Seeds of Fire: A People’s Chronology
– April –
Recalling events that happened on this day in history. Memories of struggle, resistance and persistence.
Compiled by Ulli Diemer
April 1607 The Midland Revolt. Uprisings break out in the Midlands of England in protest against the enclosure of common land by wealthy landowners. The practice of enclosures involved rich landowners seizing land belonging to the community and turning it into their private property, all with government approval. The protests by poor farmers deprived of their livelihoods are violently put down; some 40 or 50 people are killed, and the leaders of the revolt are executed.
April 1922 - November 1923 American forces land in China five times to ‘protect American interests.’.
April 1937 Garment workers led by Lea Roback strike in Montreal.
Related Topics: Strikes/Canadian
April 1940 Publication of John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath, which tells the story of impoverished tenant farmers driven from their home in Oklahoma and forced to travel across the country in search of work and land. The novel becomes a best-seller, even as it is attacked by people on the right as “communist propaganda” and “a pack of lies.”
Related Topics: Migrants
April 1, 1649
The Diggers: A group of labourers gather on George’s Hill just outside London and begin to dig up the earth. The group, known as “True Levellers” or “Diggers”, intends to plant crops to assert, both practically and symbolically, common ownership of common land. Digger Gerrard Winstanley says “The earth should be a common treasury of livelihood to whole mankind, without respect of persons”.
April 1, 1820 Start of the Scottish Insurrection of 1820 or ‘Radical War’, a week of strikes and protests.
April 1, 1841 Brook Farm, a utopian community, is founded in Massachusetts.
April 1, 1918 Anti-conscription protests in Quebec are put down by troops who fire on the crowd, killing four and wounding 70.
April 1, 1929 Start of the Loray Mill strike, a strike in North Carolina. Faced with police repression, the strikers are largely unsuccessful in attaining their goals, but their courage and solidarity provide an important impetus to the national development of the labour movement in the United States.
Related Topics: Strikes/U.S.
April 1, 1940 Birth of Wangari Maathai (1940-2011), Kenyan environmentalist and political activist, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
April 2, 1840 Birth of Émile Zola (1840-1902), French novelist. In 1898, Zola causes a sensation with the publication of J’accuse!, an open letter in which he accuses the French government of anti-Semitism for its persecution and jailing of Alfred Dreyfus, a French army officer imprisoned for allegedly engaging in espionage. In his letter, Zola points out the lack of serious evidence against Dreyfus, and glaring legal irregularities in the case. After his letter appears, Zola is convicted of libel, sentenced to prison, and expelled from the Légion d’honneur. He flees to England to avoid imprisonment. Dreyfus is eventually exonerated, 12 years after he was charged and imprisoned.
April 2, 1885
Cree warriors attack the village of Frog Lake during the North-West Rebellion, killing nine settlers.
April 3, 1851 American abolitionist Frederick Douglass addresses a large anti-slavery audience in Toronto. A cheering crowd of 1200 fills St. Lawrence Hall to listen to Douglass, himself a former slave, speak on the evils of slavery.
Related Topics: Anti-Slavery
April 3, 1907 Birth of Issac Deutscher (1907-1967), Marxist historian.
April 3, 1929 Birth of Ernest Callenbach (1929-2012), American ecologist, writer, and simple living advocate.
Related Topics: Simple Living
April 3, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. gives his “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech in Memphis. He is assassinated the next day.
April 4, 1854 American and English ships land forces in and near Shanghai in order to ‘protect their interests.’
April 4 - May 12, 1868 U.S. forces intervene in Japan ‘to protect American interests.’
April 4 - July 1, 1935 In the middle of the Great Depression of the 1930s, unemployed men confined to dismal ‘relief camps’ in British Columbia walk out of the camps, where they are paid twenty cents a day to work on roads and other public projects, and head to Vancouver. Their demands include the provision of first aid equipment in the camps and the right to workers’ compensation for men who are injured in the often-dangerous work. They are also demanding the repeal of Section 98 of the Canadian Criminal Code, which bans “unlawful associations” and which is used to harass the Communist Party, other left-wing organizations, and labour unions. In Vancouver, the men decide to take their grievances directly to the federal government in Ottawa, and on June 3 they board boxcars headed east in what becomes known as the On to Ottawa Trek.
April 4, 1967 Speaking at the Riverside Church in New York City, Martin Luther King Jr. condemns the U.S. war against Vietnam. He calls the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” and says that its goal is to occupy Vietnam “as an American colony.” He condemns misplaced national priorities, saying “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” The speech is widely condemned by the pro-war American elite, which wants to see King as a saintly spokesman for non-violence, and is disturbed by his increasing focus on poverty and economic injustice.
April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, where he has been organizing in support of striking black sanitation workers. He is 39 years old. In the aftermath of the assassination, riots break out in over 100 American cities.
April 4, 1972 A right-wing terrorist groups sets off an explosion at the Cuban consulate in Montreal which kills Cuban official Sergio Pérez Castillo.
Related Topics: Terrorism
April 5, 1930 The participants in the Salt Satyagraha (Salt March) led by Mohandas Gandhi reach the Indian Ocean coast near Dandi. They had set out on their journey on March 12, in an act of non-violent resistance to the British-imposed tax on salt in India. 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
April 6, 1712 A group of black slaves in New York City revolt against those who have enslaved them. They kill nine whites and then try to escape. They are hunted down and caught; six commit suicide; twenty-one are executed.
Related Topics: Slave Revolts
April 6, 1919 A soviet republic is proclaimed in Bavaria. The republic is overthrown in early May by German military forces and right-wing militias.
April 6, 1968 Black Panther Bobby Hutton is killed by Oakland police after a shoot-out. The seventeen-year-old Hutton had surrendered and stripped down to his underwear to show he was unarmed; police then shot him more than a dozen times.
Related Topics: Killings by Police
April 6, 2008 Egyptian textile workers go out on a nation-wide mass strike protesting low wages and rising food costs. Strikes are illegal in Egypt and police try to stop the strike using intimidation, threats, and violence, but the strike goes ahead, and other groups of workers and supporters across the country join in. A youth group, the April 6 Youth Movement, forms in support of the strike; it goes on to become one of the key groups in the movement to overthrow Egyptian President Mubarak in 2011.
April 7, 1772 Birth of Charles Fourier (1772-1837), utopian socialist. Fourier believed that cooperation and mutual concern were the basis of a good society. An advocate of the emancipation of women, he originated the term “feminisme” and maintained that occupations should be available equally to men and women. He inspired the creation of several utopian communities which sought to put his principles into action. Fourier was given to extreme attention to detail in imagining the utopian society of the future. He said that an ideal community would have exactly 1620 people, two from each of the 810 character types which he had identified, and believed that in the ideal world of the future, the salt water in the oceans would be replaced by lemonade. Friedrich Engels praised Fourier for his incisive analysis of existing social conditions, and said that he much preferred Fourier’s cheerful fantasies, with their oceans of lemonade, to the gloominess of German social theory, “where there is no lemonade at all.”
April 7, 1805 Ludwig van Beethoven’s Third Symphony (the Eroica) is performed for the first time, in Vienna. Beethoven originally intended to dedicate the symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte, believing that Napoleon represented the liberating ideals of the French Revolution, but when Napoleon’s dictatorial ambitions became clear, Beethoven erased the dedication.
April 7, 1919 Left-wing socialists in Munich proclaim a Soviet Republic in Bavaria. Many soldiers support the republic, but troops from outside Bavaria, along with right-wing Freikorps militias, are sent to attack the new government. After bitter fighting in which more than 1,000 revolutionaries are killed, the soviet republic is crushed. More than 700 men and women who supported the revolution are murdered by Freikorps troops after being captured.
April 7, 1931 Birth of Daniel Ellsberg. In the late 1960s, while working as a military analyst, Ellsberg becomes increasingly disturbed by the U.S. war against Vietnam, and by the way the truth about the nature of the war is being kept from the public. He eventually decides to copy the secret documents he has access to and make them available to the press. Extracts from these documents, which become known as the Pentagon Papers, are eventually published by the New York Times. Ellsberg and his associate Anthony Russo are charged under the Espionage Act. Ellsberg admits giving the documents to the press, saying “I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public. I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision.” The charges against Ellsberg and Russo are eventually thrown out after a series of revelations about grotesque government misconduct in the case.
Related Topics: Vietnam War
April 7, 1994 The start of the Rwandan genocide. After the assassination of the Hutu President, Juvénal Habyarimana, Hutu groups, including two Hutu militias, start mass killings of Tutsis, as well as of Hutus who are seen as “traitors” and “collaborators” with the Tutsis. The slaughter is coordinated by the national government and military and civilian officials, and encouraged by the mass media. Between 500,000 and a million people are killed. The killings finally end when Tutsis organize themselves into an armed force and overthrow the government.
April 8 – 23, 1937 The Oshawa Strike: 4,000 auto workers go on strike against General Motors in Oshawa, Ontario. Their demands are an eight-hour day, better working conditions and wages, and recognition of their newly formed union, the United Auto Workers (UAW). The company and Mitch Hepburn’s Ontario government are both determined to prevent the UAW, an affiliate of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), from gaining a foothold in Ontario. The company refuses to negotiate, and the Ontario government hires ‘special police’ (armed thugs) to intimidate the workers. The workers hold firm, and on April 23, the company, afraid of losing market share to rival automobile companies, agrees to accept most of the workers’ demands. The workers’ victory is due in part to acts of solidarity from supporters, including the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the Communist Party, working people in Oshawa and other communities, and even from two cabinet ministers, David Croll and Arthur Roebuck, who resign from Hepburn’s cabinet in protest against his anti-union actions.
April 8, 1999 Several thousand unarmed indigenous Tzotzil people take back the municipal council buildings in San Andres a day after it has been seized by Mexican government forces. Men, women, and children, supporters of the Zapatista movement, walk into town from different directions and surround police contingents and ask them to leave. The police decide to leave and the people re-occupy the municipal buildings. In a statement they say “The indigenous peoples who are conscious and who are willing to struggle are not going to be discouraged or surrender because of threats, and even less by the taking away of a building or by invading a piece of space; because their just struggle is not enclosed by four walls, nor does it have borders, because their cause is justice, liberty, democracy, and peace with justice and liberty.”
April 9, 1834 Canut (silkworkers’) revolt: Faced with employers conspiring together to reduce their wages, coupled with arrests of workers who try to resist, thousands of silkworkers in Lyon, France, rebel. The army moves in and opens fire on an unarmed crowd. In response, barricades are thrown up, workers seize weapons from the armouries, and street fighting begins. The uprising continues until April 15, when the army succeeds in imposing order, which it does by killing hundreds of workers and imprisoning more than 10,000 others.
Related Topics: Revolts
April 9, 1893 Birth of Victor Gollancz (1893-1967), British publisher, author, and socialist; one of the founders of the Left Book Club in Britain.
April 9, 1898 Birth of Paul Robeson (1898-1976), African-American singer, actor, athlete, socialist.
April 9 - 27, 1920 U.S. forces intervene in Guatemala to ‘protect American interests.’
April 9, 1945 Birth of Daniel Cohn-Bendit, radical activist and Green politician.
April 9, 1947 The ‘Journey of Reconciliation’. Sixteen men, eight black and eight white members of the Congress for Racial Equality, begin a journey on interstate buses across the U.S. South to challenge segregation. Despite a 1946 Supreme Court ruling saying that segregated seating on interstate buses was illegal, southern states continued to impose the practice. The participants in the Journey of Reconciliation encounter hostility as they sit together, and several are arrested and sentenced to serve on a chain gang. In passing sentence on one of the white participants, North Carolina Judge Henry Whitfield said “It’s about time you Jews from New York learned that you can’t come down here bringing your niggers with you to upset the customs of the South. Just to teach you a lesson, I gave your black boys thirty days, and I give you ninety.”
April 9, 1948 Deir Yassin massacre: Zionist militias attack the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin and kill more than 100 villagers, including women and children.
April 9, 1948 El Bogotazo: Riots break out in Bogota, Colombia, after the assassination of the Liberal presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. The riots leave 3,000 to 5,000 people dead. The fighting marks the beginning of a ten-year period of civil war known as La Violencia, in which more than 200,000 die.
April 10, 1516 The first ghetto: Jews in Venice, Italy are forced to live in a specific restricted area of the city known as Campo del Ghetto Nuovo. (The name comes from the foundry (“gheto”) that used to be located in the area). In addition, when Jews go about their business outside the ghetto during they day, they are required to wear a yellow badge or scarf to identify them as Jews. At the same time, Venice also restricts the living quarters of Germans and Turks, all to comply with the demands of the Roman Catholic Church.
April 10, 1848 The third Chartist petition demanding voting rights for working people is presented to the British Parliament after a rally in London. The government refuses to bring in democratic reforms. Instead, many Chartists are arrested in the months following the rally. Chartist leader Ernest Jones is sentenced to two years in prison for sedition; William Cuffay is sentenced to be transported to Tasmania.
Related Topics: Chartists
April 10, 1919 Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata is assassinated after being lured to a meeting. After Zapata’s death, the Liberation Army of the South which he led slowly unravels, and the goals of the rebellion in the south, land reform and justice for poor farmers, are defeated.
April 10, 1930 Birth of Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers.
April 10, 1993 Anti-apartheid leader Chris Hani is assassinated by white extremists hoping to trigger a civil war in order to avert the looming likelihood of black majority rule in South Africa.
April 11, 1968
Rudi Dutschke, one of the leaders of the German Socialist Students Federation (SDS) is shot in the head by a right-wing extremist. The shooting is the culmination of a venomous hate campaign against Dutschke and the SDS orchestrated by the right-wing media, which portrays him as an evil radical who must be ‘stopped’ at all costs. Dutschke survives, but with serious lasting injuries.
April 11, 1972 Beginning of the Common Front strikes in Quebec. Over 200,000 public sector workers go on strike against the government, and Quebec grinds to a halt. The workers’ demands include a pay increase to match inflation, a say in working conditions, and equal pay for equal work. The Quebec government tries to break the strike with injunctions, arrests, huge fines imposed on striking workers, and finally back-to-work legislation, imposed on April 21. When the striking workers go back to work after April 21, the government sets out to teach them a lesson, and jails the leaders of the big three union federations. Within hours, workers walk off the job again, and this time the strikes spread far beyond the public sector, turning into a general strike with more than 300,000 workers off the job. Workers seize control of 22 radio stations, and force anti-union capitalist newspapers to stop publishing. In the end, the government agrees to free the jailed union leaders, and the workers agree to return to work.
George Sweetman: 1972: The Quebec general strike
April 11, 2002 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is overthrown in a military coup. The United States, which has been involved in planning the coup, instantly recognizes the new ‘government’. However, massive popular protests force the military plotters to give up, and three days later Chavez is restored to the presidency.
April 12, 1838 Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews, two men who participated in the Upper Canada rebellion in 1837, are hanged in Toronto. In the months he spends in the Toronto Gaol awaiting execution, Lount keeps up the morale of the other rebel prisoners by defending the cause they had fought for. On his way to the gallows, he tells the other prisoners “We die in a good cause: Canada will yet be free.”
April 12, 1848 The government of the German state of Baden, seeking to put an end to the movement for democracy, arrests leaders of the movement. Protests against the arrests turn into an armed uprising. The government invites Prussian troops to come and put down the rebellion; with their help, the revolt is put down on April 20. A further revolt flares up the following year.
Revolutions of 1848 in the German States
April 12 – June 3, 1934 Workers at the Electric Auto-Lite company of Toledo, Ohio, go out on strike demanding that the company recognize their union. They also want a wage increase, improved working conditions, and an end to harassment of, and discrimination against, union members. The strike draws support from the socialist American Workers Party (AWP), which sends organizers to help. The AWP sets out to organize unemployed workers in support of the strike; they succeed in bringing out thousands of jobless workers to help surround the plant and shut it down. The company appeals to the capitalist courts to prevent picketing, and are quickly granted an injunction forbidding more than a handful of pickets outside the gates. Despite continuing arrests, the workers defy the injunction: by May 23, there are more than 10,000 pickets outside the plant gates. Police attack, and a full-fledged battle breaks out that continues over the next five days. Two strikers are killed, and more than 200 are injured. The strike ends when the company, prodded by a federal mediator, agrees to recognize the union, grant a wage increase, and rehire all workers who had been fired for their actions during the strike. On June 9th, a massive victory parade in Toledo marks the end of the strike, which is regarded as one of the most important strikes in U.S. labour history.
Related Topics: Strikes/U.S.
April 13, 1598 The Edict of Nantes. King Henry IV of France grants French Protestants, known as Huguenots, religious freedom and restores their civil rights.
April 13, 1885 Birth of György (Georg) Lukács, Hungarian Marxist philosopher.
April 13, 1922 Birth of Julius Nyerere, first President of Tanzania.
Julius Nyerere: The Arusha Declaration
April 13, 1919 The Amritsar massacre. British troops commanded by General Reginald Dyer fire on a crowd that has assembled in the Jallianwala Bagh public garden in Amritsar, India. The peaceful assembly has gathered to protest an edict by General Dyer ordering all Indian men wishing to pass through the Kucha Kurrichhan, a local street in which a British citizen was assaulted, to do so crawling along on their bellies. Dyer had previously forbidden Indians to hold meetings of any kind, so the gathering in the Jallianwala Bagh garden is ‘illegal’ in his eyes. The garden is surrounded by walls; access is through narrow passageways and gates. Dyer orders his troops to seal off all exits to prevent people leaving, and then, without warning, to start firing on the crowd. The shooting continues until the soldiers run out of ammunition. When they are done, more than 1,000 people are dead, with many more wounded. The British do not allow the wounded to be removed; many die where they lie during the following night. Afterwards Dyer justifies his actions by referring to the moral superiority of British civilization, which imposes on it a duty to bring enlightenment to India even if India doesn’t want it. The event does enlighten Indians about the nature of British civilization, and causes opinion to swing strongly in favour of independence from British rule.
Dyer had previously forbidden Indians to hold meetings of any kind, so the gathering in the Jallianwala Bagh garden is ‘illegal’ in his eyes. The garden is surrounded by walls; access is through narrow passageways and gates. Dyer orders his troops to seal off all exits to prevent people leaving, and then, without warning, to start firing on the crowd. The shooting continues until the soldiers run out of ammunition. When they are done, more than 1,000 people are dead, and an even larger number are wounded. The British do not allow the wounded to be removed; many die where they lie during the following night.
Afterwards Dyer justifies his actions by invoking to the moral superiority of British civilization, which imposes on it a duty to bring ‘enlightenment’ to India even if India doesn’t want it.
The event does enlighten Indians about the nature of British civilization, and causes opinion to swing strongly in favour of independence from British rule.
April 14, 1912 300,000 workers go out on a general strike in Belgium demanding the right to vote. By April 19, 400,000 workers are on strike. The strike ends about two weeks later when the government promises a commission of inquiry into changing the electoral laws. Universal suffrage is finally introduced in Belgium after the first World War.
April 14, 1930 Hundreds of farmworkers in Imperial Valley, California, members of the Agricultural Workers' Industrial League, are arrested for the crime of attempting to organize a union. Eight are subsequently convicted of “criminal syndicalism”, with sentences ranging from deportation to 42 years in prison.
April 14, 1968 A massive demonstration in West Berlin protests the near-fatal shooting, three days earlier, of student leader Rudi Dutschke. The shooting was the culmination of a venomous hate campaign against Dutschke and the German Socialist Students Federation (SDS) by right-wing newspapers, which portray Dutschke and the SDS as evil extremists who must be ‘stopped’ at all costs. Demonstrators besiege the headquarters of the right-wing Axel-Springer publishing conglomerate and attempt to prevent its papers from being distributed.
April 14, 1989 Pro-democracy gatherings take place on university campuses in China, and in Tiananmen Square, Beijing. The impetus is the death of Hu Yaobang, a Communist Party leader who had been seen as a reformer. Students put up posters commemorating Hu and discussing issues such as corruption, freedom of the press, and democracy. The movement builds until it is eventually put down by military force on June 4.
April 14, 2002 Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is restored to office, three days after being overthrown in a military coup. Massive protests force the US-supported plotters to give up.
April 15, 1452 In the town of Vinci, in Tuscany, “at the third hour of the night,” an unmarried peasant woman named Caterina gives birth to a son whom she names Leonardo. Blessed with astonishing talent, Leonardo goes on to become a painter, sculptor, illustrator, inventor, musician, architect, mathematician, engineer, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer – the most famous figure of the Italian Renaissance. Despite his accomplishments, Leonardo suffers from doubts about the quality of his work. Late in life, he says, “I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.” Others are awed by him. After Leonardo’s death, Giorgio Vasari writes: “In the normal course of events many men and women are born with remarkable talents; but occasionally, in a way that transcends nature, a single person is marvellously endowed by Heaven with beauty, grace and talent in such abundance that he leaves other men far behind, all his actions seem inspired and indeed everything he does clearly comes from God rather than from human skill. Everyone acknowledged that this was true of Leonardo da Vinci, an artist of outstanding physical beauty, who displayed infinite grace in everything that he did and who cultivated his genius so brilliantly that all problems he studied he solved with ease.”
April 15, 1865 U.S. President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by a white racist embittered by the defeat of the slaverholders’ Confederacy in the Civil War, and particularly enraged by Lincoln’s speech, four days before, promoting voting rights for blacks. Hundreds of thousands of people line the tracks as a funeral train takes Lincoln’s body to his burial in Illinois.
April 15, 1889 Birth of A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979), African-American labour leader, socialist, and civil rights activist. Quote: “Freedom is never granted; it is won. Justice is never given; it is exacted.”
April 15, 1912 The Titanic sinks on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic after striking an iceberg. The captain of the Titanic had received a number of warnings from other ships about icebergs in the vicinity, but chose to ignore them and steam ahead at full speed. 1,502 people die.
April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson becomes the first black player in major league baseball. He endures abuse and death threats, but goes on to win the rookie of the year award for 1947, and the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949. He is selected for six consecutive All-Star Games from 1949 to 1954, and plays in six World Series.
April 15, 1986 American planes bomb the Libyan capital Tripoli. The attack is condemned by many countries, as well as by the United Nations General Assembly, which passes a resolution that “condemns the military attack perpetrated against the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya on 15 April 1986, which constitutes a violation of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law.” The U.S. follows its normal practice, and ignores the UN resolution.
April 16, 1520 Revolt of the Comuneros: The citizens of Castile (Spain) rise in revolt against the rule of Charles V. Their demands include the cancellation of recent tax increases and more local autonomy. The revolt gains widespread support throughout the Kingdom of Castille, but is finally defeated by military force by October 1521.
April 16, 1746 The Battle of Culloden: British forces defeat the Jacobite uprising in Scotland. After the battle, the British, under the command of the Duke of Cumberland, take brutal reprisals. Wounded men still lying on the battlefield are put to death. Others are put on trial and then executed, or transported to the British colonies.
April 16, 1797 Spithead mutiny: Sailors on 16 British ships in the Channel Fleet mutiny against poor living conditions and low pay. Despite infliation, sailors’ pay in the British Navy had not gone up in 140 years. The sailors elect delegates and ask to negotiate with the Admiralty. They manage to win improved pay, the resassignment of some unpopular officers, and a Royal pardon for all sailors accused of mutiny.
Related Topics: Mutinies
April 16, 1844 Birth of Anatole France (1844-1924), French author. In 1922, he achieved the “distinction” (his own word) of having all of his works placed on the Roman Catholic Church’s Index of Prohibited Books. Quote: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”
April 16, 1889 Birth of Charlie Chaplin, actor and filmmaker.
April 16 - 23, 1902 U.S. forces intervene in Colombia to ‘protect American interests’.
April 16, 1917 In the wake of the February Revolution, V.I. Lenin, Grigory Zinoviev and other exiled Bolsheviks arrive in St. Petersburg from Switzerland.
April 17, 1912 The Lena massacre. Gold miners in the Lena goldfields in Siberia strike for better working conditions and pay. Miners who work for the hugely profitable British-Russian mining company are paid a pittance, given poor-quality food, frequently forced to work 16-hour days, and subjected to atrocious working conditions: out of every 1000 miners, 700 will suffer injury or death. The company is not interested in negotiating: they call in the state. The Czarist government immediately arrests all the members of the elected strike committee. When workers gather to submit a complaint about the arbitrary arrests, the Czarist soldiers fire on them. An estimated 270 are killed, and 250 wounded. News of the massacre triggers nation-wide strikes, with hundreds of thousands of workers at hundreds of workplaces going out. Belatedly, the government offers concessions and calls a commission of inquiry, but the idea of revolution, largely dormant since 1905-06, is once again alive in Russia. The Czarist regime, though neither the regime nor the workers know it, will be gone in five years.
April 17, 1917 Lenin delivers his April Theses, one day after returning to Russia from exile. He comes out against those in the Bolshevik Party who are arguing for a cautious wait-and-see policy, and for co-operation with the Liberals. Lenin calls for the soviets (workers councils) to start working immediately to take over power. He says that revolutionaries should give no support to the war effort, and calls instead for “revolutionary defeatism”. He calls for “abolition of the police, the army, and the bureaucracy” and for “the salaries of all officials, all of whom are elective and displaceable at any time, not to exceed the average wage of a competent worker.” Lenin has to battle to get the Bolsheviks to agree to his views, but he prevails and the April Theses become the roadmap that leads to the October Revolution. [April 4 old calendar]
April 17, 1960 Founding of SNCC: Students involved in the growing wave of non-violent protests against segregation in the American South gather at an event organized by Ella Baker at Shaw University to talk about moving on to a broader co-ordinated effort. They decide to form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SNCC quickly grows into a large organization, with supporters in the North as well as the South. SNCC goes on to play a major role in the sit-ins against segregation, in grassroots voter registrations drives, in the Mississippi Freedom Summer, and in forming the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
April 17, 1961 The Bay of Pigs Invasion (La Batalla de Giron). Paramilitary forces recruited, armed, trained and paid by the United States government with the assistance of the Mafia, invade Cuba. The goal is the overthrow of the Cuban government led by Fidel Castro, which has infuriated the U.S. and the Mafia by taking over their profitable operations in what they consider their colony. The invasion begins with U.S. airstrikes and sabotage operations, and then four transport ships land the main invasion force. Revolutionary Cuban militias respond quickly and decisively, and the invasion is defeated within three days. The U.S. continues it ceaseless efforts to destroy the Cuban government to the present day, but the invasion’s failure demonstrates that the U.S. is not invincible and emboldens people in other Latin American countries to resist U.S. dominance.
April 17, 1965 Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) organizes a major march against the Vietnam War in Washington. 20,000 - 25,000 attend; to that point, the largest peace march in American history. Folksinger Phil Ochs sings “Love Me, I’m a Liberal”, mocking those who are “ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.” In the aftermath of the march, new members flood into SDS and the anti-war movement gains momentum.
April 18, 1644 Opechancanough, the leader of the Powhatan Confederacy in what is now the U.S. state of Virginia, launches one final attempt to drive out the British colonists who have been continuously seizing native land since 1607. Though Opechancanough is by this point more than 90 years old, he organizes a formidable campaign against the colonists. In the end, however, it fails. Opechancanough is taken prisoner, and then murdered: shot in the back.
April 18, 1857 Birth of Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), radical American lawyer and civil libertarian.
April 18, 1899
Rosa Luxemburg introduces her classic work, Reform or Revolution,, with these words:
April 18, 1912
Coal miners in West Virginia go on strike. What the miners are asking for is simple:
That the operators accept and recognize the union;
That the miners' right to free speech and peaceable assembly be restored;
That black-listing discharged workers be stopped;
That compulsory trading at company stores be ended;
That cribbing be discontinued and that 2,000 pounds of mined coal constitute a ton;
That scales be installed at mines to weigh the tonnage of the miners;
That miners be allowed to employ their own check-weighmen to check against the weights found by company check-weighmen, as provided by law;
That the two check-weighmen determine all docking penalties.
April 18, 1960 The Aldermaston to London “Ban the Bomb” march concludes in London, with 60,000 people gathering in Trafalgar Square to support nuclear disarmament.
April 18, 1977 After a travesty of a trial, Leonard Peltier is convicted of alleged involvement in the killing of two FBI agents. He remains in prison; one of the longest-serving political prisoners in the world.
April 18, 1988 In order to support Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, the United States launches an extensive series of attacks against Iranian oil platforms and the military forces defending them. The attacks are a blatant violation of international law, and Iran subsequently takes the U.S. to the International Court of Justice. On November 6, 2003, the Court rules that “the actions of the United States of America against Iranian oil platforms on 19 October 1987 (Operation Nimble Archer) and 18 April 1988 (Operation Praying Mantis) cannot be justified as measures necessary to protect the essential security interests of the United States of America.” The U.S. follows its normal practice, and ignores international law and the ruling of the court.
April 18, 1996 Israel bombs the United Nations headquarters in Qana, Lebanon, killing more than 100 civilians being sheltered there. A UN investigation determines that the shelling was almost certainly not an accident, as Israel claimed. Amnesty International also investigates, and concludes that Israel intentionally attacked the UN compound. Israel follows its normal practice, and, backed by the U.S., rejects the United Nations and Amnesty reports.
April 19, 1775 British troops clash with American militias at Lexington and Concord in the first armed confrontations of the American revolutionary war. In a context of rising tensions between the British colonial authorities and colonists chafing under British rule, British soldiers are sent out to seize military supplies held by local militias. The militias receive advance warning, and prepare themselves. After a series of clashes, the outnumbered British soldiers withdraw to Boston, pursued by the militias, who by this point number 15,000. With no conscious decision on either side, the American war of independence has started.
April 19, 1925 American forces intervene in Honduras to ‘protect American interests.’
April 19, 1943 The second and final phase of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising begins when Nazi forces invade the Ghetto and are met with fierce resistance by Jewish combat organizations. Fighting continues until early May. The remaining Jewish residents of the Ghetto, some 50,000 out of an original 300,000 to 400,000, are deported to death camps. [see also January 18]
Marek Edelman: The Ghetto Fights
April 19, 1943 The Twentieth Convoy (Transport 20): Members of the Belgian resistance in Nazi-occupied Belgium free Jews and Romani who are being transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Using a ruse, they stop the train on the tracks on the Mechelen-Leuven line. 231 people escape; of these, 26 are hunted down and killed, and 90 are subsequently recaptured. The other 115 get away.
April 19, 1993 Waco Massacre: The FBI attacks a small religious community in Waco Texas and kills 87 men, women, and children.
April 19, 1995 Members of a right-wing militia group bomb the federal building in Oklahoma City, which also houses a day-care centre. 168 people die, including 19 children under the age of six. More than 680 people are injured. The stated motive of the bombers is to avenge the Waco Masscare of April 19, 1993.
April 20, 1649 The “True Levellers” or “Diggers” publish their manifesto, “The True Levellers Standard Advanced. Quote: “That we may work in righteousness, and lay the Foundation of making the Earth a Common Treasury for All, both Rich and Poor, That every one that is born in the Land, may be fed by the Earth his Mother that brought him forth, according to the Reason that rules in the Creation. Not Inclosing any part into any particular hand, but all as one man, working together, and feeding together as Sons of one Father, members of one Family; not one Lording over another, but all looking upon each other, as equals in the Creation.” [See also April 1]
April 20, 1800 Irish soldiers serving in the British army in St. John’s, Newfoundland plan a mutiny against their British officers. They are acting in sympathy with the recent rebellion against British rule in Ireland, which has aroused the Irish population in and around St. John’s. The mutiny fails, and the mutineers are executed or sentenced to penal transportation.
April 20, 1914 Ludlow Massacre. The Colorado National Guard attacks a tent colony of striking coal miners and their families. They kill 19 people, 11 of them children. After the killings, workers in Colorado begin arming themselves and engaging in guerrilla warfare with the National Guard militias and mine guards. After ten days, with 50 dead, federal troops are sent in to end the fighting.
April 20, 1969 Local residents and students in Berkeley, California take over a derelict lot owned by the University of California and start clearing away rubble, debris and abandoned cars in order to create a “People’s Park.” Over the course of the next days, they plant trees, shrubs, flowers, and grass. Local residents and businesses provide free food, and soon more than 1,000 people are taking part in creating and using the park. The university administration agrees to let the park be, but California Governor Ronald Reagan, who calls the Berkeley campus “a haven for communist sympathizers, protesters and sex deviants” overrules the administration and sends in police to clear the park of people and seize the property. The police seal off an eight-block area around the park, put up chain-link fences to keep people out, and start uprooting trees and destroying what has been created. When protestors gather to protest the police actions, the police attack the crowd, after first removing their identification, and begin beating anyone they catch. Other police open fire with live ammunition. A bystander is killed, more than 100 are injured, many of them shot in the back. Afterwards Governor Reagan justifies his actions with the words “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement.”
April 20, 1978 Soviet air defences fire on Korean Air Lines flight 902 near Murmansk after it flies into Soviet territory and fails to respond to Soviet interceptors. The plane makes an emergency landing: two passengers die, the rest survive.
April 20 - 22, 2001 More than 20,000 anti-globalization protesters clash with police at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City.
April 20, 2010 An explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, which is drilling in a BP oil field in the Gulf of Mexico, kills 11 workers, injures 17 others, and starts a massive oil spill.
April 21, 1871 The Paris Commune publishes its official manifesto, a month after the founding of the Commune. The manifesto calls for freely associated autonomous communes to be created throughout France. It states: “The inherent rights of the Commune are: The vote on communal budgets, receipts and expenses; the fixing and distribution of taxes; the direction of public services; the organization of its magistracy, internal police and education; the administration of goods belonging to the Commune. The choice by election or competition of magistrates and communal functionaries of all orders, as well as the permanent right of control and revocation. The absolute guarantee of individual freedom and freedom of conscience. The permanent intervention of citizens in communal affairs by the free manifestation of their ideas, the free defense of their interests, with guarantees given for these manifestations by the Commune, which alone is charged with overseeing and assuring the free and fair exercise of the right to gather and publicize. The organization of urban defense and the National Guard, which elects its chiefs and alone watches over the maintenance of order in the city.”
Manifesto of the Paris Commune
April 21, 1914 American forces invade Mexico and occupy the port of Veracruz. They leave November 23, 1914.
April 21, 1982 Toronto Police Morality Squad officers seize two gay magazines at the Glad Day Bookshop and charge the assistant store manager with “possession of obscene material for purpose of resale.”
April 21, 1989 Some 100,000 students gather in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, calling for greater democracy.
April 22, 1870 Birth of V.I. Lenin (Vladimir Illych Ulyanov), Russian revolutionary, key leader of the Russian Revolution.
April 22, 1897 The first issue of Forverts (Forward), a Yiddish-language left-wing daily newspaper, is published in New York. The paper achieves massive circulation, reaching 275,000 by the 1930s. It continues to publish, with English-language and Yiddish editions, though circulation is a fraction of what it was at its peak.
April 22, 1970 The first ‘Earth Day’ is marked in the United States, with participants in thousands of universities and schools, and hundreds of communities. It is now observed internationally.
April 23, 1343 St. George’s Night Uprising. The indigenous population of Estonia rebels against the German and Danish rulers and landlords who conquered Estonia in the thirteenth century, took over the land, and imposed the Christian religion. The rebellion meets with initial successes, but is eventually defeated by an invasion force of Teutonic knights.
April 23, 1902
Birth of Halldor Laxness (1902-1998) Icelandic novelist and socialist. Winner of the 1955 Nobel Prize for Literature for his books, short stories, plays and poetry, largely concerned with the lives of ordinary people. Blacklisted by the United States government for his left-wing politics and his criticism of the U.S. occupation of Iceland in World War II.
April 23, 1968 Students at Columbia University in New York protest against the proposed construction of a gymnasium which would take over a public park and have separate entrances for students and for black residents of Harlem. The demonstration ends in a takeover of university buildings. Police storm the buildings on April 30 and violently evict the occupiers, but protests, and police violence directed against them, continue throughout the spring.
April 24, 1915 The Turkish government arrests 200 of the most prominent leaders of the Armenian community. Most are subsequently executed. This is the day on which the Armenian genocide is commemorated.
April 24 - 30, 1916 The Easter Rising. Irish rebels launch a rebellion against British colonial rule. They seize key buildings in Dublin and declare an Irish Republic, independent of Britain. The rising is suppressed after six days of fighting, and the key leaders of the rebellion are executed. Nevertheless support for independence continues to grow in Ireland, leading to another declaration of independence in 1919, and an Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 recognizing the Irish Free State.
April 24, 1932
Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout. Hundreds of ramblers set out on an organized mass walk on the Kinder Scout highland plateau in the Peak District of northern England. They are defying the private property rights claimed by the Duke of Devonshire, who forbids anyone from walking on ‘his’ vast estate, which includes all the hills and plateaux in the area.
April 24, 1967 A small group of protesters, including Abbie Hoffman, cause chaos on the New York Stock Exchange by throwing down fistfuls of both real and fake dollars. Traders on the floor scramble to grab the money as quickly as they can.
April 24, 1971 500,000 people demonstrate in Washington against the Vietnam War; while another 150,000 demonstrate at a simultaneous rally in San Francisco.
April 25, 1849 Tories burn down Canada’s Parliament Buildings: A Tory mob protesting the passage of the Rebellion Losses Bill sets fire to Canada’s Parliament buildings in Montreal. They are enraged because the legislation, passed by the majority of reformers in the legislature, will indemnify supporters of the rebellion of 1837-8, as well as those who opposed it. The rioters first ransack the legislative building, and then set a fire which destroys the parliamentary libraries, the public archives, and then spreads to adjacent buildings, including the general hospital. Firefighters who come to put out the fire are prevented from doing so by the rioters. The following day, Tory gangs attack and vandalize the residences of reformist Members of Parliament. The violence continues into May; it eventually dies down after the British Parliament approves the legislation. That fall, a group of Montreal businessmen, nearly all of them English-speaking Tories, publish a manifesto calling for Canada’s annexation by the United States.
April 25, 1898 The United States declares war on Spain. The pretext for the war is the sinking of the battleship USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana Harbour as the result of an explosion. The cause of the explosion is unknown, but the U.S. seizes upon it as a reason to wage war against Spain and seize Spanish colonies. Spain suffers a series of defeats in the war, and is forced to sign a peace treaty turning over most of its colonies to the U.S. The Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam become American colonies; Cuba is granted nominal independence, but is subject to American supervision of its government.
April 25, 1938 Publication of Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell’s account of his experiences and observations in the Spanish Civil War, a time, he says, when “Humans were trying to behave as human beings and not as cogs in the capitalist machine.” Orwell places himself unequivocally on the side of “the struggle of the gradually awakening common people against the lords of property and their hired liars and bumsuckers.”
April 25, 1974 Revolution in Portugal: Military officers in the Movimento das Forças Armadas (Armed Forces Movement) launch an attempt to oust the fascist dictatorship which has ruled Portugal for decades. Hearing of the move, people immediately flood into the streets and begin a campaign of popular resistance and civil disobedience which results in the overthrow of the dictatorship.
April 25, 1993 Nearly one million people march for gay rights in Washington.
April 25, 2004 A March for Women’s Lives brings more than one million to Washington, asking for safe and legal access to reproductive service including abortion and birth control.
April 26, 1848 The surviving members of Sir John Franklin’s expedition in search of the Northwest Passage leave their icebound ships and set out overland from King William Island. All will perish.
April 26, 1937
Bombing of Guernica: Planes of the Nazi German Luftwaffe and the Italian Fascist Aviazione Legionaria, supporting Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War, bomb the Basque town of Guernica. The attack marks one of the first times that a defenceless town is subjected to massive aerial bombardment. About 1600 people die, many of them children.
April 26, 1942 An explosion in the Benxihu Colliery in Benxi, Liaoning, China, results in the death of 1549 coal miners, the worst mining disaster in history. The pit is under the control of the Japanese occupation forces in China, who refuse to allow rescue efforts to proceed and instead shut the ventilation shafts. It is believed that many of the dead miners died not from the explosion itself, but from carbon monoxide poisoning and suffocation after air was shut off.
April 26, 1968 Students at hundreds of colleges and high schools across the United States go on a one-day strike to protest the U.S. war against Vietnam.
April 26, 1986 A catastrophic accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, in the Soviet Union, causes a massive release of radioactive particles into the atmosphere.
April 26, 1998 Two days after releasing a report blaming the U.S.-backed military government for atrocities, Guatemalan Bishop Juan Gerardi Conedera is murdered by army officers led by a Colonel trained in the School of the Americas.
April 27, 1759 Birth of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), British writer, philosopher and advocate of women’s rights. Wollstonecraft is best known for her book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Quote: It would be an endless task to trace the variety of meannesses, cares, and sorrows, into which women are plunged by the prevailing opinion, that they were created rather to feel than reason, and that all the power they obtain, must be obtained by their charms and weakness.
April 27, 1813 An invading American army captures York (now Toronto). Over the next two days, they engage in widespread looting and arson: among the buildings they burn down is the legislature.
April 27, 1994 The first multi-racial election is held in South Africa. Nelson Mandela, the candidate of the African National Congress, is elected President. The ANC wins 62% of the vote and a majority of seats in the National Assembly.
April 28, 1925 Strike, Sergei Eisenstein’s first feature film, is released. The film depicts a 1903 strike by Russian factory workers. Eisenstein makes a point of highlighting the workers’ collective action rather than focusing on individual heroes in the way a Hollywood film would have done.
April 28, 1933 Birth of Israel Shahak (1933-2001), Holocaust survivor, chemistry professor, writer, human rights activist, President of the Israeli League for Human and Civil Rights, and an outspoken critic of the Israeli government.
April 28, 1965 The United States invades and occupies the Dominican Republic. The ostensible reason for the invasion is to ‘protect’ foreigners (none of whom have been killed, injured, or threatened); the real reason, as stated by U.S. Chief of Staff General Wheeler, is “to prevent the Dominican Republic from going Communist.” The U.S. fears the return to office of Juan Bosch, a popular social democrat who had overwhelmingly won the 1963 election, the first free election in the country’s history, only to be overthrown in a military coup seven months later. Bosch had angered wealthy landowners, the Roman Catholic Church, and the U.S. government, by making moves to break up plantations, recognize trade unions, reduce the power of the church, and put the military under civilian control. U.S. forces stay long enough to ensure that a compliant right-wing government is in place.
April 28, 1978 A protest at Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility in the United States results in the arrest of 60 protesters.
April 28, 2004 The first photos showing widespread and systematic abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq are shown on CBS’s 60 Minutes II. The photos, and subsequent reports, document torture, psychological and sexual abuse, and murder of prisoners at the American-run prison in Baghdad.
April 29, 1899 In the midst of a bitter labour struggle in Idaho, 250 miners seize a train, ride it into the town of Warnder, and blow up a $250,000 mill of the Bunker Hill mine.
April 29, 1903 The Frank Slide. A massive rockslide sends 82 million tonnes of limestone rock crashing down the mountain into the coal mining town of Frank in what is now Alberta. Between 70 and 90 people die.
April 29, 1919 In late April 1919, anarchists led by Luigi Galleani mail bombs to 36 prominent figures in the U.S., including politicians, businessmen, and newspaper editors. The first of the bombs explodes on April 29 when it is opened by a housekeeper at the house of the Senator it was addressed to. She loses both her hands. The remaining bombs are intercepted.
April 29, 1961 Members of the anti-war Committee of 100 stage a sit-down demonstration in Parliament Square in London and refuse to move. Police arrest 826 people.
April 29, 1962 Linus Pauling, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, turns down an invitation from President John F. Kennedy to have dinner at the White House along with other Nobel Prize winners. Instead Pauling chooses to join a picket line outside the White House protesting the United States’ resumption of nuclear testing.
April 29-30, 1975 The last U.S. military and CIA personnel flee Saigon as the victorious Vietnamese resistance forces move in on the city.
April 30, 1803 The United States and France sign the Louisiana Purchase. France agrees to sell the Louisiana territory, which it claims to own, to the U.S. The native people who actually live there are not consulted, nor are the more recent Spanish, Mexican, and black settlers.
April 30, 1865 Birth of Max Nettlau (1865-1944), anarchist archivist.
April 30, 1975 North Vietnamese and National Liberation Front forces liberate Saigon, ending the Vietnam War.
April 30, 1977 Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo: A group of 14 mothers in Buenos Aires holds the first of a series of continuing demonstrations demanding to know the fate of their ‘disappeared’ children. The ‘disappeared’ were victims of state terror in the period of the ‘Dirty War’ of the 1970s and 1980s when the Argentine dictatorship abducted and killed thousands of people suspected of left-wing affiliations. The Argentine government publicly dismisses Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo as “las locas” (the crazy women), and simultaneously resorts to repression. Some of the mothers, including their first president, Azucena de Vallaflor, are themselves ‘disappeared’, while others are arrested. Nevertheless the movement grows and gains international attention.
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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