The story of May Day

In this article originally published by the Socialist Workers Party (USA) Elizabeth Schulte tells the history of May Day, a socialist holiday founded to honor the Haymarket Martyrs and celebrate international workers’ solidarity.

“THERE WILL be a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.” Those were the last words of August Spies, one of four innocent men executed for an explosion at Chicago’s Haymarket Square in May 1886.

The real “crime” for which Spies and his comrades were condemned was being labor militants fighting for workers’ rights and the eight-hour day. The national strike for the eight-hour day that they organized was called for May 1, 1886–it was the first May Day.
Their struggle, and the struggle of thousands alongside them, convinced a generation of labor militants and radicals to devote their lives for the fight for workers’ rights and for socialism.

Still, although May Day was founded to honor a U.S. labor struggle, few workers in this country typically know its origin, because the history is largely untold. This has changed, however–since the mass immigrant workers’ May Day marches that began in 2006. [Read more…]

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Review: ‘Remains to be Seen: Tracing Joe Hills Ashes in New Zealand’ Jared Davidson, Rebel Press

When Swedish born union organiser and radical song writer Joe Hill was executed in the United States in 1916, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) sent packets of his ashes all over the world- to every state in the US (except Utah where he died), Asia, Europe, every country in South America, Australia and supposedly, New Zealand. But were his ashes actually sent here? And if they were, what happened to them? Why is there so little historical record of their fate?

These are the questions that Jared Davidson sets out to answer in Remains to be Seen. After extensive research drawing on archival material, much of it previously unpublished, he concluded that while there is no “concrete evidence” of Joe Hill’s ashes arriving in New Zealand – or even being sent here in the first place – it is highly likely they were. While the IWW in New Zealand was on the decline in the later half on the 1910s (a result of state repression) there were many members who were still agitating and maintaining contact with the US IWW.

Ashes did arrive in Australia (though they were destroyed by police soon afterward in a raid on the Sydney IWW offices). At the time Australia and New Zealand shared the same postal shipping route which went to Sydney via Auckland so if the ashes were indeed sent here, chances are they arrived. The mostly likely scenario is that they were intercepted and destroyed by state censors.
[Read more…]

Lessons of 1951: The waterfront lockout 60 years on (part two)

By Josh Glue, Workers Party Hamilton Branch

(Part 1)

The waterfront lockout of 1951 was one of the most important events in New Zealand labour history. For 151 days, the men who worked the waterfront and those who supported them fought back against the combined power of the ship-owners and the state, who were determined to force cutbacks upon them and destroy their union. Seen as an historical defeat by some, an inspiring fight-back by others, the waterfront lockout holds important lessons for those who struggle for workers rights today.
In this second of two articles about this pivotal moment in the history of the working class of this country, we will examine the way working people came together to oppose the emergency regulations and support the wharfies, the way the government attempted to crush this support, and the way the lockout ended. Most importantly, we will see the importance of these events for modern New Zealand, what we can learn today from the men and women who stood up for their rights in 1951.
[Read more…]

Lessons of 1951: The Waterfront Lockout 60 Years On

By Josh Glue, Workers Party Hamilton Branch

The waterfront lockout of 1951 was one of the most important events in New Zealand labour history. For 151 days the men who worked the waterfront and those who supported them fought back against the combined power of the ship-owners and the state, determined to force cutbacks upon them and destroy their union. Seen as an historical defeat by some, an inspiring fight-back by others, the waterfront lockout holds important lessons to those who struggle for workers rights today.

In this first of two articles about this pivotal moment in the history of the working class of this country, we will look at the history of the Waterfront Workers Union and the events that led up to the lockout. In the second article, to be published in the April issue of The Spark Magazine, we will examine the way the lockout ended, the repercussions of that conclusion then, and the relevance of these events for working New Zealanders today.
[Read more…]