May Day, or May 1st, every year represents the international day of the worker. By worker, we mean those who labor to produce the products and services that make the societies we live in function effectively. As the shutdowns from the covid 19 crisis have clearly shown everyone who was previously unaware, the absence of labor, not the injection of capital, is the key element to keeping this exploitative capitalist system afloat.
The origins of May Day reflect the struggles of people in the Chicago, Illinois, U.S. area, to fight for the eight-hour work day. This fight was carried out in conjunction with workers worldwide who were fighting for the same things. Previous to that struggle, people within the U.S. were often forced to slave for unlimited hours in grueling work conditions. Throughout Africa, and the Americas today, the masses of workers still routinely work under those inhumane environments. Those struggles in Chicago, centered around unsung heros and sheros like the African Lucy Parsons (regardless of the critics who love to point out her lack of overt consciousness about being African, the fact that she was is objective), the struggle was waged, at the cost of life and limb, to bring about the eight hour work day that so many people take for granted now.
Within the midst of this global pandemic, we are experiencing millions who are unable to work. Most countries, pushed by the will of their populations, are being forced to respond with actions designed to either replace lost incomes or eliminate expected monthly debts. The super rich U.S. on the other hand, has no organized answer for the millions who are unable to work. The U.S. has no program to replace their income and instead, is pressuring these workers to want to go back to work without any comprehensive program of virus testing and vaccine implementation. On top of that incredible reality, the masses of people within the U.S. are so utterly uninformed about what’s going on in this world that they focus their anger at lost wages on local political leaders instead of the multi-national capitalist companies that are the real reason they are in this situation. Large banks and other corporations are enjoying the complete protection of having their financial obligations wiped out with our tax dollars while everyday working people, without income, are still expected to meet every financial obligation they possess. The U.S. government, without being pushed by its people, would never push for any type of universal income because doing so would take money away from corporate pockets while putting it in the pockets of the working masses. Unable to recognize this contradiction, millions of people in the U.S. are misdirecting their anger.
The above is a clear example of the problem of a lack of political education. We understand fully that so many people wonder why we always talk about mass political education. So many people want action now, that they see the call for political education i.e. consistent study, as an obstacle to forward movement. We respectfully disagree and claim, with evidence, that it is indeed possible to engage both at the same time. May Day 2020 is here. Millions are out of work with no means of support for their families and the official government response to that sober reality is to tell these workers to ignore the clear health risks and just go back to work, despite no plan to keep them safe. This strange reality can only happen because of the lack of political education. There are scattered calls for a national strike on May Day. The usual participants will do everything they can to spread the word on a limited basis, but the reality for the masses of people is that May Day will be just another day of misery under this reality. Labor unions, which obviously should be the dominant voices in calling for a national strike to support low wage workers, are crickets right now with no plan of support for anything happening on May Day. Most labor union members are probably completely unaware of the specifics of the national call to strike. This surreal reality can only exist because of the lack of political education. The fact racism and xenophobia are prominent during this pandemic. Asians are being targeted and the political leadership of the U.S. empire are openly demeaning and blaming Asian people for this pandemic is about as absurd of a reality as any sane person can imagine. Yet, in a society where information is everywhere, but is accessed and utilized almost nowhere, this insane reality is commonplace. Why? Because of the complete lack of political education.
In a society that makes a sincere effort to educate their people, May Day would never be just another day. Especially with the oppression and turmoil workers are currently facing. In socialist Cuba, May Day is a national holiday and millions will come out for their annual May Day demonstrations and commemorations. That’s because worker consciousness is a staple in their society. So, we must continue to talk about political education because political education is the fuel that powers political organizing action. And, its that political organizing action (mass work with the people to build revolutionary creating capacity, not participation in bourgeoisie elections) that creates the political victories we are looking for.
Whenever you find yourselves in a predicament where a politized day like May Day, a day that represents the hard work you contribute to make the communities you live in function, is basically ignored, that should be a sign to you that there is a serious problem. Whenever May Day is just a historical recollection, or a radical assembly of the same radicals who do the same thing all the time, that should signify a problem to you. Whenever we cannot effectively mobilize a mass strike at a time when the conditions of the masses of people clearly indicates that a mass strike is in all of our interests, that should identify this problem for you. The missing element is the lack of organized, political education. You can run as many “progressive” candidates as you want for as many offices as you want. No mass political education? No empowerment to create and achieve a real progressive agenda. You can break as many windows on May Day and make as much noise as you want to. No mass political education? No progress. Just the eventual need for more people be distracted from the real fights so that they can raise bail money and support individuals while no revolutionary capacity is being built.
The people who commemorate May Day every year will find a way to do something on May 1st. The masses of people will carry on in misery like they do every other day. For those who recognize the historical significance of May Day, maybe consider using May 1, 2020, to reflect on what we can do differently in 2021 to make May Day, African Liberation Day, and all days of liberation reflect the values they represent. Maybe it’s a good idea to use May Day 2020 to reflect on how to build your local community defense projects so that you can set a goal by May 2021 to not just talk about a national strike, but be in the position to contribute communities to that strike. Imagine if even 20 communities were prepared to make that type of contribution? None of it will ever happen just based on individual frustration and individual aspirations. Only the masses of people make history. If we are truly committed to ensuring that May Day, African Liberation Day, etc., fulfill their objectives that people like Lucy Parsons, Kwame Nkrumah, Amy Jacque Garvey, etc., intended, then isn’t it time for us to reach beyond our individual insecurities, and stubbornness? Isn’t it time for us to reach out to one another and start building the necessary work that we need? And, doesn’t the core of whatever we do, have to be that mass, organized, political education work? Its like the water or energy drink for the runner who has just ran 30 miles. Without it, our capacity to continue to move forward s nonexistent.
So Happy May Day 2020. And, remember, until we get as many people involved in organizations and ensure those organizations have mass political education programs – anti colonialist, anti-white supremacy, anti-patriarchal, anti-homophobia, and of course, anti-capitalist and imperialist, political education, May Day will continue to just be a day we commemorate while everyone we know continues to wonder what it is we keep blabbering to them about.