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Search author name words: Albert Parsons

Albert Parsons in the 1870s
north america / mexico / history of anarchism / opinion / analysis Wednesday May 01, 2019 21:38 by Albert Parsons   image 2 images
As a tribute to one of the most remarkable agitators in labour history, we publish on May Day the autobiography of Albert Parsons. He was one of the five Chicago Anarchists who were tried in 1886-1887 and executed in November 1887 for their role as 8-hour working-day agitators and as anarchist militants. This mock-trial in 'the land of liberty' is one of the most shameful events in the history of labour in the whole world, and gave rise to May Day commemorations all over the world -the day was picked, because the repression which ended up in the 'legal lynching' of the Chicago Martyrs started after the general strike for the 8 hours working-day in May 1st 1886. This day is commemorated all over the world in memory of the Chicago Martyrs -unsurprisingly, one of the few countries which does not commemorate May Day is the land where this barbaric crime took place -the United States. They invented their own 'Labour Day' in September, with the purpose of severing the working class in the US from its radical tradition, and to devoid of meaning the conquest of the 8 hour working-day, a product of struggle and enormous sacrifice, not a gift from the capitalists. The life of Albert Parsons is instructive of the trajectory of many working class agitators in the US in the 19th century, a period of remarkable radicalism which was crushed with unspeakable ruthlessness and repression. His life story goes from fighting in the Confederate States Army during the US Civil War as a 13 year old, to republican and civil rights' agitator, advocate of the emancipation of the slaves, then trade unionist, socialist and anarchist. He was married to Lucy Parsons, a mixed race woman herself born a slave, who would become a prominent socialist and anarchist, and who was a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World, IWW, in 1905. A remarkable organiser and orator, he was the soul of the most progressive and active workers' movement in the USA at the time: in Chicago. Parsons was the only US citizen of 'pure stock' among the Chicago Martyrs (his ancestry going back all the way to one of the pilgrims in the Mayflower in 1632) -all his comrades being German. The immigrant nature of these anarchists was the cause for a racist and xenophobic uproar that no doubt was crucial to justify their barbaric execution -these racist, xenophobic tendencies are still alive and healthy in the USA, as we can see from the current state of affairs in the country. This is why, being not only a remarkable speaker, but also a well-self-educated man (at a time when the workers' movement still placed much emphasis on the self-education of the workers), he chose to strike a chord with public opinion and counter arguments that socialism and anarchism were 'foreign' and 'alien' ideas, by appealing to texts such as the US Declaration of Independence and opinions of Thomas Jefferson, while also appealing to the conservative and religious frame of mind prevalent, ended up by quoting the Bible. Of course, nothing would save him from the fury of the capitalists' class hatred, but this autobiography is a masterpiece of engaging with the prevalent environment at the time from a radical perspective, of showing in a sober manner his process of radicalisation and the logic behind it, and also, a staunch defence of the anarchist principles by which he lived and which he did not betrayed when confronted to the gallows. Our best tribute to this titanic figure is to resist the current onslaught of the global capitalists against hard-won workers' rights, while to keep faithful to the cause of a free and just world. José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
1st May, 2019
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