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What is May Day about?
Posted to the urban75 bulletin boards by 'well red' 26.04.01
That's a question that can be answered on a whole load of different levels. These are my opinions (and this may take a while, so please bear with me).
The point of a symbolic day like May Day is that activists who spend the rest of the year working (perhaps in very small numbers) in their local communities, workplaces or in single issue campaigns, can come to together to show the links between all our campaigns and to show strength in numbers. It enables us to express our opposition to our common problem world-wide - Capitalism.
It gives us a powerful tool for showing the world that we are a significant movement with significant ideas - and also for demonstrating our strength to each other (this is often forgotten, but we need the affirmation and confidence we give ourselves on days like this).
In a world where our ideas and activities are minimised and criminalised this collective action is important in itself. It enables us to say Yes, there is an anti-Capitalist movement, a global coalition of activists who have many differing viewpoints and directions, but one common enemy: Capitalism.
Capitalism is the global system that puts profit before people, that pollutes the world and wastes its resources. Capitalism enriches the few by keeping the many poor, makes us consumers not citizens. Capitalism, the system we sustain with our labour, spawned wage-slavery and stole the commonwealth from us all.
At its most simple Capitalism functions because we (the workers) are exploited by them (the bosses) - they generate profit from our work and keep it for themselves. This core need requires other systems to make it work, like police to keep us in our place, racism and sexism to keep us divided and entertainment like TV to keep us quiet.
We want to tear down this fucked-up form of social relations and replace it with something else, a society controlled by the workers themselves, where people are more important than money and where the world can be a common treasury for all (not a playground for the rich). Its blindingly obvious that the system will not change overnight.
May Day is not going to change the world. But if we only did things that guaranteed instant results we wouldn't do much in our lives would we? May Day can be an acorn from which grows something greater, it can be another milestone on our journey to freedom. Its a day of what can be if we want it (unlike every other day of the year, about what is and what we don't want).
To paraphrase Noam Chomsky, many people do disagree with the way society is run, but they think its just them that think like that because all around them the status quo is reinforced every day. Ideas of dissent and difference are constantly attacked and ridiculed. May Day is saying its OK to want change, its OK to fight back.
In terms of the media hype and the creation of Anarchist folk-devils, its important that we judge the success of May Day on our own terms, not in terms of column inches or Daily Mail leader comment.
We are rocking the boat, threatening everything that the rich hold dear - we can't expect them to like what we are doing, we should expect them to try their best to destroy us (and they're having a pretty good go at it).
I've been active in this movement and its precursors for more than 20 years, and at no point over that period has the idea of an anti-Capitalist movement had more interest or more widespread publicity - this is not the time to be running scared of a bit of bad press.
They hate us because we're successful. One valid question that should perhaps be asked is where the fuck are ponces like Naomi Klein and George Monbiot, self-appointed speakers for the anti-globalisation movement, when we're being trashed in the papers?
Ken Livingstone putting adverts in the papers telling everyone not to attend the demo is an obviously political act - he doesn't ask people not to go to football on Saturday because there was trouble last week does he?
You might as well ask people not to go the pub Friday night because there was a fight in there last weekend. "Red" Ken's got an agenda just like everyone else.
Another aspect to be remembered is that May Day is also a historical celebration. It is International Workers Day, a day where we take to the streets to share our pride in our class.
It's important to be aware that this annual workers day was originally organised in remembrance of 4 Anarchists (the Haymarket Martyrs) who were fitted up by the police and executed, and was characterised in the late 1880's by huge waves of strikes across the world.
Then, as now, the police were not a neutral force where activists are concerned. It has always been part of their job to crush organised resistance. The people that I work with, ordinary workers who aren't politically active (except as union members) and have a fairly basic analysis of globalisation (drawn mainly from No Logo) are totally fired up about May Day - they are far angrier and stroppier than any of you lot.
Believe me, if there is a scrap with the police on May Day it is far more likely to come from ordinary workers who are sick and tired of police harassment than it is to come from eco-warriors or Anarcho-Syndicalists.
So.... what is May Day for? Its a global day of resistance, a day to say No to this mundane, deadening life in which we are treated with contempt and harassment, our creativity is crushed, our labour exploited, our planet is stolen from us, we are sold as commodities to each other, our brothers and sisters around the world are starved to death.
Poverty, starvation, pollution - they're not accidents for fucks sake, they're inevitable consequences of Capitalism, they're what it does. May Day is a day to stand up and be counted. Its a day for collective action, not individualism.
We are regarded in the papers as a tiny minority, but if you go out on the street and ask people if they think that the present society is as good as it gets, 99.9% of people will say No, because it plainly isn't.
May Day is about offering a way out of this mess. Its not a perfect answer, but its the best we've got at the moment.
Many cities - one street.
Comment by 'well red': 26.04.01
> See full thread here: Why Mayday?