May Day “Un-American?” It’s as American as Apple Pie!

by Kevin Carson

May Day “Un-American?” It’s as American as Apple Pie!

Most Americans think of May Day, if they think of it at all, as some sort of communist holiday. Their awareness of it is based mainly on a vague memory of parades of military hardware on Red Square and Soviet leaders’ “fraternal greetings” to leaders of the state communist regimes of their Warsaw Pact satellites. If you’re unfamiliar with the history of May Day, you might be surprised to learn not only that it originated in the United States, but that it was strongly supported by American free market anarchists. May Day — the international holiday of the workers’ and socialist movements — was created by American workers, right here in the good old U.S. of A.

In 1884 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions called for a nationwide general strike for an eight-hour day, to be launched May 1, 1886. The political strife associated with that movement culminated in the Haymarket bombing and the subsequent police riot and judicial murder of the Haymarket martyrs. May Day was chosen by Chicago workers to commemorate the show trial and execution of the scapegoat anarchists.

It was quickly adopted as a workers’ holiday by the international labor movement — including the anarchist movement. More specifically, it was supported from the very beginning by the individualist anarchists — as free market as you can get — loosely grouped together as the Boston Anarchists, associated with Benjamin Tucker and the individualist journal Liberty. Tucker, Ezra Haywood, J.K. Ingalls and William Greene, all prominent individualist anarchists, enthusiastically endorsed the New England Labor Reform League and the International Working People’s Organization. Dyer Lum , a labor radical whose philosophy fluctuated between free market individualism and “anarchism without adjectives,” actively promoted free market radicalism as a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (the “Wobblies”).

May Day’s communist associations were a result not only of the Marxist-Leninist regimes’ attempts at co-option, but of a massive campaign of anti-worker propaganda by the state-corporate nexus in the United States. The period from the 1880s through 1920 were a very scary time for American capitalist elites. In the devil’s bargain of 1877, the conquered south threw its support behind losing candidate Rutherford B. Hayes, essentially handing the national government over to the GOP’s plutocratic corporatism, in return for a free hand in restoring racial apartheid in its own domain. The post-Civil War amendments originally passed to protect freed slaves were instead used to protect corporations. Thus began the Gilded Age — not a period of laissez-faire, as portrayed in the official history, but an imposition of corporate rule on the economy by state fiat.

The Knights of Labor, Grange, and other labor and farm-populist movements were created to resist this corrupt seizure of power. The next forty years were a virtual civil war between these two sides. During the Depression of the 1890s, the rising tide of worker radicalism was reflected in the Pullman Strike, Coxey’s Army’s march on Washington, and the rise of Big Bill Haywood’s Western Federation of Miners (direct precursor to the IWW). In 1896, business interests threatened a nationwide “capital strike” and lockout if Bryan won the presidency.

The ideological offensive centered on “100% Americanism,” the Pledge of Allegiance, worship of Old Glory and the cult of “Loyalty,” culminating in the creation of the American Legion and Woodrow Wilson’s political imprisonment of the Left in WWI, was an outgrowth of American elite fears in the 1890s. May Day — the real labor holiday — was replaced by the state’s “Labor Day,” and May Day was officially designated “Loyalty Day.”

This campaign was largely successful — as demonstrated by the popular image of May Day in the United States. But it’s a lie that we will not allow to stand. So this May Day, spread your best checkered tablecloth and picnic on hot dogs, potato salad and apple pie, and give a thought or two to the fight for economic justice to working people. That’s a struggle we market anarchists at Center for a Stateless Society fight every day.

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32 responses to “May Day “Un-American?” It’s as American as Apple Pie!

  1. Radical Rodent

    As American as an imported recipe for a non-indigenous fruit. Hmmmm…..

  2. May Day is (in modern times – not in the ancient past) the day of the Communists – the murderers of over a hundred and fifty million people in the last century (see the “Black Book of Communism” and many other works).

    Kevin Carson is quite correct that May Day is also the day of the anti property (Black Flag) collectisivst “anarchists” – the bomb planters of the 1880s, and the people who invented the letter bomb (which they used to blow off the faces of the people who opened their letters in 1919).

    The Marxists (the Red Flag people) and the collectivist (Black Flag) “anarchists” cooperate to this day – in the American unions (such as the Chicago teachers union).

    As with the Weathermen of the 1960s (who boasted of their intentions – although I suspect that Robert Redford has left that bit of his hero worshipping film of them, just as he left out everything of importance about young “Che” in his film about him), if the Red Flag people and the Black Flag people take full power (the armed forces are, perhaps, the key) into their hands they will send tens of millions of people to the death camps.

    Kevin Carson knows that – and that is exactly what he wants.

    Sean Gabb knows that as well – but he has been playing games for years with people such as Kevin, and I do not expect the games to stop now.

    I do not believe that Sean Gabb actually wants the tens of millions of dead and the rest of the population enslaved – which is what Kevin Carson wants (which is why he celebrates May Day – see above).

    But what Sean Gabb is really doing I have never been able to find out – and I have stopped trying to find out.

  3. Oh by the way – Happy “Social Justice” day.

  4. Julie near Chicago

    Hmph. May Day is thought of by all but a smallish percentage of Americans as a day for the celebration of Spring. “Dance around the Maypole” and all that. (You don’t have to know about Beltane and the Equinox and so forth, either.)

    I don’t think that all that many Americans are up on the High Holidays of the Communist movement, let alone those of the leftist anarchists generally.

    It’s actually possible to down bludgeons once in awhile and celebrate some occasion for the pure joy of being alive.

    But cheer up, we can all go back to being angry and depressed the next day.

  5. Whether Kevin Carson is a cryptoblackflaggist or not, I as an Englishman do acually object to “May Day”, which is to say: a socialist nazi holiday – being inserted without my permission into my calendar, as a “public holiday”. I don’t really care a stuff whether we are forced out of our houses at gunpoint on 1st May to wave red (or any other) flags joyfully for the BBCNazis’ camerae, or whether we are not.

    It’s just that nobody consulted us: and now, today, you just try even to suggest (politely) removing a public holiday from the calendar, and see what will happen to you.

  6. For once I must disagree with Julie.

    It is quite true that once May Day was about dancing round the Maypole and the “Queen of the May” – but since the 19th century it has stood for what the French poet called “the flag of blood and murder” (the Red Flag) and for the anti property “anarchist” alies of the Reds. Sadly Mr Palmer (a left of centre Democrat – now a hate figure for the far left because of the “Palmer Raids”) was correct, in PRACTICE there is no fundemental difference between the Black Flag people and the Red Flag people. The “anarchists” may have been the specific people sending letter bombs to blow the faces off human beings (and a bomb blast in 1920 that killed 30 people and injuring 300 more). However, the Reds were not just happy with it, they were actively planning attempted Revolution and were a clear-and-present-danger to the Republic.

    An interesting example of Red cooperation with the Black Flag types is the murder of Alessandro Berardelli in 1920 (full disclosure Mr Berardelli was a securty guard, like one of the Weather Underground’s victims in 1981 – so I may be considered to have a bias in the case).

    Two “anarchists” were arrestested Nichola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. It was a “fair cop” as the saying is – they were picked up in operation that was actually after Michael Boda (a payroll robber) – but Sacco had the murder weapon on him, and Vanzetti had Berardelli’s stolen gun in his pocket.

    This was not the only evidence against them – it piled up (especially against Sacco – who actually murdered Alessandro Berardelli when the guard WAS ON HIS KNEES BEGGING FOR HIS LIFE) and was very real (see Jack Cashill’s “Hoodwinked” where he exposes the various leftist propaganda campaigns that dominate American modern “history”).

    Their laywyer Fred Moore (a classic leftist) did his best to politicize the case – but he found it heavy going.

    At first most socialists were not even interested (after all the “anarchists” are supposed to be rivals of theirs) “”There is no story in it” said one bored socialist journalist “just two wops in a jam” (he was not being sarcastic – American socialists were not P.C. back then). But then WILLI MUNZENBERG got involved.

    The great WILLI MUNZENBERG – a classic agitprop man (who makes Kevin look a three year old child by comparison).

    Willi Munzenberg understood that the “anarchists” were allies (at least till “capitalism” was destroyed – then the “anarchists” could be terminated) and could be used as a weapon against the “capitalists”.

    So the Comintern went into overdrive setting up a great campaign.

    And the “useful idiots”were duely enlisted – Felix Franfurter (Harvard and the Supreme Court) was enlisted via his wife Marion. And the rest of the international “great and the good” were dragged in (H.G. Wells, that lovely person why wanted to use extermination gas on the “millions of blacks, browns and yellows”, was the leading British person involved in the propaganda campaign). Andre Malraux, Andre Gide, Marxim Gorky….. – all the usual suspects. Plus the American “cultural elite” – Upton Sinclair, Katherine Ann Porter, John Doas Passos., Edna St. Vincent Millay…

    Even decads after the event Arthur Schelsinger jr was still whitewashing the case (in his “The Age of Roosevelt” – the fireaarms the pair were actually carrying turn into anarchist literature that they were NOT carrying).

    “But they were still excuted”. In spite of crowd round Buckingham Palace singing “The Red Flag”, attacks on the American embassy in Paris, and all the rest of it.

    That was never the point. Peope like Willie Munzenberg or H.G. Wells (both of whom wanted to murder millions) could not give a toss whether Mr Sacco or Mr Vanzetti were executed or not (in fact BETTER IF THEY WERE EXECUTED – then they would be “martys”) what matters is the use they could be for the “cause” (the cause of destroying “capitalism”).

    And Alessandro Berardelli?

    Who? What does he matter?

    Just another “henchman of the capitalists” – like the other one and fifty million……

    The “cultural elite” (see above) do not care about them. All they care about is “destroying capitalism”.

    David David is correct – as is Sean Gabb.

    It is indeed “St Commie Day”.

    And it should be remembered – for the more than a hundred fifty million people murdered by the collectivists.

  7. ” could not give a toss whether Mr Sacco or Mr Vanzetti were executed or not (in fact BETTER IF THEY WERE EXECUTED – then they would be “martys”) ”

    Marty Hopkirk?.

  8. The man (ghost) in the white suit? I liked that show. “Only you can see me Jeff – only you”.

    But then I liked so many of the shows from the 60s and 70s.

  9. OK then EXECUTE them, prepare them for the cross, put them in the spot-
    light of real martys, nail them up so history shall never forget them, for their
    names shall be remembered like the profit Jesus, I give in to the crowd.

  10. Julie near Chicago

    “Most Americans think of May Day, if they think of it at all, as some sort of communist holiday.”

    No, they don’t. Most Americans don’t associate May Day with the Evil that is Communism, communo-anarchism, leftism generally at all. Most of us, when we think of May Day, think of it as a light-hearted day which we celebrate, rather mildly nowadays if at all, the blooming of flowers, the return of the songbirds, the leafing of the trees.

    K.C.’s purpose is to rub our noses in our Evil Past, instead of leaving us alone for once to enjoy ourselves; and I propose not to let him.

    We, who welcome May Day and the opening of “The Door into Summer*,” are being instructed to remember instead that Evil Grew in America, and that we must honor May Day as a symbol of the fight to destroy American Evil.

    *Title of a most enjoyable book by Mr. Heinlein. Involves time travel and a gold-digging dame.

    We must never forget that the Communist/communo-anarchist strategy is always to spit on culture and traditions, to take everything that is delightful and twist it so that to admire it becomes “evil” in people’s eyes.

  11. O.K. Julie – I will quit arguing.

    And yes – it was (as I said) an old celebration (going back to Pagan times) long before the Reds took it over (in the 19th century).

    If it really is about kights in shining armour and ladies with flowers in their hair….. that is fine.

    I am sure SIr John Manners (of “Young England”) would have agreed.

    And down in Texas with the vast annual “Renaissance Faire” every year – they most likely still do all this stuff. Maypoles and all.

  12. Julie near Chicago


  13. The Wood Gnome


  14. Julie near Chicago

    Paul… I just get so tired of the constant sneering, is all.

    You’re right about the history, of course. And people should know the truth of it, but they don’t.

    But I object to KC’s sneering, fleering* tone. “Listen, kiddies, you think you’re so great? —!!!”

    And I’m sick of it no matter who’s doing it. One of the things I like about Rep. Bachmann. She never does that. Also Milton Friedman. Wish I could say the same of certain “Austrians” and quite a few other “libertarians.” That’s before we ever get to the lefties and the Progs.

    *”Fleering.” James Thurber? Maybe. I forget. Flaring+sneering, I think.

    When I was in grade school, we made paper flowers and drew pictures, and put them up on the walls for May Day, and some of the kids brought cookies or cupcakes so we could have a little bit of a party. :)

  15. Julie near Chicago

    Wood Gnome. Cryptic.

  16. Well Julie, Michelle Bachmann (as you know) is an Austrian School person.

    Comrade Kevin is not really an Austrian School person (and never was) – he just quotes (out of context) Austrian School economists in order to enrage people like me. If Kevin has an economic tradition it is that of the “Ricardian Socialists” – people who took elements of David Ricardo’s work and developed it in a class war way. Karl Marx was a collectivist before he ever opened a page of economics (as his early philosophical writings show) – but he jumped on the work of these Ricardianians (the Ricardian Socialists – not David Ricardo himself) and used them to help provide a “scientfic” justification for stuff he wanted to do anyway.

    That is why I bring up Frank Fetter – as he (along with other people) refuted the key Ricardian ways of doing economics

    I wish I could remember the nice things you can from school (I really do) – but my school (both at Primary and Secondary level) was just a combat zone.

    I was not being sarcastic about those Renaissance events and so on – if I could I would go them (knights in armour, archery, ladies with flowers in their hair…..).

    If that is what May Day is about (a celebration of spring) then it is good.

    But my life has not been about that sort of thing I wish it had – but it has not been.

    Kevin and sneering.

    Kevin is a leftist – lefists sneer (especially at the ordinary people whom they pretend to stand for). Although anti leftists sneer also (although, I hope, with more justification).

    The leftists do lots of bad things – but their enemies (such as me) do lots of bad things also. That is the nature of war.

    And both sides will do a lot more bad things in the future, as de facto bankruptcy develops.

    Still I hope there will still be children making paper flowers and eating cupcakes.

  17. Julie near Chicago

    Paul, I didn’t think you were being sarcastic. (Or, if you were–ever so slightly *g*–I didn’t think it was aimed at me.)

    In fact I was a little afraid you might think I was taking you as one of the “sneering” ones. Which I certainly wasn’t. I had in mind certain persons at the LvM Inst. (what I meant by “certain ‘Austrians'”), and at Cato, and at Reason, and at ARI, and others who’ve forgotten whatever they might have learned while still in diapers about remaining civil. As I said, that’s before we even get to the Proggies and other lefties. I get sick of the constant ill-temper and general snottiness. And I get tired of the ongoing smearing of my country, and yours, and the West generally.

    School. From all you’ve said it must have been quite horrid, and I’m sorry. For me it was a mix of good and bad, but really nothing horrible. But the best grade-school years were the first three, in the little one-room school.

  18. You are right Julie.

    As for school – it taught me two valuable lessons.

    That the state is useless (at least at doing constructive things).

    And that the threat to life and property does NOT just come from the state – it comes from individuals and private gangs also.

    I know about “Social Justice” (up close and personal) and I know it does not just come from the state.

  19. Julie near Chicago

    Our first grade (age 6, normally) started with (I think) five kids, a huge class for the time and place actually. Of those, three or four of us could already read, having been taught by parents or grandparents or ….

  20. Wood Gnome Criptic, 7% of 99999456= E…………0. Yes of course you’re
    right about the good old day’s people had a sense of purpose, a community
    bonded together, children could indeed read in those day’s it is true. In England as well.

  21. I had to go to the hospital a couple of weeks ago, I got stuck in a que, my hearing is very good, I could not help overhearing two femal staff memebers in the corridor chatting away for well over
    over 30 minutes about where they are going on holiday, is that what we pay
    them £22.00 an hour for, while the trollies make their way to the mortury.

  22. Julie near Chicago

    Paul, yes, I see what you mean. At school; also Cable Street aftermath? If you care to say, that is.

  23. Julie – no I have never had any trouble over Cable Street. Although I did once meet a man whom my father had beaten up at the”battle”, but he (the man) was quite nice about it.

  24. Julie near Chicago

    Well, that’s good at least. Reminds of the gent who said that “Andrew Jackson was a fine man. I shot him once.” Can’t remember who it was. But I’m sure you know.

  25. Yes, I remeber as an infant being taught to read, I had reading lessons every night, I don’t it think it did my mother much good as I alway’s used to read the toy catalogues and want the most expensive or latest toy, they had good books in the 60’s, remember the ladybird collection, I don’t think parents teach children to read now, they don’t have the time, many having to take three jobs, i remeber my father teaching me morse code at eight but in truth I never got the hang of it! .. ..-. — ..- -. -.. .. – … .- .-. -..

  26. Senator Benton, Julie, Senator Benton.

    A very fine man indeed.

    Karl – in my case it was an lady by the name of Mrs Williams, who had a cat called Pushkin.

  27. Purr, Purr………………………………………………………………………………………….

  28. Anyway paul the sun is shinning here, i’m going out for a little “Trott” it’s
    all part of my therapy for the injuries I have suffered in the hands of these
    tories, the torture and illegal detentions, I have it on paper now, it’s official
    unde the european standard. Of course they are covering it up because they
    don’t want to pay compensation, but it will catch up with them, we have the
    FOI.I’m going to make sure AD, CH, DH, and AC, and Judge JJ. don’t get
    away with it. And espeically the HWA bastard.

  29. Julie near Chicago

    Thanks, Paul. I see one thing that’s been confusing me–the man’s confounded nephew gave his confounded son the exact same name! That would be his confounded great-nephew, the painter Thomas Hart Benton. *g* Wikipedia has the full quote (I assume it’s accurate). It’s a lot longer.

  30. Karl – I should walk more.

    Julie – yes the 19th century American habit of reusing names. In the 20th century it led (as you know) to the number system.

    “I am John Richard Smith the forth – my father was John Richard Smith the third, his father was John RIchard Smith the second…..”

  31. Yes paul, it a case, of what the devil needs he must do, I think i would cease
    up if I didn’t old war wounds never heal paul they never heal, despite what
    the quacks tell you, I would like to go back to riding PC, or even horses,
    but that is out of the qurestion, I reply on the motorised iron horse instead.