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[Detail] The anarchist riot in Chicago

Radical Rhetoric

The collection contains transcripts of numerous articles published in the socialist and anarchist newspapers, Arbeiter-Zeitung and The Alarm. They provide the opportunity to examine the rhetoric that the radical factions of the labor movement developed to communicate ideas and create change.

Search on Arbeiter-Zeitung and Alarm for over 200 articles. The great number of these articles entered as evidence in the Haymarket trial is evidence of the prosecution's effort to base the anarchists' guilt on their use of incendiary radical rhetoric. Read articles such as "Seat of War" and "Wage Slavery" ) and "Blood," August Spies' response to the McCormick riot.

"Men of labor, this afternoon the bloodhounds of your oppressors murdered six of your brothers at McCormick's. Why did they murder them? Because they dared to be dissatisfied with the lot which your oppressors have assigned to them. They demanded bread, and they gave them lead for an answer, mindful of the fact that thus people are most effectually silenced. You have for many, many years endured every humiliation without protest, have drudged from early in the morning till late at night, have suffered all sorts of privations, have even sacrificed your children. You have done everything to fill the coffers of your masters — everything for them! and now, when you approach them and implore them to make your burden a little lighter, as a reward for your sacrifices they sent their bloodhounds, the police, at you, in order to cure you with bullets of your dissatisfaction. Slaves, we ask and conjure you by all that is sacred and dear to you, avenge the atrocious murder which has been committed upon your brothers to-day, and which will likely be committed upon you to-morrow. Laboring men, Hercules, you have arrived at the crossway. Which way will you decide. For Slavery and hunger, or for freedom and bread? If you decide for the latter, then do not delay a moment; then, people to arms! Annihilation to the beasts in human form who call themselves rulers! Uncompromising annihilation to them! This must be your motto. Think of the heroes whose blood has fertilized the road to progress, liberty and humanity, and strive to become worthy of them!"

People's Exhibit 63, Arbeiter-Zeitung (Newspaper), "Blood," 1886 May 4 (pages 8 and 9).

  • Who was the intended audience of Arbeiter-Zeitung and The Alarm? What do you think was the general mission of these newspapers?
  • How would you characterize the rhetoric of the labor radicals?
  • What vocabulary from these articles stands out?
  • What are the effects of this choice of vocabulary?
  • How would you expect different audiences, such as civic leaders, police, workers, and businessmen to have reacted to this language?
  • What kinds of sources do radical writers quote? What is the impact of such references?
  • Do you think that this rhetoric was meant to incite violence? Why or why not?

The Subject Index heading labor union meetings provides articles from Arbeiter-Zeitung that reported on labor meetings, often excerpting or summarizing speeches that were made. Along with these articles, the defendants' testimony and courtroom speeches provide opportunities to compare the radicals' use of rhetoric in print and in public speaking.

  • To what extent did the defendants use radical rhetoric in the courtroom? What reasons would they have had to use or not use such rhetoric?
  • What do you think was the role of rhetoric in the radical labor movement and how important was it?
  • What role do you think radical rhetoric played in creating the atmosphere of tension in Chicago in the months leading up to the Haymarket affair?
  • To what extent do you think that radical rhetoric was responsible for the violence at the McCormick factory and Haymarket Square?
  • Do you agree with the prosecution in State of Illinois v. August Spies et al. that the incendiary nature of this rhetoric made the defendants responsible for the bombing near Haymarket Square? Why or why not?