On May 4th, 1886, one hundred and thirty-two years ago, the event took place in Haymarket Square in Chicago that started what is called the Haymarket affair and ultimately lead to the creation of International Workers Day. The event itself was a rally, or what at the time was called a meeting or open air meeting, that was in support of the eight-hour day. This struggle had been going on for years and was reaching a fevered pitch with a general strike which had been called for May 1st, in which hundreds of thousands of workers across the United States when out on strike. After the events of May 4th, where towards the end of the rally a bomb exploded causing the police to fire into the crowd. Several people on both sides were killed. In the coming days seven people, all avowed anarchists, were arrested. Some of them were not even at the rally at all and most of them were not there when the bomb exploded. However, after the trial two were given life in prison, one had committed suicide while in jail, and four of them were executed. The trail and execution shocked the world.
“The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”
– August Spies just before he was hanged
For two years leading up to May 4th, 1886, workers had been struggling for the eight-hour day. In October of 1884 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions had set May 1st, 1886, as the date by which the eight-hour work day would become standard. All of labor, as well as the socialists and anarchists, had come to support and be involved in the struggle for the eight-hour day.