Listen to the Episode — 42 min
The Ex-Worker: an audio strike against a monotone world; a twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action; for everyone who dreams of a life off the clock.
Alanis: Hello, and welcome to episode one of Ex-Worker, a twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action. This podcast is brought to you by the CrimethInc. Ex-Worker’s Collective. You can download this podcast, and find transcripts, links, and lots more at crimethinc.com/podcast. My name is Alanis,
Clara: and my name is Clara, and we’re going to be your hosts.
Alanis: Today is Mayday, a radical worker’s holiday with anarchist roots, so in this episode we’re going to explore the Haymarket affair of 1886 and the history of Mayday.
Clara: We’ll also hear news from struggles around the world and let you know about events coming up in the next few weeks. For our Mugshots feature, we’ll take a look at the Lucy Parsons Center in Boston, Massachusetts, and on The Chopping Block we’ll review issue number two of the journal Modern Slavery: The Libertarian Critique of Civilization.
Alanis: We want to hear from you! Let us know what you think of the podcast and what you want to hear – our email address is email@example.com.
THE HOT WIRE
Alanis: First, it’s time for the Hot Wire, our whirlwind look at resistance happening around world. Clara, what’s going on in the news?
Clara: Recently released earth liberation prisoner Daniel McGowan was taken back into custody last month in retaliation for writing an article about his experiences inside Communication Management Units, which are an especially repressive form of incarceration intended for political prisoners. He was released again the following day. Read more
Alanis: In Guatemala, environmentalists are mourning the kidnapping and murder of indigenous anti-mining activist Daniel Pedro Mateo. Read more
Clara: In Barcelona, Spain, the Animal Liberation Front freed 29 rabbits from a factory farm. Read more
Alanis: An anarchist activist was seriously wounded in an attack by Nazis in Kiev, Ukraine. The Anarchist Black Cross in Moscow is raising money to help cover his medical expenses. Read more
Clara: In Atlanta, Georgia, a group of anti-fascists disrupted a National Socialist Movement conference, destroyed a white supremacist leader’s car, and assembled 200 protestors against a small racist rally at the state capitol. Read more Alanis: Groups around the world celebrated Earth Day on April 22nd with environmental actions. In San Francisco, indigenous group Idle No More led a 700 person rally against the Keystone XL Pipeline - Read more while in the Phillipines, 1,000 protestors blocked a road for hours, protesting illegal logging and government corruption. Read more
Clara: Protestors shut down PNC Bank’s shareholder meeting in Pittsburgh, challenging their investment in mountaintop removal coal mining. Read more
Alanis: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, member of the Russian radical feminist group Pussy Riot, was denied parole after a court hearing. Among the reasons cited by the court for her continued imprisonment were her “failure to complete the set amount of sewing during compulsory work sessions” and “refusal to repent”. Read more
Clara: Palestinian prisoner Samer al-Issawi has ended his hunger strike after going eight months without food in protest against the Israeli practice of “administrative detention”, holding prisoners for extended periods without trial. Fearing mass unrest if he were to die in custody, the Israeli government agreed to release Al-Issawi after he serves an additional eight month sentence. Read more
Alanis: And anarchists in Montreal claimed credit for smashing four banks in solidarity with grand jury resisters in the Pacific Northwest. Read more
Alanis: Now it’s time for a piece of the CrimethInc Contradictionary. This episode is brought to you by: Monument and Propaganda.
For more explorations of the war in every word, check out crimethinc.com/books/contradictionary.
FEATURE: HAYMARKET AND THE HISTORY OF MAYDAY
Alanis: So – Happy Mayday Clara!
Clara: Happy Mayday to you, Alanis!
Alanis: If you’re listening to this episode after May first, chances are when you look at the news from today you’ll see stories of demonstrations around the world.
Clara: Why is that?
Alanis: Why indeed! How did May first become an international day of struggle and resistance? Turns out there’s a fascinating anarchist history to this global worker’s holiday.
Clara: And that’s the topic of this episode’s main feature: Haymarket and the history of Mayday. Let’s get to it.
Tom Balanoff reading Adolph Fischer: “If you think that by hanging us you can stamp out the labor movement—the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil to live in want and misery, the wage slaves—if that is your opinion, then hang us! Here you tread upon a spark, but there, and there, and in front of you, and behind you, and everywhere, flames will blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. And you cannot put it out.”
James Green: You know, the Haymarket trial was a show trial. The hangings were an indication of what would happen to you if you said the things the anarchists said and if you opposed the state and the police.
Timothy Messer-Kruse: They were revolutionaries. They were violent revolutionaries, protesting what was an intolerable social situation, and they need to be recognized for that, they need to be recognized on their own terms.
Alanis: The First of May has been celebrated around the world as a worker’s holiday by left and radical movements for over a hundred years. To understand its origins, we need to look back at late 19th century Chicago, where a vibrant anarchist movement fought against capitalism and the state. In 1886, at a demonstration against police brutality and in support of the eight hour work day, an unknown person threw a bomb, killing or injuring several police and strikers. Eight anarchists were arrested and convicted in a highly politicized trial, and four were executed. The international outcry around the case helped to popularize May First a day of worker’s resistance. In this feature, we’ll examine the Haymarket bombing, the trials, and their legacy.
Our story begins at the end of the American Civil War, which ushered in a period of explosive industrial growth, mass immigration, and increased labor organizing in major US cities, particularly in Chicago. In 1866, the Windy City was the end point of every eastern railroad line; the city was a major hub of meat packing, steel mills, and stockyards. Its population doubled in the 1860s, with most of the new residents arriving from Germany, Poland, Bohemia, and other nations. Professor James Green explains:
James Green: Well, Chicago was the workshop of the world, the wonder of the Second Industrial Revolution. It was also an immigrant city. A majority of the workers there were born in Europe.
Alanis: In 1873 the US plunged into an economic depression. Mass unemployment in Chicago led to demonstrations that were met with violent police repression. In the summer of 1877, a West Virginia railroad strike spread across the country. In Chicago tens of thousands of protesters shut down the railroads; the strike was quelled only after days of fighting during which federal troops killed dozens of strikers. Though the strike failed, the class conflict it exposed led to renewed labor organizing and increased membership for socialist and anarchist groups. In response to anti-labor violence, German workers in Chicago had formed a workers militia in 1875. Membership surged after the 1877 strike, with 500 members of many nationalities participating by 1879.
These anarchist immigrants maintained close ties with radical currents in their homelands. Professor Timothy Messer-Kruse discusses these international connections:
Timothy Messer-Kruse: The anarchists in Chicago considered themselves not immigrants in the sense of individuals who have moved permanently from Germany or Switzerland or England to America, but really thought of themselves as sojourners; they were part of a community that was really very fluid between both central Europe and America.
Alanis: In 1880, dissidents from a New York socialist group formed the Social Revolutionary Club, an anarchist labor organization with chapters in several cities, attracting largely immigrant workers. Anarchists at an 1883 congress in Pittsburgh formed the International Working People’s Association (IWPA). One faction within the congress, exemplified by Johann Most, advocated for propaganda by the deed, individual acts of violence that would pave the way to an anarchist society. Another, including future Haymarket arrestees Albert Parsons and August Spies, advocated what became known as “the Chicago Idea”, an anarcho-syndicalist vision that accepted the value of force but focused on trade union agitation. Rooted in this model, the IWPA grew rapidly and became a powerful force in Chicago’s trade union movement, with thousands of members, five newspapers in several languages, and a clear leadership role in the movement for the eight hour work day.
This movement had grown nationally, supported tentatively by the moderate Knights of Labor and enthusiastically by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions. The latter group approved a resolution urging all member unions to support May 1st, 1886 as a national day of strikes and actions to demand the eight hour day. In Chicago, with a labor movement strongly influenced by anarchists who advocated direct action, the stage was set for confrontation. Tensions escalated when in 1885 a streetcar drivers strike was violently repressed by police. The city seethed with class hatred, and in the spring of 1886, with strikes in the metal-working and railroad industries flaring up, anarchists intensified their calls for action.
On May 1st, hundreds of thousands of workers across the country walked off their jobs. Major demonstrations took place in Milwaukee, Detroit, New York, and many other cities. In Baltimore and Louisville, the interracial character of the rallies broke previous boundaries dividing black and white workers. But the largest agitation occurred in Chicago, where some 90,000 marchers took to the streets, paralyzing the economy. Several industries immediately won an eight hour day, and others vowed to stay out until their demands were met. On the following days, the strike expanded in many cities; in Chicago, tensions remained high.
On May third, striking workers from the McCormick Harvester Works began scuffling with the scabs who had been hired to replace them. Nearby, anarchist publisher August Spies was addressing an assembly of striking lumber-shovers; as police arrived to repress the locked out workers at McCormick’s, Spies and the other workers hurried to show support. They were met with billy clubs and bullets, and as the crowd scattered, four workers were fatally injured by police. Spies returned to his print shop and produced an incendiary leaflet, calling workers to arms. The following day a call circulated for a mass protest that evening in Haymarket Square.
The night of May 4th, 1886 was rainy and overcast. Spies and Parsons delivered fiery speeches, while Chicago Mayor Harrison made himself visible, hoping to preserve order. An initial crowd of about 3,000 dwindled as the evening grew late. Deciding that there was no threat of violence, the mayor left, and the event seemed close to concluding.
Around 10:30, Samuel Fielden was lambasting the police murders from the cart serving as a podium: “The law is framed for your enslavers!…Throttle it, kill it, do everything you can to impede its process. War has been declared on us, people have been shot! Defend yourselves!”
Meanwhile, about 180 police arrived and began surrounding the remaining crowd. As the police captain ordered Fielden to disperse the crowd, someone on the east sidewalk threw a bomb, and an explosion burst through the police line. One policeman died immediately and at least twenty-two were injured by the bomb, five of whom later died of their wounds. Shooting broke out; and while debates rage about whether members of the crowd as well as police fired and who fired first, dozens of demonstrators were injured, three of whom died, and other police were shot as well.
James Green: Nothing like this had ever happened before in peacetime America. There had been horrible losses of life in battlefields, but in the middle of a city—there had been many riots, many demonstrations, many citizens had died, but never any police. So this was a shocking event, and it also sort of triggered off all the fears that many Americans had, people born here, of this massive number of immigrants who lived around them. A majority of the people in Chicago were foreign-born, so there was great deal of anxiety about that, and this attack on the police by what was assumed to be an anarchist, or today would be called a terrorist, really set off a kind of anxiety that the United States had not experienced before, and nation’s first red scare.
Alanis: In retaliation, the police unleashed an eight week wave of repression, ransacking homes and offices, intimidating and beating suspected radicals, and using bribes and threats to recruit informants. After hundreds were arrested and thirty-one indicted, eight anarchists perceived as leaders in the labor movement were charged with conspiracy to commit murder. August Spies, publisher of the German anarchist newspaper Arbeiter-Zeitung; Albert Parsons, a recognized labor leader and editor of the anarchist journal The Alarm; and Samuel Fielden, a teamster, were targeted for having spoken at the rally on May 4th. Five others were implicated for planning attacks on police: Michael Schwab and Adolph Fischer, workers at the Arbeiter-Zeitung and Oscar Neebe, who directed the company that published it; as well as George Engel, a toy merchant, and Louis Lingg, a carpenter. Five were German immigrants, most were IWPA members, and all had participated in anarchist agitation and the movement for the eight hour day.
In this climate of repression, accompanied by vicious attacks on anarchists and immigrants in the mainstream press, the trial began on June 21, 1886. Most historians since have regarded it as an unprecedented miscarriage of justice, with a prejudiced judge and an openly biased jury. However, Timothy Messer-Kruse argues that the traditional historical interpretations of the trial overemphasize its supposed injustice, especially in regards to the controversial jury selection process, and that it was not notably unfair by the standards of the day. None of the defendants were accused of throwing the bomb, but of preparing for and inciting violence. They were tried all together, prevented from mounting individual defenses. Prosecutors presented evidence that Lingg had built bombs himself that matched the type thrown at the Haymarket and that the defendants had knowledge of plans to use them.
In the media spectacle surrounding the trial, the politics of the defendants remained in focus, and not all them shared a united strategy about how to connect their criminal defense to their advocacy of anarchism. For instance, with Louis Lingg,
Timothy Messer-Kruse: His radicalism was so deep and so thorough and so consistent that it was pretty clear that he didn’t want to plead innocent in this trial; he did not want to pretend that he was some kind of a pacifist social democrat, misunderstood. He really wanted to go forward and just defy authority, to the very end he wanted to throw back in the faces of the judge and the jury the fact that he was a revolutionary.
Alanis: Prosecuting attorney Julius Grinnell concluded his case, “Anarchy is on trial… convict these men, make examples of them, hang them and you save our institutions, our society.” On August 19th the jury returned a guilty verdict, condemning seven of the anarchists to death and giving Neebe fifteen years in prison.
At the sentencing hearing, the eight anarchists made impassioned speeches, some speaking for hours on end, capitalizing on the trial’s publicity to make their case for their political beliefs. Adolph Fischer proclaimed:
Tom Balanoff reading Adolph Fischer“I protest against my being sentenced to death, because I have committed no crime. I was tried here in this room for murder, and I was convicted of Anarchy. I protest against being sentenced to death, because I have not been found guilty of murder. However, if I am to die on account of being an Anarchist, on account of my love for liberty, fraternity and equality, I will not remonstrate.”
Alanis: After the verdict, supporters organized an amnesty campaign that mustered enormous support, despite the hostility of the media and business classes. From as far away as Australia and Japan, sympathizers sent donations, while labor groups, intellectuals, and even politicians rallied to the cause of the imprisoned anarchists. Karl Marx’s daughter Eleanor toured the US giving speeches supporting them, while Oscar Wilde signed a petition circulated by George Bernard Shaw. But pressure from industrialists and the anti-labor media proved conclusive; although Illinois Governor Oglesby commuted the sentences of Fielden and Schwab to life in prison, he refused to do so for the remaining prisoners.
On November 11th 1887, four of the condemned were lead to the gallows. The fifth, Louis Lingg, had killed himself in his cell the day before. Engel, Fischer, Parsons, and Spies defended their beliefs passionately before dying.
James Green: But something happened in the Cook County Jail which was quite extraordinary, was that the anarchists on the gallows seemed to be choreographing their own death scene, and they gave these speeches, which in some ways sound like they could come from a Shakespeare play or something like that.
Alanis: Two days later half a million people marched in the funeral procession along Milwaukee Avenue, decorated with numerous black flags flying from immigrant homes. Their families were prohibited from burying them within the city, so their graves were erected in the Waldheim Cemetery in nearby Forest Park, Illinois.
Immediately after their deaths, conflicts began over how the executed anarchists would be remembered. In 1889, the city of Chicago erected a memorial statue commemorating the police killed in Haymarket Square. Over the years the statue was vandalized, knocked off its base by a disgruntled streetcar driver, and moved several times. Prior to the “Days of Rage” protests In October 1969, a newly formed militant group known as the Weathermen blew up the police statue. The city paid to have it rebuilt, unveiling it the following May, only to have the Weathermen again blow it up five months later. It was rebuilt again, but moved in 1972, and since 1976 sat out of public view in the courtyard of the police academy, until being restored and moved back to the police headquarters in 2007.
The Pioneer Aid and Support Society, founded by Lucy Parsons to support the families of the executed anarchists, erected a monument at their graves at Waldheim Cemetery in 1893, inscribed with the last words of August Spies: “The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today.” It remains a site of pilgrimage and yearly demonstrations for radicals.
In an attempt to balance these different commemorations, another statue was erected in Haymarket Square in 2004, depicting a wagon surrounded by abstract figures; according to the city government, the square is a “powerful symbol for a diverse cross-section of people, ideals and movements.”
This conflict over memory extended beyond monuments to historical narratives. In 1893, Governor John Peter Altgeld pardoned Fielden, Schwab, and Neebe, criticizing the judge and acknowledging that the men had not been proven guilty. His condemnation of the trial set the tone for its subsequent reputation as a grave miscarriage of justice.
Supporters and chroniclers framed them as martyrs for free speech, victims of an anti-anarchist hysteria that convicted them for their beliefs rather than for a crime. However, many of the anarchists were unapologetic about their advocacy of force. The shift in rhetoric after the verdict reflected the tension between the practical necessity of seeking broader support and the compromises that diluted their revolutionary message.
Timothy Messer-Kruse: Up until the moment the Haymarket bomb exploded, the radical anarchists of Chicago… saw their mission as fostering a workers insurrection, an uprising on the pattern of the Paris Commune. They worshipped violence, they talked about violence as the only method that could transform what was a terribly oppressive society. The minute that there was eight of their colleague on trial for their lives… suddenly the violent insurrectionary rhetoric was left aside, and they became social-democratic. And they kept being softened and liberalized until the point I would say in the 1960s, they could be embraced by those who were nonviolent social reformers.
Alanis: The most lasting legacy of the Haymarket affair is Mayday. In support of the eight hour day and in memory of the Haymarket martyrs, as they became known, May first was adopted as a worldwide labor holiday at the Second International in Paris in July 1889. Two years earlier, US President Grover Cleveland, fearing labor unrest if May Day was recognized, had supported a proposal by the moderate Knights of Labor to establish a Labor Day holiday in early September; it was adopted federally in 1894. To this day, the US remains one of the only nations with a Labor holiday not celebrated on May 1st. In 1921 anti-communist groups concerned about the Russian revolution promoted May first as “Americanization Day”, later becoming “Loyalty Day” and “Law Day”. Nonetheless, radicals and labor groups continued to use the date to remember the executed anarchists and to celebrate workers, immigrants, and social movements.
Anarchists around the world drew inspiration from the Haymarket affair. Mayday rallies in European cities soon outpaced those in the US, with half a million gathering in London in 1892. In Latin America, Mayday demonstrations first began in Cuba, where in 1890 the Circulo de Trabajadores organized a mass protest in Havana. By 1891 workers in Brazil and Australia were marching on May 1st. By 1913 it spread to Mexico, Costa Rica, and Ecuador. The first Mayday demonstrations in China and Japan took place in 1920. Chinese anarchist Ba Jin wrote about the Haymarket case to inspire anti-authoritarians in the region in the 1920s and 30s. In the Soviet Union, Mayday became a state-sponsored holiday, celebrating the ruling Communist party; in 1933, Hitler attempted to appropriate Mayday for the new Nazi regime.
In the US, yearly commemorations continued, led in the early twentieth century by the Industrial Workers of the World, but over time they lost the militancy asserted by the Haymarket anarchists.
Timothy Messer-Kruse: They’ve been incorporated into our American national mythos, to the point where trade unions, business unions in Chicago will be the ones who commemorate every May 1st their memory, even though had those same union leaders been around in 1886, they would have been the sworn enemies of the very martyrs that they are celebrating.
Alanis; On Mayday in 1971, anti-Vietnam War protestors kicked off several days of mass demonstrations and civil disobedience in Washington DC, resulting in over 12,000 arrests, the largest number in US history.
In Germany in 1987, after the traditional Mayday labor rally, a street party in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of Berlin developed into a riot, with hundreds from the radical left and autonomous movement building barricades, burning cars and looting shops. To this day, May First, and Walpurgis Night, May Day’s Eve, remain occasions of yearly rebellion in Berlin and throughout Germany.
In 2006, immigrant groups in the US proclaimed May 1st as The Great American Boycott; millions of undocumented migrants and their supporters walked out of school or work and mobilized in solidarity demonstrations, with complementary rallies taking place in Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Today, Mayday continues to stimulate resistance around the world. Last year, anarchists joined with the remnants of the Occupy movement in numerous actions, including powerful black blocs in Seattle and Oakland. Police departments and the FBI have also used Mayday to justify new repressive measures, including the entrapment of four Occupy Cleveland activists in a state-generated “bomb plot” and the federal grand jury targeting anarchists in the Pacific Northwest.
In the words of Albert Parsons, “This Haymarket affair has exposed to public view the hideous enormities of capitalism and the barbarous despotism of government.” As long as these struggles continue, Mayday will remain a flash point of revolt.
To learn more about Haymarket and the history of Mayday, visit our website, crimethinc.com/podcast, where you’ll find our reading list, links to online resources, and more.
Clara: And now it’s time for the Mugshot. In each episode, the Ex-Worker will profile a current anarchist project to give you a sense of what anarchists are up to, and how these ideals play out in the world today. One of the people who fought to keep the memory of the Haymarket anarchists alive was Lucy Parsons; in Boston, Massachusetts, there’s an anarchist bookstore and community center that bears her name. Let’s take a closer look.
Alanis: I first visited the Lucy Parsons Center in 2003, in its old location on Columbus Avenue in Boston. I remember an extensive rack of zines and periodicals, an eclectic selection of hard to find anarchist books, and a relaxed, informal atmosphere. Today the Center has moved across town to Jamaica Plain, but continues to provide the Boston area with a space for radicals to learn, connect, and revolt.
The Ex-Worker spoke with Grey Fox, a newer collective member, about his experience getting involved and about how the Center has changed over the years.
Grey Fox: The Lucy Parsons Center was something I’d heard about, from living in the Boston community for a couple of years, and one day I was walking through the neighborhood and I just happened to come upon it. I was personally at the time not very radicalized in the way I thought, and I just felt a need to learn more; and I felt that at the Lucy Parsons Center surrounded by all these books that certainly I would not be able to find anywhere else: this would be the place where I would sort of start my reeducation.
Alanis: The Lucy Parsons Center isn’t just a book store; it’s an info shop, a term that emerged during the 1980s and 90s to describe a storefront or community center serving as a nexus for the distribution of anarchist ideas and a drop-in and meeting space for radical groups. It’s one of a couple dozen info shops in North America today, and builds on a long history of radical reading rooms and small bookstores linked to social movements since the late nineteenth century. In the age of the internet, it’s a struggle for these info shops to survive, but the Lucy Parsons Center has been chugging along for over forty years, and it isn’t stopping any time soon.
The store was founded around 1969, originally known as the Red Book Store, and its politics evolved over the years from the New Left context from which it first emerged.
Grey Fox: There was a lot of Maoist collective members come late sixties, early seventies. By the mid-eighties it was largely a feminist collective; starting in the early 90s there was a growing anarchist involvement in the Lucy Parsons Center.
Alanis: While the political focus has shifted depending on the participants, it has maintained openness to a wide variety of radical ideas in its inventory and events. In 1992, the store incorporated as a non-profit and renamed itself the Lucy Parsons Center, to commemorate the renowned anarchist labor activist, co-founder of the Industrial Workers of the World, and widow of Haymarket anarchist Albert Parsons.
Grey Fox: She’s an inspirational figure to all of us. She’s a person, an organizer and activist, that I look up to, that in my own way I aspire to be: for her courage and her tenacity, and just for that fact that she was in the struggle until the day she died.
Alanis: Today, a collective of 30 to 35 volunteers participates in running the Center, with a core group of about 15 most involved. There are no paid staff, and all decisions are made by consensus at bimonthly meetings. The collective includes many anarchists, though not exclusively; the center hosts monthly potlucks for the anarchist community to network; maintains a large section of anarchist books and periodicals, and tables at the Boston anarchist book fair. Other events at the Center today range from art exhibits and acoustic jams to a weekly radical movie night, as well as presentations about struggles from around the world.
In the future, Grey hopes to see the Lucy Parsons Center not just survive but thrive, hosting more events and engaging a wider range of people. Even in internet age, he thinks the Center has a valuable role to play as a source for information and especially as a physical space to connect:
Grey Fox: Just being a general safe space for events, for people to come, to talk, to discuss; that’s still very part of what the Lucy Parsons Center is, and that’s a tradition, I would say, that goes back to the original founding.
Alanis: Ultimately, the value of infoshops like the Lucy Parsons Center lies in the radical ideas that flourish there, in their capacity to transform what we believe is possible in our lives and in our society.
Gray Fox: When I think back to the way I thought, the things I was sort of indoctrinated with as far as my place in society, what my options were for going through life in this culture, before Lucy Parsons Center and then after being a member there for eight months now, the way I think and the way I see… I feel very blessed that a place like this exists, and I hope that it’s around for future people to become radicalized and to learn and to meet and to discuss; and to question, to always question. Yeah, I hope it lives on, for sure.
THE CHOPPING BLOCK
Alanis: And now it’s time for the Chopping Block. In each episode of the Ex-Worker we’re going to take a look at a recent anarchist publication to summarize it and tell you what we think. Today we’re focusing on the second and most recent issue of the journal Modern Slavery: The Libertarian Critique of Civilization, published this winter by C.A.L. Press. Modern Slavery is a project of Jason McQuinn, longtime editor of Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed and the Alternative Press Review, along with co-editor Paul Z. Simons. The inaugural issue, released mid last year, declared, “Modern Slavery is a meeting space for all those interested in moving on beyond the dead-ends of ideology and postmodern fashions… for those who think and act for themselves and want to encourage others to do so here and now and always.” It included several pieces on anarchist individualism, reflections on John Brown and abolitionism, classic texts from Voltarine de Cleyre and Henry David Thoreau, short fiction, and more.
The second issue picks up where the first left off, advancing slavery as an apt paradigm for understanding modern life. McQuinn opens with an editorial critiquing ideological thinking, and briefly laments the lack of anarchist print publications. Joseph Winogrond contributes a lengthy historical analysis of the European origins of slavery, while a playful interview with author Ron Sakolsky rambles through topics from surrealism to the politics of academia. Shorter features include a discussion of a French theater group called the Grand Guignol, an exploration of the Situationists and the thought of Raoul Vaneigem, and the first chapter of a dystopian anarchist novel. This issue also contains new sections from longer serialized works begun in the first issue, including the second chapter of “The Old World is Behind You” by Karen Goaman, exploring 1990s anarchist currents in the UK, as well as “The Greatness of My Hostility”, Wolfi Landstreicher’s reflections on alienation, civilization and social war. A review titled “Anarchy on the Market?” weighs individualist critiques of the economy, followed by a few shorter book and periodical reviews.
At a solid 200 pages, Modern Slavery proves a hefty read, and you’re certain to find something interesting and something with which you’ll disagree. The quality of the writing varies, and the tone zigzags dramatically, from rambly, blog-like informality to dense history to rather snide criticism. Politically, the journal is rooted in passionate and uncompromising individualism, strongly critical of civilization without being green in focus, and interested in the radical possibilities of history, art and culture. At moments McQuinn veers towards the reactionary in his critiques of identity politics; for instance, reducing gender, sexuality, and race to “sacred fetishes” of ideological thinking, and characterizing the politics of the Canadian journal he reviews as “racist” for centering decolonization theory around indigenous people’s lives and experiences. However, there’s plenty of insightful material in this uneven but intellectually engaging journal.
Though we don’t share McQuinn’s despair about the anarchist print milieu, given the flourishing of post-DIY zine culture and proliferation of independent book-binding, another print magazine that seriously engages with anarchist ideas is a welcome addition.
Read more about the Modern Slavery journal at modernslavery.calpress.org.
NEXT WEEK’S NEWS
Alanis: And now to wrap up it’s time for Next Week’s News, our calendar of events that are coming up before our next episode.
Clara: On the second and third of May, the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC, will be holding their Spring Task Force Summit in Oklahoma City. Protestors are expected to challenge this shady entity, which is comprised of corporate representatives and the politicians in their pockets, and is responsible for writing some of the most repressive legislation in the US. You can learn more about these scumbags at alecexposed.org.
Alanis: On May 4th, the town of Cumberland on Victoria Island in Coast Salish territory in British Columbia will be hosting the first Comox Valley Anarchist Book Fair. Organizers describe the event as “a May Day feast of subversive ideas and creative resistance possibilities.” Check out comoxvalleyanarchistbookfair.wordpress.com for a schedule of workshops and information about the radical history of the area.
Clara: The Chapel Hill Prison Books Collective has issued a call for global noise demonstrations on Mother’s Day, May 12th, outside & inside prisons, jails, and detention centers everywhere that hold women captive. Of the 115,000 women incarcerated by the US criminal legal system, 85,000 are mothers. These demonstrations remember the radical roots of Mother’s Day as an anti-war holiday, and show solidarity with women who have been targeted by the prison industrial complex. If there’s a demonstration happening at a women’s facility near you, go to it; and if not, organize one yourself! You can learn more at prisonbooks.info.
Alanis: And speaking of prisons: also on May the 12th is Alvaro Luna Hernandez’s birthday. After many years as a freedom fighter active in prisoner solidarity and anti-racist struggles, he is now a political prisoner himself, incarcerated in Texas on a 50 year sentence for defending himself by disarming a cop who was threatening to kill him. Send him a letter to let him know he’s not forgotten. You can get more details on his case at freealvaro.net, and we’ve got his mailing address posted on our website, which as you know is crimethinc.com/podcast.
Clara: You know, Lucy Parsons, who we discussed earlier, was born into slavery in Texas in 1853. Now 160 years later, there are radical people of color in Texas who are still enslaved.
Alanis: And finally, the 9th Mountain Justice Summer Action Training Camp will take place May 19th–27th near Damascus, VA. Join Appalachia residents and supporters for a week of workshops, trainings, music, and direct action to stop Mountain Top Removal coal mining. For more information, check out mountainjustice.org.
Alanis: That wraps up this episode of the Ex-Worker. Thanks to everyone for listening! I’m Alanis-
Clara: and I’m Clara, and we’ll be back with our second episode on May 19th, when we’ll explore the anarchist critique of capitalism, plus news, events, reviews, and plenty more.
Alanis: This has been a production of the CrimethInc Ex-Workers Collective, the mouthpiece of the anarchist menace. We want to thank Timothy Messer-Kruse and also Grey Fox of the Lucy Parsons Center for speaking with us, and James Green for sharing his interviews with us.
Clara: Also many thanks to Underground Reverie, who provided us with the music you’ve heard in this episode. You can hear more at soundcloud.com/undergroundreverie.
Alanis: Don’t forget to check us out at crimethinc.com/podcast. This was our first episode, and we want to know what you think. If you’ve got any comments or feedback, or if you’ve got suggestions for future episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clara: Or better yet, turn off your computer, unplug your headphones, and never look back.
Alanis: Till next time- stay fierce and fight foul.
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
If you’d like to learn more about the Haymarket anarchists and the history of Mayday, start with the court speeches of the eight defendants. They provide fascinating insight into the politics and analysis of the anarchist movement at the time. Labor historian James Green’s Death in the Haymarket and anarchist historian Paul Avrich’s The Haymarket Tragedy provide detailed surveys of the the time period, events, and aftermath. In his books The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists and The Haymarket Conspiracy, Professor Timothy Messer-Kruse provides a detailed challenge to the widely held consensus that their conviction was a travesty of justice, arguing that the evidence actually documents a violent anarchist conspiracy and that the trial was not notably unfair by the standards of the day. Martin Duberman’s novel Haymarket dramatizes the events through the lens of Lucy and Albert Parsons’ relationship. A delightful array of sources from contemporary news accounts and cartoons to essays analyzing every angle of the case and its impact can be found in Franklin Rosemont and David Roediger’s Haymarket Scrapbook. Phillip Foner’s Mayday: A Short History traces the evolution of the holiday from its origins in the Haymarket affair.
Excerpts from a PBS documentary on the history of Chicago discussing the Haymarket events: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
Amy Goodman interviews Professor James Green on the history of Haymarket and Mayday today: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
A zine on Haymarket featuring Louis Adamic on class violence and the Workers Solidarity Movement celebrating Mayday, produced by prole.info: Haymarket
Mailing address for political prisoner Alvaro Luna Hernandez:
ALVARO LUNA HERNANDEZ
Rt. 2, Box 4400
Gatesville, TX 76597
Music for The Ex-Worker provided by Underground Reverie