The life of Albert Parsons is instructive of the trajectory of many working class agitators in the US in the 19th century, a period of remarkable radicalism which was crushed with unspeakable ruthlessness and repression. His life story goes from fighting in the Confederate States Army during the US Civil War as a 13 year old, to republican and civil rights' agitator, advocate of the emancipation of the slaves, then trade unionist, socialist and anarchist. He was married to Lucy Parsons, a mixed race woman herself born a slave, who would become a prominent socialist and anarchist, and who was a founding member of the Industrial Workers of the World, IWW, in 1905. A remarkable organiser and orator, he was the soul of the most progressive and active workers' movement in the USA at the time: in Chicago. Parsons was the only US citizen of 'pure stock' among the Chicago Martyrs (his ancestry going back all the way to one of the pilgrims in the Mayflower in 1632) -all his comrades being German. The immigrant nature of these anarchists was the cause for a racist and xenophobic uproar that no doubt was crucial to justify their barbaric execution -these racist, xenophobic tendencies are still alive and healthy in the USA, as we can see from the current state of affairs in the country. This is why, being not only a remarkable speaker, but also a well-self-educated man (at a time when the workers' movement still placed much emphasis on the self-education of the workers), he chose to strike a chord with public opinion and counter arguments that socialism and anarchism were 'foreign' and 'alien' ideas, by appealing to texts such as the US Declaration of Independence and opinions of Thomas Jefferson, while also appealing to the conservative and religious frame of mind prevalent, ended up by quoting the Bible. Of course, nothing would save him from the fury of the capitalists' class hatred, but this autobiography is a masterpiece of engaging with the prevalent environment at the time from a radical perspective, of showing in a sober manner his process of radicalisation and the logic behind it, and also, a staunch defence of the anarchist principles by which he lived and which he did not betrayed when confronted to the gallows.
Our best tribute to this titanic figure is to resist the current onslaught of the global capitalists against hard-won workers' rights, while to keep faithful to the cause of a free and just world.
José Antonio Gutiérrez D.
1st May, 2019