Seeds of Fire: A People’s Chronology

– January –

Recalling events that happened on this day in history.
Memories of struggle, resistance and persistence.

Compiled by Ulli Diemer



January 1859
Karl Marx finishes writing A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy. An intended third chapter, on capital, which Marx hopes to complete “soon”, appears eight years later, as Das Kapital.

Further Reading:
Karl Marx: Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy
Karl Marx: The Grundrisse: Outlines of the Critique of Political Economy
Karl Marx: Capital: Volume One

Related Topics: CapitalCapitalist Mode of ProductionCritique of Political EconomyEconomicsHistory of CapitalismMarxism OverviewsPolitical Economy

January 1

January 1, 1788
Birth of Etienne Cabet (1788-1856), French philosopher and utopian socialist, founder of the Icarian movement.

Further Reading:
Etienne Cabet: Voyage en Icarie [excerpt]

Related Topics: CommunesIntentional CommunitiesUtopian SocialismUtopias

January 1, 1804
Haiti declares itself a free republic. Haiti becomes the first independent nation in Latin America, the first post-colonial independent black-led nation in the world, and the only nation whose independence was gained through a successful slave rebellion.

Related Topics: HaitiHaitian RevolutionSlave Revolts

January 1, 1818
Publication of Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.

Further Reading:
Mary Shelly: Frankenstein – Project Gutenberg
Frankenstein: Wikipedia article
Mads Ryle: Classic book: Frankenstein

January 1, 1831
William Lloyd Garrison publishes the first issue of The Liberator, calling for the immediate abolition of slavery. There are 400 copies of the first issue, printed in the middle of the night using borrowed type.

Related Topics: AbolitionismAnti-Slavery

January 1, 1851
Henry Bibb founds The Voice of the Fugitive, an abolitionist newspaper which is the first black-owned newspaper in Canada.

Related Topics: AbolitionismAnti-SlaveryBlack Canadians

January 1, 1863
Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation takes effect, slaves in the Confederate States declared free.

Related Topics: Anti-SlaveryU.S. Civil War

January 1, 1959
Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro overthrow the Batista dictatorship.

Related Topics: Cuba

January 1, 1983
44 women break into a missile base at Greenham Common.

Related Topics: Anti-War MovementGrassroots Peace ActivistsPeace Movement

January 1, 1994
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) comes into effect and in Mexico, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation launches a rebellion, occupying the town of San Cristobal de las Casas.

Related Topics: Zapatistas

January 2

January 2 - 27, 1858
American forces invade Uruguay in order to protect American-owned property during a revolt.

Related Topics: InterventionUruguayU.S. Imperialism

January 2, 1873
Birth of Antonie Pannekoek (1873-1960), Dutch Marxist and council communist.

Further Reading:
Pannekoek: There are Reforms and There are Reforms Or Two Sorts of Reforms
Pannekoek: Socialization
Pannekoek: Party and Class
Pannekoek: Why Past Revolutionary Movements Have Failed
Pannekoek: Public Ownership and Common Ownership
Pannekoek: Workers’ Councils
Paul Mattick: Anton Pannekoek

January 2 - February 11, 1904
U.S. forces intervene in the Dominican Republic to ‘protect American interests.’

Related Topics: Dominican RepublicInterventionU.S. Imperialism

January 2, 1905
The Conference of Industrial Unionists in Chicago forms the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).

Related Topics: Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)Labour HistoryWorkers’ History

January 2, 1920
U.S. Attorney General Alexander Palmer orders the arrest and detention without trial of 6,000 people, including suspected Bolsheviks, communists, socialists, anarchists, trade unionists and others considered radicals, including many members of the IWW.

Related Topics: Political Repression

January 2, 1996
An estimated 100,000 Bangladeshi women travel to attend a rally in Dacca, to protest Islamist clerics’ attacks on women’s education and employment.

Related Topics: BangladeshReligion & Sexual OppressionWomen & IslamWomen & Religion

January 3

January 3, 1948
The Kinsey Report: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, by Dr. Alfred Kinsey, Wardell Pomeroy and others, is published. The report, and its 1953 successor, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, both based on interviews with many American men and women, are controversial, because they challenge conventional beliefs about sexuality and because they discuss subjects that were previously taboo. Kinsey concluded that sexual orientations are diverse, that sexuality is prone to change over time, and that sexual behavior can be understood both as physical contact as well as purely psychological phenomena (desire, sexual attraction, fantasy).

Further Reading:
In Defense of Sex and Science (Review of Kinsey film)

Related Topics: Male SexualitySexual BehaviourSexual ResearchSexuality

January 4

January 4, 1341
Birth of Wat Tyler (1341-1381), a leader of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381.

Related Topics: Peasant Uprisings

January 4, 1901
Birth of C.L.R. James (1901-1989), Trinidadian Marxist, philosopher, historian, author, and cricket journalist.

Further Reading:
James: The Black Jacobins
James: Every Cook Can Govern
C.L.R. James, Grace Lee, Pierre Chaulieu: Facing Reality
Loren Goldner: Facing Reality 45 Years Later
Martin Glaberman: Remembering C.L.R. James
Grant Farred: C.L.R. James and Anti-/Postcolonialism
Paul Ortiz: C.L.R. James' Visionary Legacy
Paul Le Blanc: The Marxism of C.L.R. James

January 4, 1989
U.S. naval forces conducting a deliberately provocative mission off Libya shoot down two Libyan planes about 70 miles north of the Libyan coast. The U.S. later claims the Libyan planes had demonstrated ‘hostile intentions’.

Related Topics: LibyaU.S. Military

January 5

January 5, 1534
Radical Anabaptists attempt to establish a communal religious government in the German city of Münster. They establish the practice of adult baptism, signifying their belief that only adults capable of consciously accepting religious faith should be initiated into a church. They reject the prevailing religious practice of automatically baptizing infants who are incapable of understanding the religion that is being imposed on them. They also take steps to introduce community of goods, that is, holding property in common rather than as private property. They hold the city for 18 months, but ultimately Münster is conquered, and the Anabaptist leaders are tortured and killed. Subsequently their bodies are displayed in cages hung from the steeple of St. Lambert’s Church: the cages remain there to this day (2013), though the bones inside have been removed.

Related Topics: Anabaptist StudiesReligious History

January 5, 1891
Start of the 1891 Shearers’ Strike, one of Australia’s oldest and most important industrial disputes.

Related Topics: AustraliaLabour HistoryStrikesWorkers’ History

January 5, 1919
Outbreak of the Spartacist uprising in Germany, a general strike, and armed battles, initiated by radical workers. The uprising begins spontaneously, after the newly formed Social Democratic government dismisses Berlin’s chief of police, a socialist who has refused to use force against striking workers. Workers take to the streets in protest. Some leaders of the newly formed Communist Party (formerly known as the Spartakusbund), including Karl Liebknecht, urge turning the protests into an armed uprising to overthrow the government. Others, notably Rosa Luxemburg, warn that an uprising is premature and likely to lead to disaster. The Social Democratic government, headed by Friedrich Ebert, brings in heavily armed right-wing Freikorps militias to attack the workers. The uprising is put down within a week. Luxemburg and Liebknecht are both captured and murdered by the Freikorps. The suppression of the revolt is generally considered to mark the defeat of the German revolution.

Further Reading:
History Archive of the German Revolution 1918 - 1923
Neil Faulkner: The German Revolution
Rosa Luxemburg: On the Spartacus Programme (Dec. 31, 1918)
Rosa Luxemburg: House of Cards (Jan. 13, 1919)
Rosa Luxemburg: Order Prevails in Berlin (Jan. 14, 1919)

Related Topics: German HistoryRevoltsRevolutionary Moments

January 5, 1968
Alexander Dubcek becomes the leader of the Czechoslovak Communist Party; inaugurating the liberalization known as the Prague Spring, which ends with a Soviet invasion in August 1968.

Related Topics: Czechoslovakia

January 5, 1978
Police in Toronto lay charges against Pink Triangle Press, publishers of the gay liberation newspaper The Body Politic, and three of its officers for possession of obscene material for distribution (i.e. the newspaper) and use of the mails for purpose of transmitting anything that is indecent, immoral or scurrilous (i.e. the newspaper).

Further Reading:
Body Politic periodical profile 1978

Related Topics: Gay & Lesbian History

January 6

January 6, 1832
Sixteen people, including William Lloyd Garrison, found the New England Anti-Slavery Society.

Related Topics: Anti-Slavery

January 7

January 7, 1979
The Vietnamese army ousts the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Western governments, including the United States and Britain, as well as China, continue to support the Khmer Rouge, sending them arms, and allowing them to continue to hold Cambodia’s seat in the United Nations until 1993.

Further Reading:
John Pilger: Thirty years on, the holocaust in Cambodia and its aftermath is remembered

Related Topics: Cambodia

January 7, 1994
Tens of thousands of urban workers in Mexico protest the government’s military siege against the Zapatistas.

Related Topics: ChiapasMexicoZapatistas

January 8

January 8, 1885
Birth of A.J. Muste (1885-1967), American socialist and pacifist.

Further Reading:
A.J. Muste Biographical Background
Noam Chomsky: The Revolutionary Pacifism of A.J. Muste (in American Power and the New Mandarins).

Related Topics: Pacifism

January 8, 1902
Birth of Carl Rogers (1902-1987), American psychologist, advocate for a humanistic person-centered approach to therapy and learning.

Further Reading:
Carl Rogers: Client-Centered Therapy

Related Topics: PsychologyPsychotherapyTherapy

January 8, 1912
Founding of the South African Native National Congress (renamed the African National Congress in 1923) in Bloemfontein to fight for the rights of the black South African population.

Related Topics: South Africa

January 9

January 9, 1831
Twenty-three workers in England are sentenced to death for destroying a paper-making machine that is being used to deprive them of work. In the next few days, more workers are convicted and sentenced by government commissions charged with crushing workers’ resistance to the machines that capitalists are using to increase their profits at their expense.

Related Topics: Luddism

January 9, 1908
Birth of Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986), French philosopher, feminist, political activist, and writer.

Further Reading:
Simone de Beauvoir: The Second Sex
Interview with Simone de Beauvoir (1976)

January 9, 1959
Birth of Rigoberta Menchu, advocate for indigenous rights and human rights in Guatemala.

Related Topics: GuatemalaIndigenous Peoples

January 9, 1964
Protests break out in the U.S.-controlled Panama Canal Zone. The trigger is a conflict over the right of the Panamanian flag to be flown alongside the American flag in the Panama Canal Zone. The underlying cause is Panamanian resentment over the US.-imposed treaty which gives the United States control of the Panama Canal Zone “in perpetuity.” The protests escalate into three days of fighting in which more than 20 Panamanians, and three U.S. soldiers, are killed. The events are a major reason for the subsequent U.S. decision to agree to transfer control of the Zone back to Panama.

Related Topics: PanamaPanama Canal

January 10

January 10, 1776
Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, is published in Philadelphia. Writing in a time of ferment in the American colonies, when most people are undecided about whether to seek independence from Britain and fearful of revolutionary means, Paine makes an unequivocal case for independence, and argues that revolution is justified when people are oppressed by an unjust government. Because its contents are treasonous, the first edition is published anonymously. Common Sense is enormously popular: 120,000 copies are sold in the first three months; 500,000 in the first year. It goes through 25 editions in the first year alone, and, in proportion to population at the time, it has the largest sales and circulation of any book in American history. Passages from the pamphlet are read aloud at public meetings, bringing its message of revolution even to people who are illiterate. Historians consider it crucial in turning the tide in the colonies toward revolution; one says “It would be difficult to name any human composition which has had an effect at once so instant, so extended and so lasting.” Paine makes no money on Common Sense: he donates all the royalties to the revolutionary army.

Further Reading:
Thomas Paine: Common Sense
Thomas Paine: The American Crisis
Thomas Paine: The Rights of Man
Thomas Paine: The Age of Reason
Mike Marqusee: Tom Paine, restless democrat: Profile of a radical

Related Topics: American RevolutionRevolutionary Moments

January 10, 1859
Birth of Francesc Ferrer i Guardia (1859-1909), Catalan Spanish free-thinker and anarchist, founder of the Escuela Moderna (The Modern School).

January 10, 1864
The Metropolitan Railway, the world’s first underground line, opens in London. It uses gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives.

January 10, 1908
In South Africa, Mohandas Gandhi is jailed for the first time, for refusing to register as an “Asian”.

Related Topics: ApartheidGandhiSouth Africa

January 10, 1966
Vernon Dahmer, a businessman and farmer in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, offers to pay the poll tax for those who can’t afford the fee that was then required before a citizen could vote. The night after a radio station broadcasts Dahmer’s offer, his home and store are firebombed. Dahmer dies later from severe burns. The man responsible for the arson attack, Ku Klux Klan Wizard Sam Bowers, is finally charged and convicted 32 years later.

Related Topics: De-segregation

January 11

January 11, 1887
Birth of Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), American ecologist and author.

January 11, 1894
The Donghak Peasant Revolution in Korea. Rebels defeat a government army on January 11. The peasants demand land redistribution, tax reduction, democracy and human rights. Taxes are so high that many farmers are being forced to sell their ancestral homesteads to rich landowners at pitifully low prices.

Related Topics: KoreaPeasant Uprisings

January 11, 1912
The start of the Lawrence textile strike, a strike by immigrant workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts led by the Industrial Workers of the World. Sparked by one mill owner's decision to lower wages, the strike spreads rapidly through the town, growing to more than twenty thousand workers at nearly every mill within a week. The strike, which lasts more than two months, succeeds in achieving its goals and also in proving that immigrant, largely female, and ethnically divided workers could organize successfully.

Related Topics: Labour HistoryStrikes/U.S.

January 11, 1923
French and Belgian armies occupy the Ruhr after Germany defaults on reparations payments. The German government urges ‘passive resistance’.

January 11, 1937
A key event in the Flint sitdown strike: Flint police, who are controlled by General Motors, attempt to enter the plant on January 11. Strikers inside the plant turn fire hoses on the police while pelting them with hinges and other auto parts, while members of the women’s auxiliary break windows in the plant to give strikers relief from police tear gas. The police make several charges, but withdraw after six hours. The strikers dub this “The Battle of Bulls Run,” a mocking reference to the police (“bulls”).

Further Reading:
Charlie Post: Introduction: The Flint Sitdown for Beginners
Sol Dollinger: Flint and the Rewriting of History

Related Topics: Factory OccupationsLabour HistorySitdowns/Sit-insStrikes/U.S.

January 11, 1943
Anarchist Carlo Tresca, an outspoken critic of the Mafia and fascists in the Italian-American community, is assassinated in New York.

January 11, 1998
Twenty-five thousand people occupy the site of one of 30 dams to be built on the Narmada River in India. They are protesting against a World Bank-funded project to build 30 large, 135 medium and 3000 small dams to harness the waters of the Narmada and its tributaries.

Further Reading:
Narmada Bachao Andolan
Do or Die: The people versus development in the Narmada Valley

Related Topics: Dams

January 11, 2002
The first group of prisoners seized during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan are brought to the American incarceration and torture facility in Guantanamo Bay, a military base occupying land seized from Cuba.

Related Topics: GuantanamoIncarcerationIndefinite DetentionNational SecurityTortureWar on Terrorism

January 12

January 12, 1876
Birth of Jack London (1876-1916), journalist, novelist and socialist.

Further Reading:
Jack London: The Iron Heel

January 12, 1904
The indigenous Herero people begin a revolt against German colonial rule in Southwest Afrika (now Namibia). Germany’s response is a war of extermination: the first genocide of the twentieth century.

Further Reading:
The genocide in Namibia (1904-08) and its consequences
Germany and genocide in Namibia
Germany’s genocide in Namibia

Related Topics: Colonies/GermanGenocideGerman Southwest AfricaHerero People

January 12, 1957
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is founded by a group of African-American clergymen, including Martin Luther King, Jr.

Related Topics: De-segregationJim CrowSegregation

January 12, 1987
Twenty West German judges are arrested for blockading the U.S. Air Force base at Mutlangen, where nuclear-armed cruise missiles are deployed. Judge Ulf Panzer states: “Fifty years ago, during the time of Nazi fascism, we judges and prosecutors allegedly ‘did not know anything.’ By closing our eyes and ears, our hearts and minds, we became a docile instrument of suppression, and many judges committed cruel crimes under the cloak of the law. We have been guilty of complicity. Today we are on the way to becoming guilty again, to being abused again. By our passivity, but also by applying laws, we legitimize terror: nuclear terror. Today we do know...”

Related Topics: Cruise MissilesNuclear Weapons

January 12, 1994
A massive worker-student demonstration in Mexico City demands an end to the government’s offensive against indigenous peoples.

January 12, 2002
The “Refusenik” movement begins when 53 Israeli soldiers sign an ad refusing to serve in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Their letter concludes: * We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people. * We hereby declare that we shall continue serving in the Israel Defense Forces in any mission that serves Israel’s defense. * The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose – and we shall take no part in them.

Further Reading:
Personal Testimony of an Israeli Refusenik

Related Topics: Israeli MilitaryIsraeli Occupation ForcesOccupied Territories

January 13

January 13, 1874
The Tompkins Square Riot. Police in New York attack a demonstration of unemployed workers in Tompkins Square Park. They begin beating people with clubs, while mounted police ride down people who flee into the surrounding streets. Labour leader Samuel Gompers, describes what he saw: “mounted police charged the crowd on Eighth Street, riding them down and attacking men, women, and children without discrimination. It was an orgy of brutality.” In the aftermath, police increase their harassment of political organizations, intimidating landlords into evicting radical groups and cancelling meetings on their premises.

Related Topics: Police ViolenceStrikes/U.S.

January 13, 1898
J’accuse!, an open letter by the prominent French novelist Émile Zola about the Dreyfus Affair, appears in the newspaper L’Aurore. In the letter, Zola accuses the French government of anti-Semitism for its persecution and jailing of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish French army officer sentenced to imprisonment for allegedly engaging in espionage. In his letters, Zola points out the lack of serious evidence against Dreyfus, and legal irregularities in the case. After his letter appears, Zola is convicted of libel, sentenced to prison, and removed from the Légion d’honneur. He flees to England to avoid imprisonment. Dreyfus is eventually exonerated, 12 years after he was charged and imprisoned.

Related Topics: Anti-Semitism

January 13, 1958
Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling presents the “Scientists’ Test Ban Petition” to the United Nations, signed by over 11,000 scientists (including 36 Nobel laureates) from 49 countries. It calls for an end to nuclear weapons testing. Subsequently, Pauling is forced to resign as Chairman of the Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Caltech (California Institute of Technology) after having served in that role for 22 years.

Related Topics: Nuclear WeaponsNuclear Weapons Testing Ban

January 14

January 14, 1601
The Roman Catholic Church burns sacred Hebrew books in Rome.

January 14, 1875
Birth of Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), physician, theologian, musician, opponent of nuclear weapons, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Quote: “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.”

January 14, 1918
Mass strikes in Austria-Hungary.

January 14, 1919
Rosa Luxemburg writes her last article, “Order Prevails in Berlin,” hours before she is murdered.
She concludes with the words: “You foolish lackeys! Your ‘order’ is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will ‘rise up again, clashing its weapons,’ and to your horror it will proclaim with trumpets blazing: I was, I am, I shall be!”

Further Reading:
Rosa Luxemburg: Order Prevails in Berlin
History Archive of the German Revolution

January 14, 1921
Birth of Murray Bookchin (1921-2006), American anarchist, author, and founder of the social ecology movement.

Further Reading:
Murray Bookchin: The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy
Murray Bookchin: The Ghost of Anarcho-Syndicalism
Murray Bookchin: Post-Scarcity Anarchism

January 14, 1963
Reesor Siding: A lumber workers’ strike begins in Northern Ontario when workers walk off the job. Among the workers’ grievances are a wage freeze and a plan by the Spruce Falls Power and Paper Company to make them work seven days a week to meet production quotas. Local farmer-landowners who make money selling wood to the company are extremely hostile to the strike, and on February 10 they launch an armed attack on the unarmed strikers, killing three and wounding eight others. Twenty landowners are charged in the attack; eventually three of them are found guilty of firearms violations and fined $150 each. The police also charge 237 strikers for ‘illegal assembly’; 138 of them are found guilty.

Further Reading:
Reesor Siding

Related Topics: Strikes/Canadian

January 14, 1967
The day of the “Human Be-In,” a ‘happening’ in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park; a prelude to San Francisco’s “Summer of Love”.

January 14, 1998
Death of Victor Papanek (1927-1998), designer and author.

Further Reading:
Victor Papanek: Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change
Victor Papanek & James Hennessey: How Things Don’t Work
Ulli Diemer: Review of How Things Don't Work

January 15

January 15, 1809
Birth of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865), French philosopher and anarchist.

January 15, 1919
Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht are murdered in Berlin by right-wing Freikorps militia.

Further Reading:
Elzbeta Ettinger: Rosa Luxemburg: A Life
Paul Frolich: Rosa Luxemburg
Rosa Luxemburg Internet Archive
Neil Faulkner: The German Revolution
History Archive of the German Revolution

Related Topics: German HistoryMarxismRevolutionary MomentsRosa Luxemburg

January 15, 1925
American military forces intervene in Shanghai, China. They remain until August 29, 1925.

Related Topics: Intervention

January 15, 1929
Birth of Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968), American civil rights leader.

Further Reading/Listening:
Dr Martin Luther King Jr Speeches
The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute
Democracy Now: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1929-1968

January 16

January 16, 1605
Publication of Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes.

January 16, 1855
Birth of Eleanor Marx (1855-1898), socialist activist and translator.

January 16, 1893
U.S. forces land in Hawaii, ostensibly to protect American lives and property, but actually to support a provisional government proclaimed by Sanford B. Dole with the support of American plantation owners.

Related Topics: InterventionU.S. Imperialism

January 16, 1969
Jan Palach, a university student, sets himself on fire in Wenceslas Square in Prague in a protest against the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Russian and other Warsaw Pact forces. He dies three days later. His action sparks widespread protests against the occupation. In the three months that follow, 26 other people attempt suicide as an act of protest; seven die.

January 16, 1979
The Shah of Iran is overthrown. Ayatollah Khomeni takes power.

Related Topics: IranIranian Revolution

January 17

January 17, 1888
Death of Big Bear (Mistahi-maskwa) (c.1825-1888), Cree leader in the Northwest Rebellion of 1885.

Related Topics: Aboriginal HistoryCree

January 17, 1893
Queen Lili’uokalani of the independent kingdom of Hawai’i is arrested at gunpoint by U.S. Marines and overthrown. The Queen had been working on a new constitution that would restore voting rights to native Hawaiians. American businessmen, particularly sugar plantation owners, want Hawai’i annexed to the United States. A new provisional government with Sanford B. Dole as president takes over. Five years later, U.S. President William McKinley signs a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress authorizing the annexation of Hawai’i. Hawaiians are not asked whether they want to be annexed.

Related Topics: CoupsInterventionU.S. Imperialism

January 17, 1906
A political mass strike takes place in Hamburg as workers demand the extension of the right to vote.

January 17, 1953
The radical journalist I.F. Stone starts I.F. Stone’s Weekly (published until 1971).

Further Reading:
I.F. Stone website
Myra MacPherson: The Importance Of Being Izzy And The Death Of Dissent In Journalism
Barrie Zwicker: I.F. Stone: A Wonderful Pariah

Related Topics: Alternative MediaAlternative NewslettersAlternative PapersInvestigative Journalism

January 17, 1961
Murder of Patrice Lumumba, Congolese independence leader, first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo after it gained its independence from Belgium. Considered too radical by the Western powers and their local allies, Lumumba is seized, a few weeks after becoming prime minister, in a coup orchestrated by the American and Belgian governments. He is tortured and then executed by firing squad.

Related Topics: CIAColonies/BelgianCongoCoupsPolitical Murders

January 17, 1966
An American nuclear-armed B-52 bomber collides with the fuelling boom of an Air Force jet tanker while refuelling over the coast of Spain. Two 70-kiloton hydrogen bombs rupture when they hit the ground, scattering radioactive material including plutonium dust; a third lands intact near the village of Palomares; the fourth is found, also intact, by a submarine after weeks of searching. The U.S. tries first to cover it up, then downplays the seriousness of the incident.

Related Topics: Nuclear WeaponsU.S. Military

January 17, 1991
The United States and its allies start bombing Iraq.

Related Topics: BombingIraqIraq War

January 18

January 18, 1943
Beginning of the first phase of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. As Nazi forces prepare to ship more Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to extermination camps, Jewish resistance forces, organized in the Jewish Military Union and the Jewish Combat Organization launch an insurgency. Numbering between 400 and 1000 fighters, they build fighting posts, engage German forces in combat, and execute collaborators. The second phase of uprising begins on April 19, when German forces enter the Ghetto, and continues until early May, when the resistance is finally crushed.

Further Reading:
Marek Edelman: The Ghetto Fights
Jewish resistance under Nazi rule

Related Topics: Anti-Nazi ResistanceResistanceWarsaw Ghetto

January 18, 1962
The U.S. military begins widespread spraying of herbicides in Vietnam in an effort to eliminate trees that provide cover for Vietnamese guerrillas. The U.S. ultimately drops more than 20 million gallons of defoliants, in violation of international treaties against using chemical weapons. Many of the herbicides, particularly Agent Orange, manufactured by Dow Chemical, Monsanto and others, cause birth defects and cancer in humans. Vietnam continues to suffer high rates of birth defects and illnesses caused by the American chemical warfare up to the present day.

Further Reading:
Resisting Agent Orange

Related Topics: Biological and Chemical WarfareChemical WeaponsCounter-InsurgencyVietnam War

January 18, 1975
Founding conference of the Coalition for Gays Rights in Ontario, at the Don Vale Community Centre in Toronto.

Related Topics: Gay & Lesbian History

January 19

January 19, 1990
Death of Myles Horton (1905-1990), radical educator and socialist, founder of the Highlander Folk School, which played an important role in teaching organizers and activists in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Further Reading:
The Extraordinary Myles Horton
We Make the Road By Walking: Conversations on education and social change

Related Topics: Critical PedagogyDemocratic ValuesFolk SchoolsOrganizingPopular EducationSocial Change

January 20

January 20, 1899
The first of four shiploads of Doukhobors (the name means "spirit wrestlers) arrive in Canada, After disembarking, they travel west by train, to what is now Saskatchewan.. Altogether 7,500 Doukhobors, fleeing persecution in Russia, arrive in Canada in 1899, followed by a series of smaller groups until 1912. The Doukhobors are a minority Christian sect, pacifists who believe that property should be communally owned.

Related Topics: Christian CommunitiesCommunal PropertyCommunalismPacifismReligious History of Canada

January 20, 1925
Birth of Ernesto Cardenal, Nicaraguan priest, liberation theologian, and Sandinista.

Related Topics: Liberation TheologyNicaraguan RevolutionSandinistas

January 20, 1936
Start of Syrian general strike against French colonial occupation. The French fire on protesters, killing dozens, but after 50 days of strike they are forced to give in and negotiate Syrian independence.

Related Topics: Syria

January 20, 1942
The Wanssee Conference: senior Nazis decide on a program for the ‘final solution’ of the ‘Jewish question’: mass murder.

Related Topics: Anti-Semitism‘Final Solution’GenocideHolocaustNazi History

January 20, 1973
Assassination of Amilcar Cabral (1924-1973), African socialist and intellectual, leader of the independence movements in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands.

Further Reading:
The Weapon of Theory, by Amilcar Cabral

Related Topics: National Liberation Movements

January 20, 2009
Large demonstrations in Iceland against the financial crisis caused by local and international banks. Protesters banging pots and pans outside the Parliament demand the resignation of the government responsible for mishandling the crisis. The continuing protests lead to the resignation of the Prime Minister and new elections which usher in a new government.

Related Topics: Bailing Out the RichBanking IndustryCapitalist CrisesFinancial BailoutsFinancial CrisisIceland

January 21

January 21, 1775
Emelyan Pugachev, the leader of a peasant and Cossack rebellion against the imperial Russian government in 1774-1775, is executed. The rebellion arose out of the severe oppression of the peasants by the nobility and the imperial government; Pugachev’s main goal was the end of serfdom. More than fifty peasant revolts occurred in the Russian empire between 1762 and 1775; Pugachev’s rebellion was the largest. (January 10 according to the old calendar.)

Related Topics: Peasant UprisingsRussian History

January 21, 1793
The deposed French king, Louis XVI, is guillotined after being convicted of treason.

Related Topics: French Revolution

January 21, 1924
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin dies. He had been ill and largely unable to participate in political activity in the last year-and-a-half of his life. His death sets off a power struggle in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which ends with Josef Stalin achieving control of the party and the state.

Further Reading:
Victor Serge: From Lenin to Stalin

Related Topics: BolshevismLeninLeninismRussian HistoryRussian Revolution

January 21, 1919
The Dáil Éireann, the revolutionary Irish parliament, proclaims Irish independence and an end to British rule. Britain does not recognize the proclamation, and fighting breaks out the same day. In the ensuring Irish War of Independence, Irish guerrillas fight against British forces until a truce is declared in 1921. Negotiations then lead to the recognition of the Irish Free State, although the six northern counties (Ulster) remain under British rule as Northern Ireland.

Related Topics: Anti-ColonialismColonies/BritishIrish HistoryNational Liberation Movements

January 22

January 22, 1879
The Battle of Isandlwana. Zulu forces defeat a British army invading the Zulu kingdom.

Related Topics: Africa/HistoryBritish Empire

January 22, 1891
Birth of Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), Italian Marxist, revolutionary and political theorist, known especially for developing the concept of cultural hegemony as a crucial means of maintaining capitalist rule. Gramsci stressed the need for popular education of working people to counteract the hegemony of the ruling class. Imprisoned by Italy’s fascist government from 1926 almost to the end of his life, he characterized his political attitude with a quote from Romain Rolland: “Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.”

Further Reading:
Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks 1929 - 1935
Antonio Gramsci: The Modern Prince

Related Topics: GramsciHegemonyMarxism

January 22, 1905
‘Bloody Sunday’ in Russia: a massacre of workers by the Czar’s soldiers leads to the outbreak of revolution. A peaceful demonstration of St. Petersburg workers, led by a priest, assembles at the Winter Palace, hoping to present a petition to Czar Nicholas II. They are singing hymns, dressed in their best clothes, and carrying portraits of the Czar to show their faith that the ‘Little Father’ will help them. Their trust in the Czar is repaid with bullets: without warning, troops fire into the terrified crowd; more than a thousand are killed. The next day, 125,000 workers go on strike protesting the massacre: the strikes spread like wildfire, and suddenly revolution is on the agenda. For the next two months, Russia is engulfed in a revolutionary upheaval that threatens to overthrow the regime, but ultimately falls short.(January 9 on the old Russian calendar)

Further Reading:
Neil Faulkner: A Marxist History of the World: The 1905 Revolution

Related Topics: MassacresMilitary Violence against CiviliansRussian Revolution of 1905

January 22, 1933
German President Hindenburg agrees to appoint Adolf Hitler as Chancellor. Hitler’s Nazi Party had won 33% of the vote in the recent Parliamentary elections.

Related Topics: Nazi History

January 22, 1953
Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible” opens on Broadway. The play is a dramatization of the Salem witch trials which took place in Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693. Miller wrote it as an allegory of McCarthyism, when the U.S. government engaged in a witch hunt of suspected Communists and their alleged sympathizers and ‘fellow-travellers’. Miller himself was convicted of ‘Contempt of Congress’ three years later, when he refused to name names before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Related Topics: McCarthyismWitchhunts

January 23

January 23 - 30, 1937
A Stalinist show trial in Moscow convicts 17 Old Bolsheviks of being members of a fictitious ‘Anti-Soviet Trotskyist Centre’. Thirteen of them are executed.

Related Topics: Judicial MurdersStalinism

January 24

January 24, 1878
Vera Zasulich shoots Col. Theodore Trepov, the brutal governor of St. Petersburg. Trepov is seriously injured but survives. Zasulich is put on trial, but unexpectedly a sympathetic jury acquits her. She quickly flees to Switzerland before the government can re-arrest her and arrange a different outcome.

January 24, 1986
Start of the Wapping dispute: British newspaper publishers set out to break the printers’ and journalists’ unions.

Related Topics: Union-busting

January 25

January 25, 1759
Birth of Robert Burns (1759-96), Scottish poet. Burns is popular as a ‘people's poet’ for writing about ordinary working people, and because of his sympathy for the American and French revolutions and the egalitarian principles they represent.

Further Reading:
A Man’s A Man For A’ That
To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough
Auld Lang Syne

January 25, 1787
Shays’ Rebellion: Rebels in western Massachusetts, most of them poor farmers protesting crushing levels of debt and taxes, engage in an armed clash with government militia. The rebellion is put down, and alarmed members of the elite move to take steps to strengthen the power of government to protect property owners from “the abuses of liberty.”

Related Topics: Rebellions

January 25, 1857
Gustave Flaubert goes on trial for public immorality for his novel, Madame Bovary. The principal character in the novel is a married woman who has sexual relations outside of marriage.
Flaubert is acquitted on February 7. The publicity resulting from the prosecution ensures that Madame Bovary will become a runaway bestseller.

January 25, 1921
Publication of “The Workers Opposition”, a pamphlet by Alexandra Kollontai outlining the program of the ‘Workers Opposition’ group in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
The ‘Workers’ Opposition’ argues that workers rather than managers should control production, and expresses concern about the growing bureaucratization of the party and the Soviet state.

Kollontai writes: “The basis of the controversy is namely this: whether we shall realize communism through workers or over their heads by the hands of soviet officials.....
There can be no self-activity without freedom of thought and opinion, for self-activity manifests itself not only in initiative, action, and work, but in independent thought as well. We are afraid of mass-activity. We are afraid to give freedom to the class activity, we are afraid of criticism, we have ceased to rely on the masses, hence, we have bureaucracy with us. That is why the Workers' Opposition considers that bureaucracy is our enemy, our scourge, and the greatest danger for the future existence of the Communist Party itself.
In order to do away with the bureaucracy that is finding its shelter in the soviet institutions, we must first of all get rid of all bureaucracy in the party itself....
Wide publicity, freedom of opinion and discussion, right to criticize within the party and among the members of the trade unions – such is the decisive step that can put an end to the prevailing system of bureaucracy. Freedom of criticism, right of different factions to freely present their views at party meetings, freedom of discussion – are no longer the demands of the Workers’ Opposition alone.”
The pamphlet is banned less than two months after it appears, and the ‘Workers’ Opposition’ is forced to end its activities within a year.

Further Reading:
Shliapnikov: Theses of the Workers Opposition
Background of the Workers Opposition

Related Topics: BolshevismBureaucracyCommunist Party of the Soviet UnionRussian RevolutionSoviet History

January 25 30, 2001
The first World Social Forum brings together 12,000 people in Porto Alegre, Brazil. It defines itself as “an opened space – plural, diverse, non-governmental and non-partisan – that stimulates the decentralized debate, reflection, proposals building, experiences exchange and alliances among movements and organizations engaged in concrete actions towards a more solidarity, democratic and fair world....a permanent space and process to build alternatives to neoliberalism.”

Related Topics: World Social Forum

January 25, 2002
A group of Israeli reservists issues a declaration (the Combatants’ Letter) saying they will not serve in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) if assigned to the occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip.

Related Topics: Israeli MilitaryIsraeli Occupation ForcesSoldiers

January 25, 2011
Revolt in Egypt: A popular uprising begins in Egypt, with tens of thousands of protesters gathering in cities across the country, including in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, to protest against the repressive regime of Hosni Mubarak. The continuing protests force Mubarak to resign on February 11.

Related Topics: Egyptian Revolt 2011

January 26

January 26, 1911
U.S. forces intervene in Honduras to ‘protect American interests.’

Related Topics: InterventionHondurasU.S. Imperialism

January 26, 1935
Birth of Lee Baxandall (1935-2008), American Marxist, naturist, and author.

Further Reading:
Baxandall: Radical Perspectives in the Arts
Baxandall: World Guide to Nude Beaches and Recreation

Related Topics: Arts & CultureClothing-OptionalCultural StudiesFree BeachesNaturismNude Rights

January 26, 1990
Death of Hal Draper (1914-1990), American Marxist and author.
In The Two Souls of Socialism, Draper writes:
“Marxism came into being, in self-conscious struggle against the advocates of the Educational Dictatorship, the Savior-Dictators, the revolutionary elitists, the communist authoritarians, as well as the philanthropic do-gooders and bourgeois liberals. This was Marx’s Marxism, not the caricatured monstrosity which is painted up with that label by both the Establishment’s professoriat, who shudder at Marx’s uncompromising spirit of revolutionary opposition to the capitalist status quo, and also by the Stalinists and neo-Stalinists, who must conceal the fact that Marx cut his eyeteeth by making war on their type.
‘It was Marx who finally fettered the two ideas of Socialism and Democracy together’ because he developed a theory which made the synthesis possible for the first time. The heart of the theory is this proposition: that there is a social majority which has the interest and motivation to change the system, and that the aim of socialism can be the education and mobilization of this mass-majority. This is the exploited class, the working class, from which comes the eventual motive-force of revolution. Hence a socialism-from-below is possible, on the basis of a theory which sees the revolutionary potentialities in the broad masses, even if they seem backward at a given time and place. Capital, after all, is nothing but the demonstration of the economic basis of this proposition.
It is only some such theory of working-class socialism which makes possible the fusion of revolutionary socialism and revolutionary democracy.”

Further Reading:
Introduction to Hal Draper
Draper: The Two Souls of Socialism
Draper: Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution: Volume I: State and Bureaucracy
Draper: Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution: Volume II: The Politics of Social Classes
Draper: Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution: Volume III: ‘The Dictatorship of the Proletariat’
Draper: Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution: Volume IV: Critique of Other Socialisms
Draper & Heberkern: Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution: Volume V: War and Revolution

Related Topics: Abolition of the StateAnarchismClass AnalysisDemocracyFirst InternationalLeft HistoryLibertarian SocialismMarxismMarxist Theory of the StateMarxist Theory of RevolutionRevolutionary PoliticsSocialism

January 26, 2011
In an attempt to stop the use of cell phones and social media such as Facebook and Twitter to organize protests, the Egyptian government shuts down Internet and mobile services. The plan backfires: the result is that people head out into the streets to see what is going on, and the size of the protests multiplies.

Related Topics: Egyptian Revolt 2011

January 27

January 27, 1847
Several hundred citizens of Marshall, Michigan help a group of former slaves escape to Canada rather than let them be returned to their "owner" by bounty hunters. Adam Crosswhite and his family, escaped Kentucky slaves, were tracked to the abolitionist town of Marshall by bounty hunters. Both black and white residents detain the bounty hunters and threaten them with tar and feathers, while helping the ex-slaves escape.

Related Topics: Anti-Slavery

January 27, 1945
The Nazi concentration camps Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Monowitz are liberated by the Soviet Red Army.

Related Topics: AuschwitzConcentration Camps

January 27, 1969
In Detroit, black auto workers, known as the Eldon Avenue Axle Plant Revolutionary Union Movement, lead a wildcat strike against racist practices and bad working conditions at the Chrysler plant.

Related Topics: Strikes/U.S.Wildcat Strikes

January 28

January 28 – May 25, 1521
The Diet of Worms, an imperial assembly in the Holy Roman Empire, is held in the German city of Worms. The dissident priest Martin Luther, who had posted his 95 Theses criticizing the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church four years earlier, is called to the Diet to defend his religious views. The Diet ends with the Edict of Worms, which declares Luther to be an obstinate heretic, and calls for his works to be banned. After the Diet, Luther is taken under the protection of a dissident noble and begins his translation of the Bible into German, an important event in the developing Protestant Reformation.

Further Reading:
Neil Faulkner: The Reformation

Related Topics: Luther, MartinReformationReligious History

January 28 – February 9, 1573
A large-scale peasant revolt breaks out in territory which is part of present-day Croatia and Slovenia, sparked by the cruelty and oppression peasants are suffering at the hands of the ‘nobility.’ The revolt is crushed after twelve days, thousands of peasants are killed, and many are tortured and executed.

Related Topics: Peasant Uprisings

January 28, 1853
Birth of Jose Marti (1853-1995), Cuban poet, journalist, and revolutionary.

Related Topics: Cuba

January 28, 1905
Polish workers go out on a general strike. The strikes last for four weeks, and are a prelude to an even larger wave of strikes that will rock Poland over the next year.

Related Topics: General StrikesPolandRussian Revolution of 1905

January 28, 1918
Revolution breaks out in Finland. A workers’ government takes power, but is immediately plunged into a civil war against the Whites (the Right). In May, the civil war ends in victory for the Whites.

Related Topics: Finland

January 28, 1918
Strikes break out in over 50 German cities; with more than one million workers going out in Berlin.

January 29

January 29, 1860
Birth of Anton Chekhov (1860-1904), Russian writer.

Further Reading:
201 Stories by Anton Chekhov
Works by Anton Chekhov at Project Gutenberg

January 29, 1914
U.S. forces invade Haiti to ‘protect American interests.’

Related Topics: HaitiInterventionU.S. Imperialism

January 29, 1927
Birth of Edward Abbey (1927-1989), American author and environmentalist.

Further Reading:
Abbey’s Web: Website dedicated to the life, works and values of author Edward Abbey.

January 29, 1929
Publication of All Quiet on the Western Front (Im Westen nichts Neues), Erich Maria Remarque’s novel about the First World War. It sells 2.5 million copies in 25 languages in its first eighteen months in print. When the Nazis come to power all of Remarque’s books are banned and burned.

January 29, 1965
A left-wing radical group bombs three American warplanes being retrofitted at an Edmonton airport.

January 29, 1969
Protesting students occupy the computer centre at Sir George Williams University in Montreal. On February 11, after 14 days of occupation, students set fire to the building; 97 are arrested by riot police.

January 29, 1998
Robert Sanderson, an off-duty police officer who works as a security guard at an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, is killed when the clinic is bombed by anti-abortion terrorists.

Related Topics: Anti-Abortion ViolenceTerrorism

January 30

January 30, 1649
King Charles I of England is beheaded after being convicted of treason. The monarchy is then abolished, but restored in 1660.

January 30, 1838
Seminole leader Osceola dies in prison after being captured by American military forces who, unable to defeat the Seminoles resisting theft of their land, offer peace talks, and then seize Osceola when he accepts the offer of a truce and comes to negotiate.

Related Topics: Aboriginal HistoryEthnic CleansingMilitary DeceptionUnited States Military

January 30, 1909
Birth of Saul Alinsky (1909-1972), American community organizer.

Further Reading:
Let Them Call Me Rebel: Saul Alinsky, His Life and Legacy
Saul Alinsky: Reveille for Radicals
Saul Alinsky: Rules for Radicals

Related Topics: Community OrganizingOrganizing

January 30, 1912
Outbreak of a general strike in Brisbane, Australia, fought over the right of workers to form a union.

Related Topics: AustraliaGeneral StrikesLabour HistoryStrikesWorkers’ History

January 30, 1933
Nazi leader Adolf Hitler is sworn in as German Chancellor. Hitler’s Nazi Party had won 33% of the vote in the recent Parliamentary elections.

Related Topics: Nazi History

January 30, 1937
Birth of Martin Almada, Paraguayan human rights activist and political prisoner.

Related Topics: ParaguayPolitical Prisoners

January 30, 1948
Mohandas Gandhi is assassinated.

Related Topics: Gandhi

January 30, 1968
Beginning of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. The National Liberation Front in South Vietnam and North Vietnamese troops launch a series of coordinated attacks on U.S. occupation forces and their South Vietnamese collaborators. They attack Saigon, 36 provincial capitals, and more than 100 cities and towns, as well as American military bases. They suffer heavy losses, but the attacks become a turning point in the war, as wide sections of the American public come to realize that the American invasion of Vietnam is not the success that U.S. government propaganda has said it is.

Related Topics: Vietnam War

January 30, 1972
In Londonderry, Northern Ireland, unarmed civil rights demonstrators are shot dead by British Army paratroopers in an event that becomes known as “Bloody Sunday.” The protesters, all Catholics, are marching to protest the British policy of internment without trial of suspected Irish nationalists. British authorities issue an order banning the march, and send troops to confront the demonstrators when it goes ahead anyway. The soldiers fire indiscriminately into the crowd of protesters, killing 14 and wounding 17.

Related Topics: IrelandMilitary Violence against Civilians

January 30, 2010
Thousands of protesters from across Japan march in central Tokyo to protest the U.S. military presence on Okinawa. Residents of Okinawa have been complaining for years about noise, pollution and crime around the American bases.

January 31

January 31, 1606
Guy Fawkes is hanged, drawn and quartered for his part in the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up Parliament.

January 31, 1970
Bertrand Russell writes his last article, on Palestine, two days before his death at the age of 98.



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, the books and articles of Noam Chomsky and William Blum (marvellous antidotes to historical amnesia), and a wide, wide variety of other sources.

For more information about some of the events and people mentioned, see the following pages in Connexipedia and in the Connexions Subject Index:

Events Listed in Connexipedia
Organizations & Movements Listed in Connexipedia
Persons Listed in Connexipedia
History Focus page
Oral History and Memoirs Focus page
Radical & Left History Focus page
Aboriginal History
Agricultural History
Arab History
Art History
Black History & Identity
Canadian History
Capitalism/History of
Chinese History
Economic History
Egyptian Revolt 2011
European History
French History
French Revolution
Gay & Lesbian History
General Strikes
German History
German History/World War II
Greece/Modern History
History/Twentieth Century
Hungarian Revolution 1956
Immigrant History
Irish History
Jewish History
Killings by Police
Labour History
Left History
Marxist Theory of Revolution
Oral History
Reference Sources/Chronologies
Revolution/Study of
Russian History
Russian Revolution
Revolutionary Moments
Sixties (1960s)
SOURCES: History experts & sources
Soviet History
Spanish Civil War
State-sponsored Violence
State Violence
United States History
Urban History
Women’s History
Workers’ History