The Budget is out – tax cuts for the rich on top of trying to destroy the NHS, welfare cuts, tax avoidance, university fees, post-riot sentencing, hackgate, occupy evictions – the reasons to be angry go on and on and on and on. But, after the massive student demos of just over a year ago, the 26 March demonstration and the 30 November strikes, things seem to have gotten fractured. Lots of small demonstrations and actions, but what we need to do is bring everyone together and create a massive force to take down this government and scare the next.
It’s just over a month from May Day – 1st May, International Workers’ Day. The Occupy movement is already calling for a worldwide general strike. We might not be able to go that far here in the UK, but, at the very least, we can build demonstrations that can bring cities to a halt for the day (and maybe longer).
Every group with a grievance, DPAC, NCAFC, SolFed, IWW, Right to Work, Coalition of Resistance, LRC, trade unions, community groups, angry individuals, everyone should join their local May Day demonstration. If some of the unions came out on strike (maybe the PCS could skip April and go straight for May Day), all the better.
May Day marches in recent years, particularly in London, have been more than a bit naff. Largely ignored by most organisations, they’ve had a rag-tag mix of trade unionists, every strange Marxist-Leninist sect there is (who can miss the CPGB-ML’s giant Stalin banner), fairly military styled groups from other lands and, in recent years, a clutch of anarchists, including yours truly, trying to bring a bit of diversity.
This isn’t what May Day should be about. The origins of May Day lie in workers’ fight for shorter work hours – the 8-hour day. In 1886 in Chicago, police opened fire on strikers on 3 May. A bomb from a still unknown source exploded amongst the police at a demonstration the next day – the police retaliated immediate.
Eight people were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in a kangaroo court – one, Louis Lingg, committed suicide in prison, three were pardoned in 1893, but it was the hanging of four of them – Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolf Fischer, and George Engel – on November 11, 1887 that laid the roots of May Day. Parsons and Spies, in particular, were two of the most important trade union activists of the time who helped build the mass movement of the time. Both were also anarchists who laid the foundations for the anarcho-syndicalist movement.
The battle for the 8-hour day was adopted by the First International in 1866, six years before it split with anarchists and Marxists going their own way. Despite what happened afterwards, with the Second International and then the USSR trying to make it their day, the roots and meaning of May Day are for all workers and should be a symbol of how the rights and conditions we have as workers today were not given to us by capitalism, but dragged from the bosses by radical workers.
So, let’s occupy May Day and make it a day for everyone – and build a linked up, converged movement that can take on the government. And maybe not everyone will go home after the day and we can keep the fight going.