Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Happy May Day

Even though May Day was inspired by the fight for the eight-hour-day culminating in Chicago's Haymarket Massacre in 1886, the United States has never joined 80 other countries in declaring May 1st to be a legal holiday in honor of its workers. American politicians instead designated the first Monday of September as our own exceptional Labor Day, a day devoted to political stump speeches pandering to working class voters and family barbecues taking the place of marches in the streets. Honoring our historical labor struggles? Placing the worker above the boss in importance and value? Surely, you jest.

Before the September Labor Day caught on in the public's Great American Traditions mindset, US leaders frantically tried to suppress labor rights even further by declaring May 1st to be "Law and Order Day." Cue the deep bass thump-thump opening credits from the popular NBC franchise series about cops.  Cue the masses to get off the streets lest there be "clashes" with the night sticks and tear gas.

Sadly for the corporate suppressors of history, though, hundreds of thousands of underpaid teachers across America have been striking for a living wage in state after state after state. These are largely in hardcore conservative states  ("red"- so deliciously ironic in light of the upsurge of radical labor) whose corrupt leaders prescribed austerity for their citizens in the name of "fiscal responsibility" in the aftermath of the massive theft of trillions of dollars in household wealth, bowdlerized as The Financial Crisis of 2008. Gilded Age history just keeps right on repeating, simply because our leaders' refusal to learn any lessons from past struggles ensures the repetition.

Eric Chase of the Industrial Workers of the World explains:
Truly, history has a lot to teach us about the roots of our radicalism. When we remember that people were shot so we could have the 8-hour day; if we acknowledge that homes with families in them were burned to the ground so we could have Saturday as part of the weekend; when we recall 8-year old victims of industrial accidents who marched in the streets protesting working conditions and child labor only to be beat down by the police and company thugs, we understand that our current condition cannot be taken for granted - people fought for the rights and dignities we enjoy today, and there is still a lot more to fight for. The sacrifices of so many people can not be forgotten or we'll end up fighting for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day.
In Arizona, where Trump wants to spend billions for a section of his symbolic Great Wall and where legislators have cut more than $1 billion from the state education budget in the decade since the financial collapse, the #RedforEd teachers are now entering the second week of their strike.

American leaders are just as anxious about the possibility of this latest strike spreading nationwide as their forebears were about the threatened spread of May Day agitations a century ago. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, for example, insisted to a World Socialist Website reporter covering one rally in Phoenix on Monday that "education is a statewide issue" rather than a national one.

"We want to make sure that these walk-outs become walk-ins to the voting booths in November," she added in typical centrist Democrat cant.

Given that Trump's billionaire right-wing Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, also insists that education initiatives and funding are the sole responsibility of the states which have been starved into submission by austerity policies, you get the drift. The leaders of both corporate political parties would just as soon that the chasm between the haves and the have-nots, both in knowledge and in wealth, will just keep exponentially widening so that more and more "collateral damage" will keep falling into it.

Thank goodness of the teachers who are refusing to fall into it, and who keep educating the whole country about the fight for justice and the never-ending search for truth and the value of solidarity. 

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