The following joint statement was issued by three 2016 election campaign candidates of Workers World Party: Monica Moorehead, presidential candidate; Lamont Lilly, vice presidential candidate; and John Parker, candidate for U.S. Senate from California. Parker is also the Peace and Freedom senatorial candidate. For more information, go to workers.org/wwp.
As national electoral candidates of Workers World Party, May Day — International Workers Day — to us means a demand for dignity and unconditional liberation for the multinational working class from the yoke of global capitalism or imperialism around the world.
We salute the millions of workers in poor and rich countries who take to the streets in protests, strikes and shutdowns on May Day to call attention to all forms of injustices, as well as triumphs, against a system that puts corporate profits before human needs. We salute the Cuban revolution where millions of workers march on May Day to commemorate 57 years of socialist progress in the form of free health care, free education and other basic needs for all its population.
Origins of May Day
This year, 2016, marks the 130th anniversary of May Day when on May 1, 1886, the American Federation of Workers called a nationwide strike to demand the right of workers to an eight-hour day. As Martha Grevatt, a WW contributing editor and long-time Chrysler autoworker, wrote in a March 23, 2012, article on the origins of May Day: “About a quarter of a million took part in many cities, but Chicago, with its militant, left-wing labor movement, had the largest demonstration. There, tens of thousands laid down their tools, and women and men poured into the streets. The demonstrations continued past May 1, and on May 3 police attacked and six workers were killed.”
“The next day a protest over the killings was held in Haymarket Square. A bomb was thrown, a policeman was killed, and a struggle broke out that left seven police and four workers dead. Eight workers’ leaders were convicted of murder, five of them sentenced to death. Four were hanged and one reportedly committed suicide. The other three were eventually pardoned.”
The significance of May Day goes well beyond the economic demands of workers for better working conditions, including the right to organize, a livable wage, benefits and a pension — which are all important. May Day is also about workers making political demands, including the right to abolish capitalism. The capitalist economic system drives a tiny billionaire ruling class to super-exploit the working class by taking the workers’ unpaid wages as their profits. The capitalist rulers utilize a repressive state apparatus — consisting of police terror, mass incarceration, biased laws and courts, all built on racism or white supremacy — to maintain their class rule and keep workers divided and impoverished.
Black and Brown workers revitalize May Day
In 2005, the Million Worker March Movement, founded in 2004 by class-conscious Black labor unionists on the West Coast, East Coast and U.S. South, made a conscious effort, among other groups including Workers World, to target May 1 to show the need for workers to break away from the chains of the two capitalist parties of the Democrats and Republicans and for workers to fight independently in their own name. Special mention should be given to the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers Local 10 — a predominantly African-American rank-and-file union in the Bay Area, California — which has initiated port shutdowns on May Day to support occupied Palestine and to oppose police brutality and apartheid South Africa.
In 2006, migrant workers used May Day as the time to make it recognized, not only within the United States but worldwide, as the day of militant struggle for workers in the U.S. and the only true political worker’s day, as opposed to Labor Day.
Millions came out across the U.S. in organized protest of the extremely racist anti-immigrant Sensenbrenner Bill. That protest and boycott caused the loss of billions of dollars in corporate profits and sentenced that bill to an early death, never to be heard from again.
It’s no surprise this historic action was carried out by the immigrant community, especially from Mexico and Central America, whose native countries have been raided by U.S. imperialism with “free trade” agreements that favor the financial and industrial monopolies at the expense of workers in their home countries worldwide. Economic ruin forced these workers to try to make a living in the U.S., where they faced racist discrimination, violence and death from both police and border patrol, with the constant threat and anxiety of having parents or children deported during the dead of night.
A similar form of racist repression in the form of police brutality and mass incarceration is also being resisted by the Black Lives Matter movement .
This reality is a reflection of the world capitalist crisis of overproduction that drives the imperialist governments to impose even more destructive imperialist trade policies, like the Trans Pacific Partnership bill, along with austerity and decreasing workers’ social services. These governments represent the same multinational monopolies that have destroyed predominantly Black cities like Detroit and Flint, Mich.
The immigrant workers’ struggle inside the U.S. is a reflection of the economic and military violence by U.S. imperialism around the world that will continue to intensify, especially against Black, Brown, Muslim, Asian and Indigenous workers but also against white workers — making the building of unity and solidarity among all workers essential.
Long live May Day!
May Day is a celebration of the workers’ resistance movement, a people’s movement against capitalist exploitation — against racism, sexism and white supremacy. It is a time to reflect on the gains and sacrifices of workers before us — a time to reflect on the battles yet to be won.
For example, in North Carolina, House Bill 2 is the exact kind of policy that seeks to divide the working class with anti-lesbian, -gay, -bisexual, -trans* and -queer discrimination. In Alabama, HB 56 seeks to marginalize the immigrant community, with the goal of paralyzing the entire working class of that state. Only through unified struggle, not elections, will these kinds of bigoted laws be defeated.
May Day is a reminder to all workers that solidarity is our best weapon, a reminder that every struggle is a workers’ struggle, including equal pay for equal work for women workers, the right to $15 an hour for low-wage workers as well as student-athletes, the right to a healthy planet and a permanent end of war and occupation.
Most importantly, May Day is an international call to abolish capitalism and replace it by a socialist system that will empower all workers regardless of nationality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, abilities, age and skills.