"I believe that the day is not far distant when the dreamers of the world will reap their reward" - Ernie Lane
The first reports of the Haymarket Affair to arrive in Australia appeared in the regular press on 6 and 7 May 1886 (1). On 10 May, an editorial appeared in the ADVERTISER (Adelaide) whose 'neutrality' clearly sided against the anarchists. The presentation of supposedly 'reasonable' and 'unbiased' arguments in editorials has long been used to dupe and misinform readers. And this day was no exception! Eager to explain that it would be an "injustice to the cause of labor to represent the riot and bloodshed ... as the natural and legitimate outcome of the system of combination which labor has in late times adopted as its great hope against the absolute dictation of capital", the editorial argues further, however, that "the violent measures into which those engaged in a movement, lawful and laudable in itself have been betrayed, have not infrequently alienated public sympathy and thrown back for a long time the cause that those measures were intended to forward." The message is clear. All those who use any extra-legal means to pursue liberty will only alienate the masses. What it doesn't overtly say is that you can also expect to be severely physically alienated by the goons of law and order.
By publishing the first reports of Haymarket to reach these shores, the capitalist press was able to print lies with impunity. It was also able to proscribe the pros and cons of the Haymarket debate. The dividing line was set. Those who denounced the anarchists for using violence (even though they didn't) on one side; those who knew that the guilt lay elsewhere, on the other. It was only the radical press who would present the truth of Haymarket. "What has happened in Chicago," wrote Harry Weber in defence of the anarchists, "was simply the action of the capitalist class against the working class. If the capitalist class had given the true report of the whole affair and shown their actions in their base nakedness, it would not have been more mean, more brutal than it has been. But they have not to do so; they have falsified every account given from their side - they have acted deliberately with a firm intent to blind the people, to keep the truth from them, by threatening and bribing - by all means possible."
Among the most virulent defenders of the Chicago anarchists were those who met at the meeting rooms of the Australian Secular Association on the 1 May, 1886, and called into existence the Melbourne Anarchist Club (MAC). At the meeting were Fred Upham, the brothers David and Will Andrade, and three others. Little could the organisors have predicted the significance of this date in the light of the events that were to follow. All had been active in the Free Thought initiative 'down under', but they formed the MAC in rebellion against the organised Free Thought of the ASA, and against its president, Joseph Symes, in particular. Symes had been president and chief lecturer of the Association since his arrival from England in 1884. He was also editor of its journal, THE LIBERATOR. In early 1886, Will Andrade was accusing Symes of being inconsistent. He argued in debate that Symes' actions in defying the government were not consistent with his support for the procedure of changing laws through the ballot box. Will argued that "the people at present put barriers to their own freedom by having governments. Anarchy was what the world needed and progress could only be obtained by individual freedom".
The members of the Melbourne Anarchist Club distrusted all institutions that were not voluntary, and, in their prospectus, stated that among their objects were to "expose and oppose that colossal swindle, Government," and "to advocate, and seek to achieve, the abolition of all monopolies and despotisms which destroy the Freedom of the individual and which thereby check social progress and prosperity." Among these 'despotisms' were the police who were already showing themselves to be far from impartial defenders of law and order.
The means by which these 'despotisms' would be 'abolished' was also hotly discussed. In a debate on 'Individual Liberty' reported in THE LIBERATOR on 25 April 1886, David Andrade spoke unequivocally:
"Social liberty can only be realised by granting individual liberty. And if it cannot be got by peaceable means, through the obstruction of physical force, physical force must be employed to secure it. Dynamite is one of the best friends of toiling humanity".
Not everyone agreed with Andrade's view that violence, individual or organised, was a valid means to obtain social liberty. After 4 May, 1886, however, the reality of Haymarket would stamp its own distinctive mark on the thoughts and actions of a whole generation of labor activists - and beyond.
In the face of unprecedented processions of unemployed right across the country, and no doubt influenced by the news, not only of Haymarket, but also of mass demonstrations in London, Symes wrote in THE LIBERATOR on 16 May, 1886:
"Newspapers may write down the poor, soldiers may be called out to shoot the agitators, advanced or anarchic newspapers may be seized .. what then? Their sufferings will add fuel to the fire and only hasten on the final victory".
Influenced by other reformist members of the ASA, and also his concern for a 'respectable' parliamentary career, Symes moved quickly to disassociate the ASA from the MAC and also from support of the Chicago anarchists.
Symes began to support the equation, already popularised in the capitalist press, that anarchism equals physical violence. Following on from this unprincipled position, it was quite easy for Symes, the opportunist, to proclaim that the Chicago anarchists deserved all they got. And he did, many times!(2).
On the wild side of politics, the defence of the Chicago anarchists moved apace. It was quite clear to all principled labor activists that the anarchists were innocent, and in fact it was the police, as representatives and defenders of capital, who were the guilty party. In HONESTY, the journal of the MAC, of April, 1887, an unsigned editorial refers to "the base intrigue of the authorities as they stained [with blood] that memorable meeting held in Chicago last May". The same editorial refers to "a healthy spirit of discontent growing up amongst the workers of the whole civilised world - not simply the discontent which growls without seeking a remedy - but a truly healthy discontent which, not satisfied with useless complainings, seeks to trace the causes of social evils and takes action to remove them". It was this global discontent that caused the Haymarket Affair, and it was also this discontent that made it clear to all workers that the Chicago anarchists were not enemies of liberty, but its truest defenders. The workers knew who the enemy was. They knew the facts about the murderous cops. And not only in the abstract, as exotic news items from afar. The organised violence of the State was a daily reality for those who were the objects of "the shameful system of exploitation and legal butchery".
Portraits of the anarchists were hung in all radical meeting halls. Defence meetings were held regularly, indoors and out. On January 27, 1887, a special lecture upon "The Chicago Anarchists' Trial" was delivered by David Andrade at a public meeting at the MAC, at the conclusion of which a resolution was unanimously adopted and transmitted to the Governor of Illinois, expressing sympathy with the condemned men.
In the May, 1887, edition of HONESTY, it was reported that "upwards of £4000 was collected for the defence of the Chicago anarchists, whose case was to be reheard in March. While Reuter's telegrams keep us informed upon Queen Victoria's little pleasure trips, of course it has nothing to say about this portentous trial, beyond giving a few falsified accounts at the outset, and leaving the Australian public to believe that the condemned men have been hanged long ago".
In November, 1887, HONESTY reported that sentence of death had been passed on the Chicago anarchists. In a commemorative article, David Andrade wrote:
"On Friday the 11th November 1887, was committed one of the foulest crimes that ever stained the bloodiest pages of American history. Four of humanity's truest friends were hanged to satisfy the vengeance of the merciless usurers who tyrannize over the American people - four of the saviors of the proletariat were crucified by the pharisees of the 19th Century".
If arguments over the events of 4th May, 1886, and the subsequent trial were heated, then what followed the hanging of the martyrs was positively fiery. The capitalist and reformist press rubbed their hands in glee. "Anarchy is dead" was the squeal of the day. in answer to the toadying press, and echoing August Spies' final plea, David Andrade wrote:
"But is all yet ended? Shall the voice of the people be heard? Yes, departed comrades, it shall be heard, and it shall grate in the ears of every heartless plutocrat as do the cruel exultations of joy from your murderers now grate in our own. Anarchy is not yet dead, for humanity still lives, and yearns to taste of the glorious fruits of liberty which is now stained with your innocent blood. The time is fast approaching when your silence shall be more powerful than your strangled voices. 'Against the enemy, revendication is eternal', and your comrades shall continue to sow the seeds you have sown, until they blossom into liberty; and your murderers, who have sown the wind of their hatred, shall reap the whirlwind of an oppressed and outraged humanity. The bloody crime of the oppressors shall be revenged in the overthrow of oppression; the tyrant laws which oppress and destroy us shall be trampled under foot; and labor shall be free! The martyrs shall not die in vain!"
Meetings were held regularly to commemorate the death of the martyrs. The memory of this heinous crime could not, and would not be erased. Ernie Lane, who referred to the Haymarket Affair as "one of the most epochal events in all Labour history," wrote in his memoirs that, "it became for years the rallying centre for the revolutionary Socialist movement - a shrine where one found inspiration and hope for a better realisation of the immorality of capitalism and the inevitability of Socialism".
The capitalist muckrakers could not leave well enough alone and continually enlarged on the lies and slander that accompanied the trial. More lives were lost! More bombs were thrown! One report, written by Symes, accused Lingg of being in possession of "some 50 or 60 bombs!" In 1888 there appeared a snivelling pamphlet, written by a certain Felix Vivian, titled, The Dance of Death in the Gaolyard", which Harry Weber called, "a repetition of all the knavish lies and calumnies spread by the newspapers during the last two years about the Chicago butchery in 1886", and "a glorification of the fanatical murder of justice, committed November 11, 1887". Weber regaled against the real perpetrators of the crime, the cops, whom he called "the willing tools of tyranny - the instruments of oppression - a shameless, thoughtless crowd of brigands, - the vilest, meanest, scum of human beings - a degenerate band of criminals, ready at every moment, in the service of the capitalist class, to enforce upon the poor, the working class a set of tyrannical rules and regulations called 'law', manufactured by the capitalist class expressly to legalise their force and robbery. This is the position of things, - this is the 'law' - this is the police".
"Anarchists bomb-throwers? Bah! Its the band of criminals who 'entertain' us with the misery of capital who are the real terrorists!
Working men! in the name of humanity I call upon you to keep these facts in mind. In the name of common sense I ask you: How long shall this continue? In the name of your rights and welfare, in the name of justice, I charge you, make an end to this fearful system. Workers of the world! inquire into these facts; bring them to your knowledge - educate yourself and your fellow-workers. Agitate!! - Organise!! Workers! and when you are organised, then - arm yourselves with common sense - arm yourselves with right and justice and break down the system of brutality, of robbery; sweep away this shameful system of exploitation and legal butchery".
This is the voice of Haymarket! Harry Weber may have penned these insurgent words but it was the Haymarket spirit that armed his consciousness. Workers of the world! You have nothing to lose but your chains! We owe this misery nothing!
One of the most eloquent defenders of the Haymarket martyrs was J.A. Andrews, whose writings were marked by his individual blend of infallible reason and a generous humour. "If our comrades were such experts in explosives as we are told, they would not have used a fusebomb, which is both dangerous to the thrower and unreliable altogether, but a percussion bomb". As well as being a gifted theoretician, Andrews was also a poet, a writer of science fiction, an historian and an inventor. Among his inventions was the printing technique called 'xylography', which he used to print a small journal, ANARCHY, the first issue of which, in November 1891, exposed the shifty manourverings of Bonfield and Schaak.
Year after year, revolutionaries would look to Haymarket and repeat its message:
"Phoebus-like, the work and aspirations of the Chicago martyrs have sprung from that dread scaffold into active life, not only in America, but throughout the length and breadth of the domains of tyrannical capitalism".
So wrote Ernie Lane in a memorial in 1892.
"Even here in Australia", continued Lane, "where anarchy is almost unknown, these men live before us in all their grandeur and heroism, showing us what men can and will endure for the one great cause, and pointing ever onward to the goal of human happiness, viz., Freedom, for which they so nobly laid down their lives".
Twenty years later, 1914, when the stay-at-home patriots were sending us to our destruction in the first world massacre, the Australian section of the Industrial Workers of the World would fan the flames of discontent. In their newspaper, DIRECT ACTION, of November 15, 1914, extracts of the speeches of Parsons, Spies, Lingg, and Engels were printed. A scathing critique of capitalist justice, most probably written by Tom Barker, appeared in the editorial dedicated to the Chicago martyrs:
"And we of the present day Labor movement can always bear in mind that the employing class will go to any length, even to murder, in order to protect and maintain their economic control of the means of life. They will violate their own laws, use agent provocateurs, use the institutions of the law and authority to bludgeon and murder. And they will be well aided by that monstrosity, so well defined and hated by Spies, the Labor politicians, who not only ensure to their masters a greater security, and to the working class the bitterness of betrayal and selfappointed oppressors.
Members of the IWW have been jailed in Australia by Labor Parties, in New Zealand they were treated likewise. Throughout the modern world the jails are full of the fighters for Justice. The gallows hangs every ready to do its vile and shameful work. Murder is being done everywhere under the cloak of law and order. Vagrants with wigs on their mildewed heads are the arbiters of Right and Wrong, a loafer in a blue coat is the king of the pavement.
Let us honour our immortal dead who sleep in the Waldheim Cemetery. Lest we forget! the years of struggle are with us, still we are unsubdued, unconquerable. Let us move on, until we are strong enough to exact a thousandfold from the murderers of our comrades the revenge that is our sacred and inalienable right. Twenty-eight years have gone since they paid the penalty of being loyal to their class, and the movement which they aided on its way and for which they gave up their lives, is rising like an angry sea and soon will engulf the tyrants, the masters and their sycophantic hirelings and creatures".
Two years later, in 1916, when twelve Wobblies were charged with treason, the events of thirty years before would echo through the halls of capitalist injustice.
Since then, activists of all colours in the labor movement, from libertarians to socialists, have remembered and commemorated the Haymarket tragedy. It is up to us, who have inherited this resilient tradition, to ensure that its message reverberates in the hearts of all. "The passage of years, the ever-changing kaleidoscope of world affairs", wrote Ernie Lane, "inevitably brings forgetfulness of the dead past. But there are some events, some deeds that must, and will, be remembered for all time. That of the Chicago martyrs of 1886, their heroic stand in a world then indifferent and bitterly hostile to all revolutionary changes, has earned for them a proud niche in the Pantheon of Humanity".
(1) For a great deal of the information used in this article, I am indebted to Bob James for his help; in particular, for the use of his unpublished thesis, "ANARCHISM AND STATE VIOLENCE IN SYDNEY AND MELBOURNE, 1886-1896'.
(2) If it seems that I have taken my time over the case of Joseph Symes, I felt it was necessary to stress the polarity of attitudes among labor activists towards the Haymarket Affair. Symes is typical of the petty union bureaucrat and party politician who fear unbridled freedom, because it threatens their pathetic little place in the world.