You wouldn’t know it from reading your daily paper or watching FOX news, but on May 1, something really extraordinary will take place. Hundreds of millions of working people across the globe will take to the streets to celebrate a day that is ours and ours alone – International Workers’ Day.
In Europe, millions will gather and place demands on the rich and powerful. In Moscow and the cities of the former socialist countries, workers will take to streets, condemning the disaster that capitalism has unleashed. In fields, villages and cites of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, those who yearn for a better way of life will assemble and assert their demands for freedom, justice and equality.
In some countries, it’s a crime to celebrate May Day. Working people observe it anyway, either outside of the eyes of the authorities or in battles with the police. Where our class, the working class, has sway over government, be it Cuba or Democratic Korea, May Day is a national holiday – a bitter past is condemned, solidarity with the worlds oppressed and exploited is reaffirmed, and there is a recommitment to building a society that is just, free and fair.
An American Holiday
May Day was born in the U.S.A. It began with the struggle of the Chicago working class in May of 1886. Workers there fought and died for the 8-hour day. That battle of heroes gave rise to the tradition of demonstrations, strikes and celebrations by working people around the globe.
During the depression years of the 1930’s, millions of workers rallied in U.S. cities on May 1 – to demand unemployment insurance and trade union rights, and in support of the gains made by workers in the Soviet Union. This scared the hell out of Wall Street and the White House, so they ranted and raved that May Day was ‘un-American.’
In truth, the tradition and practice of celebrating May Day as a workers’ day – a day of struggle, where our class looks forward to a better future – is something that the people of this country have every right to be proud of.
A Failed System
For the working people of this country, capitalism is a failure. It enriches a handful of billionaires at the expense of the many. Caring only about getting the highest rate of profit on their investments, the rich do not give a damn about our health care, our housing, our children’s education or those of us who are growing older. They are looting our pension funds, attacking our unions, forcing those of us who have jobs to work harder and have pushed millions into the unemployment lines.
America’s wealthy – its capitalists – are not the ‘beautiful people’ they think they are. They are parasites who inherited their money and live off of our labor. They know that the secret to staying rich is not hard work; it’s having other people work hard for you. To protect their power and privilege, they have a host of bought-and-paid-for politicians to do their bidding.
Most people think that most politicians of both parties are liars. And they are right to think that. We have politicians saying things like, ‘getting rid of public assistance is good for the poor’ or that the minimum wage is bad for working people or that our social security dollars should be handed over to the rip-off artists on Wall Street. Most states are facing huge budget deficits. So how do the politicians respond? From California to New York, lawmakers advocate balancing the budgets on the backs of poor and working people. Many politicians are going further; they want to cut taxes on the rich.
The judges who preside over U.S. courts are cut from the same cloth as the politicians, only they are more pompous. They took a loser like George Bush, made him president, and then they turn around and tell us everything is fair and just. Klansmen aren’t the only people in this country who wear long robes. The judges who wear them are, and will be, deciding on cases that affect affirmative action, reproductive rights and our democratic rights.
Our country has become one big jailhouse for the oppressed nationalities within U.S. borders. According to our rulers, racial profiling is fine – in the airports or on the streets of the cities. Racist discrimination is a fact of life. Death rows, packed with Black people, Latinos and poor people – many of them innocent – give lie to talk of ‘justice for all.’ Nations have a right to determine their own destinies. For the African-Americans and the Chicanos, self-determination is a right denied. So is the right for genuine equality for Asian and Pacific Islanders and others who face systematic discrimination and oppression at the hands of those in power. Black and Latino youth are targeted by military recruiters to be used as cannon fodder in imperialist wars and by police who harass, beat, and kill.
The capitalists who run America have built an empire of exploitation that expands across the globe. They steal the land, labor and natural resources of others. The rich have the gall to say that the sons and daughters of working people should go fight and die for them – in Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia and the Philippines; and tomorrow in Syria, Iran or Korea.
In reality, working people here have no interest, material or otherwise, in supporting these wars. These wars have nothing to do with our peace, security or anything else that could be construed as just or reasonable. They have everything to do with oil, the theft of resources, exploiting people’s labor and domination of the entire world. To the extent that Bush and his backers are successful in attacking others, things are worse for us. Our enemies – the monopoly capitalists – become stronger. But the opposite is true as well.
Every setback dealt to U.S. imperialism is good thing for working and oppressed people here. The rich are attacking us. Many of us have decided to fight back. People and countries around the world are resisting the empire of the dollar. Collectively, we have a common enemy and common cause.
May 1, International Workers’ Day, is a time for working people to renew our solidarity with everyone who is fighting injustice and oppression – be it the steadfast men, women and children of Iraq and Palestine, who are giving their lives so that they can free their lands from occupation, or the freedom fighters in Colombia or the Philippines.
Any time that we stand together and fight for what we need and deserve – on the picket lines or in protests and demonstrations – we can see a glimpse of our future. Our best qualities emerge: courage, determination, and a willingness to make sacrifices for what is positive and right. And the greed, selfishness and cruelty of the elite stand out in stark relief.
To be sure, May Day is about our struggle now, but it’s also about what can be, about our future. The White House and Wall Street are leading us to poverty and war. We can do better. A lot better. Working people make this country run. There is no reason why we should not run this country.
There is a name for the way of life that is better than capitalism – it is socialism. We do not need the rich. We don’t need them to run the places where we work. We know better than any supervisor how to get things done. We do not need the government of our oppressors, or their cops, in our communities. We do need each other. We need power over the political and economic life of this country. This is what socialism is all about.
May Day is our day.