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AMMON HENNACY SPEAKS ABOUT ALBERT PARSONS - Catholic Worker odds & ends
May 7th, 2008
10:10 pm

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AMMON HENNACY SPEAKS ABOUT ALBERT PARSONS
"Albert Parsons, born June 20, 1848, in Montgomery, Alabama; died in Chicago, Illinois, November 11, 1887; one of the five Haymarket Martyrs, murdered by the State of Illiniois in the frenzy of the Eight-Hour Movement. In November of 1937 I was chairman of the 50th anniversary of the Haymarket in Milwaukee. I introduced Lucy Parsons, the 83-year-old widow of Albert Parsons. She said that if her husband had been part of a plot to throw a bomb at that time, he never would have brought her and her children to the meeting."

Parson's statement before sentencing: "Yes, we are anarchists, and for this, your honor, we stand condemned. Can it be that men are to suffer death for their opinions?...Do you think, gentlemen of the prosecution...that this trial will be settled by my strangulation and that of my collegues? I tell you that there is a greater verdict to be heard from. The American people will have something to say about this attempt to destroy their rights...There is a fierce conflict ...raging between the privileged and the disinherited. Strikes are met with lockouts; bread riots are met with police clubs, bayonets and gatling guns; the 'pious fraud' plies his vocation and threatens the the rebellious slaves with eternal damnation and the wrath of God when when oppression compels them to disregard the 'law and order' of their earthly masters; the poorhouses and prisons are filled with the unfortunates whose inability to find employment makes the objects of governmental care, and dungeons and prison cells are crammed with wage-slaves who have 'conspired' against starvations wages and thus violated the 'organic law' of the capitalistic system."

None of the Haymarket men were born anarchists. They arrived at that stage by becoming disillusioned with political action. Parsons was threatened by the police and by thugs the day after he made his first speech in Chicago. If he had been a quitter he would have quit then. This only whetted up his zeal for his ideals. He was not as radical as Lingg, Fischer and Engel but he stood by them and died with them, rather than to wiggle out of it. He advanced rather than retreated. In a crisis he grew. Many will hide away during a crisis and never have to make a decision. Parsons' was not a vindictive nature; his was a reasoning mind which sought to enlighten the workers. He was in the big labor movement of his day, the Knights of Labor, and he could have advanced in it to political office, but he was wise enough to see through the degenerating influence of scheming politicians. He and the men with him did not die in vain. Their spirit still lives wherever there are young people who choose, as Camus tells us we must choose, to be on the side of the executed rather than on the side of the executioners, if we are not to be executioners ourselves. Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman were young and the brave stand of the Haymarket martyrs made them anarchists. Darrow and Debs were strengthened by the example of Parsons.

Thomas Jefferson said that there should be a revolution every twenty years in this country. He was moved to that statement by Shay's Rebellion in New England on the part of the soldiers of the Revolution, who were being pauperized by the aristocrats who were running the government. Garrison and Thoreau kept this spirit alive in the Abolitionist movement. The black slave had his one master to fight with. The working class, both black and white, all over the country now had, not a bankrupt cotton aristocracy to fight, but a whole class of robber barons who tied them to machines in factories and smothered them to death in mines. Laws made to protect them were not enforced. The men of the Haymarket gave backbone to this whole movement of labor to stand up for its rights. If Parsons had weakened and accepted clemency this would have weakened the whole witness of the others. Let us remember him and do likewise in our efforts today against the computerized war machine which seeks to rob us, not only of our livelihood, but of our manhood as well. We will not be units of the machine! We will be individuals---anarchists if you please!

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