History of Mayday: Speech by August Spies

The following passages are excerpted from the speech made on October 7, 1886 by the radical journalist August Spies, one of the four defendants who were hanged after being found guilty for inciting the Haymarket riot in Chigago on May 3, 1886.

Speech by August Spies

Anarchism is on trial! If that is the case your honor, very well; you may sentence me, for I am an anarchist. I believe that the state of castes and classes--the state where one class dominates over and lives upon the labor of another class, and calls this order--yes, I believe that this barbaric form of social organization, with its legallized plunder and murder, is doomed to die and make room for a free society, voluntary association, or universal brotherhood, if you like. You may pronounce the sentence upon me, honorable judge, but let the world know that in A.D. 1886, in the state of Illinois, eight men were sentenced to death because they believed in a better future; because they had not lost their faith in the ultimate victory of liberty and justice!...

You gentlemen, are the revolutionists! You rebel against the effects of social conditions which have tossed you, by the fair hands of fortune, into a magnificent paradise. Without inquiring, you imagine that no one else has a right in that place. You insist that you are the chosen ones, the sole proprietors. The forces that tossed you into the paradise, the industrial forces, are still at work. They are growing more active and intense from day to day. Their tendency is to elevate all mankind to the same level, to have all humanity share in the paradise you now monopolize. You in your blindness, think you can stop the tidal wave of civilization and human emancipation by placing a few policemen, a few Gattling guns and some regiments of militia on the shore; you think you can frighten the rising waves back into the unfathomable depths whence they have arisen by erecting a few gallows in the perspective. You oppose the natural course of things, you are the real revolutionists. You alone are the conspirators and destructionists!...

Look upon the economic battlefields! Behold the carnage and plunder of the Christian patricians ( upper class )! Accompany me to the quarters of the wealth creators in this city. Go with me to the half starved miners of the Hocking Valley. Look at the pariahs ( out casts ) in the Mongahela Valley, and many other mining districts in this country, or pass along the railroads of that great and most orderly and law abiding citizen Jay Gould. And tell me whether this order has in it any moral principle for which it should be preserved. I say that preservation of such an order is criminal--is murderous. It means the preservation of the systematic destruction of children and women in factories. It means the preservation of enforced idleness of large armies of men, and their degradation. It means the preservation of intemperance, and sexual as well as intellectual prostitution. It means the preservation of misery, want, and servility on the one hand, and the dangerous accumulation of spoils, idleness, voluptuousness, and tyranny on the other. It means the preservation of vice in every form. And last but not least, it means the preservation of the class struggle, of strikes, riots, and bloodshed. That is your "order" gentlemen. Yes, and it is worthy of you to be the champions of such an order. You are eminently fitted for that role. You have my compliments!

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