This article is based on a talk by Martha Grevatt at the Workers World Party national strategic meeting held May 11-12 in Newark, N.J. Grevatt is a member of the Executive Committee of the WWP Interim Central Committee, a managing editor of this newspaper and a long-time union activist.
Initiatives begin as proposals. Then proposals become reality. That is the goal with Workers’ Solidarity Day and the International Workers’ Solidarity Network: to make the monthly solidarity days, originally a proposal, essentially “a May Day every month.”
The plan was to make the first big push on May Day. In general, workers get it. Once a year is not enough, not by a longshot. Let’s have an International Workers’ Day each and every month: That’s the pitch and it resonates.
Leading up to May Day, the IWSN accomplished a lot. A call to action was drafted and sent out. The call has gotten around 400 signers from around the country and around the world. There is a website and a presence on social media. And a name for the group spearheading this initiative — International Workers’ Solidarity Network.
Leaflets have been given out, as well as visibility with placards and banners. The word is getting out from May Day and Stop & Shop picket lines to the annual remembrance of the Kent and Jackson State killings. And of course the courageous Uber, Lyft and other rideshare driver walkouts.
The date for the first solidarity day is June 1. For now there’s a continuum from May 1 to June 1: It’s the first of the month. June 1 is a Saturday. What will happen after June 1 still has to be developed.
There will be an emphasis on solidarity with migrants under the theme of “No Walls in the Workers’ Struggle.” There is also the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. Some areas will need to bring in local struggles, such as the laundry workers in New York or teachers where they are in motion. Internationalism is a big piece of this. Don’t be afraid to customize.
Of all the historical mass units that WWP has helped develop, the IWSN has much in common with CULA — Center for United Labor Action — a formation that was truly engaged in the class struggle of the 1970s. Back then Workers World Party Chairperson Sam Marcy oriented the party with the slogan “Face to the masses.”
At that time, union density was much higher, especially in urban areas. But even then our orientation was not exclusively to workers in unions. Remember: There was another organization — the Prisoners Solidarity Committee.
In other words the party did a lot of work with a section of our class camp, the most oppressed sector, who most certainly did not have a legal right to strike or engage in collective bargaining — although there were strikes and rebellions and demands were negotiated. But the point was: Solidarity was not conditional on these workers being organized in a traditional union structure.
A lot of retooling is imperative when turning our face to the working class of the 21st century. Now there needs to be an understanding on the ever-changing character of the working class. Sam Marcy wrote about this in the groundbreaking 1986 work, “High Tech, Low Pay.” But a great deal has changed since then. Work is more precarious and more workers are contingent workers. There is far less income or job security in today’s gig economy.
Nevertheless the fundamental class antagonisms, between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, remain. That is why one can read Marx and feel like he’s writing about life today. He also used the word “precarious” to describe working class life in 1848. But he never saw any segment of the working class as “too hard to organize,” and revolutionaries can’t fall into that trap when it comes to gig workers. The Uber and Lyft drivers, Google workers, Amazon workers, fast food workers, etc., are going to organize in spite of and around anyone who thinks that way.
Precarity and inhumanity will continue under capitalism. It’s only when the proletariat seizes the means of production and takes hold of the repressive state apparatus that we will see needs come before profit. Only the working class can carry out this historic task. The vanguard has to turn its face toward our class. Workers’ Solidarity Day is a mechanism to conduct this necessary work.
Go to workersolidarity.net for different leaflets that can be downloaded.