May Day Protests for Justice
by Stephen Lendman
Annually on May 1 in dozens of countries worldwide, labor commemorates International Workers Day. It’s now called May Day.
Since the 1880s in America and Canada, Labor Day is a national holiday on the first Monday in September. It once had meaning. It no longer does.
Years of organizing, taking to the streets, going on strike, holding boycotts, battling police and National Guard forces, as well as paying with blood and lives won real gains. Now they’re lost.
Bargaining collectively with management on equal terms no longer exists. Grassroots energy waned. Corrupted union bosses and politicians sold out to management for personal gain. Global activism wants lost rights restored. So do Occupy Wall Street (OWS) activists.
Direct Action striking on May Day was urged. Boycott work, school, shopping and banking. Take to the streets in protest. OWS issued the following statement:
“Building on the international celebration of May Day, past General Strikes in U.S. cities like Seattle and Oakland, the recent May 1st Day Without An Immigrant demonstrations, the national general strikes in Spain this year, and the ongoing student strike in Quebec, the Occupy Movement has called for A Day Without the 99% on May 1st, 2012.”
“This in and of itself is a tremendous victory. For the first time, workers, students, immigrants, and the unemployed from over 125 U.S. cities will stand together for economic justice.”
Global actions joined them. European cities participated. Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Russia, and other countries saw large demonstrations. So did other cities worldwide.
The European Trade Unions Confederation (ETUC) calls May 1 a day of youth employment and social justice. General secretary Bernadette Segot said:
“Making jobs unsure, and especially jobs for young people, is not a solution to” today’s economic crisis. Force-fed austerity compounds it.
Asian nations participated. Thousands took to the streets in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and elsewhere. Common themes were stressed. They include higher wages as well as better working and living conditions.
Workers everywhere are left out. Achieving rights requires disruptive social protests. Governments and business yield nothing. Direct action is needed. The only solution is world revolution.
This year’s May Day is symbolic. In that respect, it’s important. One day’s strike alone achieves nothing. Going out and staying out has possibilities. Shut down the system. Keep it down.
Winning rights takes sacrifice. Mobilize, don’t compromise. Resolve to strike indefinitely. Stay the course. Attack the beast and slay it. Fight for what’s right. No more austerity. Elevate living standards.
Except nothing less. Don’t rest until get it. Keeping it counts most. For now, battles lie ahead. Victories won’t come easily or quickly. A protracted struggle remains. Nothing was ever gained the easy way. It takes sacrifice, understanding the enemy, and knowing it fights dirty.
The Enemy Strikes Back
Here we go again. We’ve seen this one before. It was a scam then. It is again now. On April 30, The New York Times headlined “Envelopes With White Powder Sent to Mayor and 6 Banks,” saying:
Ahead of May Day protests, “envelopes containing white powder were sent to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and six banks in Manhattan, officials said Monday.”
This time, The Times admitted they were “harmless.” Nonetheless, the damage was done. Evacuations and shutdowns followed. Police and Fire Departments came out. No one claimed responsibility. National headlines alerted people. Two letters heightened fear, saying:
“This is a reminder that you are not in control. Just in case you needed some incentive to stop working. We have a little surprise for you. Think fast….Happy May Day.”
The incident likely tried taking an edge off protests. It reminded people of the post-9/11 anthrax attacks. Two senators and several media offices were targeted. Five died. Another 17 were infected.
People across America were scared. Bogus charges followed. So did passage of the USA Patriot Act, other police state legislation, and imperial wars.
It was a staged state-sponsored incident. Francis Boyle said “the trail of genetic evidence would have led directly back to a secret but officially-sponsored US government biowarfare program that was illegal and criminal.”
US laws and biological weapons conventions were violated. Boyle added:
“I believe the FBI knows exactly who was behind these terrorist anthrax attacks upon the United States Congress in the Fall of 2001, and that the culprits were US government-related scientists involved in a criminal US government biowarfare program.”
A whitewashed investigation followed. Those involved were sworn to secrecy. Boyle’s an international law and bioweapons expert. Clarity Press published his book, titled “Biowarfare and Terrorism.”
Look no further than Washington for responsibility. State-sponsored terrorism lay behind it, the 9/11 attacks, imperial lawlessness that followed, and police state crackdowns on dissenters.
Origins of May Day
Its roots lie in Chicago. The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions chose May 1, 1886 to strike. At issue was an eight-hour work day. National rallies were held. Around half a million participated. Chicago was its epicenter. Thousands turned out. Estimates ranged up to 80,000.
Two days later, police responded violently. Unarmed strikers were attacked. Six died.
On May 4, the landmark Haymarket Square protest followed. Eight organizers led it – Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Eugene Schwab, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Louis Ling and Oscar Neebe.
Someone threw a bomb. Police opened fire indiscriminately. Deaths and injuries resulted. Organizers were called anarchists. Seven were charged. Unjust convictions followed.
Four were executed for murders they didn’t commit. Another committed suicide. An international campaign won commuted sentences for two others. Three who remained alive were eventually freed.
What became known as the Haymarket massacre resonated globally. At its founding 1889 congress, the Second (Socialist) International chose May 1 as a worker solidarity international day.
Issues broadened to include better working conditions, improved living standards, international solidarity, and opposition to militarism and war.
Leon Trotsky said May Day’s purpose “was, by means of a simultaneous demonstration by workers of all countries on that day, to prepare the ground for drawing them together into a single international proletarian organization of revolutionary action having one world centre and one world political orientation.”
US Socialist Party leader Eugene Debs argued for continuing the May Day tradition, saying:
“This is the first and only International Labor Day. It belongs to the working-class and is dedicated to the revolution.”
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) commemorates it the same way, saying:
“Labor Day has completely lost its class character. The very fact that ‘Labor Day’ was legally, formally and officially established by the capitalist class itself, through its organized government, took the ‘starch’ out of it: destroyed its class character.”
“The first of May has not been disgraced, contaminated and blasphemed by capital’s official sanction and approval, as has Labor Day. The capitalist class can never be a friend of May Day; it will ever be its enemy.”
On May 1, Socialist Equality Party’s presidential candidate, Jerry White, expressed “solidarity with workers throughout the world on May Day.” He said earlier struggles take on “special relevance this year.”
Worker struggles require unity. They’re also about staying free “from the political parties, trade unions, and organizations of the upper middle class, which subordinate it to the profit interests of the capitalist class.”
He and running mate Phyllis Scherrer aren’t running so much to win. There campaign is about “building a new revolutionary leadership to give voice to the masses of working people who are ignored by this corporate-controlled political system.”
“(S)ocial equality, peace and the democratic control of the economy” is only possible through global worker unity against the profit driven system. It’s predatory, corrupt and destructive.
May Day advances that core theme. Confronting America’s ruling class is central. Words engraved on Chicago’s Haymarket Monument read:
“The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today.”
Haymarket Square protest organizers are heros. Those who died then are martyrs. Reviving their radicalism is vital. May Day sounds the call. Perhaps this year’s will be loudest.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.