May Day began in America on May 1, 1886, initiating the fight for the eight-hour working day. Nationwide, over 300,000 workers participated, with 40,000 rallying in the city of Chicago under the leadership of anarchists associated with the International Workingmen’s Association. On May 4, a demonstration at Haymarket Square was called to protest police violence against locked-out workers at the McCormick Reaper Works, where two workers had been killed the day prior. As the demonstrators began to disperse, a bomb suddenly went off, fatally injuring several policemen. The police responded by firing indiscriminately into the crowd, killing and maiming dozens of workers.
What followed the bombing was the first great political witch hunt and frame-up trial involving working-class fighters in the United States. Since that time, May Day has commemorated the martyrdom of Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fischer and George Engel, who were hanged 18 months after the demonstration.
This pamphlet, originally published in 1986 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Haymarket massacre, introduces a new generation of socialists to the bloody early days of the American workers movement.