Over the past several years celebrations of our international working class holiday, May Day, not only have we paid tribute to the Chicago Haymarket anarchist martyrs and the struggle for the eight hour day but the hard pressed struggle against the denial of immigrant rights and the attempt by Tea Party-types and other to “close the door” to immigration. This addition reflects the increasingly important role that Hispanics and other militants from the international working class milieu play in the left wing of the American labor movement. Thus, the call for full citizenship rights for those who make it here is an appropriate one on this day.
With this thought in mind I, and a few of the local anti-imperialist activists that I work with marched under that slogan in the 2010 Boston May Day festivities as well as the slogan for the modern equivalent of the eight hour day, especially in these times- “30 For 40”. That slogan, for those not familiar with it, is an algebraic formula, long associated with the Trotskyist movement, although not by any means exclusively raised by us. All we have proposed by the call is the eminently rational solution to unemployment (and underemployment) by spreading the work around so that all have work, and a living wage. Of course the catch is this- it ain’t going to happen under capitalist and so the question of socialism and central planning are starkly posed. And that, after all, is the idea.
What makes all of the above political lead up to my main point interesting, beyond the intrinsic value of such work, is that we found ourselves marching along with a local anarchist collective that had its own set of slogans, and... a marching band. (See linked article.) The whole atmosphere brought back the old days when such musical accompaniment, especially in the old ethnic neighborhoods, were a matter of course on May Day and other left occasions. Now here is the kicker- this group of anarchists marched under the banner of the Haymarket martyrs. That is enough to warm any old militant's heart. And, they were to a man and women, young, very young. Be still my heart, despite our political differences.
Now some may ask why are a confirmed Marxist and his comrades are walking on the same streets as those anarchist partisans. Wrong question, or better, wrong way to pose it. One of the real damaging effects that the variants of historical Stalinism have left on the international working class movement is the hard fact that different political tendencies within the movement are almost literally at war with each other, 24/7/365. To the eternal glee of the capitalists. On the political level those fights are correct. However on our common holidays, like May Day, we should be showing our united face to the international capitalists.
In that sense James P. Cannon, an old Wobblie (IWW), American Communist Party founder and Trotskyist leader had it right. One way he had it right was in his early leadership of the International Labor Defense, an organization dedicated to the struggle to free class war prisoners. All class war prisoners. The other was his long time friendships with those of other working class political tendencies like the great anarchist leader, Carlo Tresca. Hell, he even borrowed money off him. (And eventually paid it back.) I will not go and on about this but let’s leave it at this. After a spring of an anti-war agenda of what looked like a leftist variant of AARP meetings it was such nice to march with the kids. We will get back to the political struggle over differences soon enough.