‘May 1, 1890: Prepare for the Great Meeting’ from Workmen’s Advocate (New Haven). Vol. 6 No. 16. April 18, 1890.

Engels’ friend and correspondent Hermann Schlueter makes the motion for the first May Day march in the United States as the Eight Hour Committee of the Socialist Labor Party meets to prepare the New York demonstration. In response to the Socialist International’s 1889 call for a day of protest for the eight hour day as well as a continuation of the movement here, this historic document includes the formal appeal to New York workers to join in the manifestation and a list of unions and officers of the Committee.

‘May 1, 1890: Prepare for the Great Meeting’ from Workmen’s Advocate (New Haven). Vol. 6 No. 16. April 18, 1890.

Union Square the Place of Meeting. Stirring Appeal of the New York Socialists to their Fellow Wage Workers. Trade Unions Ready to March.

By the invitation of the Eight Hour Committee of the Socialist Labor Party about 40 members of various labor organizations of Ne v York City met at the Labor Lyceum last Sunday to make arrangements for the great eight-hour demonstration to be held on May 1 under the auspices of the Socialist Labor Party. The committee of five had been authorized to add to its number and the comrades who attended last Sunday’s meeting form together with the original Committee the enlarged Eight Hour Committee of the party. The following organisations were represented:

Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners, No. 349.
Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners, No. 513.
Pianomakers’ Lodge No. 4.
Furniture Workers’ Union No. 7.
Machine Woodworkers Union No. 19.
Typographical Union No. 7.
Eccentric Engineers No. 3.
Barters’ Union.
Cigarmakers’ Union No. 90.
Brewers’ Union No. 1.
Bakers’ Union No. 1.
Confectioners’ Union.
United Machinists.
Gilders’ & Picture Frame Makers’ Union.
Carriage & Wagon Makers.
Silk Ribbon Weavers’ Progressive Union No. 1.
West Side Association of Silk Ribbon Weavers.
German Waiters’ Union.
Sailors’ & Fireman’s Union.
Progressive Mush al Union.
Locksmiths’ & Railing Makers’ Union.
Advance Association of Bookbinders.
Bricklayers’ Union No. 11.
Federation of Clerks & Bookkeepers.
German & American Sections, S.L.P.
Nationalist Club No. 1.

The meeting was called to order by H. Vogt, who briefly dated the purpose of the same. The meeting then organized as the enlarge! Eight Hour Committee of the S.L.P., by the election of H. Vogt as Chairm.tn of the meeting, Ernest Boehm as permanent Secretary and August Waldinger as permanent Treasurer.

H. Schlueter on behalf of the original Committee of Five submitted a motion that an open air demonstration be held on the evening of May 1 at Union Square and the labor organizations be invited to march in a body from their headquarters to the square.

Before the motion was put to a vote the comrades present were called upon to report as to the attitude of their respective organizations towards such a demonstration and the participation to be expected. These reports were very encouraging; with the exception of a few, winch may be brought in line by agitation, all the progressive labor organizations of New York will join.

After the hearing of these reports the motion was unanimously adopted and the Secretary instructed to obtain a permit for the meeting and for the marching of the unions to the square at the earliest possible moment A committee of six on organization was appointed to arrange the details a jd also to organize such trades as are not yet organized. The committee consists of Comrades Staffers, Waldinger, Schlueter, Vogt, Koenig and Geo. W. Peed.

On motion of Comrade Bucksath all organizations not yet represented are to be requested to send delegates to the next meeting, which will take place on Saturday next.

Comrade Shevitch reported a rousing eight-hour meeting of the pianomakers, whom he had just addressed and had invited to attend the demonstration of the Partv. The invitation bad been received with general applause and a resolution to that effect passed.

Comrade Shevitch moved that an appeal be issued to the working people of New York, inviting their participation. In discussing this motion one of the comrades present suggested the advisability of issuing the appeal in a name less open to prejudice than that of the Socialist Labor Party. The suggestion met with general disfavor. Comrade Von der Heyden (German Silk Ribbon Weavers), Westertield (English Silk Ribbon Weavers), Reed (Sailors & Firemen), and others expressed the opinion amid general applause, that it was time for the Socialists to place themselves at the head of the movement with open colors. Shevitch said there were three classes in the movement; the rogues, the fools and the Socialists; it was time that the Socialists killed the rogues, converted the fools and gave a sound direction to the movement. The motion of Comrade Shevitch was then unanimously adopted and Shevitch and Vogt appointed to draw the appeal.

A number or committees were appointed to visit the several organizations that will meet during the week.

The following is the appeal issued by the committee:


Brothers! The 1st of May 1890 will be a red letter day in the history of the labor movement.

The resolution adopted by the Convention of the American Federation of Labor, to proclaim on that date the eight hour work-day, was enthusiastically endorsed by the great international Labor Convention which was held last summer in Paris, and resulted in a powerful international movement, that has spread like wild-fir e in all civilized countries. Hundreds of thousands of workers in France, Spain, Germany and England will assemble on May 1st to proclaim the universal solidarity of the workers, and their determination to carry on their struggle to its only logical end, the Emancipation of Labor from Capital and the abolition of wage-slavery, May 1, 1890 is only a forerunner of the great day of the Declaration of Independence of Labor throughout the world.

The Socialists in all countries stand in the vanguard of this movement. As their great thinkers, from Louis Blanc and Robert 0wen to Karl Marx and Ferdinand Lassalle, were the first to discern the great international mission of the working class to give humanity that industrial freedom without which political liberty must remain a sham, so do their men of action now stand in the foremost ranks of those who struggle for the great victory which, by abolishing misery, will strike at the very root of ignorance and oppression.

Thus in nearly all the European countries the labor movement has become identified with Socialism. In Germany one million and a half voters have a few weeks ago manifested their allegiance to its principles at the polls. In France, Italy and Spain there is no labor movement outside of the socialistic ranks. Even in conservative old England men like John Burns, Hyndman, William Morris, and others, all imbued with the principles of Socialism, have now come to the front of the movement, and before them those antiquated remnants of past generations, who still hoped to solve the labor question on the basis of existing relations between capital and labor, dwindle into insignificance.

In the present state of industrial development any economic labor movement not tending towards the ultimate abolition of wage slavery is doomed to impotency and defeat.

Therefore, workingmen of New York, the Socialist Labor Party of this city appeals to you to join hands and hearts on the first of May with the proletarians of the world and to assemble on Union Square, at 8 o’clock p.m., to proclaim your demand for a shorter work-day and to raise the banner of social emancipation.

Let each organization assemble at its headquarters and march in a body to the square.

Eminent speakers, representing nearly all the organized trades of the city, will address the meeting.

Show to those who rob you of the fruits or your labor, show to those criminal and corrupt classes who now control the politics and the social conditions of this country that the labor movement in New York is not dead, that it is stronger than ever, not only in numbers but in spirit and in purpose.

Come one and all on the evening of May 1, to Union Square.

THE EIGHT HOUR COMMITTEE, Socialist Labor Party, Section N.Y.

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 full issue: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90065027/1890-04-19/ed-1/seq-1/

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