As it relates to the fruits of labor beyond just harvest, this first day of May means a number of things, down to nothing, depending upon where one comes- or is coming from. Being an American by arbitrary birthright I can observe the spectrum from ignorance to disregard. The European perspective — which, perspectives being as they are, one should in no way claim capacity of even the most far-flung interpretive representation — is hardly of one voice as to the significance of International Workers’ Day, or how it should or shouldn’t be observed.There are non-Europeans who think they know how things are different in Euroland and are comfortable acting as authority on the matter. There are non-Euros who know better, but act as authority all the same. There are those who admit ignorance, but will say they get the general idea and don’t have too big a problem arguing a viewpoint on it. There are those who are less comfortable in this final regard, but not to the extent that you won’t hear plenty of peep out of them. Wherever the end of this line is, it doesn’t have anyone on it who’ll admit they don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about, counting myself. If there’s a silent majority, they ain’t sayin’ shit.
About the First of May: it’s easy to bear distant witness to people throwing bottles at cops or breaking windows and setting things on fire and saying that this isn’t what the celebration is supposed to be about. If there’s any safer an utterance on the subject than, “It’s supposed to be a peaceful demonstration of (compete cliché here),” I can’t recall hearing it. On the flipside, there’s no rounder a rebuke guaranteed than if you were to state certainly that breaking shit is in fact what it is all about.
Take the events 131 years ago surrounding Haymarket Square in Chicago as substantiated origin of today’s holiday in Europe and you have a parallel of competing stories as to what inspired what took place then — including who was involved and why, and what ultimately resulted and who all were instrumental in that — that lend remarkable credence to the appropriateness of this recurring annual symbolism of “we just wanna barbecue” vs. “get in line or stay away” vs. “peacefully demonstrate” vs. “stand up and be counted” vs. “make a ruckus” vs. “break the fucking system”.
If, on the other hand, the aforesaid safest interpretation of the meaning of these gatherings is the one viable demonstration, it seems to me like an awful lot of marching under the aegis of advertising democracies whose backdrop is an infrastructure of hierarchy that democracy is helpless to change more than indirectly rearrange.
Enter the Strike: standing up to sit down, walking in to walk out, shouting out to shut down, fully embracing boycott. These are all actions that, even if you see them as passive resistance, will most certainly beget an increase in violence one must be prepared to withstand in order to remain resolute enough to make a difference. Unfortunately, this threat of reactionary beatdown does not, in my opinion, factor into why the workers of the world will never unite to overcome those who own the right to hire and fire them under conditions that mutate with the times. Moreover, the lack of solidarity is not only due to inadequate organisation, but down to lack of unity of enlightened desperation: It requires the participation of a broad range of people of centuries-long indoctrination who are everything from too in need of their income to feed their own, to comfy enough in their consumer habits and don’t want to rock the yacht.
The most quickly dismissed are the ones who stand up. Given that the elections that dominate much of the world’s news these days are in a myriad of ways rigged at their outset, voting is anything but standing up. It serves first as an outlet of plausible freedom. If we really wanted the world free of its oppressors, the world’s workers’d be on strike and her unemployed boycotting everything else.
And the action alone is not enough. If it’s true that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, the strike would have to be permanent.