May Day – International Workers Day – last year saw a march from the Port of Oakland through the (still) predominantly black and working class West Oakland to downtown Oakland. Although there were some weaknesses (see article and video here), it had a militant spirit, and different voices, including critical ones, were heard. This year, the leadership of Local 10 got a firm hold of the event. The result was that it started off with… the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag! Yes, on this day – International Workers Day – we started off with patriotism. What a travesty!
There followed several speeches which covered such topics as the struggle for the eight hour day, and the need for class struggle in general. All that is very nice. But what’s needed now, more than ever, is a clear explanation of the general direction that the workers’ movement needs to take and what specific, concrete steps can be taken down that road immediately. That is what defines real leadership. All the general talk is just that — talk. It’s meant to cover up the fact that the intent is to continue down the same path that we’ve been trodding for decades. That is the path of reliance on the cooperation of the employers and the good will of the liberal wing of the Democrats. By any measure – in terms of standard of living, working class unity, racism and xenophobia and sexism, the general direction of politics in the US, or the strength of the unions – by any measure this direction has been a disastrous failure.
Any serious socialist cannot just confine themselves to organizing for such events without a word of criticism. Socialism means nothing if it has no meaning in the here and now.