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Utah Phillips

Utah Phillips’ music has been part of my library and inspiration for many years.  Utah died peacefully at his home in California Friday night after a period of illness.

I saw Utah in concert in Ogden several years ago.

Utah’s legend will live forever. 

Here is a list of links to articles about his passing:
Folk music legend Utah Phillips dies (TheUnion.com)
Folk singer Utah Phillips dies at 73 (MercuryNews.com)
Singer Utah Phillips left a colorful legacy
(sacbee.com)
Folksinger, Storyteller, Railroad Tramp Utah Phillips Dead at 73
(Central Valley Indy Media)

https://i0.wp.com/www.artplusradio.org/imglib/aug07/utah_phillips2.jpg

Happy May Day

 

The Brief Origins of May Day

by Eric Chase

Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers’ Day of May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don’t realize that May Day has its origins here in this country and is as “American” as baseball and apple pie, and stemmed from the pre-Christian holiday of Beltane, a celebration of rebirth and fertility.

In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and Jack London’s The Iron Heel. As early as the 1860’s, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn’t until the late 1880’s that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class.

At this time, socialism was a new and attractive idea to working people, many of whom were drawn to its ideology of working class control over the production and distribution of all goods and services. Workers had seen first-hand that Capitalism benefited only their bosses, trading workers’ lives for profit. Thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the workplace, with life expectancy as low as their early twenties in some industries, and little hope but death of rising out of their destitution. Socialism offered another option.

A variety of socialist organizations sprung up throughout the later half of the 19th century, ranging from political parties to choir groups. In fact, many socialists were elected into governmental office by their constituency. But again, many of these socialists were ham-strung by the political process which was so evidently controlled by big business and the bi-partisan political machine. Tens of thousands of socialists broke ranks from their parties, rebuffed the entire political process, which was seen as nothing more than protection for the wealthy, and created anarchist groups throughout the country. Literally thousands of working people embraced the ideals of anarchism, which sought to put an end to all hierarchical structures (including government), emphasized worker controlled industry, and valued direct action over the bureaucratic political process. It is inaccurate to say that labor unions were “taken over” by anarchists and socialists, but rather anarchists and socialist made up the labor unions.

 

At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike “at the root of the evil.” A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that “whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave.”

Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that “the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction.” With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8-hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond the more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic structure of capitalism.

In a proclamation printed just before May 1, 1886, one publisher appealed to working people with this plea:

  • Workingmen to Arms!
  • War to the Palace, Peace to the Cottage, and Death to LUXURIOUS IDLENESS.
  • The wage system is the only cause of the World’s misery. It is supported by the rich classes, and to destroy it, they must be either made to work or DIE.
  • One pound of DYNAMITE is better than a bushel of BALLOTS!
  • MAKE YOUR DEMAND FOR EIGHT HOURS with weapons in your hands to meet the capitalistic bloodhounds, police, and militia in proper manner.

Not surprisingly the entire city was prepared for mass bloodshed, reminiscent of the railroad strike a decade earlier when police and soldiers gunned down hundreds of striking workers. On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day agitators, 40,000 went out on strike with the anarchists in the forefront of the public’s eye. With their fiery speeches and revolutionary ideology of direct action, anarchists and anarchism became respected and embraced by the working people and despised by the capitalists.

The names of many – Albert Parsons, Johann Most, August Spies and Louis Lingg – became household words in Chicago and throughout the country. Parades, bands and tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets exemplified the workers’ strength and unity, yet didn’t become violent as the newspapers and authorities predicted.

More and more workers continued to walk off their jobs until the numbers swelled to nearly 100,000, yet peace prevailed. It was not until two days later, May 3, 1886, that violence broke out at the McCormick Reaper Works between police and strikers.

For six months, armed Pinkerton agents and the police harassed and beat locked-out steelworkers as they picketed. Most of these workers belonged to the “anarchist-dominated” Metal Workers’ Union. During a speech near the McCormick plant, some two hundred demonstrators joined the steelworkers on the picket line. Beatings with police clubs escalated into rock throwing by the strikers which the police responded to with gunfire. At least two strikers were killed and an unknown number were wounded.

Full of rage, a public meeting was called by some of the anarchists for the following day in Haymarket Square to discuss the police brutality. Due to bad weather and short notice, only about 3000 of the tens of thousands of people showed up from the day before. This affair included families with children and the mayor of Chicago himself. Later, the mayor would testify that the crowd remained calm and orderly and that speaker August Spies made “no suggestion… for immediate use of force or violence toward any person…”

As the speech wound down, two detectives rushed to the main body of police, reporting that a speaker was using inflammatory language, inciting the police to march on the speakers’ wagon. As the police began to disperse the already thinning crowd, a bomb was thrown into the police ranks. No one knows who threw the bomb, but speculations varied from blaming any one of the anarchists, to an agent provocateur working for the police.

Enraged, the police fired into the crowd. The exact number of civilians killed or wounded was never determined, but an estimated seven or eight civilians died, and up to forty were wounded. One officer died immediately and another seven died in the following weeks. Later evidence indicated that only one of the police deaths could be attributed to the bomb and that all the other police fatalities had or could have had been due to their own indiscriminate gun fire. Aside from the bomb thrower, who was never identified, it was the police, not the anarchists, who perpetrated the violence.

Eight anarchists – Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Adolph Fischer and Louis Lingg – were arrested and convicted of murder, though only three were even present at Haymarket and those three were in full view of all when the bombing occurred. The jury in their trial was comprised of business leaders in a gross mockery of justice similar to the Sacco-Vanzetti case thirty years later, or the trials of AIM and Black Panther members in the seventies. The entire world watched as these eight organizers were convicted, not for their actions, of which all of were innocent, but for their political and social beliefs. On November 11, 1887, after many failed appeals, Parsons, Spies, Engel and Fisher were hung to death. Louis Lingg, in his final protest of the state’s claim of authority and punishment, took his own life the night before with an explosive device in his mouth.

The remaining organizers, Fielden, Neebe and Schwab, were pardoned six years later by Governor Altgeld, who publicly lambasted the judge on a travesty of justice. Immediately after the Haymarket Massacre, big business and government conducted what some say was the very first “Red Scare” in this country. Spun by mainstream media, anarchism became synonymous with bomb throwing and socialism became un-American. The common image of an anarchist became a bearded, eastern European immigrant with a bomb in one hand and a dagger in the other.

Today we see tens of thousands of activists embracing the ideals of the Haymarket Martyrs and those who established May Day as an International Workers’ Day. Ironically, May Day is an official holiday in 66 countries and unofficially celebrated in many more, but rarely is it recognized in this country where it began.

Over one hundred years have passed since that first May Day. In the earlier part of the 20th century, the US government tried to curb the celebration and further wipe it from the public’s memory by establishing “Law and Order Day” on May 1. We can draw many parallels between the events of 1886 and today. We still have locked out steelworkers struggling for justice. We still have voices of freedom behind bars as in the cases of Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier. We still had the ability to mobilize tens of thousands of people in the streets of a major city to proclaim “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” at the WTO and FTAA demonstrations.

Words stronger than any I could write are engraved on the Haymarket Monument:

THE DAY WILL COME WHEN OUR SILENCE WILL BE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE VOICES YOU ARE THROTTLING TODAY.

Truly, history has a lot to teach us about the roots of our radicalism. When we remember that people were shot so we could have the 8-hour day; if we acknowledge that homes with families in them were burned to the ground so we could have Saturday as part of the weekend; when we recall 8-year old victims of industrial accidents who marched in the streets protesting working conditions and child labor only to be beat down by the police and company thugs, we understand that our current condition cannot be taken for granted – people fought for the rights and dignities we enjoy today, and there is still a lot more to fight for. The sacrifices of so many people can not be forgotten or we’ll end up fighting for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day.

 


Happy Labor Day!

That’s right, May 1st=May Day=Labor Day

May Day – the Real Labor Day


May 1st, International Workers’ Day, commemorates the historic struggle of working people throughout the world, and is recognized in every country except the United States, Canada, and South Africa. This despite the fact that the holiday began in the 1880s in the United States, with the fight for an eight-hour work day.

 

In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions passed a resolution stating that eight hours would constitute a legal day’s work from and after May 1, 1886. The resolution called for a general strike to achieve the goal, since legislative methods had already failed. With workers being forced to work ten, twelve, and fourteen hours a day, rank-and-file support for the eight-hour movement grew rapidly, despite the indifference and hostility of many union leaders. By April 1886, 250,000 workers were involved in the May Day movement.

The heart of the movement was in Chicago, organized primarily by the anarchist International Working People’s Association. Businesses and the state were terrified by the increasingly revolutionary character of the movement and prepared accordingly. The police and militia were increased in size and received new and powerful weapons financed by local business leaders. Chicago’s Commercial Club purchased a $2000 machine gun for the Illinois National Guard to be used against strikers. Nevertheless, by May 1st, the movement had already won gains for many Chicago clothing cutters, shoemakers, and packing-house workers. But on May 3, 1886, police fired into a crowd of strikers at the McCormick Reaper Works Factory, killing four and wounding many. Anarchists called for a mass meeting the next day in Haymarket Square to protest the brutality.

The meeting proceeded without incident, and by the time the last speaker was on the platform, the rainy gathering was already breaking up, with only a few hundred people remaining. It was then that 180 cops marched into the square and ordered the meeting to disperse. As the speakers climbed down from the platform, a bomb was thrown at the police, killing one and injuring seventy. Police responded by firing into the crowd, killing one worker and injuring many others.

Although it was never determined who threw the bomb, the incident was used as an excuse to attack the entire Left and labor movement. Police ransacked the homes and offices of suspected radicals, and hundreds were arrested without charge. Anarchists in particular were harassed, and eight of Chicago’s most active were charged with conspiracy to murder in connection with the Haymarket bombing. A kangaroo court found all eight guilty, despite a lack of evidence connecting any of them to the bomb-thrower (only one was even present at the meeting, and he was on the speakers’ platform), and they were sentenced to die. Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolf Fischer, and George Engel were hanged on November 11, 1887. Louis Lingg committed suicide in prison, The remaining three were finally pardoned in 1893.

It is not surprising that the state, business leaders, mainstream union officials, and the media would want to hide the true history of May Day, portraying it as a holiday celebrated only in Moscow’s Red Square. In its attempt to erase the history and significance of May Day, the United States government declared May 1st to be “Law Day”, and gave us instead Labor Day – a holiday devoid of any historical significance other than its importance as a day to swill beer and sit in traffic jams.

Nevertheless, rather than suppressing labor and radical movements, the events of 1886 and the execution of the Chicago anarchists actually mobilized many generations of radicals. Emma Goldman, a young immigrant at the time, later pointed to the Haymarket affair as her political birth. Lucy Parsons, widow of Albert Parsons, called upon the poor to direct their anger toward those responsible – the rich. Instead of disappearing, the anarchist movement only grew in the wake of Haymarket, spawning other radical movements and organizations, including the Industrial Workers of the World.

By covering up the history of May Day, the state, business, mainstream unions and the media have covered up an entire legacy of dissent in this country. They are terrified of what a similarly militant and organized movement could accomplish today, and they suppress the seeds of such organization whenever and wherever they can. As workers, we must recognize and commemorate May Day not only for it’s historical significance, but also as a time to organize around issues of vital importance to working-class people today.

As IWW songwriter Joe Hill wrote in one of his most powerful songs:

Workers of the world, awaken!
Rise in all your splendid might
Take the wealth that you are making,
It belongs to you by right.
No one will for bread be crying
We’ll have freedom, love and health,
When the grand red flag is flying
In the Workers’ Commonwealth.

 

This article written and distributed by: l.gaylord@m.cc.utah.edu

 

MAY DAY – THE LABOR DAY

May 1st, International Workers’ Day, commemorates the historic struggle of working people throughout the world, and is recognized in most countries. The United States of America and Canada are among the exceptions. This despite the fact that the holiday began in the 1880s in the USA, linked to the battle for the eight-hour day, and the Chicago anarchists.

 

The struggle for the eight-hour day began in the 1860s. In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada, organized in 1881 (and changing its name in 1886 to American Federation of Labor ) passed a resolution which asserted that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s work from and after May 1, 1886, and that we recommend to labor organizations throughout this district that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution”. The following year the Federation repeated the declaration that an eight-hour system was to go into effect on May 1, 1886. With workers being forced to work ten, twelve, and fourteen hours a day, support for the eight-hour movement grew rapidly. In the months prior to May 1, 1886, thousands of workers, organized and unorganized, members of the organization Knights of Labor and of the federation, were drawn into the struggle. Chicago was the main center of the agitation for a shorter day. The anarchists were in the forefront of the Central Labor Union of Chicago , which consisted of 22 unions in 1886, among them the seven largest in the city.

During the Railroad strikes of 1877, the workers had been violently attacked by the police and the United States Army. A similar tactic of state terrorism was prepared by the bureaucracy to fight the eight-hour movement. The police and National Guard were increased in size and received new and powerful weapons financed by local business leaders. Chicago’s Commercial Club purchased a $2000 machine gun for the Illinois National Guard to be used against strikers. Nevertheless, by May 1st, the movement had already won gains for many Chicago workers. But on May 3, 1886, police fired into a crowd of strikers at the McCormick Harvester Machine Company, killing at least one striker, seriously wounding five or six others, and injuring an undetermined number. Anarchists called for a mass meeting the next day in Haymarket Square to protest the brutality.

The meeting proceeded without incident, and by the time the last speaker was on the platform, the rainy gathering was already breaking up, with only about two hundred people remaining. It was then a police column of 180 men marched into the square and ordered the meeting to disperse. At the end of the meeting a bomb was thrown at the police, killing one instantly, six others died later. About seventy police officers were wounded. Police responded by firing into the crowd. How many civilians were wounded or killed from police bullits never was ascertained exactly. Although it was never determined who threw the bomb, the incident was used as an excuse to attack anarchists and the labor movement in general. Police ransacked the homes and offices of suspected radicals, and hundreds were arrested without charge. A reign of police terror swept over Chicago. Staging “raids” in the working-class districts, the police rounded up all known anarchists and other socialists. “Make the raids first and look up the law afterward!” publicly counseled the state’s attorney.

Anarchists in particular were harassed, and eight of Chicago’s most active were charged with conspiracy to murder in connection with the Haymarket bombing. A kangaroo court found all eight guilty, despite a lack of evidence connecting any of them to the bomb-thrower, and they were sentenced to die. In October 9, 1886, the weekly journal Knights of Labor published in Chicago, carried on page 1 the following announcement: “Next week we begin the publication of the lives of the anarchists advertised in another column.” The advertisement, carried on page 14, read: The story of the anarchists, told by themselves; Parsons, Spies, Fielden, Schwab, Fischer, Lingg, Engle, Neebe. The only true history of the men who claim that they are condemned to suffer death for exercising the right of Free Speech: Their association with Labor, Socialistic and Anarchistic Societies, their views as to the aims and objects of these organizations, and how they expect to accomplish them; also their connection with the Chicago Haymarket Affair. Each man is the author of his own story, which will appear only in the “Knights of Labor” during the next three months, – the great labor paper of the United States, a 16-page weekly paper, containing all the latest foreign and domestic labor news of the day, stories, household hints, etc. A co-operative paper owned and controlled by members of the Knights of Labor, and furnished for the small sum of $1.00 per annum . Adress all communications to Knights of Labor Publishing Company, 163 Washington St., Chicago, Ill. Later this journal and the paper Alarm published the autobiographies of the Haymarket men.

Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolf Fischer and George Engel were hanged on November 11, 1887. Louis Lingg committed suicide in prison. The authorities turned over the bodies to friends for burial, and one of the largest funeral processions in Chicago history was held. It was estimated that between 150,000 to 500,000 persons lined the route taken by the funeral cortege of the Haymarket martyrs. A monument to the executed men was unveiled June 25, 1893 at Waldheim Cemetery in Chicago. The remaining three, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe and Michael Schwab, were finally pardoned in 1893.

On June 26, 1893, the governor of Illinois, John Peter Altgeld, issued the pardon message in which he made it clear that he was not granting the pardon because he believed that the men had suffered enough, but because they were innocent of the crime for which they had been tried, and that they and the hanged men had been the victims of hysteria, packed juries and a biased judge. He noted that the defendants were not proven guilty because the state “has never discovered who it was that threw the bomb which killed the policeman, and the evidence does not show any connection whatsoever between the defendants and the man who threw it.”

It is not surprising that the state, business leaders, mainstream union officials, and the media would want to hide the true history of May Day. In its attempt to erase the history and significance of May Day, the United States government declared May 1st to be “Law Day”, and gave the workers instead Labor Day, the first Monday of September – a holiday devoid of any historical significance.

Nevertheless, rather than suppressing the labor and anarchist movements, the events of 1886 and the execution of the Chicago anarchists, spokesmen of the movement for the eight-hour day, mobilized many generations of radicals. Emma Goldman, a young immigrant at the time, later pointed to the Haymarket affair as her political birth. Instead of disappearing, the anarchist movement only grew in the wake of Haymarket.

As workers, we must recognize and commemorate May Day not only for it’s historical significance, but also as a time to organize around issues of vital importance to the working-class, i.e. the people, of today.

Joe Hill

Sunday marks the shooting death in Salt Lkae City of Joe Hill

Joe Hill "Remember" Cartoon
 
 Hill is remembered as a staunch member of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.)
I.W.W. Poster 
The Wobblies were part of an era of social, economic and political uncertainty in the United States and the world. The I.W.W. was a more radical extention of movements challenging the existing order, including Socialists, Progressives and Populists. 
 
Hill is best known for his songs:
 

One thing is certain. If Hill was not on the lines in person, he was there in the form of song.

Drawing on his lifelong love of music, fashioned around self-taught abilities on the piano, guitar and violin, Hill authored a stream of songs aimed a firing up the poorest workers in America. His songs decried “bosses” and “scabs” and extolled the virtues of workers organizing in One Big Union to fight for their rights. His songs soon became a fixture in the I.W.W.’s Little Red Songbook.

“Workers of the World, Awaken!”

Written while Joe Hill was in prison, this song speaks to workers on an international level.

Workers of the World Sheet music


Lyrics:

Workers of the world, awaken!
Break your chains, demand your rights.
All the wealth you make is taken
B y exploiting parasites.
Shall you kneel in deep submission
F rom your cradles to your graves?
Is the height of your ambition
To be good and willing slaves?

Arise, ye prisoners of starvation!
Fight for your own emancipation;
Arise, ye slaves of ev’ry nation, in One Union Grand.
Our little ones for bread are crying;
And millions are from hunger dying;
The end the means is justifying,
‘Tis the final stand.

If the workers take a notion,
They can stop all speeding trains;
Every ship upon the ocean
They can tie with mighty chains;
Every wheel in the creation,
Every mine and every mill,
Fleets and armies of the nation,
Will at their command stand still.

-Chorus-

Join the union, fellow workers,
Men and women, side by side;
We will crush the greedy shirkers
Like a sweeping, surging tide;
For united we are standing,
But divided we will fall;
Let this be our understanding-
“All for one and one for all.”

-Chorus-

Workers of the world, awaken!
Rise in all your splendid might;
Take the wealth that you are making —
It belongs to you by right.
No one for bread will be crying,
We’ll have freedom, love and health,
When the grand red flag is flying
In the Worker’s commonwealth.

-Chorus-

“Workers of the World, Awaken!” was written by Joe Hill.


Salt Lake IWW Organizer Training Kick-Off

The Salt Lake City General Membership Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) held its first annual Organizer Traning Conference this weekend at the Salt Lake AFL-CIO Union Hall.

Here are photos from the kick-off event held Friday, April 7th, including music, a panel discussion, and lively discussion.



Tony Roehrig was the moderator of the evening. Tony is one of the original Wobblies of the modern era in SLC. He is a delegate who helped revive the branch in the late 20th centery and has kept the branch active in organizing, educating and agitating.

Scott Fife, Local IWW activist, artist (he painted the art above of Joe Hill), opens up the evening with some labor songs.

Pete Litster, Local IWW activist, performs spoken word.

Meet the panelists for the evening, James Mouritsen, Evan Enns, and Michael Garcia (descriptions below).

James Mouritsen read and explained the preamble of the IWW Constitution. Since taking out a red card on May Day 2003, shortly after returning to the SLC area, James has joined fellow Wobs and radicals planning and carrying out pickets, rallies, Mayday celebrations, soapbox events, and free public film screening son labor and jusice related themes.

Evan Enns explained and spoke to the IWW philophy, history, and current actions. Eva currently serves as secretary/treasurer of the Denver IWW branch. She has been active in organizing since she came to the union through a drive at Telefund, Inc.

Michael Garcia spoke to Wobbly tactics and direct action in the workplace. Michael has been a Wob for the last decade. He has talked up the union at his workplace, Big City Soup, has been able to get many co-sorkers into the union, and has been active in related work.