123 years ago, on 4. May 1886, Chicago police opened fire on a rally supporting striking workers after a pipe bomb had been thrown at police lines by a never identified individual . In the aftermath of the Haymarket massacre, the state launched a campaign of terror against the movement for the 8-hour work day. Hundreds of labour activists were rounded up and tortured, those wounded in the massacre did not seek treatment for fear of arrest and eight of Chicago’s most active anarchists, who just days earlier helped organise a general strike for the 8-hour work day, were arrested and charged with the bombing. Although nobody even accused them of throwing the bomb, the subsequent show trial, accompanied by a hyterical media campaign against anarchists, ended with 4 innocent people being hanged. It is their memory and the struggle for the 8-hour work day that the international worker’s movement celebrates on May Day.
That state violence isn’t just a thing of the past was brought home to Britain’s TV viewers during the G20 protests. Through the media, the police had suitably prepared the ground, demonising demonstrators, telling the more faint of heart “we’re up to it and we’re up for it”. On the day itself, the state mostly got the set-piece ritual it wanted – images of cartoon villains smashing RBS, protesters kettled in and reduced to urinating on the pavement, dozens were batonned on the head, the climate camp was violently broken up. However when footage surfaced of Ian Tomlinson being assaulted from behind by a TSG cop and dying, their lies started to fall apart – Tomlinson did not die of a heart attack, instead of protesters thowing masses of bottles at police medics, cops chased protesters trying to give first aid. Yet even if the cop who caused Ian Tomlinson’s death is reprimanded to keep up the ‘one rotten apple’ story, one thing is clear – the police bosses who prepared the media for police violence and who train the thugs of the TSG will never be accountable.
Brighton’s anti-war activists have also been assaulted by cops, smeared in the media, and dragged into court. Their crime? Harassing capital, i.e. campaigning to shut down the local arms factory that makes bomb release mechanisms, most recently used in the Gaza massacre. There is another tradition here – the arms factory is owned by ITT, infamous for giving money to the Nazis and building bombers for the Luftwaffe, and who helped bring the murderous dictatorship of Pinochet to power in Chile. So we have a situation where ITT profits from British workers producing weapons to be used by Israeli workers to kill Palestinian workers – and those trying to put an end to this obscenity face the batons of cops, the wigs of judges and prosecutors, and the gates of prison.
Global capitalism is in crisis. The cost will be borne by the international working class who is looking at further impoverishment, long-term unemployment, and more exploitative working conditions. Yet ordinary people are fighting back – the sacked Visteon workers in Enfield and Belfast occupied their factory, parents in Glasgow and Lewisham occupy their children’s schools to stop closure, Greek youth fought a police murder and economic crisis, while a wave of ‘boss-nappings’ is sweeping France.
In the tradition of the Haymarket workers we continue the struggle to overcome this absurd system that makes human beings into mere human resources serving the needs of capitalism, and replace it with a new society that will free us by making the system serve humanity’s needs. Of course those who make themselves obstacles to capitalism’s blind drive for profitability will be met with repression at all levels – by the police, by the judicial system, by the media. So we need to fight – against their violence we need collective direct action by ordinary people, against their racism and fear-mongering we promote internationalism, against impoverishment we need to organise mutual aid and concrete support, and against their attempts to isolate our struggles by making them into a media circus, we need to build solidarity between different struggles, be they striking workers, parents occupying their children’s school or those taking action against war and militarism.