The month of November has always weighed heavily on the working class. Both in Aotearoa and abroad, capitalism seems to take it’s toll during the 30 days of November, and is aptly known as ‘Red November, Black November’. Sadly, Aotearoa can now add another 29 to the list of those who have perished during the month.
Among the list of workers killed in November are the Haymarket Anarchists. On November 11, 1887, four of the anarchist leaders of the Chicago eight-hour movement were executed because they advocated ideas of workplace justice, while another committed suicide before the state could get him. Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engle, and Adolph Fischer are now forever known as the Haymarket Martyrs. In June of 1893 Illinois Governor John Peter Atgeld issued posthumous pardons to these men, proclaiming them victims of a biased judge and a packed jury.
Joe Hill — IWW organizer, songwriter, and troubadour — also met his death in November, executed by the state of Utah on November 19, 1915, after a farcical trial based on flimsy evidence. In 1916, on the first anniversary of his death, his ashes were distributed to IWW delegates and sent to Locals around the world, including New Zealand.
The IWW was the target of further repression. Again, in November, Wobblies felt the violent arm of the state. On November 5, 1916, over 200 Wobblies were headed to the docks of Everett, Washington, on the ship Vernoa to participate in a Free Speech Fight in support of the rights of union members to speak on the street corners. While they attempted to dock, a group of over 500 deputy sheriffs opened fire on the peaceful unarmed crowd, killing 11 and wounding 27. This is known as the Everett Massacre.
In Aotearoa, we have our own victims in November. During the 1912 Waihi Strike, Frederick George Evans was bludgeoned to death by Constable Wade of the New Zealand Police Force, after the Waihi Miners Hall was stormed by both Police and a mob of scabs. Left to die in a Police cell, Evans became the first worker to be killed during an industrial dispute in New Zealand. November 12th has come to be known as ‘Black Friday’, and many still remember his death by visiting his grave in Auckland.
Ralph Chaplin, author of Solidarity Forever and another Wobbly poet-artist, penned a fitting poem about November:
Red November, black November,
Bleak November, black and red.
Hallowed month of labor’s martyrs,
Labor’s heroes, labor’s dead.
Labor’s wrath and hope and sorrow,
Red the promise, black the threat,
Who are we not to remember?
Who are we to dare forget?
Black and red the colors blended,
Black and red the pledge we made,
Red until the fight is ended,
Black until the debt is paid.
In November, we remember the casualties of the unjust and illogical system of capitalism, and struggle so that no more will become the victims of capital. In solidarity…