On 4th May in 1886 in Chicago, a bomb was thrown and a number of shots fired during a public assembly in Haymarket Square, part of an ongoing strike for the 8-hour day. The Haymarket Affair, as it became known, is still shrouded in some mystery – though it seems likely the bulk of the shooting was carried out by the Police in the crowd, no one is certain who threw the bomb. In the tradition of unequivocal state repression, leading figures in the local anarchist movement were arrested on scant evidence of involvement. Eight were tried and convicted for conspiracy, four of whom faced the gallows in 1887. The first congress of the Second International voted to mark the anniversary in 1890, making it an annual event the following year.
The Haymarket Martyrs’ legacy (whether or not we are explicitly aware of it) is still wrapped up today in the celebrations and demonstrations that take place around the world on International Workers’ Day, or ‘May Day’.
At a time when global economic crisis continues to facilitate the corrosive ideology of austerity, never has there been a more important time to focus on the legacy of the Haymarket Affair; to reflect on ideas of class, solidarity, labour history and contemporary anti-capitalism.
See our hand-picked list of books below, special for May Day 2013.
Why Workers Lost Their Power, and How to Get It Back
A critical history of grasssroots labour struggles from the 1970s to today that calls for a new politics of trade unionism.
A History of the British Labour Movement
A revised, updated and expanded edition of this classic feminist account of British labour history.
“The book stands comparison with A.L.Morton’s ‘People’s History’ and G.D.H. Cole’s ‘Common People’. But it is more than just this. It is in a real sense a history for our own times” – John Foster, Emeritus Professor, University of the West of Scotland
“This book is ideal for its purpose. I only wish it had been available in the decades when I was teaching trade union courses.” – Jim Fryth, Labour History Review
A Radical Collective Manifesto
Edited by Federico Campagna and Emanuele Campiglio
Visions of a different society run in the interests of the 99%. Leading activist voices answer the question the media loves to ask the protesters.
“Here are the first flowers of spring: the beginning of an epochal dialogue about the human future. Inspired by the Occupy movements across the world, What We Are Fighting For should inspire all of us to join the conversation.” – Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums and City of Quartz
“This collection provides a rallying point for all those who resist the dogmas of contemporary politics and seek a fresh set of alternatives. What We Are Fighting For is a manifesto full of urgent, articulate responses to the current situation.” – Simon Critchley, Hans Jonas Professor of Philosophy at the New School, New York, and author of The Faith of the Faithless (2012).
Unflinching survey of the state of welfare systems across Europe today, as they struggle in an age of government austerity and neo-liberal reform.
“With his focus on the shift in the balance of power behind the flourishing and now the destruction of social democracy Asbjørn Wahl has produced one of the best analyses of the politics of the welfare state. He also draws on ideas from struggles across the world for building a new power for democratic ownership of the economy – the only basis on which our social rights can have a future.
“This scholarly and thoughtful yet accessible book is relevant to the whole of Europe and the world. The social model of the Welfare State is one of the greatest conquests in the entire history of human emancipation and the ongoing attempt to destroy it is a crime against humanity. We should read it, learn from it and organise so as to fight back with all our strength.” – Susan George, President of the Board of the Transnational Institute
Popular Movements and the Military from the Paris Commune to the Arab Spring
Edited by Mike Gonzalez and Houman Barekat
Draws on a range of global historical experiences to examine the relationship between mass movements and military institutions.
“These engaged case studies from some 150 years represent a very welcome review of both the popular armed struggle and the institutions of state violence.” – James Dunkerley, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary, University of London, and former Director of the Institute for the Study of the Americas
“A most revealing study of some of the most dramatic moments of modern history, from the people in arms in the Paris Commune to today’s headlines. Often beaten back but even then leaving a legacy of achievement and understanding to carry the struggle forward.” – Noam Chomsky