Spring is almost here and it’s time to start thinking about what you are planning for May Day – International Worker’s Day/Strike on May 1st. Are you gonna organize your building for a rent strike? Cook/Prepare/Distribute with Food Not Bombs or liberate vegan/vegetarian food waste yourself from grocery store dumpsters or bakeries, put together some meals (with clean hands and gloves) and drop off/deliver to people who need/want them? Produce/Perform music or artwork. Plant a guerrilla garden? Sew masks for workers in need? Start an online/virtual march or petition? Write to the Wardens of jails for prisoner release during COVID-19 (and forever)?
These are just a few ideas. There are plenty of revolutionary actions one can do while honoring social/physical distancing and stay-home measures to contain the virus. Wow, all we have to do to stop a virus is limit our physical contact with each other??? That’s not hard (but certainly does suck more for the single people out there) but some alt-right people have been jeopardizing their health AND the health of others by gathering in large groups “to protest for their right to make other’s sick and keep the pandemic going” – that sounds like an article from The Onion or Hard Times but unfortunately, it’s not satire or make-believe.
This group of dangerous ignoramus’ managed to 1) Block an ambulance from getting into a hospital 2) Made a spectacle of science and healthcare providers while making themselves free billboards and mouth pieces for corporate America, dark money and the politicians that have been advocating human sacrifice for capitalism; and purposely denying anyone’s right to health and safety during a pandemic is exactly what fascism is.
Last May Day I was in Brooklyn, New York playing/running a female-dominated punk rock show at Bootleg bar. Now I’m on a farm in Micanopy, Florida, really feeling this global weight of uncertainty in most every aspect of my life; intellect, relationships, and finances – I already went through my van money (sold the Baby Killers Astro tour van for $200) and I’m on my last $12 with no stimulus or unemployment check in sight (and I only have this money from an art commission I received, thanks to a friend). I have access to food and clean water though.
So, more importantly, this fascist regime and its ever-loyal mob of followers, aim to co-opt and “re-open the economy” i.e. forcing people back to work with no protective gear, on a day historically known for worker strikes, against all the advice from the CDC and other health professionals with total disregard for worker’s (and consumers) rights, safety and global responsibility to contain a highly infectious and lethal virus along with logic and commonsense.
May Day is our day! And perhaps this year we will rent strike from home and NOT GO TO WORK and demand that ALL workers and small businesses be compensated for lost wages during COVID-19 and bosses cannot demand their workers return until conditions are safe. Think Osha. Safe working conditions is a right already won!
But what is May Day exactly?
“Not many people know why May Day became a worker holiday and why we should still celebrate it. “It all began over a century ago when the American Federation of Labour adopted an historic resolution which asserted that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labour from and after May 1st, 1886” (struggle.ws), which was won through nationwide strikes with more than 400,000 workers on strike in Chicago, the latter becoming part of the historic Haymarket Riots – a multi-day strike that ended with a bomb being thrown in the police lines while a considerably small group of strikers held a meeting. The strikers were blamed but maintained their innocence and five union organizers/anarchists were sentenced to death, three of whom were not even present at the protests.
“Workers at 13,000 businesses across America took a stand against dangerous work and low wages, and for an eight-hour workday. An estimated 300,000 to a half million workers, many of them immigrants, rallied and paraded through city centers in a general strike to demand an end to unsafe factory jobs with high death rates and little pay while corporations raked in booming profits” (uaw.org).
“In the months prior to this date workers in the thousands were drawn into the struggle for the shorter day and an end to unsafe and underpaid work. Skilled and unskilled, black and white, men and women, native and immigrant were all becoming involved” (struggle.ws); thus, it was very important for the “powers that be” damper May Day solidarity, which became an internationally known and celebrated holiday, and giving a new definition to arrival of Spring.
“They also were encouraged by the growing labor movement and populist politics sweeping the nation as immigrants poured into the U.S. looking for a better life and found only backbreaking exploitation in dirty, unsafe factories. Power brokers took notice of the show of force that day and, while it would take decades for workers to have true rights and safety on the job, that first May Day was a milestone for unity and justice for workers everywhere. May Day would become an annual tradition that would lead to an International Workers Day holiday celebrated throughout the world today” (uaw.org).
“In the U.S., that holiday came in for particular contempt during the anti-communist fervor of the early Cold War. In July of 1958, President Eisenhower signed a resolution named May 1 “Loyalty Day” in an attempt to avoid any hint of solidarity with the “workers of the world” on May Day. The resolution declared that it would be “a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States of America and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom” (time magazine).
“We need revolutionary politics. That means politics that can lead us towards a genuine socialism where freedom knows no limit other than not interfering with the freedom of others. A socialism that is based on real democracy – not the present charade where we can choose some of our rulers, but may not choose to do without rulers. A real democracy where everyone effected by a decision will have the opportunity to have their say in making that decision. A democracy of efficiently co-ordinated workplace and community councils. A society where production is to satisfy needs, not to make profits for a privileged few. Anarchism.”
Read more about the Anarchist roots of May Day and download printable leaflets here: http://www.struggle.ws/about/mayday.html