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The Haymarket Conspiracy

The Haymarket Conspiracy: Transatlantic Anarchist Networks

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Haymarket Conspiracy
    Book Description:

    The Haymarket Conspiracy: Transatlantic Anarchist Networks traces the evolution of revolutionary anarchist ideas in Europe and their migration to the United States in the 1880s. A new history of the transatlantic origins of American anarchism, this study thoroughly debunks the dominant narrative through which most historians interpret the Haymarket Bombing and Trial of 1886-87._x000B__x000B_Challenging the view that there was no evidence connecting the eight convicted workers to the bomb throwing at the Haymarket rally, Timothy Messer-Kruse examines police investigations and trial proceedings that reveal the hidden transatlantic networks, the violent subculture, and the misunderstood beliefs of Gilded Age anarchists. Messer-Kruse documents how, in the 1880s, radicals on both sides of the Atlantic came to celebrate armed struggle as the one true way forward and began to prepare seriously for conflict. Within this milieu, he suggests the possibility of a "Haymarket conspiracy": a coordinated plan of attack in which the oft-martyred Haymarket radicals in fact posed a real threat to public order and safety. Drawing on new, never-before published historical evidence, The Haymarket Conspiracy provides a new means of understanding the revolutionary anarchist movement on its own terms rather than in the romantic ways in which its agents have been eulogized.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09414-9
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. 1-8)

    A few minutes after ten o’clock on Tuesday, May 4, 1886, in the midst of a national general strike for the eight-hour workday, nearly two hundred police officers poured out from the Desplaines Street station and marched the hundred yards to where Chicago’s anarchists were holding a protest meeting. Captain William Ward stopped a few feet from where Samuel Fielden was just concluding his speech and loudly ordered the crowd to disperse. At that moment, someone partially sheltered by a stack of fish crates left on a nearby curb threw a round leaden bomb, slightly bigger than a softball, into...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Conspiracy
    (pp. 9-26)

    According to more than a dozen “squealers,” the Haymarket meeting was originally conceived as the centerpiece of a larger plan to attack police stations throughout the city. It was the culmination of an idea that was conceived well before the strike for the eight-hour workday that commenced on May 1, 1886, and that was ultimately agreed to at a clandestine meeting of the “armed men” of the movement after rioting broke out at the Mc-Cormick Reaper Works on May 3.

    That night the most militant men in the anarchist movement gathered after most other evening meetings had concluded at Greif’s...

  6. CHAPTER TWO From Red to Black
    (pp. 27-68)

    Some deep change occurred in the thinking of Chicago’s radicals over the span of one decade. While the men who were huddled in Greif’s basement hoped to spark a riotous uprising of workers in 1886, nine years earlier Chicago’s radicals had acted to prevent one.

    On Monday, July 23, 1877, the greatest strike wave in U.S. history rolled into Chicago when a group of switchmen for the Michigan Central Railroad resolved to strike. Two months earlier the Pennsylvania Railroad had announced a 10 percent pay cut for all workers earning more than one dollar per day. Other rail lines followed...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Black International
    (pp. 69-99)

    St. Petersburg’s cobblestone streets were blanketed in snow on March 13, 1881, as the iron carriage bearing Czar Alexander II lumbered toward the Winter Palace surrounded by a mounted guard of six Cossacks. The czar no longer traveled in open sleighs like his brother, the Grand Duke, who followed behind, as assassination attempts had grown both closer and more frequent. In 1878 someone had managed to bomb a dining hall in the Winter Palace, killing a handful of soldiers and servants. The following year a well-dressed schoolteacher named Alexander Sokoloff approached within arm’s reach of the czar’s open carriage and...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Dynamite
    (pp. 100-136)

    Just before midnight on the last day of March 1882, the two hundred or so inhabitants of Tappan, New York, a village on the west bank of the Hudson River across from White Plains, were jolted awake by a sharp report and a sudden shaking. David Storms awoke to the sound of windows breaking and shutters banging. Most people in the community thought they had suffered an earthquake, and some even ran out of their homes. But when the tremor passed and it was determined that the sound had come from the direction of Traitor’s Hill, the villagers realized that...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Anarchists, Trade Unions, and the Eight-Hour Workday
    (pp. 137-157)

    Toward the end of June 1885, the West Side Street Railway Company fired sixteen of its men. All happened to have been leaders of the drivers and conductors union at the firm, though the company insisted they were discharged for their poor work performance. This set off one of the most popular and disruptive strikes in the city since the Great Railroad Strike of 1877.

    On the first day of the strike, police acted with restraint and largely chose not to respond when rocks rained down on the streetcars, except for police captain John Bonfield, who fired off a round...

  10. CHAPTER SIX From Eight Hours to Revolution
    (pp. 158-178)

    Though the Chicago River was frozen and May Day was still four months away as the new year began, it was obvious to Chicago’s anarchists that the eight-hour-workday movement was catching fire. The Trades and Labor Assembly and its Eight-Hour League, ably led by barrel maker George Schilling, were active in all corners of the city and winning ground by the day. TLA organizers held their organizing meetings among Chicago’s Polish workers, the Eight-Hour League drafted lengthy manifestos to manufacturers, and the TLA held an eight-hour-workday benefit soiree at Cavalry Armory. Around the same time, the Eight-Hour League sent a...

    (pp. 179-188)

    The Haymarket bomb failed to ignite the popular insurrection that anarchists had dared to hope for, but its blast also snuffed out the very movement that had created it. The swift arrest and trial of eight anarchist activists for the murder of patrolman Mathias Degan shifted the priorities of Chicago’s anarchist movement from ratcheting up class tensions to defending their imperiled leaders. Through the course of a lengthy trial, appeals, and a campaign for clemency, the anarchist movement was not only crushed by the nation’s first red scare, but it also consciously assisted in its own destruction by denying its...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 189-228)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 229-236)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 237-245)