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Thursday, May. 02, 2002 at 9:06 AM
This is the text of a leaflet produced for the May Day
demonstration in Glasgow.
Another World is possible!
Across the world, people are changing the world.
This spring, resistance is blossoming across the world.
March saw half a million protesting in Barcelona in the
latest in a long line of anti-capitalist demonstrations.
April saw twenty million workers on strike in Italy.
Protesting against proposed new labour laws, they brought
the country to a halt. Over two million people took to the
streets in demonstrations. In India, 10 million state
workers went on strike against proposed changes to labour
laws and privatisation. In London and across America,
hundreds of thousands expressed solidarity with the
Palestinians and their struggle against Israeli occupation.
Across France, over a hundred of thousand took to the
streets to stop fascism by the only means possible, direct
The Birth of Our Power!
These strikes and protests are seeds from which a new world
can grow. In Argentina, this is already happening. Mass
demonstrations are demanding that all politicians are
kicked out. All across the country popular assemblies are
being organised in neighbourhoods and workplaces. Strikes
are turning into factory occupations. The community
assemblies, workplace assemblies and unemployed groups are
linking up and fighting together.
Anarchy in Action!
After every anti-capitalist protest, the politicians
and media ask, "what do we want?" What we want is being
created whenever people organise themselves and use direct
action to fight back against those who oppress and exploit
them. The only limit to oppression is the power with which
it is resisted. This resistance gives those involved a
sense of their own power, both as individuals and as a
class. By organising our own struggles, we get experience
of managing our own lives and see that politicians and
bosses are not needed. The embryo of a free society exists
in the free federation of the community and workplace
assemblies struggle creates. The struggle against
capitalism shows that another world is possible and how to
For anarchists the politics of living can end those of
surviving, hope can replace despair. Resist to exist! Plant
the seeds of liberty and help them grow!
Make everyday May Day!
On May Day, International Workers Day, hundreds of
thousands of people are celebrating and resisting across
the world. We are remembering past and current struggles,
showing those in power that their subjects refuse to accept
their allotted place in the social hierarchy. We are
showing that not only is a new world possible, but that we
are already creating it in our struggles and festivals!
But demonstrations by themselves will not end
capitalism or its imposed, top-down, globalisation. Only
when the bulk of the population take direct action,
organise themselves and fight for their freedom will real
The "principles of anarchism" are born from the class
struggle, when people fight for a better life. Argentina
shows the direction the anti-capitalist movement must take:
it must apply its principles of direct action, solidarity,
self-managed self-organisation within everyday life and
struggles. We need to build strong roots in our communities
and workplaces. Without this grassroots activity, the anti-
capitalist movement will wither, just as a flower cut off
from its roots.
The May Day protests are part of a wider movement, a
movement which shows another world is possible, a world
based on mutual aid, which celebrates individuality, which
rejects the idea that people are little cogs in a big
machine and the planet is just a resource to be sold off to
the highest bidder. This movement celebrates life and
diversity. It shows that a society based on liberty,
equality and solidarity is possible by applying them now.
It says that there is more to life than profit. It rejects
the Hobson's choice of selling your liberty to a boss or
rotting in unemployment. It says this world is not for sale
and neither am I. It knows what it wants and it knows how
to get it.
Together, we can create the new world that lives in our
Celebrate Liberty, not Tyranny!
The generosity of the Monarchy knows no bounds. Year in,
year out, they have relieved us of the terrible burden of
deciding whether to invest millions in health or education
thanks to the civil list. Now, as a reward for years of
giving one of the richest families in the world millions,
we finally get payback: two days holiday!
Talk about value for money! So use those days wisely,
because we have earned them. Do not squander those two days
of freedom from wage slavery by condoning past tyranny and
Tyranny? Yes, tyranny. Monarchy is just the old name
for dictatorship. Its history is the history of oppression,
exploitation, and rule by one person.
Unlike the serfs of the past, we can show our disgust
of the remains of absolutism and their insulting claims to
rule over us without having to worry about being hung,
drawn and quartered for treason. Let us do so. Let us
celebrate real history, the history of resistance,
rebellion and revolt from below!
Festivals of the Oppressed
The history we are feed in school and in the media is
history from above, the acts of the elite few who govern
and exploit the many. Why celebrate parasites who have
happily sent their subjects to die in wars to ensure their
rule? Why waste a holiday celebrating an institution which
is an insult to our intelligence and liberty?
On June 3rd, why not celebrate history from below, the
struggles of working class people like ourselves who fought
to change society for the better? Celebrate this, our
history, the history of liberty, the history of resistance!
1381 England: Sir Simon de Burley charges a man with
being a serf, in Gravesend; this touched off the Peasant
Revolt, led by Wat Tyler and John Ball the next day. Tyler
demands that all rank and status be abolished and social
1647 England: The Parliamentarian Army kidnaps Charles
I. After beheading the King two years later, Cromwell turns
on the "switzerising anarchists" on his left, the
Levellers, stating their demand for radical democracy
"tends to anarchy."
1793 -- France: Marat addresses the Jacobin club on the
insurrection of May 31st. Organised by directly democratic
neighbourhood assemblies ("the sections"), the people of
Paris rise in revolt. Marat states that the rising gave "a
great impetus to the Revolution" and that it aimed to
secure "happiness and comfort" for the working class, the
sans-culottes. The ensuring struggle between the sections
and the Jacobin government becomes the struggle for the
heart of the revolution, the struggle of the working class
against the rich.
1840 France: Jean-Louis Pindy born (1840-1917), Brest,
France. Member of the Internationale, communard, anarchist,
carpenter. On March 18th, 1871, the working class of Paris
rise and start a "Communal Revolution." Seeking a free
society of free individuals, the Commune proclaims its
autonomy and starts to form co-operative workplaces. It
creates the "permanent intervention of citizens in communal
affairs" by the mandating and instant recall of delegates
and free federation from below.
1896 Spain: Isaac Puente born (1836-1936). Militant in
the anarchist CNT union, he was arrested in Zaragoza in
1933 together with the other members of the Revolutionary
Committee for organising a popular revolt. In 1936, the CNT
leads the resistance to the fascist coup of July 17th.
Defeating the military, millions start to create anarchism,
taking control of their own fates. Workers kick out their
bosses and organised libertarian collectives in industry
and agriculture. They organise democratic militias to
liberate those parts of Spain under Franco. The revolution
breaks down sexual and social barriers, introducing a
fraternal character to social relations. Betrayal by the
Communists, Republicans and the western democracies ensure
1900 US: International Ladies Garment Workers Union
(ILGWU) founded. In 1909, it organised a strike of 20,000
workers in New York. A mass meeting demanded that a general
strike be declared. Workers in more than three hundred
workplaces won their demands.
1906 Mexico: Workers in Cananea seize their town after
two days of rioting when a strike breaks out. The strike
stimulates nationwide labour protest and the alarmed
Mexican and US governments begin a concerted effort to
break the anarchist PLM and its revolutionary ideas before
it is too late.
1917 Russia: First All-Russia Congress of Workers and
Soldiers Soviets opens. This is a symbol of the revolution
from below sweeping Russia. Overthrowing the monarchy by
demonstrations and mass strikes in March, the Russian
workers form councils ("soviets"). These councils, like the
Paris Commune, are made up of mandated and instantly
recallable delegates who execute the decisions, so taking
the first steps towards anarchy. In the workplaces,
committees are formed and introduce workers' self-
management of production. Peasants seize the land. This
ferment from below continues until crushed by the
Bolsheviks, who, after seizing power in November, then
gerrymander and disband soviets and crush working class
protest to remain in power. This accumulates in the
Bolshevik crushing of the Kronstadt rebellion in March,
1921, in which sailors and workers had demanded free
elections and basic liberties for the masses.
1921 -- Russia: Workers rebelling against Bolshevik
tyranny in the Ukrainian town of Ekaterinoslavl. Labelled a
"mini-Kronstadt," strikers raise similar demands as those
of the Kronstadt rebels. They also raise the demand for
"free soviets," popularised by the anarchist insurgent
army, the Makhnovists.
1936 -- France:. Two million workers all across France
are occupying their workplaces, winning sigificant
concessions by their actions and showing the power of
direct action, solidarity and the working class.
1944 -- Italy: The first trade union in liberated Italy
created, the Confederazione General Italiana del Lavoro.
1968 -- France: Over 3,000 militants are assembled by
the "Permanent Factory Mobilisation" Action Committee in
Paris to support workers striking and occupying their
factories across the country. This is the legacy of the
near revolution of May, which saw hundreds of thousands
practising direct democracy and direct action all across
These are just a few examples of history from below, the
history of struggle, the history of our class and its
power, the history of liberty. History is made by the
masses when they unite and fight for their liberty against
their rulers, whether political or economic.
So celebrate liberty, celebrate the power of working
class people to change the world, celebrate life! And, at
the same time, create new festivals of the oppressed to
finish the work created by rebels past! Their actions point
the way - direct action, solidarity, self-organisation from
the bottom up, self-management of both the struggle and the
new society. These are the principles of anarchism. Join
with us, we have a world to win!
Mayday - A tradition of fighting back!
This rally celebrates solidarity with similar
demonstrations worldwide. Yet many of these are suppressed
by the violence of the State. There are some who support
the aims of Mayday who mistakenly confuse international
workers day - with a public relations gambit of Non-
Violence. An anarchist responds:
There is only one act worse than being the perpetrator
of violence - it is passively succumbing to it and thereby
rendering resistance ineffective. Paraphrasing Peter
Kropotkin a century ago this sums up an anarchist view on
People with revolutionary ideas do not wish violence to
be part of the equation. Violence is the preserve of the
State. The State has the legitimised use of violence, as
well as the force of Law to keep their subjects "in order".
It is organised to protect the power of the interests it
serves. Using or provoking violence is utilised by the
State -- with riot cops, undercover police, paramilitary
forces, and the regular army.
You only have to witness the calculated brutality of
the Israeli State at present to see the "iron fist"
unleashed outside the "velvet glove" of respectability.
Non-violent mass protest is a valid tactic which is the
appropriate means to face the power of oppressors on most
occasions. Yet it is a cardinal mistake to "elevate" a
tactic into an ideology, fetishising the sense of sacrifice
into potential defeatism.
It is incredibly brave to maintain non-violence in the
face of overwhelming odds, but the people who turn such
activity into an ideology - pacifists - remove the ability
of the oppressed to defend themselves.
It is no coincidence that religious justification for
pacifism is pervasive - Christian, Hindu or Buddhists.
Religion is organised mysticism which serves to reconcile
the oppressed to terrible fates. The reward is in the
afterlife rather than a commonwealth in the here and now.
Yet these same religions and others such as Islam, have
historically legitimised the use of military force by the
Such defeatism removes options, when a valid response is
to defend the struggle you are engaged in with the most
appropriate response that is collectively decided upon. On
most occasions that will be to maintain non-violent
determined and brave resistance. But to rule out, or even
worse as some "pacifists" do - to sabotage and inform on
people prepared to physically resist, is to prepare for
defeat rather than organise to win.
The events of September 11th are invoked as
justification by our rulers: violence is their preserve and
it is the enemy that is "fanatical." They have manipulated
the public perception of the atrocity to suit their own
Yet indiscriminate loss of life, even if aimed at
symbolic targets, such as the World Trade Center, is not
going to advance liberation. Persecuted individuals
manipulated by would be States or jihads are indicative of
desperate measures in a world of the spectacle. It is not
going to foster class solidarity.
To summarise: neither terrorism or pacifism but a
flexible response which includes fighting back when the
need arises - what do you think?.
A lie - Nation
Back in the 19th century old Karl Marx identified
alienation as signifying the worker's relation to what he
produced. This sense of alienation dovetailed with the
uprooting of former rural labourers in the new urban slums,
to herald the beginnings of working class experience of
exploitation and powerlessness under capitalism.
Well over a century later, the community spirit which
tied people together, through adversity, has been steadily
eroded. In today's modern life, seeming material progress
stimulated by consumer credit & spiralling debt, has
narrowed the focus to the family & the individual.
Yet such individuals are not empowered, not citizens,
not in control of their work or environment. They are
bombarded with images and expectations which lead to a
confused consciousness of who they are. Instead of the old
deferred gratification in the early days of consumerism,
often accompanied - especially in Scotland - by the old
deference & 'tug of the forelock', the new individual is
self-seeking, cynical, hedonistic & no longer bound by
restraints of religion.
Also from the 19th century old Michael Bakunin stated it
was also creative to unleash destructive urges. But,
'freed' from former conventions, such destructive urges are
now part of the malaise of modern alienation. Generations
are encouraged to see others as 'fuddy duddies', 'muppets',
'neds' & so on. As technological sophistication compounds
such distancing within families and communities, rebellion
becomes expected as a rite of passage expressed through the
hedonism fashionable to the generation in question.
In many urban areas, spreading to former urban villages
where community ties used to stifle individualism, the
breakdown of social cohesion has led to a proliferation of
barbaric behaviour. This is expressed in destructive use of
drugs, muggings, anti-social vandalism & lack of respect
for anybody apart from immediate cronies.
Any revolutionary appeal has therefore to offer the hope
that a free society and the fight to achieve it will fill a
void in the personal & the social side of existence.
Invariably we will be cast as role models despite being
ourselves constantly subjected to such media and
It is too easy to 'sit on the sidelines' faced with such
social disintegration. Yet people who are substantially
alienated are not going to turn automatically to anarchist
perspectives. If you hate other people of your class you
despise yourself, you think you are above others & fall
into an elitist trap. You contribute to the pollution &
rubbish around you, you make elderly people feel insecure
and you spread bad habits amongst children.
So becoming an anarchist isn't just about appreciating
the power relation of capitalism, it is about projecting
anarchy as a change of moral outlook, an ethics for the
21st century. Otherwise dependence on the State &
authoritarian solutions will be encouraged, instead of a
full appreciation of the appeal & social responsibilities
Your choice, follow trends & bad habits, or shake
them off & live as an anarchist!
May 1st is a special day for the labour movement. It is a
day of world-wide solidarity. A time to remember past
struggles and demonstrate our hope for a better future. A
day to remember that an injury to one is an injury to all.
Mayday originated with the execution of four anarchists in
Chicago in 1886 for organising workers in the fight for the
eight-hour day. May Day is a product of "anarchy in
action": of the struggle of working people organising
themselves and using direct action to change the world.
It began in the 1880s in the USA. In 1884, the
Federation of Organised Trades and Labor Unions of the
United States and Canada passed a resolution which asserted
that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day's work from
and after May 1, 1886, and that we recommend to labour
organisations throughout this district that they so direct
their laws as to conform to this resolution." A call for
strikes on May 1st, 1886 was made in support of this
In Chicago the anarchists were the main force in the
union movement. The anarchists thought that the eight hour
day could only be won through direct action and solidarity.
They considered that struggles for reforms, like the eight
hour day, were not enough in themselves. They viewed them
as only one battle in an ongoing class war that would only
end by social revolution and the creation of a free
society. It was with these ideas that they organised and
In Chicago alone, 400 000 workers went out and the
threat of strike action ensured that more than 45 000 were
granted a shorter working day without striking. On May 3,
1886, police fired into a crowd of pickets at the McCormick
Harvester Machine Company, killing at least one striker,
seriously wounding five or six others, and injuring an
undetermined number. Anarchists called for a mass meeting
the next day in Haymarket Square to protest the brutality.
According to the Mayor, "nothing had occurred yet, or
looked likely to occur to require interference." However,
as the meeting was breaking up a column of 180 police
arrived and ordered the meeting to end. At this moment a
bomb was thrown into the police ranks, who opened fire on
the crowd. How many civilians were wounded or killed by the
police was never exactly ascertained.
A reign of terror swept over Chicago. Meeting halls,
union offices, printing shops and private homes were raided
(usually without warrants). Such raids into working-class
areas allowed the police to round up all known anarchists
and other socialists. Many suspects were beaten up and some
bribed. "Make the raids first and look up the law
afterwards" was the public statement of the States Attorney
when a question was raised about search warrants.
Eight anarchists were put on trial for accessory to
murder. No pretence was made that any of the accused had
carried out or even planned the bomb. Instead the jury were
told "Law is on trial. Anarchy is on trial. These men have
been selected, picked out by the Grand Jury, and indicted
because they were leaders. They are no more guilty than the
thousands who follow them. Gentlemen of the jury; convict
these men, make examples of them, hang them and you save
our institutions, our society." The jury was selected by a
special bailiff, nominated by the State's Attorney and was
composed of businessmen and the relative of one of the
killed cops. The defence was not allowed to present
evidence that the special bailiff had publicly claimed "I
am managing this case and I know what I am about. These
fellows are going to be hanged as certain as death." Not
surprisingly, the accused were convicted. Seven were
sentenced to death, one to 15 years' imprisonment.
An international campaign resulted in two of the death
sentences being commuted to life, but the world wide
protest did not stop the US state. Of the remaining five,
one (Louis Lingg) cheated the executioner and killed
himself on the eve of the execution. The remaining four
(Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel and Adolph
Fischer) were hanged on November 11th 1887. They are known
in Labour history as the Haymarket Martyrs. Between 150,000
and 500,000 lined the route taken by the funeral cortege
and between 10,000 to 25,000 were estimated to have watched
In 1889, the American delegation attending the
International Socialist congress in Paris proposed that May
1st be adopted as a workers' holiday. This was to
commemorate working class struggle and the "Martyrdom of
the Chicago Eight". Since then Mayday has became a day for
international solidarity. In 1893, the new Governor of
Illinois made official what the working class in Chicago
and across the world knew all along and pardoned the
Martyrs because of their obvious innocence and because "the
trail was not fair".
The authorities had believed at the time of the trial
that such persecution would break the back of the labour
movement. They were wrong. In the words of August Spies
when he addressed the court after he had been sentenced to
"If you think that by hanging us you can stamp out the
labour movement . . . the movement from which the
downtrodden millions, the millions who toil in misery and
want, expect salvation - if this is your opinion, then hang
us! Here you will tread on a spark, but there and there,
behind you - and in front of you, and everywhere, flames
blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it
At the time and in the years to come, this defiance of
the state and capitalism was to win thousands to anarchism.
Since the Haymarket event, anarchists have celebrated May
Day (on the 1st of May - the reformist unions and labour
parties moved its marches to the first Sunday of the
month). We do so to show our solidarity with other working
class people across the world, to celebrate past and
present struggles, to show our power and remind the ruling
class of their vulnerability.
Anarchists stay true to the origins of May Day and
celebrate its birth in the direct action of the oppressed.
Oppression and exploitation breed resistance and, for
anarchists, May Day is an international symbol of that
resistance and the power it generates, the power to change
What the Chicago Anarchists wanted:
"First -- Destruction of the existing class rule, by
all means, i.e. by energetic, relentless, revolutionary and
"Second -- Establishment of a free society based upon
co-operative organisation of production.
"Third -- Free exchange of equivalent products by and
between the productive organisations without commerce and
"Fourth -- Organisation of education on a secular,
scientific and equal basis for both sexes.
"Fifth -- Equal rights for all without distinction to
sex or race.
"Sixth -- Regulation of all public affairs by free
contracts between autonomous (independent) communes and
associations, resting on a federalistic basis."
New issue of Black Flag out now!
This issue contains anarchist analysis of the revolt in
Argentina, the anti-capitalist demos in Genoa, Brussels and
New York, national and international news, book reviews and
much, much more. Black Flag magazine is essential reading
for all anarchists and other anti-capitalists. Well worth
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