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May Day: A Festival of Solidarity
Posted on May 4, 2011
By Scott Tucker
The Democratic Party offers hope and change in every big election—and then takes over the management of war and empire if it happens to gain a majority in Congress. Just as the public has no true accounting of the numbers of unemployed, so we have no true accounting of the total military budget. Lawyers, lobbyists and legislators have made the military budget one of the more difficult state secrets to break open to public view. Until the labor unions in the United States make a radical break with what President Dwight D. Eisenhower called “the military-industrial complex,” working people will bear the brunt of sacrifice in lost jobs, broken health and imperial wars.
The real power of workers comes from below, not from union bureaucrats and career politicians. Labor unions and the Democratic Party have had a bad marriage for decades, but the leaders of the big unions have never dared to advise workers to seek an open divorce. Even so, there are notable voices of dissent even in the upper echelons of the union bureaucracy. Harold A. Schaitberger, head of the 300,000 members of the International Association of Fire Fighters, recently announced that this union would suspend donations to federal candidates out of deep disillusion with congressional Democrats. Schaitberger was quoted in The New York Times on April 27:
“We’re tired that our friends have not been willing to stand up and fight back on our behalf with the same ferocity, the same commitment that our enemies have in trying to destroy our members’ rights. Quite frankly, our enemies are trying to kill us as a labor movement and union trying to represent workers and help the middle class.”
In Los Angeles, every class-conscious worker cannot help but be aware of the sharpening attacks on workers, designed to fracture the whole labor movement along lines of race, sex, wage scales and disparate benefits. When those fractures follow the lines drawn upon maps of the world, then the great beast of nationalism comes round once again to devour our hearts and minds. Nationalism is bloody idol worship, a cult of the state and the military demanding regular theft of treasure beyond our borders, and regular human sacrifice of soldiers and civilians.
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We know our financial system is a den of thieves, and President Barack Obama has filled his Cabinet and inner circle with Wall Street insiders and recycled Clintonistas. When we are likewise willing to acknowledge that our whole political system is broken—or rather, is expertly designed to maintain a corporate ruling class in the style to which it has grown accustomed—then we will find the strength to fight for democracy. This must begin with wide reformation of our rigged electoral system, which was designed to lock out all challengers of “the two-party system.” We can have “the two-party system” in this country or we can have democracy, but we cannot have both.
A journalist should strive to find the truth and tell it plainly, without favor or prejudice. But a democratic socialist doing any honest work whatsoever—whether as a writer, a plumber, a nurse, a firefighter—must go further than refusing to tell lies, or telling the truth in small doses likely to go down sweetly. The truth must be told plainly even and especially against our own failures in labor unions and in the socialist movement.
Free councils of workers are the foundation of democratic socialism. Start small and start now. Make each May Day a festival of solidarity, and a general strike against war and empire.
Click here to see a gallery of photos from May Day 2011 in Los Angeles.
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