Tuesday, May 28, 2013


The Haymarket Monument

   Our pilgrimage was not complete.  When we returned to the U.S. we made it a point to visit the scene of the Haymarket riot at DesPlaines and Randolph in Chicago.  We also visited the Chicago Historical Society and the Waldheim Cemetery where all of the ‘Haymarket Martyrs’ are buried except Sam Fielden.

   At present there is a monument at the scene of the Haymarket Riot ½ block north of Randolph on the east side of DesPlaines A at Crane’s Alley.  This is just a few blocks from where I worked as a young man.  Paving bricks that form the alley are reminiscent of Chicago streets in 1886.  The monument is considered a work of art, but is still controversial.  It consists of a base with a wagon on top and faceless speakers gesturing to an imaginary crowd.  It is much easier to forget faceless martyrs and that they sacrificed their lives for a goal that has not been achieved.  The tragedy of martyrs, such as the Christian martyrs, is that they can be co-opted by the system they opposed.

   The base of the monument includes plaques that describe the event.  One states that Fielden, Schwab and Neebe were pardoned.  Written graffiti claims that all were pardoned and is signed with the Anarchist symbol of an A within a circle.  A plaque on the street side of the monument is from the labor movement in Columbia.  Translated from Spanish it states:

   The Fight Continues! Let live International Solidarity!  
   In Memory of the Workers and Union Leaders Assassinated
   In Columbia Who Gave Their Lives to Defend Human
   Rights, National Sovereignty, Social Justice and Democracy.

Hundreds of labor union people have been murdered in recent years in the attempts to impose U.S. neo-liberal hegemony in oil rich Columbia.  The Obama administration recently signed a ‘free trade’ deal with Columbia. Joe Shansky, Communications Director at Voces de la Frontera, recently witnessed resistance in Columbia to the Neo-Liberal ‘Free Trade’ policy.  Farmers blocked roadways in and out of a small town near Bogota.  Shansky reported:

Farmers and laborers all frequently speak in anger against ‘TLC’   (‘Free Trade’), the international free trade agreement which has allowed an influx of cheaper agricultural products…  (Joe Shansky. “Upside Down World,” 5-24- 13)

   Nothing new turned up at the Chicago Historical Society although there is a display on the Haymarket Riot.  But across the street from the Historical Society is a reminder of Sam Fielden of the Haymarket’s spiritual journey, the Moody Bible Church.  Haymarket Sam had an encounter with the now famous Dwight L. Moody founder of the Moody Bible Institute and the Moody Bible Church.

   After serving as an itinerant Methodist preacher in Ohio, Sam ‘overhauled’ his ‘religious opinions’ in Chicago and became a Freethinker. Sam describes his meeting with the Evangelist Moody by prefacing the account with a debate he heard at one of Moody’s Bible meetings.  Someone had stated that a Christian, in good conscience, could not be a business man.  The counter argument was classic.  Sam sarcastically wrote,

   I was thoroughly convinced that all a man had to do in this
   world in order to make his calling and election sure in the
   next was to sell for a dollar what only cost fifteen cents.(ibid. p. 150)

Sam then had a discussion with the evangelical which ended in a draw.  Sam kindly stated,

   We parted at the door with the best feeling for each other.
   I am only sorry to say that my opponent has persisted in
   following the wrong path to this day.  I am truly sorry for
   him. (ibid. p. 150)

   Moody’s argument prevails to this day.  Chicagoans have heard of the Moody Bible Institute, but who knows of Sam of Todmorden and his sacrifice for the working people of the world?


   Our pilgrimage ended a few miles from my boyhood home at the Waldheim Cemetery in Park Forest just west of Chicago.
At one time the cemetery was a Native American burial ground.  The trumpet-like announcement of a train in the distance reminded me of my dad, grandfather and uncles who were railroad men and knew well the massive Proviso Railroad Yard just to the west.  At one time the Proviso Yards were the largest in the U.S.

   Governor Oglesby commuted the death sentences of Sam Fielden and Michael Schwab to life imprisonment the day before they were to be executed.  Louis Lingg committed suicide, or was murdered while in prison; the court sentenced Oscar Neebe to fifteen years in prison.  Albert R. Parsons refused to appeal for a commutation, not wanting to abandon his foreign born comrades.  August Spies pleaded that the other defendants be released and that he be executed to satisfy the demand for vengeance.  Spies, George Engle, Adolph Fisher and Parsons were executed on November 11, 1887.

   Although Fielden and Parsons spoke at the Haymarket they were called away from another meeting to speak.  The meeting concerned the organizing of women that did sewing in Chicago sweat shops.  A messenger arrived from the Haymarket pleading for Fielden and Parsons to speak.  As many as three thousand people were at the Haymarket; Spies was the only speaker and more were needed.

   The four that were executed, November 11, 1887, and Louis Lingg were buried in the Waldheim cemetery where a monument to Justice marks their graves.  Neebe and Schawb were also buried at Waldheim, but not Sam Fielden, who left Chicago for Colorado after his pardon where he and his family settled on a farm.  He died in 1922.

   Also buried near the martyrs’ monument at Waldheim are three women revolutionaries, Lucy Parsons, the wife of martyred Albert Parsons, Voltairine de Cleyre, an anarchist and feminist who gave speeches around the country about the heroism of the Haymarket Martyrs, and Emma Goldman also an anarchist and pioneer feminist.

   We visited Waldheim on a cold, grey November day, but the monument to Justice inspired hope.  It appeared to me to be a modern ‘Pieta.’  Michelangelo’s Pieta depicts the slain carpenter’s mother as an icon of compassion and love; at Waldheim, mother Justice, inspired by her slain Son, has the Faith to move forward and create a society of compassion and love.

    Was the sacrifice of the martyrs in vain?  Spies’ words at the trial appear on a mural at the office of an independent labor union in Mexico, Frente Autentico de Trabajo.  Spies began by stating, “Your honor, in addressing this court I speak as the representative of one class to the representative of another.” The mural records the next lines:

   Here you will tread upon 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 out.

The mural emphasizes cross border solidarity.  Today we are witnesses that the subterranean fire still burns and erupts not only in Mexico but in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and major cities throughout the world.

   Gus Hall, in 1951 as National Secretary of the Communist Party of the United States predicted a time when,

   The working class of the U.S.A. will be in a position to
   make this day-May Day-that started in support of the
   struggle for the eight hour day, a legal holiday celebrated
   by all the people of the United States.  (Foner, Philip S. May Day,    International Publishers, New York, p. 160)

In 2006 hundreds of thousands marched for immigrant worker rights on May Day in the U.S.  Milwaukee had 70,000 in the streets and Chicago had one of the largest marches with 300,000 protesters. The revised tradition continues.  In 2013 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel headline screamed, “May Day rallies unite workers across the globe.” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 2, 2013 p.3A).  Again thousands marched in Milwaukee.  The subterranean fire is still burning. 

(Why do we march and remember on May first?   “OSHA cites Palermo’s for violations”  “ The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued seven ‘serious’ violations and one ‘other than serious’ violation against Palermo Villa Inc. a Milwaukee frozen pizza firm.”  “The NLRB has ruled that Palermo Villa Inc. did not violate labor relations laws when it fired 75 workers last year as part of an immigration audit as retaliation for efforts to unionize the plant.” M.J.S. May 22, 2013, p. 3B.)

   What was the result of these marches?  “Today we march, tomorrow we vote became a reality.” The 2006 November elections produced a dramatic change in U.S. politics that generated hope for social justice and peace.  LCLAA (Labor Council for Latin American Advancement) report stated:

   In effect, exit polls demonstrated that 6.5 million Latinos
   voted in this year’s mid-terms.  Why is that significant?
   Because in comparison with the previous mid term election
   in 2002 when Latino voters represented 5.3 percent of all
   voters, the number of Hispanic voters in 2006 increased
   By 37 percent to a total of 8 percent of all voters!

In 2012,
   The record number of Latinos who cast ballots for president this   
    year are the leading edge of an ascendant voting bloc that is
    likely to double in size within a generation, according to a Pew
   Hispanic Center analysis based on U.S. Census Bureau data,
   Election Day exit polls and a new nationwide survey of Hispanic
   Immigrants. (Pew Research – Hispanic Center, November 14, 2012)

    Power at the ballot box!  Will it result in justice for the working class?  If it is to be, a renewed consciousness of solidarity and identity is essential for the working class.  This is not the not the solution advocated by some anarchists, but terrorism hurts all, including workers and their quest for justice.  Farm worker founders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta taught and demonstrated that violence negates Faith and is clearly counter-productive.  My sense is that Sam the Freethinker with the Chartist, Methodist and Quaker background would give politics a chance.


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