Solidarity on International Workers’ Day
Since today is International Workers’ Day, I’m taking today off to commemorate it in my own way, by reading—poetry, analysis, social theory, and history. For those who aren’t familiar with the day’s origins, it is a commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket massacre in Chicago. While demonstrators were on peaceful general strike for an eight-hour work day, an unknown person threw a bomb at police, resulting in police firing guns. Four civilians and seven police officers died. In the following period, labor activist and immigrant communities were profiled, their businesses and meeting halls ransacked without search warrants, and arrested under pretense. Eight anarchists were convicted of conspiracy by an extremely prejudiced courtroom and seven sentenced to death, though the bomber was never identified.
Today, International Workers’ Day is commemorated throughout the world by working-class, immigrant, and labor activists. It is a day of international solidarity as we all struggle for a more just world. What are you doing to commemorate International Workers’ Day?
A Worker Reads History
by Bertolt Brecht
Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
And Babylon, so many times destroyed.
Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima’s houses,
That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?
In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome
Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Byzantium lives in song.
Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend
The night the seas rushed in,
The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.
Young Alexander conquered India.
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Was there not even a cook in his army?
Phillip of Spain wept as his fleet
was sunk and destroyed. Were there no other tears?
Frederick the Great triumphed in the Seven Years War.
Who triumphed with him?
Each page a victory
At whose expense the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man,
Who paid the piper?
So many particulars.
So many questions.