Vanguard May 2013 p. 1
May Day belong to us.Our people created it and we have not allowed it to be written off by the bourgeoisie.
Let the great German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, writing in 1894, remind us of the contribution of Australian workers to this international holiday of the proletariat:
“In fact, what could give the workers greater courage and faith in their own strength than a mass work stoppage which they had decided themselves? What could give more courage to the eternal slaves of the factories and the workshops than the mustering of their own troops? Thus, the idea of a proletarian celebration was quickly accepted and, from Australia, began to spread to other countries until finally it had conquered the whole proletarian world.
“The first to follow the example of the Australian workers were the Americans. In 1886 they decided that May 1 should be the day of universal work stoppage. On this day 200,000 of them left their work and demanded the eight-hour day. Later, police and legal harassment prevented the workers for many years from repeating this [size] demonstration. However in 1888 they renewed their decision and decided that the next celebration would be May 1, 1890.”
(Above: Luxemburg addresses a rally of German workers)
Luxemburg hit the nail on the head in identifying “courage and faith in their own strength” as an essential requirement for workers to deal with the problems of life under capitalism.
It is not a characteristic inherent in workers who must learn to have “courage and faith in their own strength” through repeated contests with the big end of town.Indeed, some workers accept the lies of the dominant culture, according to which the big decisions about life are properly to be made by elected politicians in parliament.
The right to elected political representation is dear to all workers, but in a capitalist society the end result is a recurring cycle of hope that Labor will do the right thing by its electoral base; frustration and anger when it gets into office and betrays those hopes; an electoral win for the conservatives; and then a return to the hope that Labor gets re-elected and can be trusted…..“this time”.
Break out of the electoral cycle
We can do this by developing our own independent agenda in our communities and our unions.
In her first address to the National Press Club as ACTU President (on Oct 6, 2010), Ged Kearney advocated an independent role for the peak union body which had for so long been a mere echo of the Labor Party.
The essence of this statement is the need for an independent agenda, although it is still couched in terms of parliament being the arena for its pursuit.
We are heartened by these comments, but their realisation has to be the responsibility of all of us.
We need it for our schools, our hospitals, to pay off our debts and to improve our lives.
Demands to make the rich pay will need to have a sharp focus on democratic rights because we have never known a capitalist class that has been swayed by the strength of moral argument from below.
We are not against the notion of a ruling class. We simply believe that it is the right of the workers to occupy that position in society.
That will be the occasion for a different celebration of May Day, for as Rosa Luxemburg said: