‘Hyde Park on May Day, Socialist at the Helm’ from Workmen’s Advocate (New Haven). Vol. 6 No. 20. May 17, 1890.

The International Platform, that cur Edward Aveling speaking, Eleanor Marx in cloak, Engels behind Aveling.

A report of the famous 1890 May Day demonstration in London’s Hyde Park, one of the first truly mass international May Day events, occurring less than three years after the executions, and attended by many including a 70-year-old Engels and addressed by Eleanor Marx.

‘Hyde Park on May Day, Socialist at the Helm’ from Workmen’s Advocate (New Haven). Vol. 6 No. 20. May 17, 1890.

History of the Great Demonstration — Tricky Leaders Frustrated and Impotent — Conservatism Dying out in the Capital of the British Empire.

The magnitude of the crowds assembled on Sunday May 4, at Hyde Park in London to demand the institution of the eight-hour work-day by legislative enactment has astounded the entire civilized world. Although accustomed to see large masses of workmen moving in England, many believed that those masses were still the followers of the old conservative Trades Unions, bred in the laissez-faire doctrine of competitive economy, and the astonishment is the greater to see them now demanding that the hours of labor be regulated by law. This important change in England means that the working classes of that country have finally broken away from the conservative Trades Unions in order to join the socialists, and that the latter are now, at least in the capital of Great Britain, leading the English workmen. This fact is proven beyond question by the history of the Hyde Park demonstration. We quote from a private letter, just received, and written on the eve of that great event:

“Here, in London, a gigantic demonstration will take place next Sunday. The credit is due, in the first place, to the two Avelings (Edward Aveling and Mrs. Eleanor Marx-Aveling). The Gas Workers, who are the best of the newly organized Unions, were eminently in favor of the eight-hour demonstration, as they know from practical experience how uncertain their eight-hour day has been, and to them, as well as to the miners, the legal eight-hour day is the principal point to be gained. Mrs. Marx Aveling is a member of the committees of the Gas Workers and General Laborers’ Unions, to which she is delegated by the Silvertown working women. The Gas Workers and the Bloomsbury Socialist Society were the originators of the demonstration, and they had a large following among the smaller Trades Unions and the radical clubs, who are joining the socialists in growing members and leaving the fold of the Glad stone bourgeois party. In perfect good faith they proposed to the London Trades Council, which is chiefly com posed of representatives of the old Trades Unions (skilled workmen), to participate in the Hyde Park demonstration; and the Trades Council, finding that the matter could no longer be avoided, attempted to capture the movement.

“The Council, after having made an agreement with Hyndman s Social Democratic Federation, secured a permit for the use of Hyde Park from the Commissioner of Works for May 4; a Step which had been neglected by the others. Every mass meeting to be held at the Park has to be announced to the Com missioner of Works, who makes the arrangements for erecting the platforms etc.; and, as the rules provide that but one meeting may be held at the same time, those gentlemen thought they were now the masters of the situation, and that by having monopolized the Park they might dictate to the original committee. They had claimed for themselves seven of the platforms, of which they assigned two to the Social Democratic Federation, thus keeping up appearances of partiality towards the socialists, and also gaining a socialist ally.

“Then they resolved that none but Trade Societies should be allowed to march in the parade with their flags, and that speakers of political bodies should not be permitted on any of the platforms, and from the resolutions to be read at the meeting the legal eight hour day was expunged. They also laid out the route of march, and then a meeting of delegates exclusively from Trade Societies was called. Mrs. Marx. Aveling was not admitted to that meeting under the pretense that she did not work at the trade represented by her; and an amendment to re-insert the legal eight-hour day in the resolution was declared out of order, as the matter had been disposed of. The delegates were told that the Council was the party in possession, that the Park belonged the Council on May 4, and that if they did not like it they could leave it alone.

“The delegates of the original committee were dumbfounded. But they soon rallied, and on the next day the tables were turned upon the Council.

“Aveling told the Commissioner of Works that, if the original committee were not granted a sufficient number of platforms there would be trouble. Fortunately the Tories are at the helm for the Liberals would have lied about it and granted nothing and the Tories are not in a position to make more enemies among the workmen. Aveling got seven platforms, and then the gentlemen of the Council had to give in, as a row at the park would have shown their numerical weakness.

“The original committee went to work energetically, arranging their plans, route of march and publishing the same, thus getting ready before the men of the Council. On April 29 Aveling and Shipion met and steps were taken to prevent a collision, so that the meeting will be one of the largest ever held.”

These are the facts as related by us by a most trustworthy correspondent.

The demonstration has been, as reported by cable, one of the grandest turn-outs ever seen in London, and by its proceedings it has proclaimed one of the most important victories of Socialism in our times.

Let us hope that the coming convention of the English Trades Unions may show a progress of Socialist influence throughout England equal to that which the May demonstration has revealed in London.

The Workmen’s Advocate replaced the Bulletin of the Social Labor Movement and the English-language paper of the Socialist Labor Party originally published by the New Haven Trades Council, it became the official organ of SLP in November 1886 until absorbed into The People in 1891. The Bulletin of the Social Labor Movement, published in Detroit and New York City between 1879 and 1883, was one of several early attempts of the Socialist Labor Party to establish a regular English-language press by the largely German-speaking organization. Founded in the tumultuous year of 1877, the SLP emerged from the Workingmen’s Party of the United States, itself a product of a merger between trade union oriented Marxists and electorally oriented Lassalleans. Philip Van Patten, an English-speaking, US-born member was chosen the Corresponding Secretary as way to appeal outside of the world of German Socialism. The early 1880s saw a new wave of political German refugees, this time from Bismark’s Anti-Socialist Laws. The 1880s also saw the anarchist split from the SLP of Albert Parsons and those that would form the Revolutionary Socialist Labor Party, and be martyred in the Haymarket Affair. It was in this period of decline, with only around 2000 members as a high estimate, that the party’s English-language organ, Bulletin of the Social Labor Movement, appeared monthly from Detroit. After it collapsed in 1883, it was not until 1886 that the SLP had another English press, the Workingmen’s Advocate. It wasn’t until the establishment of The People in 1891 that the SLP, nearly 15 years after its founding, would have a stable, regular English-language paper.

PDF of issue: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90065027/1890-05-17/ed-1/seq-1/

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