On May 1, 1886 a general strike was called in Chicago with the “utopian” demand for 8-hour workday: “Eight-hour day with no cut in pay.” Strikers briefly reached 65,000 in number and the authorities went nuts. Police thugs, in collaboration with gangsters of the Pinkerton detective agency, attacked the peaceful protest, shooting and injuring more than 200 people some of whom later died from their wounds. A few days later a demonstration against police violence was held on Chicago’s Haymarket square. The big demonstration was almost over and a worker’s meeting was held among the strikers when they were attacked by almost 200 policemen carrying Winchester repeater rifles. Then someone, unknown to this day, threw the first dynamite bomb ever used in peacetime history of the United States. Violent clashes erupted and eventually, seven policemen died of whom only one directly accountable to the bomb, the other supposedly killed in the panic by their own men. The bomber was never caught, but in contrast, a wave of police terror and repressions reigned across the country, union organizers were interrogated and eight anarchists were convicted only due to their political views – August Spies, Adolf Fischer, Albert Parsons, George Engel, Louis Lingg, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe and Michael Schwab. No evidence was ever presented that anyone of them has anything to do with the attack, most of them were not even present on the meeting when the bomb was thrown. Although Neebe was sentenced to 15 years in prison, the others received death sentences. Louis Lingg committed suicide in his cell. The Government mitigated the sentences of Schwab and Field to a life in prison. Spies, Fischer, Parsons and Engel were hanged on November 11, 1887, known as “Black Friday.” 7 years later the Haymarket anarchists’ innocence was publicly declared and later on May 1 was set aside as International Labor Day in memory of Haymarket martyrs and the injustice of the Haymarket Affair.
In Eastern Europe the Labor Day is widely recognized as nothing more than a nostalgic holiday from the Cold War past. After all, the Bolsheviks were the first state bureaucrats to stamp the seal on May Day. Lenin was the first to declare it as an official holiday in 1918, Stalin was the one to extend it until May 2 in 1928, and Hitler declared it as an official labor day of Germany in 1933 and, typically to the NSDAP’s cynicism, prohibited all trade unions on the following day. Everything is right – all totalitarian scum share a common history and remain unsurpassed in the top-rankings of mass murders and repressions, though ambitiously followed by the new PATRIOTs of the New World Order who frantically keep up the pace and tirelessly fight terrorists around the world.
Hopefully, the antiauthoritarian tradition of May Day as a day of labor solidarity and resistance to inequality, austerity, state repressions and all thugs, bosses and bureaucrats is still alive today. From the wobblies of the IWW (International Workers of the World) to those on the European continent whose memories and historical knowledge go further than 1944, 1933 or 1918. That’s why I was so intrigued when May Day 2015 marked the release date of a split Tape/CD shared equally between the riot folk singer/songwriter Ryan Harvey from the US and a young comrade from Skopje, Macedonia, called Marko Krstevski aka Marko Greyhound.
Ryan Harvey, the unplugged storyteller of global uprisings, protests and radical history is extensively releasing records and touring since 2011.
For the split with Marko Greyhound he is back with four, not entirely new songs telling the stories of a friend who supposedly died of drug overdose, the death of the young anarchist Carlo Giulliani killed by the Italian riot police in Genoa 14 years ago, an ode to the famous Scottish anarchist Stuart Christie and a ballad for the 2014’s Soma mine disaster in Turkey. Musically influenced from the traditional American folk and bluegrass music to the contemporary punk rock, hip-hop and radical intellectuals such as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky or David Graeber, Ryan Harvey’s music may empower, educate and shape you in a more radical way.
If you have been playing the acoustic guitar on an Occupy encampment, student or labor marches, general assemblies and social centers, then you’ll surely find yourself quite inspired by artists like Ryan Harvey, David Rovics or Mark Gunnery from the Riot Folk Collective.
Marko Greyhound’s side of the split is even more interesting for me, personally, since we’re sharing the same history and fate as born and raised in one of the most interesting regions of Europe.
While the US union organizers were fighting for 8-hour day in the 1880’s this specific region of what is modern day parts of Bulgaria, Macedonia and Greece was still under Ottoman Empire’s rule. The national liberation movements at that time were strongly influenced by anarchist ideas, which escalated in several attempts of uprisings, communal federations and insurgent acts in the beginning of 20th century. Later on the region was suffocated in countless bloody wars until the end of the WWII. What is now the modern day country of Macedonia was part of the Tito’s Yugoslavian federation, which disintegrated in a new series of wars and conflicts during the 90’s. Actually Macedonia was one of the few countries that gained their sovereignty in a peaceful way, though not immune to ethnic, political and social conflicts that still continue today.
Not surprisingly Marko’s part of the split with Ryan Harvey starts with a song called “Раздели/Владеј” (Divide/Conquer) and the lyrics translated into English go like “is the symbol of the flag / what makes us different. / divide and conquer, / a situation that repeats / nation = formula for destruction / border = formula for disintegration”. Then we have “Драг Премиере” (Dear Prime Minister), which came as a prelude for what happened in the country just after the split has been released in May 2015 with the shootings in Kumanovo and the massive protests on the streets of Skopje denouncing prime minister Nikola Gruevski’s corrupt government. So Marko Greyhound’s songs were a great soundtrack when reading the latest news from Skopje, especially those extremely biased articles in both Macedonian and Bulgarian media. There are two more songs on the split dealing with the reality on the Balkans – one of the poorest European regions. All the songs come along with English translations, so you can satisfy your curiosity to understand what he is singing about.
All things summed this is an extremely political and social release. The music here is not for a mere entertainment, but an educational tool instead – a means for information and hopefully a path to global solidarity. This split is surely not a boring lesson in history, but a sincere and real interpreation (and documentation) of our times.