My long-time friend, Bill Gallegos, wrote this powerful piece focusing on May Day 2017. I wanted to share this with you and hope that you will appreciate it as much as I have and, further, that you will circulate it. Thanks.–Fletcher
The Most Important May Day of All
By Bill Gallegos, a member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization
April 19, 2017
US President Donald Trump has declared war against the Chican@-Mexican@ people. He has promised to undertake a campaign of massive ethnic cleansing to deport more than 11 million undocumented US residents. In the first two months of this campaign the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office has rounded up and deported more than 21,000 people, causing deep fear and anxiety in communities throughout the US. Trump has also increased the already pervasive militarization of the US-Mexico border, given the Migra (border patrol) to do whatever they believe is necessary to detain, arrest, and ultimately deport undocumented immigrants. While no numbers are yet available for analysis, it is not difficult to estimate that the majority of those already deported are Mexican@, since they are by far the largest of the undocumented population. Trump has characterized Mexcan@ immigrants as “rapists” and criminals, and Jeff Session, his Attorney General has referred to them as “filth”. Just as shamefully, the Administration is now considering the deportation of tens of thousands of Haitian refugees who fled to the United States to escape a series of natural disaster and political crises. The Trump Administration’s posture on immigration has also given new life to white nationalist organizations and racist vigilante groups like The Minuteman, who have volunteered to send armed thugs to the border to assist this campaign.
It is therefore no surprise that the May Day is expected to be a major political event, this year. For example, in Los Angeles some observers expect upwards of a million people to its march and rally. The Los Angeles May Day is being organized by a coalition of the Los Angeles Country Labor Federation; immigrant rights organizations, and may others (over 80 organizations have signed on). Its demands are focused against the Trump Administration’s ethnic cleansing program and demanding that the US Congress adopt comprehensive immigration reform legislation that would include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, #resist.
Other May Day events will be happening throughout the US Southwest, the historic home of the great majority of Chican@-Mexican@s, and in other parts of the US. Some unions are calling for a general strike of their members. The May Day march and rally is expected to draw people from a broad range of social movements and organizations, contributing to the effort to build a broad, diverse anti-Trump/anti-fascist united front. The organizers of the large Los Angeles women’s march in January are holding a voting rights rally at Pershing Square, which is on the route of the main march. Unfortunately, it is not clear if the women’s action will join the May Day march. Hopefully they will do so, an contribute to the broad and diverse unity needed to effectively challenge the racist and misogynist policies of the Trump Administration and the resurgent Right.
Other complications have arisen as well. The Los Angeles teachers union, United Teachers of Los Angeles, has called on the Los Angeles School District to close down on May Day so that teachers, school staff, and students can participate in the May Day events. LA School Superintendent Michelle King refused to do so, and this makes it very difficult for teachers and parents of District students to participate. Teachers may want to join the march, but may be reluctant to do so because of their concern for their students, recognizing that many parents cannot provide the child care students would need if there were no school. Despite these complications, the Los Angeles May Day promises to be a powerful rebuke to the Trump Administration, and a powerful statement in support of human rights, workers rights, democracy, and social justice.
Another march is being organized in Los Angeles by some organizations that don’t understand the importance of building a broad united front against the Trump Administration. This General Strike Coalition action will likely be a much smaller event.
May 1st, International Workers Day has traditionally been a holiday for the international working class, to celebrate its struggles and its vision of a new world based upon the complete emancipation and freedom of all who labor. It was originally a holiday celebrated throughout the world, led by socialists and communists. In recent years, as socialism entered its crisis with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the holiday has suffered a similar decline in the scope and depth of its participation. In the United States, it was the socialist left that maintained the May Day tradition, with smaller celebrations in cities and towns throughout the country.
I live in Los Angeles and May Day has, over the last eight years become again a major holiday, largely due to the efforts of immigrants’ rights organizations like Hermandad Mexicana, The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), the Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates (KIWA), the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC), IDEPSCA, and the Garment Workers Center. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor has joined with the immigrant organizations so that May Day marches and rallies often mobilize tens of thousands of participants. In 2007 without provocation, the Los Angeles police attached May Day marchers in MacArthur Park, in the heart of the Central American community in the City. Hundred were beaten and arrested and ultimately the police were widely condemned for their action. Since then, they have been extremely reluctant to repeat that brutal and racist behavior at May Day events, possibly because the City had to pay out $13 million to people injured or mistreated in that melee.
The theme of Los Angeles May Day events has always been to call for human and civil rights for all undocumented immigrants, for an end to deportations and the super-exploitation of immigrant labor. While the overwhelming majority of the marches were Chican@ and Mexican@, they were truly internationalist in character, including also Centro American@s, Asian-Pacific Islanders, African Americans, South Asians, and whites. In the last few, years they have also included a growing Muslim and Arab contingent, reflecting the genuine spirit of class and oppressed peoples’ solidarity that is at the heart of its tradition.
I have been a social revolutionary since 1969 when I became involved with the Crusade for Justice, a fighting for Chican@ Liberation and self-determination. My family is rooted in New Mexico and Colorado, having lived in those areas well before the territory was stolen by the United States from Mexico in the 1840’s. Like most Chican@ families, we lived on the land in northern Nuevo Mexico and Southern Colorado. And like most Chican@ we eventually lost that land to gringo settlers and ended up working in the coal mines owned by the Rockefeller family in Southern Colorado. Our familia was involved in those days with efforts to unionize the mines, and were present at the Ludlow (Colorado) Massacre in April 1914 in which at least two dozen innocent men, women and children were gunned down by armed mercenaries. In retaliation for Ludlow, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of mines over the next ten days, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard along a 40-mile front from Trinidad to Walsenburg. While my initial political activism focused exclusively on Chican@ Liberation, over the years I became a communist based on an understanding that capitalism and imperialism are the root causes of Chican@-Mexican@ oppression and that our fight is to end all oppressions. I learned through experience and through study that the fight for Chican@-Mexican@ self-determination and the freedom of all the oppressed is in the complete interest of the multinational working class, is at the heart of its vision of a new socialist society.
I love May Day because every revolution must create its own traditions, its own cultural expressions, and its own celebrations and May Day is truly a festival of the oppressed. In Los Angeles and elsewhere it was very significant that the marches were initiated, lead, and focused on immigrant workers. And it was absolutely correct that the demands of those actions centered on full rights for immigrants. But that focus and those demands were, from the standpoint of Chican@-Mexican@ liberation incomplete, an important partial program within the overall program of Chican@-Mexican@ liberation. In the past the issue of immigrants’ rights was seen as a component of the broader struggle for Chican@-Mexican@ self-determination and equality. Groups like the Crusade, MEChA, CASA (Cento Accion Social Autonomo), the August 29th Movement (Marxist-Leninist), La Raza Unida Party, and others proclaimed that the Chican@-Mexican@ struggle was not solely about a green card, a MICA (the “alien” residency document of the US government), but was about our freedom, about our liberation, about our national rights to land, self-government, and our own economic structure.
The disconnect between the fight for immigrant rights and Chican@-Mexcian@ liberation is due to several reasons. One has to do with the decided “move to the right” in US politics over the past twenty-five years. Every social movement has been influenced by this trend, which tends to channel the demands of the working class and oppressed peoples into narrower political demands, to separate specific issues from the larger systemic ones, such as national oppression. A second important reason is the decline of the organized Left in the Chican@-Mexcian@ movement, as well as in other major social movements. Organizations like the Crusade, La Alianza in New Mexico, La Raza Unida, the League of Revolutionary Struggle, and CASA are gone or mostly gone now. This is due to a combination of state repression, the co-optation of some former Left leaders, and internal weaknesses within those organizations. A third reason is the political and ideological hegemony of petty-bourgeois and bourgeois class forces. The large and rapid growth of the Chican@-Mexican@ population in the US, has also meant a significant expansion of a Chican@-Mexican@ professional and business classes, who are more susceptible to influence by the dominant capitalist society, and who have largely promoted the vision that the ultimate goal of the Chican@-Mexican@ struggle is to become part of the “American Dream”, now matter how corrupt, self-centered, and imperialist that vision may be.
May Day 2017 provides us with a new opportunity to challenge that vision, to begin to restore the much more powerful and deeply democratic vision of Chican@-Mexican@ liberation and self-determination and of a socialist society that can respect, honor, and guarantee those national rights. Chican@-Mexican@ revolutionaries and progressives should once again raise the banner of “Tierra y Libertad”, a banner which has already been held high by the Zapatistas and other revolutionary forces in Mexico. In fact, we should re-double our efforts to connect these two great struggles – for our self-determination here, and for the fundamental social change in Mexico, to give deeper meaning to the reality that we are linked by class, by history, by common enemies, and by common vision that A New World Is Possible.
Chican@-Mexican@ workers should also continue this May Day to raise high the banner of class solidarity, for these workers are at one and the same time part of the struggle for Chican@-Mexican@ self-determination, but also of the struggle of the multi-racial working class for its full freedom, emancipation, and political power. Finally, Chican@-Mexican@s should make certain to strengthen its solidarity with all oppressed peoples and movements – the threatened ethnic cleansing campaign is also aimed at immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and so we need a true Global South (in the Global North) united front to beat back this new threat. And our struggle must also embrace that of women in their fights for reproductive justice and for full equality, which the LGBTQ movement, which has demonstrated incredible courage and leadership in campaigns from the Dreamers to the Fight for 15 to Black Lives Matter! In other words, let’s not only celebrate May Day in the broadest and most militant ways that we can, but let us enrich its tradition with the lyrical call that Workers and All Oppressed People Unite.
Hasta La Victoria Siempre !!!