LaborNet - Internet Board
Global online communication since 1991 for a democratic, independent labor movement
Home | Current Blog | News Archive | Video | Resources | Back Links | About LaborNet

image image

Labor Day & May Day "There Is Only Silence"
Source Mike Alewitz
Date 09/09/10/15:46

Labor Day & May Day
by Mike Alewitz

TODAY IS REALLY half a holiday - the real Labor Day is May Day. But this is a good time to reflect on the condition of our class.

It has now been over 200 days since the labor officialdom’s crowning achievement – the election of Barak Obama. And let’s face it - their strategy has been a complete, unmitigated and total disaster.

The liberals and bureaucrats helped mislead millions of anti-war people into supporting a militarist, faithful servant of imperialism. Obama has derailed much of the antiwar and social justice movements on behalf of the ruling class. Workers will pay the price for the class collaboration of union officials with the bosses - in blood.

This being Labor Day, I was hoping there might be a couple of brave union officials that would admit their error, and if not apologize, at least express some regrets. After all, we socialists told you so.

But there is only silence. It is a stunning tribute to the ability of liberal reformists to maintain solidarity when it comes to hiding their culpability from the working class. Think about it – tens of thousands of union bureaucrats, organization staff people, paid organizers facilitated this disaster – and not a peep.

That is one well-trained pack of poodles. Cesar Milano couldn’t do a better job.

Obama is about to address the Labor Day Picnic and then the AFL-CIO convention. He will mouth some platitudes about the dignity of work. The handpicked delegates will applaud and gaze upon him with the love and devotion. Speakers will rise and proudly point out that they were instrumental in his election.

And, as they congratulate each other, immigrant workers will be rounded up and deported. Our sons and daughters will spill their blood in the soil Afghanistan and Iraq. Countless numbers of people will die for lack of medical care. Bankers and CEOs will haul away profits so graciously provided by their man in the White House.

Let’s review what Obama has accomplished in his first two hundred days: revived the military tribunals; refused to support gay rights; kept prisoners in Guantánamo; maintained troops in Iraq; refused to release the pictures of torture; supported the Israeli devastation of Gaza; maintained the US embargo of Cuba; named Cheney’s chief interrogator to head up the war in Afghanistan; refused to bring criminal action against torturers; expanded the war in Afghanistan; bombed civilians in Pakistan; given hundreds of billions of dollars to his Wall Street backers; given billions of dollars to the auto industry as a reward for massive layoffs; refused to defend a women’s right to abortion, given back-handed support to the coup in Honduras, welcomed a racist cop to his home and championed preventive detention.

And last but not least - making deals with his pharmaceutical and insurance industry pals to throw billions of dollars their way by gutting any meaningful healthcare reform.

You can easily add to this list -- just pick an issue. Obama will continue the work of Bush and Cheney - the program of the ruling class, regardless of who sits in the White House.

The labor officials had asked for so little – making the Employee Free Choice Act into some important conquest. It’s not going to happen - but it was never that important to begin with - it was just a way to avoid the real struggle to organize.

Workers don't need legislation in order to organize - they need political leadership. The greatest organizing drives in the history of the working class took place under far worse legal conditions then exist today. If even one major US union called for a march on Washington to demand universal health care and an end to the wars and occupations abroad, a million people would show up. If they urged everyone to return home and organize unions it would lead to the most dramatic increase in union membership since the 1930s. That’s all it would take.

But that won’t happen. Aside from the disastrous policy of relying on the Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO/CTW strategy for organizing is equally doomed to failure. Creating more bureaucrats out of recent college grads is just another poodle on the backs of workers. Unions don’t organize workers - workers organize unions.

In the face of the right-wing offensive, union officials have come forward to say that they will “punish” legislators that oppose a public health option. What a joke. The only people that are being punished by labor officials are the members of their union. They can’t even deal with a handful of racists preventing a discussion about universal healthcare, for fear of embarrassing a White House that is using the situation to justify it’s surrender.

Well, all of this would be a downer, except for one thing – the US working-class has a history of extraordinary militancy and uncompromising struggle. That’s why some of us have the day off today. The bosses and bureaucrats created Labor Day as a counter to the international working class holiday of May Day.

On May 1, workers all over the world put their tools down. Why? May Day is a commemoration of the fight for the eight-hour day and the execution of the anarchist trade union leaders framed up and executed for the Haymarket events in Chicago. Workers all over the world celebrate the militancy of the US working-class.

And if you take even a cursory look at the history of our class, you see that the periods of relative quiescence have been punctuated by explosions of rebellion that have astounded the world. Obama’s flunkies cannot imagine the firestorm that is coming. The smirks that were directed at those of us who told the truth about Obama will be shown again to those that confidently predict the coming social explosions.

The inspiring action of immigrant workers on May Day, 2006, the isolated occupations of factories and schools around the country - these are but the first rumblings of the coming storm.

We will celebrate on May Day, but we’ll enjoy Labor Day too. As T-bone Slim put it:

"Half a loaf is better than no loafing at all!"

Happy Labor Day

c/o Department of Art
Central Connecticut State University
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, Connecticut 06050
Phone: 860.832.2359

[View the list]