I saw with my own eyes the celebration of worker solidarity and the indefatigable defense of the Cuban Revolution as waves of workers walked with signs and costumes and Cuban flags past the iconic images of Ernesto “Che” Guevara on the Ministry of the Interior building with the words he may be most famous for accompanying his image, “Hasta La Victoria Siempre,” or “Always onwards onto victory,” and another of Camilo Cienfuegos on the adjacent Telecommunications Building with the words “Vas Bien, Fidel,” or “You are doing well, Fidel,” underneath the image. Any picture or video captured of the May Day 2022 parade would reflect an unabated stream of masses of people holding banners, waving flags or scarves, and dancing to a vibrant live band between the billboards on one building at the entrance to the Plaza that read “Cuba vive y trabaja (Cuba lives and works)” and the imposing 109-meter tall José Marti memorial that overlooks the plaza.
Most young people in South Africa do not have a job and are, under current circumstances, unlikely to ever have one. For years, deindustrialization and the collapse of mining laid waste to unionized jobs. Now state austerity is hacking away at the public sector. Many of the few new jobs that are being created are poorly paid, precarious and not well unionized. Some of this can be ascribed to powerful global forces that are difficult for any state to resist. And the deep structural features of our society were built by colonialism and are so entrenched that they cannot easily be changed. But there is no doubt that the ANC’s poor economic policy choices have also been a significant part of the failure to build a viable economy. This has been compounded by the appalling state of public education, the collapse of a significant part of the ANC into a violent kleptocracy, the decay of infrastructure and a series of damaging events such as the brutally enforced hard Covid lockdowns, the winter riots and the recent floods in KwaZulu-Natal.
On May 1, in the presence of heavy police force, demolition squads of Chandigarh swooped on huts and houses of colony number 4, Industrial Area Phase 1. The homes and hearths of nearly 5000 people, all of them from the poorest sections of one of the most affluent cities of India, were destroyed within a few hours. Many of those removed have been living in this 40 year old colony for decades and have never known any other home. While this action would have been condemned under any circumstances, there are three particular reasons why this was excessively insensitive and ill-advised at this time. Firstly, this region has been passing through heat-wave conditions in the recent past and weather forecasts are for even more hot weather in the coming days.
This commentary will be published several days before the celebration of International Workers’ Day, on this May 1, 2022. It has been 136 years since that Saturday in 1886 when 200,000 workers in Chicago went on strike to demand the 8-hour workday; and every celebration of this day always makes us think. No longer was that strike, as in previous history, a battle for the sovereignty of a nation-state. This was a battle for social justice. In Cuba, many years later, we are fighting the same battle. But we are doing it from a Revolution in power, and we are fighting not to lose the social justice we have conquered, and to conquer more. The risk of losing it comes from the economic difficulties, and also from the possible wrong solutions to those same difficulties.
War, repression, and imperialism characterize the objective plight of billions of humans still gripped by the vicious colonial-capitalist world system. May 1 is the day laboring classes claim for themselves as International Workers' Day to reaffirm the struggle against the dehumanization and degradation of the global capitalist order kept in place by state violence and war. May 1 also is the deadline the United States agreed to last year to pull out of Afghanistan to end the suffering of that nation of workers and peasants. It also is the day the workers and poor of Haiti have chosen to revolt against the puppet government imposed on them by the Biden-Harris administration, a duo that has proven in its first 100 days its commitment to Black life does not extend beyond domestic public-relations stunts.
The passionate debates surrounding the response to the COVID-19 pandemic are useless if they don’t lead to a larger fight against capitalism. The shut downs of business and schools intended to stop the spread of corona virus have created 22 million newly unemployed people. That means those workers have lost their health care. They may not be able to pay rent or mortgages or buy food. All efforts must be directed towards addressing their needs and working towards transformational change. COVID-19 has exposed the fraudulence of American democracy. The neo-liberal austerity regime even targets unemployment benefits , the one program which is thought of as being untouched by the relentless race to the bottom. There is no right to housing or health care or work place safety in this country and millions of people are suffering. The safety net is thread bare.
This May Day, a broad coalition of workers from firms in the logistics sector ranging from Amazon and Walmart to Instacart and Wholefoods are staging a mass walkout. They are rising up on International Workers’ Day to demand improved health and safety on the job in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, where they have all too often been hung out to dry by employers and states. COVID-19’s grim spread has left few facets of global economic and social life untouched. The pandemic has forced us to view the old realities of life in a new light, in which the stark contrast between different conditions of labor have become glaringly apparent. While a privileged few can sit out the crisis working relatively uninterrupted from home, many more have seen their hours reduced or slashed by wary employers, or forced to work under dangerous conditions for low pay because their work has been deemed “essential” to society.
The Massachusetts Peace Action, MAPA, organized a car rally in Boston today to support national and international solidarity as the COVID-19 pandemic rages around the globe. More than 50 cars participated in the rally. The impact of the Corona-19 pandemic has been overwhelming in our country. It has been especially devastating for the poor and for Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. At the same time, wealthy elites value their profits more than people's lives. Now is the time to imagine and act together for reorganizing society around the needs of all the people, especially of the poor and working people. We invite you to join us and magnify the potential impact of this message by distributing it and acting similarly locally and globally. Join us in support of the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres call to waive “the sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support.
On May Day, the first day of an ongoing day of General Strike, there were actions all over the country supporting workers at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Fedex, Shipt and Instacart calling protective gear and hazard payfor essential workers. There were also demands for systemic changes like national improved Medicare for all, a universal basic income and a green new deal (see the graphics of the demands of the General Strike below). The strike required creativity on the part of participants because of the coronavirus pandemic and the physical distancing and stay at home orders but people found ways to get their messages out using a variety of tactics. There will be a General Strike national day of action on the first of every month so we need to learn from each other's creativity and find new ways to protest.
The Red Nation joins the call by Cooperation Jackson for a national and international convergence toward a May 1st 2020 General Strike to End the COVID-19 Crisis and Create a New World. We unite with workers and social justice organizations from across occupied Turtle Island in this call for a general strike to support frontline and unemployed workers, Indigenous peoples, oppressed peoples, and women to free the planet from the current colonial, racial, imperial, patriarchal, and capitalist order. The COVID-19 pandemic is a symptom of this capitalist order in its death throes. The reality is that essential workers on the frontlines, confronting and providing critical health care services and sustaining and feeding entire communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, are already leading the struggle at great risk to their health and families.
It has been more than one hundred years since the first International Worker’s Day on May 1st. It is a day of struggle and celebration that historically has brought millions of people from political and worker’s movements to the streets. This May 1st, 2020, will not be the same. The necessary policies of social isolation imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic will prevent us from gathering in the streets and squares and from picketing our places of work to show to the governments, the bosses, the banks, and to the totality of the ruling class, that we sustain this world. For the organizations and networks that are calling for the International Week of Anti-imperialist Struggle, there is no doubt that in the context of the current public health crisis, it’s important to avoid public gatherings and break the chain of infection of the Coronavirus.
Toiling amid a pandemic and a callous response from corporate America and the federal government that is exposing millions to deadly hazards and deepening poverty, workers across the country are rising up, planning hundreds of strikes and sickouts for International Workers’ Day on May 1. At a time when worker organizing could be stifled by physical distancing rules and the Trump administration’s disabling of the National Labor Relations Board, workers are walking off the job in massive coordinated walk-outs and sick-outs targeting major employers such as Amazon, Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, FedEx, and Instacart, demanding hazard pay, personal protective equipment and other basic protections.