtown, like last year, will happen in Beasley Park beginning at 5pm, with food, music and games for the kids.

Anti-Capitalist March (Facebook Event)
Block Party (Facebook Event)

I’m sure there’s other events, too, which I’m leaving out, and I’d heartily encourage anybody else wishes to take a little initiative and start their own rally, march or block party. Mayday belongs to everybody – it’s our day, and any success will be measured by how many actions we see, not just the turnout at any particular one. Whether you’re angry about pipelines, school closures, robocalls, broken treaties, lockouts, austerity, “Free Trade” or deportations, Mayday is a time forge connections between ourselves and the issues we’re passionate about – in short, to build and celebrate a movement. This Wednesday, let’s keep the 141-year historygoing and show that ole’ Steeltown still has a little fight left in her.

See ya there.