Friday, May 09, 2014

In Honor Of May Day 2014-From The American Left History Blog Archives-All Out On May Day 2012: A Day Of International Working Class Solidarity Actions- An Open Letter To The Working People Of Boston From A Fellow Worker

All Out For May 1st-International Workers Day 2012!

Why Working People Need To Show Their Power On May Day 2012

Wage cuts, long work hours, steep consumer price rises, unemployment, small or no pensions, little or no paid vacation time, plenty of poor and inadequate housing, homelessness, and wide-spread sicknesses as a result of a poor medical system or no health insurance. I will stop there although I could go on and on. Sounds familiar though, sounds like your situation or that of someone you know, right?

Words, or words like them, are taken daily from today’s global headlines. But these were also similar to the conditions our forebears faced in America back in the 1880s when this same vicious ruling class was called, and rightly so, “the robber barons,” and threatened, as one of their kind, Jay Gould, stated in a fit of candor, “to hire one half of the working class to kill the other half,” so that they could maintain their luxury in peace. That too has not changed.

What did change then is that our forebears fought back, fought back long and hard, starting with the fight connected with the heroic Haymarket Martyrs in 1886 for the eight-hour day symbolized each year by a May Day celebration of working class power. We need to reassert that claim. This May Day let us revive that tradition as we individually act around our separate grievances and strike, strike like the furies, collectively against the robber barons of the 21st century.

No question over the past several years (really decades but now it is just more public and right in our face) American working people have taken it on the chin, taken it on the chin in every possible way. Start off with massive job losses, heavy job losses in the service and manufacturing sectors (and jobs that are not coming back except as “race to the bottom” low wage, two-tier jobs dividing younger workers from older workers like at General Electric or the auto plants). Move on to paying for the seemingly never-ending bail–out of banks, other financial institutions and corporations “too big to fail,” home foreclosures and those “under water,” effective tax increases (since the rich refuse to pay, in some cases literally paying nothing, we pay). And finish up with mountains of consumer debt for everything from modern necessities to just daily get-bys, and college student loan debt as a life-time deadweight around the neck of the kids there is little to glow about in the harsh light of the “American Dream.”

Add to that the double (and triple) troubles facing immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, and many women and the grievances voiced long ago in the Declaration of Independence seem like just so much whining. In short, it is not secret that working people have faced, are facing and, apparently, will continue to face an erosion of their material well-being for the foreseeable future something not seen by most people since the 1930s Great Depression, the time of our grandparents (or, for some of us, great-grandparents).

That is this condition will continue unless we take some lessons from those same 1930s and struggle, struggle like hell, against the ruling class that seems to have all the card decks stacked against us. Struggle like they did in places like Minneapolis, San Francisco, Toledo, Flint, and Detroit. Those labor-centered struggles demonstrated the social power of working people to hit the “economic royalists” (the name coined for the ruling class of that day by their front-man Franklin Delano Roosevelt, FDR) to shut the bosses down where it hurts- in their pocketbooks and property.

The bosses will let us rant all day, will gladly take (and throw away) all our petitions, will let us use their “free-speech” parks (up to a point as we have found out via the Occupy movement), and curse them to eternity as long as we don’t touch their production, “perks,” and profits. Moreover an inspired fight like the actions proposed for this May Day 2012 can help new generations of working people, organized, unorganized, unemployed, homeless, houseless, and just plain desperate, help themselves to get out from under. All Out On May Day 2012.

I have listed some of the problems we face now to some of our demand that should be raised every day, not just May Day. See if you agree and if you do take to the streets on May Day with us. We demand:


*Hands Off Our Public Worker Unions! No More Wisconsins! Hands Off All Our Unions!

* Give the unemployed work! Billions for public works projects to fix America’s broken infrastructure (bridges, roads, sewer and water systems, etc.)!

*End the endless wars- Troops And Mercenaries Out Of Afghanistan (and Iraq)!-U.S Hands Off Iran! Hands Off The World!

* Full citizenship rights for all those who made it here no matter how they got here!

* A drastic increase in the minimum wage and big wage increases for all workers!

* A moratorium on home foreclosures! No evictions!

* A moratorium on student loan debt! Free, quality higher education for all! Create 100, 200, many publicly-supported Harvards!

*No increases in public transportation fares! No transportation worker lay-offs! For free quality public transportation!

To order to flex our collective bottom up power on May 1, 2012 we will be organizing a wide-ranging series of mass collective participatory actions:

*We will be organizing within our unions- or informal workplace organizations where there is no union - a one-day strike around some, or all, of the above-mentioned demands.

*We will be organizing at workplaces where a strike is not possible for workers to call in sick, or take a personal day, as part of a coordinated “sick-out”.

*We will be organizing students from kindergarten to graduate school and the off-hand left-wing think tank to walk-out of their schools (or not show up in the first place), set up campus picket lines, and to rally at a central location.

*We will be calling in our communities for a mass consumer boycott, and with local business support where possible, refuse to make purchases on that day.

All out on May Day 2012.


Five in the morning, maybe five-thirty, still a bit dark due to the heavy rain falling as the dawn was ready to break and he was up and about. Today Frank Jackman was in charge of making sure that the materials, the equipment for today action, today’s May Day action, which had been planned for weeks got to the meeting place by the State Street Bank at the corner of Franklin and Congress in downtown Boston.

He had been working on the organizing committee for the event, an even that came with the imprimatur of the now somewhat faded Occupy movement. The task this day, this international workers holiday, was to do no less than shut down the banks, or rather in Boston a bank, the State Street, if possible. Thus he had come out of his Cambridge home with the materials, signs, mikes, food supplies and other necessities to get the crew expected to show up in proper spirit for the hard day ahead.

As he loaded up the car, made sure that everything on his list has been taken he noticed the rain getting heavier, not a good sign for turn-out from past experiences, especially early morning events, and most especially morning events where  young students and unaffiliated radicals were expected to attend. Still he thought in his most generation of ’68 mood the times called for the big actions in the year 2012 when all hell was being cast among working people and others and the banks, the banks that were central to the cause of the current economic malaise and for the moment a juicy target.

State Street Bank had its tentacles everywhere and was ripe for selection as the target for early morning mass action. The slogan “Close It Down” was on his mind as he headed over the Longfellow Bridge (damn when are they going to finish the never-ending construction on the thing it seems like years already) and to the underground parking facility on Congress where he would later ask for help unloading his materials. Yes, May Day, he had not felt this good about the day since that May Day down in Washington, 1971 when they tried a bigger target-the whole freaking government- and got waylaid for their efforts.    


It was still raining, raining hard, when old-time Cambridge radical and political organizer Frank Jackman got to the underground parking facility at the corner of Franklin and Congress Streets near the State Street Bank at about 7:00 AM on May Day 2012. The reason why Frank was at that locale at that time was that as one who had helped organize the May Day protests that year he had volunteered to bring the various materials, signs, sound equipment, food and such that would be needed by the gathering troops that day. Since he was one of the few organizers or supporters who had an automobile large enough to fit all the materials in he was the natural choice. He had gotten up a couple of hours earlier to make sure the materials were packed and ready to move.


As Frank walked up the stairs to start to walk the couple of blocks from the garage to the bank he thought about the reasoning behind the organizing committee’s agreement that the State Street Bank and its nefarious doings in the financial crisis of 2008 should be highlighted by the protest actions that day. The group had spent some time and energy at its weekly meetings discussing the best possible target and the one that would draw the most media attention to what the Occupy Wall Street movement was calling for that day. Actions to stop business as usual on the international workers holiday. The idea this day in Boston was to attempt by main force to block off the entire bank and then court probable arrest if necessary in order to keep the bank closed for as long  as possible. Realistically Frank thought the site could be held for a couple of hours although all their leaflets, flyers, and on-line networking materials stated the times to be 7:00 AM to noon.    


Frank  had been a little leery about the project especially when a couple of black and red anarchists wanted to chain themselves to the main door of the bank as some symbolic act but the overall scheme sounded fair enough. Such actions, such shutdowns, had successfully occurred before and had had a good media effect. Frank, however, was not na├»ve enough at his age to think they could hold out for a long period. As a veteran of the May Day action down in Washington, D.C. in 1971 when they tried to shut down the entire government and took nothing but thousands of arrests for their efforts he was always cautious in his expectations for any given action although the hoopla over this General Strike call had made him more optimistic. Still to think that they could hold the bank with its many entrances against a strong police presence for long with the thousand or so people who had signed up on one of the social networking sites to put their bodies on the line gave him pause. As he finally entered the street level Frank did take a certain pride that the organizing committee had created some buzz around the General Strike idea they had been harping on all spring unlike the tepid responses on several previous May Day actions.   


As Frank put up his umbrella to walk that couple of blocks to get some help with the materials in his car another deluge of rain hit him, a rain that continued on until he reached the planned meeting point on the corner of Franklin and Congress. As he approached the area he was delighted to see several now well-known media vans ready to film the action. He was however a little suspicious that there was not a large open police presence as he arrived at his destination. He figured that, as on other occasions in Boston, the main force was being held in reserve and in the ready in some of the back streets. To his greater surprise at a few minutes after seven he counted only fifteen people ready to rally at that meeting point. That number would swell to no more than fifty over the next two or three hours that they held forth there. And as the rains continued throughout the morning Frank was certainly disheartened by the turn-out. They held an impromptu rally and march through some streets for effect but with no media coverage since all those glorious vans had taken off before 8:00 AM for as one reporter said “real news” it flagged considerable. Frank Jackman, an old-time political organizer from the school where you actually physically gathered people to plan and participant in actions, had just gotten his first taste of the limits of “social network” organizing in America.  



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