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This leaflet was distributed outside the opening of the Chicago Historical Society centennial exhibition, evidently by an organization called Chicago Anarchists United. It is evidence of the fact that in recent years criticism of Haymarket commemorations are perhaps more likely to come from the radical left than from advocates of law and order.
As these commemorations have increasingly been dedicated to the progress and continuing efforts of organized labor, and as government agencies and civic groups have participated in them, those who see themselves as the rightful heirs of the anarchist philosophy of the Haymarket defendants have raised objections. They have accused groups like the Centennial Committee of falsely appropriating the experience of the Haymarket martyrs to causes they would not have supported, and of betraying the memory of uncompromising revolutionaries by recasting them as progressive reformers, i.e., in the likeness of the organizers of these commemorations.
Thus, this leaflet charges the Illinois Labor History Society and the "so-called" Haymarket Centennial Committee with accepting corporate and government grants and "serving the same system that murdered our fellow workers in 1887" by portraying them as "misunderstood liberals." It likewise accuses the Chicago Historical Society of slandering the defendants in its publicity by characterizing them as "as 'frustrated' ingrates who failed to appreciate the acumen of 'successful Chicago entrepreneurs' such as McCormick." The leaflet quotes the words of the executed anarchists to defend them against the charge that they espoused violence for its own sake, rather than in self-defense.
Chicago Anarchists United appears to have been connected to an association of groups across the country who are listed in other publications as endorsers of "Anarchist Haymarket Centennial Activities."
One of these other publications carried an open letter of protest to the Haymarket Centennial Committee from an officer of the International Workers of the World. The letter cited statements from the martyrs in asserting that it was wrong to allow politicians, ministers, certain union leaders, and professional academics to dominate centennial events while excluding workers and the unemployed from public discussions. It criticized the refusal to support reenactments of confrontations from the 1880s, like the 1885 demonstration at the opening of the Board of Trade. "Cultural events, art exhibits and the like are all very well, " the letter states, "But these do not constitute a commemoration worthy of the name. To live up to such a billing, you must forthrightly present the Haymarket Martyrs' vision."
There have been similar protests on other occasions, including at the dedication of the Waldheim monument as a National Historic Landmark in May 1998. These protests have a sound point, given the principled opposition of the defendants to government and centralized authority in all forms, let alone the treatment they received at the hands of this authority and the misgivings at least some of them felt about working for reforms like the eight-hour day within the context of the capitalist system that they rejected. Most of the Haymarket anarchists were not ultramilitants set on violence, but cultural revolutionaries who sought fundamental changes in institutions and values in ways that transcended issues of hours and wages. Still, many of the participants in the Haymarket Centennial had very similar kinds of higher goals.
Other protesters were less interested in pointing out just who were the proper heirs of Haymarket than they were in associating the righteousness of the defendants with their own social and political concerns. One leaflet urged members of the public to work for "Nonviolent Revolution on a basis of Universal Free Love," and another tried to convince its readers to "attack the Zionist connection to Apartheid, Naziism, Central America, & the atomic bomb."