Monday, April 30, 2012

Its Not Just for Pagans Anymore

Reflections on May Day

I think I know the happiest May Day.  Today is the anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the liberation of Vietnam from foreign domination and from capitalism.  You know the majority of Vietnamese, north and south, had a great May Day that year after hearing that the last U.S. helicopter had flown off the roof of the embassy in Saigon.  Whup, whup, whup, whup … goodbye.

 Swedish Social Democrats march on Mayday.

May Day is tomorrow, and it’s changing here in the States.  Originally I celebrated May Day in a sea of red flags as our group of hundreds or thousands of reds marched through astonished neighborhoods in Detroit, Chicago, Boston or New York.  Few in those days in the '70s took May Day seriously.   In Chicago in the 80s, the unions also marched, while the reds stayed in back – but they were still all on the same street, heading towards the foundation of it all, Haymarket Square.  I still have a tiny red flag my daughter carried, waving behind my house, from those Chicago marches.   This might have been one of the few places that labor and radicals marched together in the U.S., if not the only place.  Of course, we might have Frank Rosen of the Chicago UE to thank for that. 

Here in the U.S., anti-communist union leaders started Labor Day because they believed they were also part of the rich man’s club, and could sit at their table.  Today’s labor leaders are not so sure.  That is why some unions endorsed the march tomorrow, starting at Lake & Nicollet.  MNA, SEIU, UTU, HERE Local 17, AFSCME Council 5, and AFSCME Local 3800 have endorsed.  Never have so many unions in Minnesota at least formally endorsed Mayday – with Occupy, the anarchists, the socialists, the progressives, and most of all, the immigrants.  May Day’s official alternative, Labor Day, has shrunk from a parade to a picnic, to a marginal event at the state fair grounds, presided over by a defensive and geriatric white labor leadership.  In 2007, I think it was, they canceled the Harriet Island picnic to avoid having immigrants and leftists join them.  The balance of these two events seems to reflect certain glacial changes in the American labor movement. 

We can credit a new wave of immigrant workers – Latinos – for invigorating May Day with their “Day without a Mexican” in 2006, when hundreds of thousands mobilized in Los Angeles and Chicago, and many in Minneapolis.  Even in 2010, many Latino workers marched.  Latinos have provided the muscle at most May Day events since then. 

However, at last year’s cold Mayday at the State Capitol, the Catholic Church, which pretends to fight poverty, shepherded their flock away from the radicals. Many Latinos were ordered onto buses, and away from the speeches, after the march terminated at the Capitol.  Given the present high profile of the Catholic Church in a reactionary crusade with the Republican Party, we can see the church plays the role of ‘guard dog’ against the forces of radicalization.  Their fight against poverty is moralistic and based on charity – not social change.  The Office of the Inquisition, lead by the present pope, purged Liberationist theology proponents from the Church many years ago, and even today they are engaged in clean-up operations.  Witness the present case of Catholic nuns who have been accused by the hierarchy of spending too much time dealing with poverty, not abortion or gay marriage.  The Church is an obvious prop for the class system and the rich.  May the church suffer the same fate as befell it under Zapata and Villa. 

If you can, please get off work or leave work, home or school and march with the 'precariat.'  Become a "European" or actually a world citizen, a world worker, and march.  Join the May Day Immigrants Rights and Labor Rights march at Nicollet and Lake Street at 3:30 PM on May Day.

(PS - on the 2012 Mayday, the Catholic Church did not show up.  Nor did the Star-Tribune, the corporate 'paper of record' here in Minneapolis.  They did publish an AP piece about Mayday events in OTHER cities.  CBS covered only one protest, in downtown, and seemed oblivious to the march on Lake Street. After all, 2,000 people marching against capitalism or its excesses is not newsworthy.)

Red Frog
April 30, 2012. 

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