Why we should make May Day ‘Workers for Palestinian Resistance Day’

Workers World Party has issued a call which we invite activists and organizations everywhere to endorse and embrace. The call is to make May 1, International Workers Day, “Workers for Palestinian Resistance Day.”

Pro-Palestine protest in New York City on March 8, 2024. (WW Photo: Brenda Ryan)

We have issued this call in order to distinguish the need to defend the Palestinian resistance (including their right to fight for liberation by any means necessary), which is at present reorganizing itself and uniting on a wider basis in preparation for raising the liberation struggle to an even higher level. 

We are making this call at this decisive moment in the developing world revolt against U.S. imperialism to assert that the way for the working-class movement to reestablish itself on a world basis as the agent of revolutionary transformation is to boldly ally itself with the liberation struggles of the Global South and to mobilize workers toward this objective.

It is time for the working-class movement, especially the most radical and advanced sections of the movement, to consciously and openly take the lead in the struggle to overcome all of the contradictions that have tended to confuse, fragment and paralyze the working class, leaving it at the mercy of reaction and subservience to imperialism.

This call is not meant to counter the many basic demands that are vital to the survival of workers that millions of workers around the world will be marching for on International Workers Day, especially for the defense of migrant workers, who are being scapegoated to divide workers. The call is issued in the spirit of raising the level of May Day, so that its priorities in 2024 correspond to the struggles that are currently reshaping the world struggle.

Class consciousness and global class consciousness, which are the meanings of internationalism, are growing. However, the relentless and desperate war waged by U.S. imperialism to divide the workers of the world still gives the capitalist ruling class the upper hand in the class struggle. This is why we need to help bring about a political turning point.

There’s been a phenomenal breakthrough in organized labor regarding Palestine. But the leadership of the organized labor movement is not, and should not be, the sole voice of the working class.

In the U.S., at the latest count, nine national labor unions have publicly called for a ceasefire, along with many local and regional labor organizations. Even the Executive Council of the AFLCIO, which has been fighting the groundswell of support in labor for a permanent ceasefire, finally had to concede to rank-and-file union pressure and issue a call for a ceasefire, albeit a comparatively weak call prefaced with support for genocide in Gaza.

Consciously mobilizing as workers

At this moment, no one can deny the strategic importance of the unprecedented labor momentum in reaction to both Israel’s and the U.S.’s genocide and ethnic cleansing in Gaza. The momentum in the labor movement needs to be supported and expanded. 

However, while the call for a permanent ceasefire is progressive and helpful, it does not go far enough. Ultimately it is mistaken to consider the pro-ceasefire movement in the labor movement the only way to engage and mobilize workers.

The top leadership of organized labor’s ties to the Democratic Party, along with its long history of supporting Israel and U.S. imperialism, are obstacles to the trade union movement fully embracing the liberation struggle in the near future. We must fight to change that. But we must also have an alternative strategy.

The organized labor movement is the largest representative of the interests of the working class. But at present only 10% of workers are members of labor unions. Growing that percentage is vital to a working-class resurgence. However, the 90% of workers who are not unionized are still workers. And many unorganized workers are the most militant supporters of the Palestinian resistance. 

Over the past five months, millions of workers across the world have marched for Palestine. The problem is that with some exceptions, workers taking over the streets for Gaza are not openly and consciously mobilized as workers. While this is understandable for many reasons, it tends to conceal that the struggle in solidarity with the liberation of Palestine is part of the class struggle. 

It also obscures the reality that most of the support for Palestine comes from the working class. Today, and in the long run, it serves the broader interest of working-class internationalism, as well as being consistent with the realities of the modern global working class, to break with old traditions and organize workers on a class basis around critical political struggles. 

The fight to organize workers in solidarity with liberation and self-determination should be waged both inside and outside organized labor. Groups such as Labor for Palestine and Health Workers Alliance for Palestine and many others have been doing this with greater and greater success. It is critical that this trend be expanded and draw in more and more workers.

The most oppressed workers in the Global South as well as in the imperialist centers of the West can only come to the realization that workers of the world are their allies in the struggle for liberation and self-determination if action is taken to make this revelation self-evident. Let’s make International Workers Day this year help set that direction.

The writer is First Secretary of Workers World Party.

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