Happy International Workers Day 2011

May 1st - International Worker's Day

The struggle continues with yet another May 1st upon us. The impact of the financial crisis through mass lay offs and unemployment, foreclosures, service and education cuts, attacks on unions and a general move towards neo-liberal austerity is still being felt hard. As well, the total failure of much promised and hoped for immigration reform has become all too obvious. Let this be a day to renew our struggles to organize ourselves as a class and as oppressed peoples and carry forward our fight for a better world. It’s needed now more than ever.

Here’s a few retrospective pieces to put the moment into context. First is a brief article on the history of May Day and its significance, some retrospective thoughts on the 2009 May 1st protests as well as some analysis on the 2006 protests that started it all from Machete408.

Next are some thoughts on the San Jose march in 2009. These are criticisms raised by Raj Jayadev of Silicon Valley Debug on the co-option of the march by institutional large non-profits and mainstream labor unions. I’m happy to saw the 2011 was of a very different character, less contrived, no directives on what flags or banners to hold, and an open mic where a diversity of speakers were allowed to speak. I think its worth looking back towards to answer the question of where is the movement at now?

The 2007 and 2008 marches were reunions of sorts, marches to honor and remember the history that was made in 2006, the largest mass marches in the history of the United States by a people who largely did not exist according to federal law.

The irony was that in an effort to reclaim that spirit of spontaneity that defined the 2006 march, every effort made by the large institutional organizations seemed more contrived and predictable. The first march, no one knew where it was going to end, or who was “leading” it. The route that was made in 2006, the same one we did yesterday, was created by walking it. It went from the immigrant Latino center in East San Jose, to the heart of civic power in downtown — City Hall. That route was made by children marching for their undocumented mothers, and was a social movement in a raw and profoundly inspiring form. Yet once organizations tried to organize the march, capture and direct the energy in 2007 and 2008, the march got deflated with route directors wearing matching armbands and politicians speaking on expensive stages. It resembled a parade, rather than a call to action.

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Looking at the 2009 May Day Rallies

MayDaymarch.jpg picture by adam_freedom

    The piece below from Chicago left blog Pilsenprole anlyzes the political terrian that led to the smaller turnout of the 2009 May Day rallies around immigration rights- though still more than the conservative media and well funded founcation sponsored Tea Party Protests this past April 15th. I couldn’t help but see many of the similarities with San Jose and I’m sure other cities as well.

  At the march in San Jose the role of Obama’s election was both a driving force (signs were emblazened with his image almost invoking him as a reason for the march itself) but also a damper as more institutional organizations took the stance that lobbying for immigration changes were more important and marches and movement (see post below for more). Following his nine point discussion on the immigration marches is a comparison between the media coverage around the Tea Parties and the May Day rallies. Read the original post here.

 

OK, I will be honest – this year’s May Day march in Chicago was small. Much smaller than the 750,000 to a million who marched in 2006. Smaller even than the tens of thousands who marched last year. After lambasting the mainstream media for their horrible coverage of last years march, I feel the need to be honest about the fact that this years turn-out was the smallest since 2006. And this pattern was repeated around the country, coast-to-coast. That said, this was a surprise to practically no one. Sure there were a few immigrants rights activists that predicated bigger turn outs, more out of the hope that their enthusiasm might encourage more people to show up. But I think everyone pretty much knew that this would not be the best of May Day celebrations.

The reasons are a multitude and quite obvious to anyone who has paid any attention to the political terrain as it relates to both the labor and immigrant rights movements:

1. Barack Obama’s election has diminished rather than encouraged increased activism among members of a number of social movements, including the immigrant rights movement. We saw this with the anti-war movement in previous months. The attitude is, we did our part in November, now let’s let Obama make good on his promises and give him some space and time. Unfortunately history shows that without mass mobilization, Obama will be less likely to remember promises made.
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Marches, Bosses, Workers, Foreclosures and Swine Flu

mayday2009.jpg may day 2009 picture by adam_freedom Once again San Jose led the Bay Area with the largest protest in Northern California for May 1, 2009.  While poor weather and swine flu scares turned many would-be marches away, many saw this years May Day immigrant rights march as the most spirited and significant since the massive march of 2006 when nearly 100,000 swelled the streets.

The day had a marked difference from previous the marches coming after 2006, as this year many of the more institutional organizations took a major step back in their involvement.  Reflecting on this is New American Media and Silicon Valley De-Bug commentator Raj Jayadev who wrote “The irony was that in an effort to reclaim that spirit of spontaneity that defined the 2006 march, every effort made by the large institutional organizations seemed more contrived and predictable [in the 2007 and 2008 marches].” He also gives his thoughts on the sense of fighting to win that was present with participants. (link)

To get a feel for the march, or maybe just to relive the the moment if you were there, check De-Bug’s video interviews of participants and photospread of the march here. One thing to note that I’ve heard from a couple of places is that in the media coverage of the march and the comments and signs of participants, there is a much higher emphisis on May Day, International Worker’s Day and worker issues than there an been in the past. Though of course the emphasis on immigrant rights has not been lost at all. A positive development without a doubt.

LoadLimit.jpg load limit picture by adam_freedom

Check out Pierce Artwork for an amazing and original collection of worker and labor related comics (featured above). A member of the IWW, Pierce offers a fresh, radical and often times subtly hilarous approach to themes relating to working class power. Comics are in English and Spanish as well as other languages.

vivalahuelga.jpg ufw strike picture by adam_freedom Speaking of labor, my recently posted  “Outline of US Labor History with a Focus on the Role of the Left” has been updated and expanded. The piece attempts to periodize the labor movement by decade, important organizations and broad trends. A particular focus is given on the role of the left and left organizations.

RepoTour.jpg Repo tour picture by adam_freedom Who pays the piper in the Obama administration? Well, rarely does the mainstream press lay it out so clearly:

“The Democratic-controlled Senate on Thursday defeated a plan to spare hundreds of thousands of homeowners from foreclosure through bankruptcy, a proposal that President Barack Obama embraced but did little to push through. … Obama had said [the proposal] was important to saving the economy and promised to push [it] through Congress. But facing stiff opposition from banks, Obama did little to pressure lawmakers who worried it would encourage bankruptcy filings and spike interest rates.” (Mercury News, May 1, 2009 link).

Meanwhile real estate agents have a “Repo Tour Home” service- a bus that drives potential clients around town to view recently reposessed homes- such as the one pictured above in Stockton, CA.

puerco.gif puerco picture by adam_freedom If you’ve had enough of the swine flu hysteria that has been gripping the media you’ll be glad to know that they seem to be shifting over to a fire burning the mansions of rich people in Santa Barbara and Obama and Biden’s lunch outings. But if you’re still hoping to laugh it off, you should try these videos: The new Swinewow super absorbent towel on Jimmy Kimmel Live and “La cancion del gripe marrano,” a song and dance video by a group of Mexico City musicians. English subtitles included.

Happy May Day!

Happy May Day – International Workers Day!

¡Felecidades El Primero de Mayo –

Día de Trabajo Internacional!

Por los derechos laboral y contra todos  fronteras.

hacialahuelgageneral.jpg Hacia la huelga general picture by adam_freedom

May 1: International Worker’s Day – Día Internacional de los Trabajadores

haymarket-square-front.jpg picture by adam_freedom  Yet again May Day quickly approaches.  Since 2006 the immigrant rights marches- made up of millions of undocumented migrant workers along with their supporters, families and children- has brought back May 1st to its original roots in the US. But many are still unaware of its origins in US labor history and the impact this commemorative day still has internationally- such as you can still walk into neighborhoods in Mexico and find streets such as “Calle Los Mártires de Chicago” (Martyrs of Chicago Street).

  Below is a short, pamphlet length piece I edited on the origins and radical history of May Day. For an in depth look you might try Paul Avrich’s classic “The Haymarket Tragedy” and AK Press offers a listing of books they carry on the subject here.  -AW

 What is May Day and why is it called International Workers Day?

May 1st, International Worker’s Day, commemorates the historic struggle of working people throughout the world, and is recognized in every country except the United States and Canada. This is despite the fact that the holiday began in the 1880’s in the United States, with the fight for an eight-hour work day led by immigrant workers. The recent historic marches and protests for immigrant rights, which began with “El Gran Paro Americano 2006,” have brought back into our memories May 1 as an important day of struggle. Although the history of the day has largely been forgotten in the United States, it is still actively remembered and celebrated today by workers, unionists and oppressed peoples all over the world. In fact you can still walk through neighborhoods in Mexico and find streets such as Calle Los Martires de Chicago in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, commemorating the leaders of the eight-hour day movement who were imprisoned and executed.

It is not surprising that the government, business leaders, mainstream union leaders, and the media would want to hide the true history of May Day, portraying it as a “communist” holiday celebrated only in the Soviet Union. In its attempt to erase the history and significance of May Day, the United States government declared May 1st to be “Law Day,” and gave us instead Labor Day—a holiday devoid of any historical significance other than a three weekend holiday at the end of the summer. Continue reading

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