Text of leaflet London AF handed out on the May Day demo ( we shifted 500):
Anarchist origins of the 1st of May
The idea of turning the 1st of May into a day of action for workers was proposed for the first time at the 4th congress of the American union AFL (American Federation of Labor). It was then decided to launch, starting from the 1st of May 1886, a wide campaign of agitation and struggle focused on the limitation of the working week, for an eight hour day. The most radical actions took place in Chicago. At that time, Chicago was the city where the workers movement was the most developed in the USA and this mainly under the impulse of anarchists. Following the 1st of May in 1886, strikes were still going on as the fight with employers became tougher. The 4th of May, a giant meeting gathering around 15,000 people was attacked by the cops. By the end of the day, both sides suffered numerous dead and wounded. It was a perfect occasion to muzzle the protest. Eight of the main agitators, all anarchists, were arrested and sentenced to death. The sentence was reduced to life sentences for 3 of them. November 11th of 1887, Albert Parsons, Adolphe Fischer, Georges Engel and August Spies were hanged. Their comrade, Louis Lingg, committed suicide the day before to avoid the execution. A few years later, they were acquitted of all charged and the court admitted that the police and justice set up the case to criminalise and break down the workers movement. The 8 accused were declared innocent and the 3 survivors were set free.
The 1st of May is definitely a page of workers history stained with anarchist blood.
State, police and capital
The First of May is an occasion to remind us that the fight against capitalism is still going on. Yet the difference between rich and poor keeps growing, the financial markets are back in the saddle and traders are still handling billions of dollars. Are we wrong to ask for more when half of the world wealth is owned by 1% of the population? Meanwhile, workers are asked for more and more effort to “save” the economy and put the State back on its feet with its batch of new taxes (such as the bedroom tax) and cuts in public services. We are heading toward a neo-liberal capitalism system in which the State has as a main purpose the maintenance of social control so capitalism can develop without constraint.
Workers produce everything and they own little. This analysis is old and well known but despite it, workers in Europe slowly give up the fight for a fair redistribution and instead just hope that troubles will fall on someone else. In addition, work has been sanctified and the idea is widespread that if you don’t want to be a good worker who produces and obeys it makes you lazy, a parasite or an idealist (choose yours!).
We as anarchists think that human beings shouldn’t be defined by the surplus value they bring to capitalism. Work should be the way to produce what is absolutely essential and not to create new needs. Work must be organized so everyone can work less, not for profit but for the good of all. No capitalist society will ever achieve full employment because it needs a pool of unemployed so the necessity to work can make us accept bad working conditions. In order to reorganise work, we need a society free from class and leaders, and which is managed in a self-organised way. This is what the Anarchist Federation is fighting for.
“We are neither for a majority nor for a minority government; neither for democracy nor for dictatorship. We are for the abolition of the gendarme. We are for the freedom of all and for free agreement, which will be there for all when no one has the means to force others, and all are involved in the good running of society. We are for anarchy.” Errico Malatesta