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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 284

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This is the grave of the Haymarket Martyrs.

The events of the Haymarket bombing are fairly well known and I’ve written them up, so you can read it for the basic background.

Buried in the Haymarket tomb are the original five martyrs–August Spies, Louis Lingg, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, and Albert Parsons. Two of the three who John Altgeld later pardoned are also buried there–Michael Schwab and Oscar Neebe. The only person convicted after Haymarket who is not buried here is Samuel Fielden.

Just a few points here in addition to what is linked above.

First, it is almost certain that none of the people convicted of the crime actually threw the bomb that killed the police. Not that some of them wouldn’t have–Louis Lingg actually was constructing bombs in his apartment. But he didn’t do it. If he had, he would have just admitted it because he was a true radical who embraced violent resistance to capitalism. The person who did it is probably Rudolph Schnaubelt, a German anarchist who left the country immediately after the bombing and likely ended up in Argentina.

Second, the Haymarket issue has probably played too big a role in the history of the labor movement and in its memory. The bombing came during a small rally against the combination of police violence and union busting that had killed a couple of McCormick’s Harvester workers who were on strike against that brutally anti-union company. The anarchists were involved in the 8-hour day movement, but they weren’t necessarily wanted and they weren’t necessarily working in conjunction with the actual strikers, although there were some connections. The bombing was completely irresponsible and counterproductive. It was the impact of Johann Most’s vile “Propaganda of the Deed” ideology, which effectively said that anarchists could engage in actions like this, even if it hurt innocent people, because the repression that followed would radicalize others. That Haymarket became so internationally famous is partially because of the repression that followed, which was disgusting, loathsome, and unconstitutional. It’s also because anarchism was an international movement, largely at this time following German immigrants around Europe and the Americas. It is what it is–I’m not really complaining about it–but in some ways it’s a rather odd incident to be this famous, as opposed to something more black and white, such as the Ludlow Massacre, let’s say.

Third, the grave itself was constructed in 1893 by the sculptor Albert Weinert and was dedicated after leftists marched from Chicago to the cemetery, just outside the city limits. The monument actually contains the text of Altgeld’s pardon, making him such a great governor and hero of left-leaning governance at a time when that was so, so rare. The Illinois Labor History Society now owns the actual grave and conducts the maintenance. In 2016, people discovered that a time capsule was buried inside that contained a bunch of primary sources about the trial In the aftermath, this site, originally a cemetery for German immigrants, became a site where the remains of many leftists were laid, from Emma Goldman to obscure Chicago-based communists such as Claude and Geraldine Lightfoot.

The Haymarket martyrs are buried in Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois.

If you would like this series to profile more graves of leftist martyrs, you can donate to cover the necessary expenses here. For example, Samuel Fielden is buried in La Veta, Colorado, where he moved after his release and lived as a rancher and was only a few dozen miles away from the Ludlow Massacre when it happened. Wonder what he thought as an old man about that. Frank Little is in Butte, Montana, where I would love to go. I’ve never visited any Montana graves, I think. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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