Radical Women: The Meaning of May Day

May Day, otherwise known as International Workers’ Day, commemorates the lives lost from the Chicago Haymarket Affair in the struggle for inherent and inalienable rights.  It represents the attempts of workers to peaceful struggle and protest in pursuit of a more-than-reasonable demand for an 8-hour workday and right to organize, against the capricious efforts of the corporatized government to break the movement.  Strikers, anarchist activists and policemen alike all lost their lives in a struggle created by a few wealthy powerbrokers and their cronies.

Radical Women describes the historical and current significance of this event in a newsletter, reproduced in part below.  We live in a world where people still lose their lives to the trespass and exploitation of an elite ruling class who value their pursuit of profit over the liberty of human and natural communities and future generations, and who have created systems of law and governance to support the rule of such thugs.

The recent unjust imprisonment of Nestora Salgado serves as case in point, and a reminder of why the Community Rights movement exists:  our lives and liberty depend on our struggle to acheive fully-democratic legal systems and governments that exist to recognize and protect the inherent and inalienable rights of nature, people and communities.  To this end, we must be unstoppable — we have no other choice.

Happy May Day!

Below is a wonderful statement on the meaning of this international working-class holiday issued by the Freedom Socialist Party (Radical Women’s sister organization) and an article on the immigrant experience by LA Radical Women member Karla Alegria. These writings capture the militant spirit of May Day – hope you agree!

Margaret Viggiani
Radical Women

May Day 2014

Clasping Hands across Borders

The May Day holiday that is now celebrated all over the world, known as International Workers’ Day in many places, was born in the struggle of U.S. anarchists, socialists, and other radicals for the eight-hour day, a fight that often cost these brave workers their lives. The campaign was led largely by European immigrants to the U.S., fleeing poverty and persecution in countries like Germany, Ireland, and Italy.

Many of the fiercest and most important working-class battles today are also led by immigrants and refugees. They come from every corner of the globe, displaced by war, oppression, ruinous “free trade” policies and neoliberalism, and climate change. Many bring a radical perspective with them; others are radicalized by the experience of being a stranger in a strange and often hostile land.

Their fights for dignity and justice lift the prospects for all working people everywhere, and for that they are owed solidarity and support. From destitute villages in Africa to the battleground streets of Syria and the shantytown favelas of Brazil, there is no such thing as a local or national struggle any longer. Global capitalism ties us all together, for good and for ill.

Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the imprisonment of Mexican-born indigenous leader Nestora Salgado, a naturalized U.S. citizen, and the international fight to free her. Salgado was arrested in Mexico because she headed a community police force defending the people from corrupt politicians, deadly drug-runners, and exploitation by foreign mining companies. The movement for her release is gaining steam on several continents.

In a May Day article in 1941, the “Rebel Girl” Elizabeth Gurley Flynn wrote:

“Only workers are forbidden to be internationalists. It’s perfectly proper for J. P. Morgan and Henry Ford; for the bankers, the munitions trusts, the chemical companies. … Only the clasped hands of the workers across the boundaries are struck down in every country.”

On May Day this year, the Freedom Socialist Party, in common cause with lovers of freedom all around the world, recommits ourselves to defying that injunction against international solidarity and to striking forward in pursuit of an end to exploitation everywhere. We publish below a column from the Freedom Socialist telling one story of that pursuit, of the millions across the globe. [Ed. — read the article here]