Friday, April 25, 2008

May Day A-Comin'

Celebration of May Day is just around the corner. May Day has been celebrated as one of the eight turning points of the Celtic / old European pagan calendar. It is also a day to honor workers, martyrs
and the eight hour day.

Let's start there:

In 1884, The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions passed a resolution stating that eight hours would constitute a legal day's work from and after May 1, 1886. The resolution called for a general strike to achieve the goal, since legislative methods had already failed. With workers being forced to work ten, twelve, and fourteen hours a day, rank-and-file support for the eight-hour movement grew rapidly, despite the indifference and hostility of many union leaders. By April 1886, 250,000 workers were involved in the May Day movement.

At the center of the struggle, was the Chicago anarchist group called the International Working People's Association. As the strike was popular among rank and file workers, the state showed their fear of the people's power by buying new weapons for an increased police and national guard force, including a $2000 machine gun, to be used against the strikers. On May 3rd, 1886, the Chicago police opened fire on the crowd at the McCormick Reaper Works Factory, killing four and wounding many. Anarchists called for a mass meeting the next day in Haymarket Square to protest the brutality. That's right, Haymarket Square.

The meeting proceeded without incident, but as the last person was on the platform to speak, and the assembled started to break up, nearly 200 police marched into the square and ordered the meeting to disperse. As the speakers climbed down from the platform, a bomb was thrown at the police, killing one and injuring seventy. Police responded by firing into the crowd, killing one worker and injuring many others.

It was never determined who threw the bomb. The rest is a history that repeats itself to this day. Using the bombing as an excuse, police ransacked the homes and offices of suspected radicals, and hundreds were arrested without charge. Anarchists in particular were harassed, and eight of Chicago's most active were charged with conspiracy to murder in connection with the Haymarket bombing. A kangaroo court found all eight guilty, despite a lack of evidence connecting any of them to the bomb-thrower. In fact, the only one of the eight to actually be seen at the meeting was the man who was speaking at the time of the bombing. All eight men were sentenced to die.

Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolf Fischer, and George Engel were hanged on November 11, 1887. Louis Lingg committed suicide in prison. The remaining three were finally pardoned in 1893.

The Haymarket Martyrs served to galvanize the anarchist movement. Emma Goldman, remarked that the Haymarket affair fostered her political birth. Lucy Parsons was the widow of Albert Parsons. She called upon the poor to direct their anger toward those responsible for the murders of the organizers. The responsible being business associations who funded the increased police. Instead of disappearing, the anarchist movement only grew in the wake of Haymarket, spawning other radical movements and organizations, including the Industrial Workers of the World.

Although May Day observance began in the United States, it is not officially nor popularly recognized as a holiday here. Indeed, in 1958 Congress declared May 1st as Loyalty Day, in a direct attempt to bury its radical roots during the cold war.

Right—we'll get back to political movements in a moment, but now let's go to the European Pagan celebrations of the day.

May Day marks the turning point of the year when the God who was born on Solstice and grown by spring equinox, now consummates the eternally cyclical courtship between Goddess and God, Lady and her sacred Consort.

As above, so below! And so it goes that as the sacred union of the Goddess and God happens, the people celebrated by dancing the May Pole, which in itself is overtly sexual, and end the night with bon fires and pairing off to go and make love in the fields. This act connected the people of the land with the land itself. Also, it connected them with the gods, knowing that they were a part of the sacred cycle of the year, and the connections made the world whole.

So much has been stripped out of our history, of our collective consciousness. What does mainstream America know of either of these rich traditions? We are a sanitized and domesticated people. We have been colonized—our minds have been colonized, and we have lost history. In the eye of the storm, we find ourselves working well past an 8 hour day, and most people think of anarchists as bomb throwing black clad nihilists.

Unlike our ancestors in the fields, we are taught that we are completely separate from the world around us. While it is reluctantly conceded that we do live on the earth, we certainly don't see ourselves as a part of the earth and her cycles. Mainstream US society does not encourage, nor really allow, people to interweave our lives with one another. We are disconnected from most of our needs, and are reduced to consumers.

So do something revolutionary for May Day this year. Remember our past as we create our future. Commit the revolutionary act of seeing
yourself as part of the whole. Know that your life is important, and
that what you do matters! Break habits of alienation. Actively do
something to connect with some one, or some place. Empower yourself to find sustainable ways to meet your needs. Let's take food for an example—we all need it.

In the old model: All food is local, produced by the village. We are connected to the sowing, growth and harvest of the food that we will eat. If we don't farm ourselves, our neighbors do, and we interact with them daily.

In the new model: Food is grown elsewhere. We work to gain cash to buy food products cheaply from MegaMart. This food may bear little resemblance to anything that came from a farm--- Blazin' Buffalo Wing Cool Ranch Dorritos, anyone? Yow! Not only do we not see where are food comes from, we live in a state of deliberate denial about how it is produced. We don't want to know about factory farming, or the death sprayed everywhere to control so called pests, or the exploitation of the laborers that actually work to grow the food, and the workers that process it. Our main connection to our food is found through the labyrinthine parking lots and long lines of the hyper stimulating megamart. Our prayers are now focused on making it out of the store quickly, and that we have enough money to cover the bill.

Don't you think it's time we stop this?

May Day is next week, good people. It is a day of power; a day of putting a whole lot of conscious intent into manifesting what we need. It is time to sow our seeds.

What is our vision for the new world that we want to bring into being? Arundahti Roy says that the other world is just around the corner, and that in quiet moments, we can hear it breathing. Let's take a moment to listen to it right now-- listen to your hearts. What does our new world look like? Tell us! Don't keep your visions to yourselves! Share them, and let's bring this new world into being.

Time to transition ourselves and our world. Let us create together.