Across the globe, workers are fighting back against their bosses and people are standing up to their oppressors. On May 1 people around the world will celebrate International Workers Day - commonly called May Day - by taking to the streets. To mark the occasion, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) urges all revolutionaries, progressives, activists and organizers here in the U.S. to go all out building the people’s fightback against capitalist greed and struggle for socialism.
May Day began in the U.S. On May 1, 1886, workers held massive rallies across the country demanding an eight-hour workday. In Chicago, the site of the biggest protests, police attacked striking workers, May 4, in Haymarket Square. The bosses, politicians and courts, using anti-immigrant and red scare tactics, framed eight strike leaders and executed four of them on bogus charges. This was the start of May 1 as a day of workers’ protest.
In recent times, the immigrant rights mega-marches of 2006 reignited May Day. This historic series of marches – from Los Angeles, to Chicago, to New York – drew millions of Chicano, Mexicano and Central American protesters into the streets to fight for full legalization. Just last year, tens of thousands joined together around the country for immigrant rights marches, and with unions as a part of the upsurge around Occupy Wall Street.
This year, activists and organizers will mark May Day by advancing the struggle for legalization and full equality for the undocumented. The fight for immigrant rights is once again at the forefront. While President Barack Obama and other politicians propose weak legislation that would help big business while actually hurting many undocumented immigrants, immigrant rights activists raise the demand, “Legalization for all.” For their part, Republican politicians call for more repressive barriers. We oppose further militarization and death at the border. We oppose new guest worker programs seeking to super-exploit immigrant labor. We oppose the brutal raids on and breaking up of immigrant families by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
This May Day, workers in the U.S. are resisting cutbacks to public services and attacks on their wages, pensions and rights. The wave of Republican legislators swept into office in 2010 by the Tea Party set a new wave of anti-worker attacks in motion. Wisconsin union members lost a sharp struggle against far-right Governor Scott Walker. Workers and unions in many states took it on the chin, though Ohio unions won. Significantly, the strike by the Chicago Teachers Union set a good example of what to do in the face of attacks from Democratic Party big wigs. Working people are more and more fighting back against the push for austerity by the rich. This summer, Teamsters at UPS nationally are gearing up for a major contract battle to preserve health care plans and win raises for part-time workers. Those who fight can win.
Also this past year African Americans and their allies boldly confronted a spike in racist terrorism and police brutality. The racist murder of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old African American youth, provoked outrage. In Sanford, Florida and other parts of the country, thousands marched to demand the racist vigilante Zimmerman to go to prison. More recently in Brooklyn, 16-year-old African American student Kimani Gray was shot to death by the New York police department. This police murder sparked militant protests. Racist terrorism by vigilantes like Zimmerman and by the police is an inherent part of the national oppression of Black, Chicano and other oppressed nationalities. The movement to end this oppression is rising. FRSO has always supported the right to self-determination for the Black Belt nation in the South and for the Chicano nation in the Southwest.
On May Day, we should reaffirm our commitment to fight for our democratic rights. The U.S. government has unleashed serious attacks on Arabs and Muslims. In 2010, the FBI carried out raids directed against anti-war and international solidarity activists, including members of the FRSO. We must be prepared to respond to new attacks, while speaking out in defense of the right to organize.
May Day provides an opportunity to talk with fellow workers about unity with workers and nations oppressed by U.S. wars and imperialism, to urge the end to U.S. war in Afghanistan, to stop murderous U.S. drone strikes, to oppose U.S. and NATO military intervention and threats upon sovereign countries like Syria, Iran and People’s Korea, and to oppose U.S. military adventures in Africa, Latin America and Asia. May Day reminds us of the need for a militant anti-war movement that stands in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in oppressed nations. When they strike a blow against imperialism in their countries, they strike a blow against the same bankers, corporations and rich elites that rip us off and exploit and oppress us here in the U.S.
May Day is also an important time to celebrate the accomplishments of the socialist countries - Cuba, China, Vietnam, Laos and Democratic Korea - where the working class holds political and economic power.
The Freedom Road Socialist Organization believes that a better world for working people is possible, but it can only be won through a determined struggle.
Workers and oppressed people wage that struggle in their workplaces, in their communities and ultimately in the streets. The continued misery inflicted on workers by economic crisis and non-stop U.S. wars and occupations makes the importance of May Day abundantly clear. Workers have sparked a fire through the mass struggles of the past three years, and the fire rises into May 1, 2013 and beyond.