In 1887 four Chicago anarchists were executed. A fifth cheated the hangman by killing himself in prison. Three more were to spend 6 years in prison until pardoned by Governor Altgeld who said the trial that convicted them was characterised by "hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge". The state had, in the words of the prosecution put "Anarchy .. on trial" and hoped their deaths would also be the death of the anarchist idea.
Compared to many other European countries May Day demonstrations have always been small in Ireland, even in the 1980's when the Stalinist left was much more influential and the unions were much more powerful. By the mid-1990's, with the old left in complete disarray and the union bureaucrats more focussed on partnership with the state and the bosses rather than workers' rights, May Day had become a fairly underwhelming event.
So, given this dismal tradition why were the explicitly libertarian May Day events in 2004, comparatively speaking, such a success? Of course there was the impetus of a major European Union summit but to understand why anarchists were in a position to organise big May Day events calls for a brief examination of the development of libertarian ideas and practices in Ireland over the past few years.
A few thousand took part in the annual mayday parade in Sydney this year with organisers claiming it was the largest in years. This years event theme was a 'a proud past, a fighting future' which certainly matched the range of trade union banners on display and political groups of all shades including the James Connolly Society involving recent Irish migrants.
Around 2000 people took part in the Mayday march in Belfast on Sat 4th May. The WSM were on the march and our photographer prepared the photo slideshow below, you will find more photos from Belfast Mayday in our Facebook album
Mayday in Dublin save a collection of historic trade union banners and the Fintan Lalor pipe band lead over 1,000 people from the Garden of Remembrance to Liberty Hall. The march is organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions (DCTU) and featured ten banners created for the ITGWU by the artist Jer O’Leary with images of militant syndicalist trade union leaders Jim Larkin and James Connolly and scenes from the 1913 Lockout.
The WSM are calling for people to march with us on an anti-authoritarian block for this year’s May Day march which is happening on the day itself, Tuesday 1st May, assembling in Parnell Square from 18.30hrs.
The Dublin Council of Trade Unions are the organisers of this event, and this year the theme is the anti-household tax, which has seen the start of a movement against the presiding wisdom of the 1% and the government for stringent austerity. People have seized onto the idea that it is not alright for us to continue to pick up the tab for the bosses, the developers, the banks, and the rich.
This Sunday, the international celebration of the working class was marked in Cork with the now-traditional May Day march organised by the Independent Workers Union. Cork WSM also marked the occasion by hosting a pair of talks after the march on May Day-related topics at Solidarity Books on Douglas Street. As a finale to the day's festivities, a fundraising cabaret was held for the union and the bookshop that night at the Spailpín Fánach on South Main Street.
The struggle against capitalism and authority is constant but each year on May Day the labour movement takes time out to celebrate its history and achievements. Rather than dwell on the hardships of struggle we take to the streets and remember what it is we are aiming for - the emancipation of our class. Climbing a mountain means paying close attention to the ground you walk but it’s important to look up now and again in order to focus on exactly where it is you’re headed.
Cork WSM are mobilizing in support of the May Day March called by the Independent Workers Union.
Later in the day Solidarity Books on Douglas St celebrates Mayday with two talks and a free community meal!
The Belfast Mayday demonstration began at Writers Square. A pavilion had been set up in front of the imposing St. Anne's Cathedral and rows of stands and tables were being occupied by a number of organizations including the Services Industrial Professional Technical Union, the Socialist Party, the Worker's Party, Amnesty International, the Northern Ireland Public Services Union, the Irish Congress Trade Unions, the National Union of Rail Maritime and Transport Workers, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union*, the Eirigi party, the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the Alliance for Choice, the Union of Shop Distributors and Allied Workers, the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, United Teachers Union, the Irish National Teachers Association, the UNISON retirees union, the Trocaire campaign to feed the hungry, the We Won't Pay anti-water charges campaign, and the Anarchist Just Books Collective representing Organise!. Several food, coffee, and beer stands were also set up in the area in front of the pavilion and many families were in attendance. The minor writings of Marx and general Irish Trade Union activist literature dominated the tables as well as a strong presence of Trotsky and Engels; the Just Books table carried the anarchist torch alone, passing out copies of Organise!'s excellent publication, 'The Leveller'.