By the REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALIST NETWORK
Today, May 1, is a holiday for our class—the working class, which produces all of society’s wealth and makes the world run. It is through our labor that the bosses generate all of their profits and maintain the system of greed, grotesque inequality, and oppression that exists today. Under capitalism, racism and oppression are used and reinforced by the ruling class to hyper-exploit oppressed people for the sake of profit – and to foster division within the working class.
In particular, the current pandemic and the economic and climate crises have exposed the brutality of capitalist exploitation by disproportionately affecting working-class women and people of color, as well as LGBTQI+, Indigenous persons, people who are detained or imprisoned, and immigrants and migrants.
Through solidarity, unity, and mass collective action, working-class and oppressed people have the power to challenge this system, win concessions, and, ultimately, to build a free and just society.
The history of May Day
The history of International Workers Day dates back to the 1880s and the labor movement’s struggle for an eight-hour day. On May 1, 1886, some 200,000 workers across the country walked off the job to demand a reduction in the working day to eight hours with no loss in wages. At the time, it wasn’t uncommon for workers to toil each day for as much as 14 to 16 hours. In Chicago, where the strike movement was particularly strong, the city’s radical-led labor movement met with harsh repression from the capitalist class and their agents. When police attempted to repress a workers’ protest on May 4, an unknown person from the crowd, either a disgruntled worker or possibly an agent provocateur, threw a bomb at the cops. Police responded by indiscriminately opening fire on the crowd. Many were killed – and some eight police officers died, most of them as a result of gunfire from the police themselves.
The ruling class used this incident, which became known as the Haymarket affair, to crack down on the labor and radical movement. In Chicago, eight radical leaders were rounded up and later convicted by the state on spurious charges relating to the incident. Four of these men were sent to the gallows and hung the following year.
The goal of the bosses was to crush the labor movement and make workers afraid of fighting back. While the crackdown did have a chilling effect on the struggle in the short term, in the long term, the mass strikes in Chicago and elsewhere helped lay the basis for successful struggles of the future.
In the years following the execution of the Haymarket martyrs, International Workers Day was adopted as a holiday and a day of struggle by the international socialist movement.
In the United States, May Day was repressed for much of the twentieth century as part of the anti-communist crackdown of the Cold War. It was revived on May 1, 2006 with the mass protests and walkouts across the country led by immigrant workers in opposition to a racist, anti-immigrant bill then being considered in Congress. Immigrant workers from Mexico, Central America, and elsewhere brought the tradition of International Workers Day back home to the United States.
Carrying on the spirit of Haymarket
Today, the spirit of May Day is present across the world. It exists in the mass protests and strikes led by garment workers and others in opposition to the military coup in Myanmar. It exists in the feminist movement for free and safe abortion in Argentina. And it exists in the strikes and struggles – and in the May Day demonstrations – of workers the world over, from China to Mexico; from Iran to the United States.
In this country, the spirit of May Day is present in immigrants’ resistance to raids, deportations, family separations, and hyper-exploitation. It’s present in the ongoing strike by some 1,100 coal miners at Warrior Met Coal in Alabama. It’s present in the strike by thousands of UAW members at the Volvo trucks plant in Dublin, Virginia – and in the strike by hundreds of nurses at Saint Vincent Hospital in Massachusetts. And it’s present in the ongoing efforts by Amazon workers, including those in Bessemer, Alabama, to organize and build workers’ power in the face of great adversity and repression. In the L.A. area, truck drivers and other port workers are carrying on the tradition of workers’ solidarity through their ongoing struggles for better wages, improved working conditions, and justice and dignity on the job.
The spirit of International Workers Day also lives in the movement in opposition to police terror and racist and gender-based violence in Minneapolis, Chicago, and elsewhere. And it lives in the struggles of Indigenous people and their working-class allies in opposition to deforestation, strip mining, unbridled pollution, and pipelines that ravage the ancestral lands of the Indigenous and destroy the earth itself.
Let us build and unite all these struggles in a revolutionary movement that gives working people democratic control over our labor, the wealth we produce, and all of society. If we stand together as workers, we have the power to build a better world!
The Revolutionary Socialist Network stands in solidarity with all working people that are fighting for a better world for the working class.
The RSN includes: La Voz/Workers’ Voice, Central Ohio Revolutionary Socialists, Boston Revolutionary Socialists, Denver Communists, Seattle Revolutionary Socialists, Speak Out Now, and Socialist Resurgence. Additionally, Corriente Obrera helped draft this statement.