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"The Workingmen's Marseillaise " included here was sung by the "Singing for Actors Class" at Columbia College, Chicago, in 1986. It is performed by Albert Williams, teacher; Carl Branch, piano and vocals; and Edu Bernardino, Fred Hagen, and Patricia Murphy. It was recorded for the Chicago Historical Society's Haymarket centennial exhibition, "Haymarket 1886!"
The countless scenes that make up the dramas of Haymarket include hundreds of meetings, rallies, parades, protests, and demonstrations. These ranged from impromptu gatherings to elaborately staged, carefully planned events. The smallest of these could be anything from a program of political addresses or debates in a private hall to dancing and picnics in one of these same halls or a nearby park. One of the most popular outdoor recreational retreats among socialist groups was Ogden's Grove, near North Avenue, where Willow Street meets Clybourn Avenue.
The most dramatic events of this kind were mass protest demonstrations in public streets, sometimes announced only hours in advance by broadsides plastered throughout the city. These included the socialist rally in Market Square during the railroad strike, and, nine years later, the Haymarket meeting.
The events planned by workers' organizations were a carefully choreographed combination of celebration, protest, and entertainment. Often involving parades in the city streets, these served to rouse the faithful and rally support by physically declaring the presence of a particular cause or set of ideas. While we are familiar with parades of all kinds todaymostly in relation to certain holidaysthese are far fewer and less passionately partisan than those familiar to nineteenth-century city dwellers.
Among the most notable gatherings was the conclave advertised in the broadside on the left, one of many commemorations by political and immigrant groups of the European democratic revolutions of 1848 and the Paris Commune of 1871. These were described here together as "The Dawn of Liberty," whose high noon was still awaited. As the broadside indicates, the event brought together the Socialistic Labor Party, various trade unions, and the Lehr- & Wehr-Verein in a program of speeches, music, and drilling-the last of which, observed a local reporter, attracted the most attention.
Participants marched through the downtown to the Inter-State Exposition Building (pictured at the top), built in 1873 to house a great trade fair whose aim was to announce Chicago's complete recovery from the fire. Since that occasion the Exposition Building, located on the east side of Michigan Avenue at Adams Street, was used many times as a multi-purpose exposition and concert hall. It was torn down in the early 1890s to make way for the Art Institute of Chicago.
With an estimated thirty thousand people in attendance at the "Grand Anniversary," the Exposition Building was so crowded that Albert Parsons could not be found when it was time for him to make his speech. If one of the purposes of the meeting was for those with left-wing sympathies to make the extent of their presence known, this message certainly came through loud and clear. "Those who labored under the belief that there were but few Communists in our midsts, and that they were not worth taking notice of," the Chicago Tribune read the next day, "could have easily satisfied themselves of their error if they had gone to the Exposition Building and witnessed the Commune celebration held in that structure." Events like this led to the outlawing of the paramilitary activities of the Lehr- & Wehr-Verein and similar groups, and the labeling of socialists and labor leaders, especially the foreign-born, as public enemies of the "real" America.
These meetings were always accompanied by music and song. One of the more popular selections of left-wing labor organizations in this period was the "Workers' Marseillaise," whose determined lyrics were set to the melody of the French national anthem, which in turn was associated with democratic revolution. Note, however, that these stirring lyrics, while attacking the tyranny of capital in a vividly stylized diction, still envision law and the ballot as the means of redress.
The complete lyrics follow:
Ye sons of labor, Duty calling,
But see the blackening
With luxury and pride surrounded,
But you, ye Titan bandits, tremble!
Ye workingmen, in want bewailing,
Too long the traitor knaves conspiring,