Seeds of Fire: A People’s Chronology
– March –
Recalling events that happened on this day in history. Memories of struggle, resistance and persistence.
Compiled by Ulli Diemer
Related Topics: Russian Revolution
March 1949 The first issue of Socialisme ou Barbarie, a left-Marxist libertarian socialist journal, appears in France. Published from 1948 to 1965, Socialisme ou Barbarie is critical of Leninism, rejects the idea of a revolutionary party, places an emphasis on the importance of workers’ councils, and sees the daily struggles of working people as creating the true content of socialism.
Related Topics: Libertarian Socialism
March 1, 1562 French Huguenots (Protestants) in Vassy are massacred by French troops commanded by the Duke of Guise.
March 1, 1886 Start of the Great Southwest Railway Strike: a strike against the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroads involving more than 200,000 workers. Jay Gould, the immensely rich and powerful railway owner, brings in large numbers of scabs to break the strike. He hires private security firms to break up union meetings, beat up union members and sympathizers, and commit acts of violence for which union members are then falsely blamed. Said Gould, “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” Faced with massive and violent repression from the employers and the state, the strike ultimately fails. The failure leads to the collapse of the Knights of Labor, and to the formation of a new union federation, the American Federation of Labor.
March 1, 1954 Four Puerto Rican nationalists attack the U.S. Congress in an attempt to highlight Puerto Rico’s struggle for independence from U.S. rule.
March 1, 1968 The Battle of Valle Giulia, a clash between Italian left-wing militants and the police at Valle Giulia, in Rome, with students battling the police who have taken control of the Faculty of Architecture. 148 policemen and 478 students are wounded, 232 people are arrested.
March 2, 1900 Birth of Kurt Weill (1900-1950), German composer and socialist, best known for his collaboration with Bertolt Brecht on The Three-Penny Opera.
March 2 - 6, 1919 The founding Congress of the Communist International (the Third International). After the failure of the Second International, most of whose member parties supported their own governments upon the outbreak of the World War despite their oft-stated anti-militarist and internationalist positions, revolutionary socialists in different countries start to work toward the founding of a new international organization. After the victory of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, a founding congress for a new international is called for Moscow, taking place against the background of the Russian civil war, in which counterrevolutionary forces are supported by military forces from 14 imperialist countries. Fifty-two delegates from 34 parties take part, with a common goal of establishing Communist parties around the world to overthrow capitalism.
Related Topics: Communist International (Comintern)
March 3, 1756 Birth of William Godwin (1756-1836), British journalist, political philosopher and novelist, considered to be the first modern proponent of anarchism.
March 3, 1890 Birth of Norman Bethune (1890-1939). A Canadian doctor and Communist, Bethune developed the first mobile blood-transfusion unit while serving with the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion in the Spanish Civil War. He subsequently went to China and served with the Communist forces fighting the Japanese invaders.
March 3, 1912 Henrietta Leavitt, an assistant at the Harvard College Observatory, publishes a paper in the Annals of the Astronomical Observatory of Harvard College, revealing her observation that the brighter stars seem to have a longer period. After further study, she confirms in 1912 that the Cepheid variables with greater intrinsic luminosity do have longer periods, and that the relationship is close and predictable. Her groundbreaking discovery allows scientists to measure the distances of far-away galaxies and to determine the size of the cosmos. She is considered for a Nobel Prize, but her death of cancer at the age of 53 means the nomination cannot go forward, since the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously.
March 3, 1918 Russia’s Soviet government signs the crushingly one-sided Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany, in order to avoid continued German invasion and occupation of even more of its territory. In the treaty, Germany forces Russia to give up huge amounts of territory, containing a quarter of the former Russian Empire’s population, a quarter of its industry, and nine-tenths of its coal mines. The treaty remains in effect for only a few months. In the 11 November 1918 Armistice with Germany that ended World War I, one of the first conditions was the complete abrogation of the Brest-Litovsk treaty. Following the German capitulation, the Russian legislature annuls the treaty on 13 November 1918. In the year after the Armistice, the German Army withdraws its occupying units from the lands gained in Brest-Litovsk.
March 4, 1865 Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Having won re-election by vowing to carry on the Civil War to victory (against the Democrats, who want to end the war without achieving its goal), Lincoln is now able to see that the defeat of the slaveholders’ Confederacy is finally close at hand. In his speech, he addresses the need to think of reconstruction and peace, while also stressing his determination to see the fight through to the end. Pointing to slavery as the cause of the war, he suggests that the scourge of Civil War has been God’s punishment for the offense that slavery represents in God’s eyes. Lincoln concludes his address by saying: “Fondly do we hope – fervently do we pray – that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’ With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”
March 4, 1976 The first ‘Take Back the Night’ march takes place in Brussels in conjunction with the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women. 2,000 women from forty countries take to the streets, holding candles, to protest of sexual violence against women.
Related Topics: Violence Against Women
March 5, 1871 Birth of Rosa Luxemburg, Polish-German Marxist revolutionary (1871-1919). In a time when the socialist movement is evolving in directions increasingly removed from Marx’s positions – Social Democratic reformism on the one hand, and Leninist bureaucratic centralism on the other – Luxemburg is the leading exponent of a Marxism in the spirit of Marx. Luxemburg’s politics are centered on a revolutionary perspective: she supports pressure for reforms within capitalism, but is clear that reforms cannot bring about fundamental change, that socialism can only come about through revolution, and that the activity of socialists and socialist organizations must always be oriented to the ultimate goal of revolution, no matter what the exigencies of the present situation. Luxemburg advocates a principled tactical flexibility, adapting tactics and organizational forms to the situation while remaining clear about goals and principles. She strongly believes in the importance of political organization, but does not believe that a political organization can direct the political struggle along pre-determined lines; rather, she believes that effective organization is as much the product of struggle as its instigator.
March 5, 1910 The Rogers Pass disaster. Sixty-two members of a railway maintenance crew sent to dig out a snowbound locomotive near Rogers Pass, British Columbia are killed in an avalanche; one worker survives.
March 5, 1931 Mohandas Gandhi makes a deal with Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India. Gandhi agrees to stop the civil disobedience movement in exchange for the imperial government’s agreement to free political prisoners and allow Gandhi to participate in a conference in London. When he arrives in London, Gandhi finds that the British have outwitted him: having achieved their goal of shutting down the civil disobedience movement, the British refuse to offer any concessions at the conference, let alone discuss Indian independence.
March 5, 1953 Death of Josef Stalin.
Related Topics: Soviet Union
March 5, 1984 The UK miners’ strike begins, a decisive event in the history of the British labour movement. The strike ends in the miners’ defeat, and allows Margaret Thatcher’s right-wing Conservative government to proceed with a sweeping neo-liberal re-organization of the British economy.
March 6, 1665 The first scientific journals, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, begin monthly publication in England.
Related Topics: Science/History of
March 6, 1821 Greek rebels revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The revolt is put down, but it marks the beginning of a ten-year struggle (1821-1830) which results in an independent Greek state, albeit one containing only one-third of the Greek population, and subject to outside interference from other imperialist powers.
March 6 - 18, 1854 The Labour Parliament is convened in Manchester, England. A response to a mill-owners’ lockout of 20,000 striking spinners and weavers, it grows into an ambitious project to create a working-class alternative to the ruling-class Parliament in London. Among the delegates are workers who have been involved in the Chartist movement, which has campaigned for decades to win the right to vote for working people. Over the course of two weeks, the delegates adopt a programme for supporting striking workers and starting agricultural and worker-run co-operatives.
The Labour Parliament
March 6, 1857 The Dred Scott decision. The United States Supreme Court rules that the federal government has no power to regulate slavery in the territories, and that people of African descent (both slave and free) are not protected by the Constitution and are not U.S. citizens. The decision is the culmination of a concerted push to expand slavery; one of its effects is to permit the unhindered expansion of slavery into the territories, even where territorial legislatures have outlawed slavery. The decision is hugely controversial, and leads anti-slavery forces to organize themselves more effectively.
March 6, 1919 The First World Congress of the Third International unanimously adopts The Manifesto of the Communist International to the Workers of the World. Written by Leon Trotsky, it concludes with a call for revolutionary action: “Bourgeois world order has been sufficiently lashed by Socialist criticism. The task of the International Communist Party consists in overthrowing this order and erecting in its place the edifice of the socialist order. We summon the working men and women of all countries to unite under the Communist banner which is already the banner of the first great victories. Workers of the World – in the struggle against imperialist barbarism, against monarchy, against the privileged estates, against the bourgeois state and bourgeois property, against all kinds and forms of class or national oppression – Unite! Under the banner of Workers’ Soviets, under the banner of revolutionary struggle for power and the dictatorship of the proletariat, under the banner of the Third International – Workers of the World Unite!”
Related Topics: Communist International (Comintern)
March 6, 1925 12,000 miners in Cape Breton go on strike. Their goal: to restore their wages to where they were in 1922, before the company, BESCO, unilaterally slashed their pay. Company police respond with a campaign of terror in the towns in the area, riding their horses into any group of people they spot, and beating up anyone they catch. BESCO, which owns the utilities and the grocery stores, cuts off electricity and water, and credit in the stores, driving people to the edge of starvation. On June 11, about 3,000 men and boys gather at the power plant in New Waterford in an attempt to restore power and water. Police fire their guns into the crowd, killing one and injuring two. Several days of rioting follow, and 2,000 soldiers are sent in to ‘restore order’. In August, the strike ends when the company, under pressure from the provincial government, agrees to the miners’ demands.
March 6, 1957 Ghana becomes the first black African country to become independent of colonial rule.
Related Topics: Ghana
March 7, 1932 Workers taking part in the Ford Hunger March against the Ford Motor Company are attacked by Dearborn police and Ford security guards. Five workers are killed and 19 wounded.
March 7, 1940 Birth of Rudi Dutschke (1940-1979), radical German student leader.
March 7, 1942 Death of Lucy Parsons, American anarchist-communist.
March 7, 1965 The Selma to Montgomery civil rights march is attacked by police. 525 civil rights advocates begin a 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama, to the capital of Montgomery, to campaign for voting rights for blacks. Just after crossing a bridge on the outskirts of Selma, the marchers are attacked by police wielding tear gas, nightsticks, bullwhips and rubber tubing wrapped in barbed wire.
March 8 International Women’s Day.
March 8, 1857 Women garment and textile workers in New York City stage a protest against terrible working conditions, 12-hour work days and low wages. Police attack and disperse the workers, but not their will to struggle: two years later, the women form their first union.
March 8, 1895 American forces intervene in Colombia to ‘protect American interests’.
March 8, 1908 15,000 women march through New York City demanding shorter working hours, better pay, voting rights and an end to child labour.
March 8, 1917 Outbreak of the “February Revolution” in Russia. 200,000 workers go on strike in St. Petersburg. Within days, the Czar is forced to abdicate and a Provisional Government is installed. The Provisional government shares power with the Petrograd Soviet (council), a situation of dual power that eventually culminates in the October Revolution.
Related Topics: Russian Revolution
March 8, 1968 The 1968 Polish political crisis begins when students at the University of Warsaw march for student rights and are beaten with clubs. The following day over two thousand students march to protest the police invasion of their campus and are clubbed and arrested again. On March 11, there are violent confrontations with police when members of the general public join the protests. Twenty days of protest end when the state closes all universities and arrests more than a thousand students.
March 8, 1971 Members of a group calling itself the “Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI” breaks into an FBI office in Pennsylvania and steals over 1000 classified documents. They then mail the documents anonymously to several American newspapers. Mainstream corporate newspapers refuse to publish the information, but WIN Magazine, a publication associated with the War Resisters League, publishes them. Publication of the documents exposes a range of covert and illegal activities by the FBI, including the COINTELPRO operation, a campaign of spying and sabotage against political dissidents and activists.
March 8, 1978 The Lesbian Mothers’ Defence Fund is launched by Wages Due Lesbians in Toronto.
March 9, 1522 Dissident Christians set off the Protestant Reformation in Zurich by holding a protest during which they defiantly eat sausages during a fast period decreed by the Roman Catholic Church.
March 9, 1763 Birth of William Cobbett (1763-1835), English pamphleteer, journalist, and reformer.
March 9, 1910 The Westmoreland County Coal Strike begins in Pennsylvania. The strike goes on from March 1910 to July 1911 and involves some 15,000 miners at 65 mines. Miners faced with bad working conditions, low pay, and coal company cheating in their measuring output go on strike when the coal companies reduce wages by 16% and announce that miners will have to pay for the equipment, including explosives, they use to mine the coal. The coal companies hire thousands of strikebreakers, most of them East European immigrants unable to speak English, promising them good wages and not telling them they will be working as strikebreakers. Police and hired thugs are brought in to attack miners, miners’ families, and even strikebreakers who try to leave. Police and security guards kill six miners, nine miners’ wives, and one bystander, and injure thousands of others. The strike eventually ends in defeat.
March 9, 1965 2,500 civil rights marchers led by Martin Luther King Jr. hold a protest walk two days after “Bloody Sunday” (a violent police attack on the first Selma to Montgomery civil rights march). After the protest disperses, three white ministers who participated in the march are attacked by segrationists, one is killed.
Related Topics: Civil Rights Movement (U.S.)
March 10, 1906 A disaster at the Courrières coal mine in France kills 1099 miners, including many children.
March 10, 1913 Death of Harriet Tubman (1820 or 1821 - 1913). Tubman, an African-American slave, escaped her owners and then went on to make repeated trips back to the South to help other slaves escape to the northern U.S. and Canada, using the network of activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. When the Civil War broke out, Tubman worked for the Union Army, first as a nurse and cook, and then as an armed scout and spy.
March 10, 1919 Leo Jogiches (1867-1919), Polish-German Marxist revolutionary, is murdered by right-wing militiamen in Berlin.
Related Topics: Political Murders
March 10, 1922 Mohandas Gandhi is put on trail for ‘sedition’ (i.e. advocating non-violent resistance to British rule in India). He is found guilty and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, but is released after two years because of ill health.
Related Topics: Gandhi
March 10, 1957 The Murdochville Strike begins when 1000 miners at the Gaspé Copper Mines in Murdochville, Quebec, go on strike demanding the right to unionize. The company refuses to recognize the miners’ union and uses strikebreakers, along with police provided by the reactionary provincial government of Maurice Duplessis, try to break the workers’ union. After a bitter and violent seven-month battle, the strike is defeated, but proves to be a turning point in Quebec labour history, contributing to the eventual defeat of the Union Nationale government and the social changes that follow.
March 10, 12-19 1965 Sit-ins at the U.S. Consulate in Toronto protest violence against civil rights activists in the southern United States. (See March 7 and March 9, 1965.)
Related Topics: Civil Rights Movement (U.S.)
March 10, 1993 Dr. David Gunn is murdered in Florida by an anti-abortion terrorist.
March 11, 1853 U.S. forces invade Nicaraguan territory to ‘protect American interests’ during political disturbances.
March 11, 1922 Birth of Cornelius Castoriadis (1922-1997), psychoanalyst, economist, and radical philosopher, founder of the libertarian socialist journal Socialisme ou Barbarie. Castoriadis published much of his early work under the pseudonyms Pierre Chalieu and Paul Cardan.
Related Topics: Libertarian Socialism
March 12, 1795 Birth of William Lyon Mackenzie (1795-1861), Canadian journalist, publisher, reformer, politician, and rebel; leader of the 1837 Rebellion in Upper Canada.
Rebellions of 1837
March 12, 1912 Workers led by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) win the Lawrence, Massachusetts “Bread & Roses” textile strike after 32,000 workers, most of them young female immigrants, half of them under the age of 18, stay out on strike for nine weeks demanding a wage increase, double time for overtime, and safer working conditions.
Steve Early: Cry for “Bread & Roses” Still Resonates
March 12 - April 6, 1930 A Salt Satyagraha (Salt March) led by Mohandas Gandhi protests the British-imposed tax on salt in India. Gandhi and thousands of others walk 388 kilometres from Ahmedabad to the sea, where Gandhi himself makes salt from the sea in violation of the British edict. Feeling their hold in India threatened by this mass disobedience, the British imprison more than 60,000 people.
Related Topics: India/Independence Movement
March 12, 1934 Nazi Germany annexes Austria (the Anschluss), the day after a coup d’état by the Austrian Nazi Party.
March 12, 2011 Start of the March 2011 protests in Portugal (Movimento 12 de Março), a series of protests in over 10 cities of Portugal, bringing hundreds of thousands of people into the streets to protest government-imposed austerity policies and defend the rights of working people.
March 13, 1791 Publication of the first part of The Rights of Man, by Thomas Paine. Paine argues that people have inherent rights which no government may infringe or take away, and that governments that abuse or fail to safeguard those rights are illegitimate and may be overthrown by revolution. On this basis, Paine defends the French Revolution against Edmund Burke’s attacks. The Rights of Man is widely circulated and discussed in inns and coffeehouses, and repeatedly reprinted. In England, Paine is put on trail in absentia, convicted of seditious libel, and sentenced to death. However, Paine is in France, and, being a clever fellow, refrains from returning to England to be hanged.
March 13, 1848 Large demonstrations in Vienna, Austria, force the conservative Prince von Metternich to resign as chief minister. He flees to London and a new, more liberal government takes office. In Europe's 1848 "Springtime of Peoples," revolutionary ferment continues throughout the Austrian Empire; freedom of the press and freedom of association are introduced, and competing claims to national self-determination emerge.
March 13, 1904 Birth of Paul Mattick (1904-1981), Marxist writer and activist.
March 13, 1920 The Kapp-Lüttwitz Putsch. Right-wing militarists, supported by many of the senior commanders in the armed forces, attempt to overthrow Germany’s social-democratic government. Freikorps (right-wing militia) troops occupy Berlin, and Wolfgang Kapp is proclaimed as Chancellor. Workers resist the coup by going out on a general strike, and civil servants refuse to cooperate with the illegitimate regime. The coup collapses after four days, and its deflated leaders quickly flee the country.
March 13, 1933 Establishment of the Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda under Josef Goebbels in Nazi Germany.
March 13, 1954 The start of the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam, the decisive confrontation between the Viet Minh national liberation forces and the French colonial army. The battle ends on May 7 with the total defeat of the French army, forcing France to withdraw all its forces from the region and give up its claims to possess what it had called French Indochina.
March 13, 1968
Clouds of nerve gas drift outside the U.S. Army’s chemical warfare facility in Utah, killing thousands of sheep in a nearby valley.
March 14, 1883
In London, at 2:45 in the afternoon, a stateless refugee named Karl Marx draws his last breath.
Eleven people attend his funeral four days later, including his life-long friend Friedrich Engels, who gives a eulogy in which he says:
March 14, 1910 The Lakeview Gusher, a huge oil spill, erupts in California. In the eighteen months it takes to bring it under control, it spills 9 million barrels of oil, making it the largest accidental oil spill in history. (By comparison, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster in the gulf of Mexico spilled about 4.9 million barrels.)
Related Topics: Oil Spills
March 14 - 15, 1910 Rosa Luxemburg’s controversial article The Next Step is published, challenging the timidity of the German Social Democratic Party. Written in the midst of widespread agitation for the reform of the Prussian electoral system, which guarantees control to a reactionary ruling class, Luxemburg argues for an escalating struggle. She says the current strategy of holding regular demonstrations will eventually lead to discouragement, if the demonstrations produce no results and do not move on to more forceful means. Specifically, she argues that moving on to mass strikes must be on the agenda, as a possible development that the SPD should embrace and encourage. In response to the party leadership’s fears that radical tactics could bring down government repression on the party, she criticizes “the peculiar conclusion that the greater and stronger our organization, the less capable of action, the more hesitant we become.” She adds, “Of course the mass strike is not a miraculous method guaranteeing success under all circumstances. In particular, the mass strike must not be regarded as an artificial, unique and mechanical method, a neatly applicable way of exerting political pressure according to regulations and commands. The mass strike is merely the external form of an action which has its own inner development, logic, intensification and consequences... The mass strike ... is certainly not the final word on the incipient political campaign. Rather it is the campaign's first word at its present stage.”
March 14, 1916 A group of leading anarchists, including Peter Kropotkin and Jean Grave, publish a manifesto supporting the ‘Allied’ (Russian-British-French) imperial powers in the war against German-Austrian imperialism in the First World War. The original statement is signed by 15 prominent anarchists; another 100 sign later.
March 14, 1970 The SS Columbia Eagle incident. Two American merchant marine sailors, Clyde McKay and Alan Glatkowski, use guns they have smuggled on board to take over the SS Columbia Eagle, an American supply ship carrying napalm to US bases for use in attacking Vietnam. The sailors force the ship to sail into Cambodian waters, and then ask for asylum. About Napalm: Napalm, the production and use of which was condemned by the Stockholm War Crimes Tribunal, is a form of jellied gasoline used by the United States in aerial bombing of ‘enemy’ peasant villages in its war against Vietnam. When it hits and ignites, the burning napalm splatters over a wide area, consuming every burnable thing which it strikes, including especially human flesh. An added feature that makes the use of napalm especially vicious is that flesh ignited by napalm is extremely difficult to extinguish. Water doesn’t work. People hit by it keep on burning. Napalm is particularly indiscriminate because the fires it causes continue to spread, destroying everything in a large area. It is also effective against people hiding in bomb shelters or tunnels because it suddenly pulls all the oxygen out of the tunnel by its enormous gulp of combustion, thus suffocating anyone inside.
Related Topics: Vietnam War
March 15, 1830 Birth of Élisée Reclus (1830-1905), French geographer, and anarchist, author of the 19-volume work La Nouvelle Géographie universelle, la terre et les hommes.
March 15, 1848 Start of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. Demonstrators march through the city of Pest to the buildings of the Imperial Governing Council. They have a list of demands (the “12 Points”), including freedom of the press, abolition of censorship, a government responsible to the people, civil and religious equality before the law, a national guard in place of a standing army, the freeing of political prisoners, and abolition of the feudal land tenure system. In the face of the massed demonstrators, the Imperial governor agrees to accept all their demands, and a new reformist government is put in place.
March 15, 1917 Czar Nicholas II abdicates in Russia, swept away by the revolution that erupted a week earlier. A provisional government is formed.
Related Topics: Russian Revolution
March 15, 1919 Delegates from unions across western Canada meet in Calgary and vote to hold a referendum among union members on a proposal to form a revolutionary socialist union to be called the One Big Union. The referendum passes with overwhelming support, and in June the One Big Union is officially formed. By 1920 the OBU has 50,000 members from northern Ontario to the west coast.
Related Topics: Labour History
March 15 - 16, 1939 German troops invade and occupy Czechoslavakia.
March 16, 1649 A large Iroquois war party destroys Huron villages in the vicinity of Lake Simcoe (near present-day Toronto). They then continue their invasion deeper into Huronia; by May 1, they have destroyed all the Huron/Wendat villages, and killed a large part of the Huron population. The Huron/Wendat survivors retreat to a barren island in Georgian Bay. Many of them die of starvation the following winter; the survivors flee to Quebec in the spring.
March 16, 1792 Denmark becomes the first western country to outlaw the slave trade.
March 16, 1921 War Resisters International is founded, with sections in Britain, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. The founding declaration states “War is a crime against humanity. I am therefore determined not to support any kind of war and to strive for the removal of all causes of war.”
War Resisters International website
March 16, 1968 The My Lai Massacre. American soldiers slaughter hundreds of unarmed civilians in the Vietnamese hamlets of My Lai and My Se. Most of the victims are women, children, infants, and elderly men. Many of the women are raped, and then mutilated after being killed. The U.S. military first covers up the event, as it routinely does in the case of war crimes. When news leaks out eighteen months later, it claims the deaths occurred during a fierce firefight and lies about the number of dead. Eventually under intense public pressure, the army charges 26 soldiers, and then acquits all but one. The only man convicted, Lt. William Calley, serves a three-and-a-half year sentence – under house arrest in his own house. Noam Chomsky writes: “this was no isolated atrocity, but the logical consequence of a virtual war of extermination directed against helpless peasants: ‘enemies’, ‘reds’, ‘dinks’“.
Noam Chomsky: After Pinkville
March 16, 1988 Iraqi forces attack the Kurdish village of Halabja with poison gas, killing about 5,000 people, mostly women and children. This is part of Saddam Hussein’s al-Anfal campaign, in which more than 2000 villages and towns are emptied and levelled and tens of thousands are killed.
March 16, 2003 Rachel Corrie, a member of the International Solidarity Movement, is killed by an Israeli military bulldozer while attempting to stop the destruction of Palestinian homes.
Rachel Corrie Presente!
March 17, 1901 Police brutally disperse demonstrators protesting against autocracy in St. Petersburg, Russia.
March 17, 1968 A large anti-Vietnam War demonstration in Grosvenor Square, London leads to confrontations between protesters and police. Eighty-six are injured, 200 arrested.
March 17, 1978 The oil supertanker Amoco Cadiz runs aground and loses its entire cargo of 1.6 million barrels of oil. An oil slick 18 miles wide and 80 miles long pollutes approximately 200 miles of France's Brittany coastline.
Related Topics: Oil Spills
March 17, 1988 The United States sends a large military force to Honduras, ostensibly to ‘protect’ Honduras against Nicaragua. At the same time, American-armed ‘contra’ mercenaries are using bases in Honduras to launch attacks on Nicaragua.
March 18, 1871
The Paris Commune. An uprising in Paris turns into revolution. France has just been defeated in a war with Prussia. In Paris, hundreds of thousands of citizens, predominantly workers, are part of the National Guard militia. National Guard units elect their own officers, and closely reflect the mood of the population, which is increasingly demanding radical changes, summed up in the slogan “a democratic and social republic.”
Manifesto of the Paris Commune
March 18, 1905 Four days after his 26th birthday, a young physics graduate, working as a patent clerk in a Swiss government office because he has been unable to find an academic job, mails a paper he has written to the science journal Annalen der Physik. The paper, “On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light,” is accepted for publication, and eventually earns its author, Albert Einstein, a job, and a Nobel Prize for Physics.
March 18, 1907 U.S. forces intervene in Honduras to ‘protect American interests’.
March 19, 1885 The NorthWest Rebellion: Métis in Saskatchewan establish a provisional government, with Louis Riel as political leader and Gabriel Dumont as military leader. Riel hopes that the Canadian government will agree to enter into negotiations leading to the settling of Métis grievances and recognition of Métis rights. However, instead of negotiating, the Canadian government sends in the military. The Northwest Rebellion ends with the defeat of the Métis and their Cree allies. Riel is subsequently put on trial for treason, and hanged.
March 19, 1915 The United States invades Mexico with an army of 10,000 men commanded by General John Pershing.
March 19, 2011 NATO forces begin bombing Libya, ostensibly acting under a UN resolution to impose a no-fly zone to ‘protect civilians’, actually with the intention of overthrowing the Libyan government headed by Muammar Gaddafi.
March 20, 1852 Publication of Harrier Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. A powerful anti-slavery statement, it is immensely popular and becomes the best-selling American novel of the 19th century, helping to create widespread popular support for the abolitionist cause, in the U.S. and internationally. It is also much criticized, primarily by defenders of slavery who say that it unfairly depicts slavery in a bad light, but also by later critics who object to its sentimentality, clichés, and stereotyping of blacks.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
March 20, 2003 The U.S. and its allies attack and invade Iraq. They justify their attack by fabricating stories that Iraq possesses “weapons of mass destruction” which supposedly pose an imminent danger to world peace. The imaginary weapons of mass destruction are never found, but the very real weapons wielded by the U.S. and its allies cause the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
March 21, 1937 The Ponce Massacre: A peaceful demonstration in Ponce, Puerto Rico commemorating the abolition of slavery and protesting the U.S. government’s imprisonment of independence activists, is attacked by police armed with machine guns. Acting under the orders of the U.S. governor, Blanton Winship, police fire on the peaceful crowd, killing 20 and injuring hundreds. As people flee, they are pursued by police who club them and in some instances shoot them. A subsequent investigation by the United States Commission on Civil Rights finds that the event was a deliberate massacre carried out by the police. None of the killers are punished. Today, the Ponce massacre is commemorated annually in remembrance of Puerto Ricans who perished or were wounded for their political beliefs.
March 21, 1960 The Sharpeville Massacre. Black South Africans protesting the apartheid regime’s pass laws, which serve to severely limit the right of non-whites to move about freely, are fired on by police in Sharpeville. 69 people are killed and 180 injured. Many of those killed and injured are shot in the back as they are running away. A wave of protests sweeps South Africa in the aftermath, accompanied by demonstrations in other countries. A week later, the government declares a state of emergency, and arrests and detains 18,000 people. The African National Congress and the Pan-Africanist Congress are both declared illegal organizations; both organizations respond shortly after by forming underground military resistance organizations. Today, the date is commemorated as a public holiday to honour human rights and remember those killed.
March 21 – 25, 1965 The third Selma to Montgomery March. After two previous attempts (March 7th and 9th) by civil rights activists to walk from Selma to Montgomery Alabama were attacked and halted, a third march sets out. They reach Montgomery County on the 24th; the following day Martin Luther King Jr. delivers a speech at the State Capital Building in which he says “The battle is in our hands. And we can answer with creative non-violence the call to higher ground to which the new directions of our struggle summons us. The road ahead is not altogether a smooth one. There are no broad highways that lead us easily and inevitably to quick solutions. But we must keep going.”
Related Topics: Civil Rights Movement (U.S.)
March 22, 1622 Opechancanough, the leader of the Powhatan Confederacy in what is now the U.S. state of Virginia, seeing no other way to stop the British colonists who have been continuously seizing native land since 1607, initiates military action against the Jamestown colony. A third of the English settlers are killed in the conflict, but the natives are unable to carry out their aim of expelling the colony. New colonists keep arriving, eager to take over native land to plant tobacco for export. In 1644, Opechancanough, by this time more than 90 years old, makes a final attempt to expel the colonists, but again the attempt fails. In 1646, Opechancanough is taken prisoner, and murdered by a soldier who shoots him in the back.
March 22, 1933 The first Nazi German concentration camp is opened at Dachau, near Munich, 51 days after Hitler comes to power. From 1933 to 1938, Dachau is used mainly for political prisoners, especially Communists. During the time of the Nazi regime, more than 3.5 million Germans are sent to prisons or concentration camps for political offences. After the outbreak of the war, Dachau is used to hold prisoners of all kinds, including Jews and prisoners of ‘foreign’ nationalities. It is estimated that more than 200,000 people were interned at Dachau, and that 35,000 died there and in the satellite camps. The camp is liberated by the U.S. Army on April 29, 1945. Dachau and other Nazi camps follow the example of previous internment and concentration camps, used by the U.S. government against native Americans and later against Filipinos, by the Spanish Empire in Cuba, and by the British and German Empires in southern Africa in the early years of the twentieth century. In turn, Dachau becomes the model for the other concentration camps set up by the Nazi regime.
March 22, 1968 Student protesters at the University of Nanterre in Paris form the Movement of 22 March (Mouvement du 22 Mars) and occupy the university’s administration building. They are protesting class discrimination in the education system and French society, as well as heavy-handed bureaucratic policies and structures within the university. The university calls the police to expel the occupying students. Conflicts between students and the administration continue, and on May 2 the administration shuts down the university, leading to mass protests not only at Nanterre but throughout Paris. The events are among the sparks igniting the May 1968 revolt in France, which comes close to toppling the government.
Related Topics: 1968
March 23, 1900 Birth of Erich Fromm, Marxist-humanist author, philosopher, psychoanalyst, and social critic.
Erich Fromm: Character and Social Process
March 23 - 30, 1903 U.S. forces intervene in Honduras to ‘protect American interests’ during a revolutionary outbreak.
March 23, 1918 Capitalist justice: The trial of 101 members of the Industrial Workers of the World charged with opposing World War I begins in Chicago. All are found guilty.
March 23, 1933 The ‘Enabling Act’ strips the German parliament of its powers and transfers legislative power to the executive, i.e. to the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.
March 23, 1942 The U.S. government begins moving all those of Japanese ancestry, including some native-born U.S. citizens, from their west coast homes to indefinite imprisonment in detention centres.
March 24, 1834 Birth of William Morris (1834-1896), British artist, designer, author, and socialist. Morris sees work as a necessity of human life, not merely as a means of obtaining a livelihood. He maintains that nothing should be made which is not worth making, or which must be made by labour degrading to the makers.
William Morris: Art and Labour
March 24, 1853 The abolitionist newspaper the Provincial Freeman is founded by Mary Ann Shadd and Isaac Shadd in Windsor, Ontario. Published from 1853 to 1857, the Provincial Freeman proclaims itself “Devoted to Anti-Slavery, Temperance, and General Literature.” Mary Ann Shadd is the first African-American woman publisher in North America.
March 24, 1890 Birth of Agnes Macphail (1890-1954), social reformer, journalist, and politician, an advocate for farmers, women, miners, immigrants, and prisoners, the first woman elected to Canada’s House of Commons. Quote: “Never apologize. Never explain. Just get the thing done, and let them howl.”
Rachel Wyatt: Agnes Macphail: Champion of the Underdog
March 24, 1897 Birth of Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), radical psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and author, originator of controversial theories about sexuality and orgasms.
Wilhelm Reich: The Mass Psychology of Fascism
March 24, 1906 Birth of Dwight Macdonald (1906-1982), American writer, social critic, and radical. Originally a Trotskyist, Macdonald breaks with Trotsky after a debate over the Bolsheviks’ repression of the Kronstadt rebellion. Later, Macdonald happily quotes Trotsky’s comment that “Everyone has the right to be stupid, but comrade Macdonald abuses the privilege.”
March 24, 1918 Canadian women over the age of 21 get the right to vote in federal elections. Excluded are Native (First Nations) women, and women not born in Canada.
Women’s Suffrage (Canada)
Related Topics: Suffrage
March 24, 1926 Birth of Dario Fo, Italian playwright, political activist, and recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature. His works include “Accidental Death of an Anarchist”, “Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!” and “Mistero Buffo”, denounced by the Vatican as “the most blasphemous show in the history of television.”
March 24, 1937 The Duplessis government in Quebec passes the ‘Padlock Act’: anyone convicted of printing or publishing matter propagating communism is subject to imprisonment for one year, without appeal; any building used for propagating communism or bolshevism can be closed for one year by the attorney general. The law is declared unconstitutional in 1957, not because it is repressive, but because the Supreme Court says that this kind of repressive law can only be passed by the federal government.
March 24 -25, 1965 The Ann Arbor Teach-in, the first teach-in on the Vietnam War. Anti-war faculty at the University of Michigan, after originally considering a tactic of not teaching for a day as a protest against the war, decide instead to hold an intensive series of lectures, debates, and discussions. More than 3,000 students take part, including a small group of pro-war protesters who try to disrupt the discussions by heckling and chanting. The event is so successful in raising awareness of the war that the Teach-in tactic is widely adopted on other campuses.
Related Topics: Vietnam War
March 24, 1980 Archbishop Oscar Romero is assassinated by a right-wing death squad in El Salvador, one day after delivering a sermon in which he called on Salvadoran soldiers to obey God, and stop participating in the government’s repression and violations of human rights.
March 24, 1989 The oil tanker Exxon Valdez runs aground in Prince William Sound and spills hundreds of millions of barrels of crude oil along the Alaskan coast. Immediate effects include the deaths of 100,000 to 250,000 seabirds, thousands of marine mammals, and an unknown number of fish. Long-term effects still continue. A court ruling orders Exxon to pay $287 million in actual damages and $5 billion in punitive damages, equivalent to one year’s profit for the company. Exxon spends the next 20 years fighting the case; in the end, the capitalist courts reduce the punitive damages to one-tenth the original amount.
Related Topics: Oil Spills
March 24, 1999 U.S. and NATO aircraft begin a major bombing campaign against Serbia and against Serb positions in the secessionist Serbian province of Kosovo. The bombing, illegal under international law, continues until June 10.
March 25, 1807 The Slave Trade Act abolishes the slave trade in the British Empire.
March 25, 1872 Toronto printers go on strike, demanding a 9-hour work day and a 54-hour work week.
Related Topics: Strikes/Canadian
March 25, 1873 Birth of Rudolf Rocker (1873-1958), anarcho-syndicalist writer, editor, and activist.
Rocker: The Reproduction of Daily Life
March 25, 1894 A protest march by unemployed workers known as “Coxey’s Army” heads for Washington to demand that the U.S. government launch public works projects to create jobs.
March 25, 1911 The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. A factory fire in New York City kills 146 garment workers, 129 women and 17 men, most of them recent Jewish and Italian immigrants. Factory managers had locked the doors to the building to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks. Trapped workers try to escape the flames by leaping from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. The owners of the factory are charged with manslaughter, but quickly acquitted. Their insurance payout substantially exceeds their financial losses from the fire, netting them a profit of about $400 per dead worker, this at a time when an average worker earned $7 per week.
Related Topics: Workplace Death and Injury
March 25, 1965 Viola Liuozzo, a white woman who has come to Alabama to participate in the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march, is murdered by the Ku Klux Klan.
March 26, 1974 The Chipko movement: A group of peasant women in Reni Village in the state of Uttarakhand, India surround and hold on to trees in their forest to prevent them from being cut down by a lumber company given cutting rights by the government. The confrontation grows out of growing resistance to the commercial logging that is destroying the traditional forests that local people rely on for their livelihoods. On this day, knowing of the villagers’ resistance, the government has used a ruse to lure the men of the village to a distant location so they will be away when the loggers arrive. However, when loggers appear on the scene, the women of the village rush out to confront them. When it seems that logging will begin regardless, the women start hugging the trees to prevent them from being cut down. After a four-day stand-off, the loggers leave. When news of the success of the tactic reaches other villages, a movement of resistance to commercial logging quickly spreads, leading to hundreds of grassroots actions. The tactic is originally known by the Garhwali word “angalwaltha” but becomes more widely known by the Hindi term “Chipko”.
March 26, 2003 Over one million people demonstrate in Spain against the Spanish government’s support of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Related Topics: Iraq War
March 27, 1848 About 1500 Icarians, members of a French Utopian movement founded by Etienne Cabet, land in New Orleans intending to start a communal settlement in the United States. They establish several settlements, but the communities, beset by financial struggles and internal disagreements, fail to thrive. The last Icarian settlement is dissolved in 1898.
March 27, 1912 Beginning of the Fraser River railway strikes in British Columbia. Railway workers who have organized themselves as members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) walk out of construction camps to protest terrible working conditions. By April 2, 8,000 workers are on strike and work has ceased on 640 km of construction line; workers on the Grand Truck Pacific line then also join the strike. The main demands are strict enforcement of the Provincial Health Act, a 9-hour work day, and a minimum wage of $3 per day. The IWW sets up camps to feed the strikers and organizes pickets at employment offices in Vancouver and other cities to prevent strikebreakers from being hired. The government sets out to break the strike with violence and arrests, and largely succeeds, though the workers win some concessions, as well as a knowledge that it is possible to organize to defend their rights.
March 27, 1917 The Petrograd Soviet addresses “the people of the whole world” declaring an earnest desire for peace, an end to World War I, without annexations or indemnities. (March 14 old calendar.)
March 27, 1921 The ‘March Action’ in Germany. In the midst of intense labour conflict in the industrial regions of central Germany, Communist leaders decide to launch an insurrection which they hope will spread throughout the country and lead to a revolution. They have misjudged: hundreds of workers die, thousands are imprisoned, and many workers leave the Communist Party in dismay. In Moscow, Lenin calls the action “a lunatic ultra-left tactic.”
Related Topics: Revolts
March 28, 1868 Birth of Maxim Gorky (1868-1936), Russian author and socialist.
March 28 - April 1, 1918 Anti-conscription riots break out in Quebec. The federal government invokes the War Measures Act and sends troops to put down the riots. Five people are killed, and about 150 injured.
Related Topics: Riots
March 28, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. leads a march in support of striking black sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. He is assassinated six days later.
Related Topics: Strikes/U.S.
March 28, 1979 A cooling system failure causes a partial meltdown of the reactor core at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.
March 29, 1826 Birth of Wilhelm Liebknecht (1826-1900), German socialist.
March 29, 1831 The Bosnian Uprising: Bosnians revolt against Turkish rule.
Related Topics: Revolts
March 29, 1857 Mangal Pandey, a soldier (“sepoy”) in the Bengal Native Infantry rebels against his British commanders. He is court-martialled and hanged, and his regiment is disbanded by the British because they no longer trust its loyalty. The British actions cause spreading anger among the sepoys which culminates in the protracted Indian Rebellion of 1857, also known as the Sepoy Mutiny.
March 29, 2012 Strikes and mass demonstrations protest against Spain’s drastic new labour reforms. The reforms overhaul the labour market by slashing the cost of firing workers and easing conditions under which they can be dismissed.
March 30, 1880 Birth of Sean O’Casey (1880-1964), Irish playwright, author, and socialist.
March 30 - April 21, 1903 U.S. forces intervene in the Dominican Republic to ‘protect American interests’ during a revolutionary outbreak.
March 30 - April 1, 1914 The 1914 Sealing Disasters. 132 sealers on the ship S.S. Newfoundland are stranded on an ice floe for two days after their captain sails the ship away while they are on the ice. 77 men die, many of the survivors lose limbs to frostbite. At the same time, another sealing ship, the S.S. Southern Cross, sinks while crossing the Gulf of St. Lawrence: all 174 men on board die.
March 31, 1492 King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella order all Jews who refuse to convert to Christianity to be expelled from Spain.
March 31, 1797 Death of Olaudah Equiano, a former slave who purchased his freedom and became an author, merchant, and active member of the movement to abolish slavery.
Olaudah Equiano: The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings
March 31, 1872 Birth of Alexandra Kollontai, Russian communist and women’s rights advocate.
Alexandra Kollontai: The Autobiography of a Sexually Emancipated Communist Woman
March 31, 1927 Birth of Cesar Chavez, American labour organizer, co-founder of the United Farm Workers. Quote: “The only way I know how to organize is to talk to one person, and then you talk to another person, and then you talk to another.”
Seeds of Fire is compiled for Connexions by Ulli Diemer. References used include the Connexions Library generally, and Connexipedia specifically, Wikipedia, Sources, the Peace History feature on Peacebuttons.info, the books and articles of Noam Chomsky and William Blum (marvellous antidotes to historical amnesia), and a wide, wide variety of other sources.
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