Until last year, May Day for workers, progressives and
revolutionaries in the US found us looking at struggles in the global
South for inspiration and affirmation that the oppressed will resist,
and can win against, the ravages of capitalist exploitation. Last year,
for the first time since the capitalists stole "International Workers
Day" and replaced it with barbecues in September, a section of the
class — Latino/a immigrants — reclaimed May 1st and began a new phase
in the workers' struggle for economic and political democracy. May 2006
saw massive school blowouts and stay-aways from work. In some cases
whole industries came to a halt. Thought it was only for a day, these
actions showed the tremendous power of Latino/a workers.
The politically astute and revanchist Bush regime could see the
writing on the wall: a powerful movement was developing. Segments of
this movement were tipping the balance of electoral power against
Republicans and this mass 'rebellion' was setting an example for
millions of others of working and oppressed peoples. Freedom is
contagious! The response has been clear and brutal: workplace raids,
police attacks on immigrants, efforts to isolate the movement by
criminalizing and profiling immigrants as gangsters and terrorists, and
political efforts to delay and deny democratic rights to immigrants.
The Immigrants’ Rights movement is both a movement for workers’ rights and a movement for democratic rights. In huge swathes of the country it is also a struggle for national rights (or at least the rights of Mexican nationals to their historic lands). When you look past the issues of documentation, type of visa, length of stay, border security and path to citizenship, what we have is millions of workers seeking sustainable work in another country and joining the ranks of working men and women of that country. They are no different than the 200 million other workers worldwide who have to work outside of their home countries. Seen in this context, what they struggle for, and what we must support, are rights that protect them from arbitrary firings, low wages, unsafe working conditions and coercion from employers because of their status. Linked with this struggle are struggles for basic democratic rights — to live without fear, to be allowed to participate in government “by the people,” to be able to drive a car with a license, to freely assemble, or even to talk in one’s native language.
On May 1st we must redouble our efforts and fight for both workers rights and democratic rights for all. We review this struggle as nothing less than a third Reconstruction! The first Reconstruction was the struggle by freed Black women and men to claim economic, democratic and human rights in the postDownload this piece as a PDF