May 1 is International Workers’ Day but, in New Zealand at least, it won’t be coming to a rally or march near you.
ON MAY 1 I could, in a better local political climate, be writing about the many rallies and marches being held up and down the country to mark International Workers’ Day.
I could be writing about how the rallies and marches and all the other activities, many of them supported by a progressive trade union movement, are both a celebration of our history and a defence of our rights.
I could be writing that the rallies and marches represent a rejection of the neoliberal straitjacket the country has been forcibly held in for the past three decades. It would also be rejection of a political consensus that has maintained the rule of the one percent.
I could be writing about how the rallies and marches are highlighting the growing level of poverty and inequality and the rising level of homelessness.
I could be writing about how International Workers’ Day has grown, like in many other countries, to embrace other important issues like climate change.
I could be writing how the rallies and marches are in solidarity with other similar events around the world on May 1 – like the 340,000 American service workers, including workers from Google and Facebook, who will be on a one day strike. Or the Indian women working in the textile industry, demanding better wages and working conditions.
I could be writing about how today we are reaching back to 1904 when the Second International chose May 1 as International Workers’ Day and called on “"all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.”
I could be recalling what Rosa Luxemburg said about May Day and why it is important:
“The first of May demanded the introduction of the eight-hour day. But even after this goal was reached, May Day was not given up. As long as the struggle of the workers against the bourgeoisie and the ruling class continues, as long as all demands are not met, May Day will be the yearly expression of these demands. And, when better days dawn, when the working class of the world has won its deliverance then too humanity will probably celebrate May Day in honour of the bitter struggles and the many sufferings of the past.”
I could be writing about all of this but I’m not. That’s because there are no rallies and marches in New Zealand today. Nothing. Like last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.
While we would expect the political establishment and its allies in the corporate media to conveniently ignore May Day and what it represents, what are we to think of the fact that both the Labour Party and it allies in the trade union movement are both implicated in its suppression?
Perhaps its because their interests in 2017 lie ever more firmly with the political establishment. These are the days, after all, when political parties hail austerity agreements as something to celebrate and trade union officials cynically want us to believe that Labour is not only slightly less awful than National but that its something to be grateful for.
International Workers’ Day reminds us that we have nothing to be grateful about and as Rosa Luxemburg wrote, May Day remains an expression of our demands that have not been met.