International Workers’ Day (or “May Day”) is the day for and celebration of working people everywhere along with their struggles for social justice and equality. Every year since 1891, when the Second International – the former and once mighty international organization of anti-capitalist revolutionaries – decreed May 1st an international holiday at its second congress, workers, their unions and their parties, have led marches, demonstrations, and militant actions against the capitalists and their governments, demanding better working conditions and pay, fewer hours, and, for some, a society without exploiters, without classes, and for socialism.
The holiday traces its origins back to the struggles of laborers, trade-unionists, and radical activists in Chicago in 1886 where a national general strike was taking place in support of the demand for the eight-hour working day. A struggle ensued – known to posterity as the “Haymarket Riot” – whereby police opened fire on the workers, killing several, after being the recipients of a dynamite bomb thrown by and coming from an unknown individual and location. Since then, workers all over the world have marched with reverence to these labor martyrs, picking up valiantly where they left off. And, in time, and after many heated episodes of class struggle, the first victory was (for some) won: the eight-hour working day.
Since then the struggle for workers’ rights and democracy has experienced its ups and downs. The imperialists have tightened down on their control and ruthlessly expanded global trade at the expense of the working poor and oppressed of the Third World. Yet, the spirit and determination of the proletarian has yet to extinguish. Modern movements such as #Occupy, the recent Quebec student strike, the mass protests and general strikes in Greece, Italy, and Spain, as well as the uprisings and revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa have given the capitalists, the 1% a new fear: revolution, of losing their “freedom” to exploit, impoverish, and immiserate billions.
These contemporary mass movements and struggles can trace their roots directly back to May 4 1886. As workers and youth are the primary participants in these movements, as well as in the 19th century, it is only natural to see heightened class consciousness and militancy whenever May Day comes around. The spirit has not been lost but rather continues to reemerge from a propaganda-induced hiatus initiated by the bosses (they have tried to “re-brand” International Workers’ Day as “Loyalty Day” in the US, dulling as they must our consciousness into passive, sullen acceptance of their power and stolen wealth!)
So on this hallowed day, as the working people, youth, and oppressed of the world under capitalism unite under one banner, we in The Queer Gathering take our place alongside our class brothers and sisters in resistance to the system and the austerity and poverty it is forcing onto us. The solution to debt, war, discrimination, and wealth inequality does not lie in reforms to the existing order but only in social revolution; a complete purge of the political, social, and economic conditions of our present society is needed to bring about democracy – one participated in, organized around, and for working people – and an economy run to meet our needs, not our bosses’ greed.
May Day was the first step towards this penultimate goal. Our task now is to re-unite those fighting forces opposing capitalist austerity, poverty, joblessness, debt, and the assaults on our democratic rights around a revolutionary program (a strategy for taking power out of the hands of the capitalist 1%), tactics for doing so, and the organization needed to build a new world – one based on working-class power, a democratically-planned economy, and, ultimately, a future without social classes, police forces, armies, “states,” – where “the condition for the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all,” for communism! Let’s make this May Day the beginning whereby we set out together in solidarity and unison towards the achievement of such a marvelous aim.