Sunday, May 01, 2016

Sunday is May Day

Sunday Is May Day

by Stephen Lendman

Labor and social justice advocates commemorate International Workers Day on May 1 - called May Day, more symbolic than meaningful.

Since the 1880s in America and Canada, Labor Day is a national holiday on the first Monday in September. It once had meaning, now pointless in nations beholden solely to wealth and power interests - worker rights lost and ignored.

Years of organizing, taking to the streets, going on strike, holding boycotts, battling police, as well as paying with blood and lives won real gains - now gone. 

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.

Neoliberal harshness destroyed social justice. Popular needs go begging. Inequality is institutionalized - things on a fast track toward ruler-serf societies in Western countries, a criminal class running them for its own self-interest, enforcing tyranny against resisters.

May Day’s 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. Tens of thousands turned out.  

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. 

A bomb was thrown, perhaps a false flag. 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 still 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, as well as opposition to militarism and war. 

The Chicago-based Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is a shadow of its former self. Earlier it said “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.”

Commemorations accomplish nothing. Activism requires full-time commitment. Oligarchs are today’s Robber Barons, colluding with corrupt politicians, assuring few benefit at the expense of most others.

America more resembles Guatemala than the land of the free and home of the brave - a thirdworldized banana republic, a democracy in name only, a police state on a fast track toward full-blown tyranny.

Confronting its ruling class responsibly is the only way to change things. Elections are a waste of time.

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 protesters died as martyrs. Reviving their spirit is vital at a time America and other Western societies are unfit to live in - rights of ordinary people lost, tyranny replacing them.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 

His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."

Visit his blog site at 

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