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Est. April 5, 2002
May 04, 2017 - Issue 697

May Day
Takes On a Different Flavor - Unity


"Participants were in many cities,
sometimes in great numbers, from many
groups and sectors.  After generations,
they seem to be in the process of learning
that they must have unity, solidarity, if they
are to assert the right of the people
to determine their own destiny

This past Monday, May Day, there were marches and rallies across the U.S., with participants proclaiming opposition to the politics of the day and, especially, against the policies of the current president, Donald Trump.

It wasn’t always this way, since for many years, there were only small numbers of die hard trade unionists who held small rallies, conferences, symposia, and some marches, keeping alive the intentions of the 19th Century unionized workers, who demanded their right to organize, to be respected, to negotiate contracts with their employers, and to be treated as fellow human beings. In that manifestation, the May Day observance came directly out of the 1886 Haymarket Square bombing and subsequent hanging of several trade unionists and others of the left.

Celebration of May Day is of ancient origin, coming directly out of the old rites of spring, when everything was beginning to sprout, bringing new life to the earth and its people. But, in the century-before-last, unions as we know them today were in their infancy and the Robber Barons (precursors to today’s all-powerful corporations) could not tolerate anything or anyone who threatened their power over the economy and the politics that gave them their power. Therefore, International Workers’ Day, May Day, became a target for eradication. That effort has gone well for them for the past century and, today, unionization of American workplaces stands at one of the lowest points in five or six generations. Success, for the top 10 percent. So far.

This past Monday’s observance, however, took on another perspective than the usual labor movement’s events. Participants were in many cities, sometimes in great numbers, from many groups and sectors. After generations, they seem to be in the process of learning that they must have unity, solidarity, if they are to assert the right of the people to determine their own destiny. They came from labor unions, worker rights groups, environmental organizations of every description, human and indigenous and immigrant rights groups, anti-war groups, and many more. The solidarity displayed was the result of America’s recent history in the fight to save the country from the oligarchs. They are seeing more and more clearly that they need to not only work together, but join in a force more powerful than those who rule the U.S. economy and politics. After all, the people, the workers, are the vast majority in 2017 and the power is in their hands, if they use the last vestiges of democracy that are available to them.

One of the ways that the 10 percent has tried to take the sting out of the modern May Day observance was to declare May 1 “Law Day,” to emphasize the importance of the rule of law under the U.S. Constitution. It came into being in 1961, during the waning days of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Administration. And, that would be a fine idea, if the laws of the land were ever applied equally and equitably, but they are not. Minorities and the poor are at the farthest reaches of the law and the result is that the U.S. has the biggest prison system in the world, even bigger than countries that have populations several times its 320 million. The disgrace of it all is that, even if May 1 is Law Day, there is little said or done about the rule that applies in most of America: If you get in trouble, if you have money, you’ll get out. If you’re poor, you’re going to jail.

Last year’s presidential season, from the primaries to the election, brought millions of Americans to focus on the very real deadly problems of environmental catastrophe and, because of the continuing shrinking of the economy for working men and women, a serious and imminent threat to the survival of families and the communities they support. Basically, these things are of little or no concern to Donald Trump or his administration and the know-nothings he has put in positions of authority in so many governmental departments and agencies that were designed to provide for the public welfare, as the founders rightly intended. Even though that never came to full fruition, what did exist is being systematically dismantled or destroyed by Trump and his lieutenants, all of whom are taken from the corporate world and the world of banking and finance (money manipulation).

The powers that be have been masters of keeping all groups competing with or fighting with others, whether it is for jobs, economic grants for communities, for good schools, for nutritional food for the masses, for low-cost housing, or any other issues. The 10 percent has kept the people at each other’s throats. The most easily recognizable effort along these lines was convincing dirt poor whites that they were better than blacks, although their economic and social conditions were similar, if not the same. The powerful learned this well and applied it in any number of issues and parts of the country, and they have succeeded, but this May Day has shown that the people are awakening and they are beginning to understand that unity among all of the various groups and issues is vital to stop the progress of Trump in dismantling the rights of the people and to turn the country to a path that will allow the survival of not only the people, but of the democratic republic, itself.

By way of minimizing or eliminating the significance of May Day as International Workers’ Day, the U.S., back in 1921 declared the day to be “Loyalty Day.” On this Loyalty Day, Trump proclaimed, “we recognize and reaffirm our allegiance to the principles upon which our Nation is built. We pledge our dedication to the United States of America and honor its unique heritage, reminding ourselves that we are one Nation, under God, made possible by those who have sacrificed to defend our liberty. We honor our Republic and acknowledge the great responsibility that self-governance demands of each of us.” This, from a man who uses derision and insults to “debate” the issues, who little respects the constitution or the three branches of government, who daily lies about himself and the world around him, and who acts as if he is still the star of his reality television show. He concluded his proclamation: “On this day, we honor the United States of America and those who uphold its values, particularly those who have fought and continue to fight to defend the freedom it affords us.”

From a president of the U.S. who willingly acknowledges that he doesn’t read books and does not like to be informed of world affairs by the experts in government who are paid to know what is happening around the world, any reasonable person could be forgiven if bile rises in the throat at hearing these words of Trump: “We humbly thank our brave service members and veterans who have worn our Nation's uniform—from the American Revolution to the present day. Their unwavering loyalty and fidelity has made the world a safer, more free, and more just place.”

He seems not to know the meaning of the words “freedom,” “loyalty,” and “justice,” any more than he can understand that he cannot rule by fiat, which his executive orders of his first hundred days amount to. He knows how to say some of these words, because he has a few people in his administration who know that it is necessary to pay lip service to the concepts embodied in these few words. He can say them, but he can’t discern their meaning. He is attempting to destroy the confidence of the people in their historic belief that government can work for the 90 percent, rather than fill the coffers of the 10 percent. And, possibly worst of all, he is in the process of destroying the confidence in the free press (now, the “media”), by calling anything that he doesn’t like “fake news.” Pointing out his lies (they often call it misstatements or mistakes) brings down the worst of Trump’s wrath. He has called the media “the enemy of the people,” thus in that and other ways emulating the best of the authoritarians (in history and today) who have wrested power, so that they have nearly absolute control of their governments, the most important being the police, the military, and the media.

Unfortunately, the government is not working for the 90 percent. Rather, it is working for the benefit of the 10 percent, of which Trump is a part and his contempt for the media, even in the weak position they put themselves in, is all part of destroying a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. His view of those failures is that they haven’t done enough to enrich the already rich individuals and corporations. However he tries to hide it, he is one of them and he is one of the prime beneficiaries of his governmental policies.

Perhaps, one woman quoted in a New York Times Service story on May 2, said it all about the new May Day ethic. Antonia Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant, has worked for nine years as a cleaner in a Sears store, said, “We have no benefits. No vacation. We don’t have anything…It doesn’t matter if we are black, white or brown. What matters is that we stay united and fight for what we deserve.”

Solidarity, anyone? Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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