All Out for May Day 2012! – International Day of the Working Class

On Halifax May Day 2012 – an exchange

Hello. I’m part of Occupy Nova Scotia and you may be aware we are planning a May Day event in Halifax, in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street callout for a General Strike. Of course a full General Strike is impossible on such short notice but we are encouraging a wide range of solidarity actions. I’m informed you are the chair of a May Day committee and that we should contact you. I’m interested in what you may have to say about our event.

Ian Matheson

* * *

Dear Ian,

Thanks kindly for our message and my apologies for this belated response. Due to responsibilities in my family, I have been unavailable.

For the first time since the 1970s and early 1980s, we re-initiated the annual commemoration of May Day in 2007 with a small but spirited rally of 25-30 people held in Victoria Park in the rain. This grew to a militant program featuring a rally, a march (usually on the NS legislature through the city streets) and/or through the working class neighbourhoods to an evening-long and vibrant political-cultural forum-festival. In the last two years 200 or more workers, youth and others participated annually. The Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers were especially noteworthy in their participation. “Defend the Dignity of Labour” was the most prominent theme and spirit.

The May Day forum-festival became a popular feature attended by some 80-90 people each year. It included presentations and discussions, lively music of resistance, dinner and dancing, and an informative display on labour struggles waged in Nova Scotia nine decades ago that, along with banners, adorned the walls of the meeting hall.*

This work was based on the principles of unity in action, renewing the working class movement, defending the rights of all, and restoring the collective memory and history of the working class movement in Nova Scotia. On the basis of these principles and aims, the Halifax May Day Committee (HMDC) came into being in January, 2008. Aaron Doncaster and myself, a food services and media worker respectively, are co-founders and co-chairs of the Halifax May Day Committee, which includes trade unionists, organized and unorganized workers, retirees, youth and students – representing three generations of struggle – amongst its members and/or active supporters.

However, this year both of us are out of the province and despite our best efforts and those of our members and colleagues the HMDC has not been able to practically organize for May Day 2012.

We are glad that once again red flags will be hoisted high in Nova Scotia on May First and workers and youth and others will raise their banners of resistance and organizing, affirmation and celebration. The necessity of opposing the neo-liberal wrecking of manufacturing, pensions, public right (including the right to an education), the oceans, environment and the nation, the state-organized violence, and adopting a pro-social agenda is no more apparent than today.

I would like to make several points in a fraternal spirit as well as use this opportunity to clarify some questions by way of trying to answer your questions:

May Day 2010 in Havana, Cuba. (CubaDebate)

[1] In this broad context, May Day is not a day of “solidarity” with someone else’s call from abroad though of course we share weal and woe with all the fighting forces, be in Cuba and Latin America or the United States, the Middle East or Asia. May Day is International Working Class Day, the day of proletarian internationalism, the day workers and their allies throughout the world rededicate themselves to their cause, take stock, and advance their just demands on the society. “Workers of All Countries, Unite!” is the most prominent slogan;

[2] Since 2007, we organized on the basis of our own forces, however modest. We had no illusions about general strike or thousands of workers taking the streets;

[3] We found that the decisive thing is the human factor/social consciousness, not numbers nor the form of action. For example, in 2007 it was the stand taken by just two individuals, which has led to all these developments and participation on May Day – the collective deed of everyone who has participated. Rather than merely reacting to events or what the governments are doing in our name, we set out our agenda as decision-makers and worked to turn it into life;

[4] Over these six years, we have continuously defended and fought for the principle of unity in action without regard to political, ideological or any other affiliation, and resisted and overcome continuous efforts by sideline elements to split and divide on the basis of preconceived notions of what constitutes “legitimate” and “illegitimate” dissent, dress codes, content, or other pretexts;

[5] Big capital has always bitterly fought against May Day to the extent that Labour Day was originally incorporated in 1894 as a “rest day” granted by the state to oppose May Day, the struggle for the 8-hour day, and independent political action by the working class. Today, unlike the USA and Canada, the majority of countries in the world celebrate May Day.

[6] The Halifax May Day Committee has no affiliation with the CLC and the Halifax-Dartmouth District Labour Council. Due to our work and the demand of young workers and trade unionists, the Labour Council (and the NS Federation of Labour) appropriately endorsed May Day in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Their main program, funding and organizational resources are devoted to Labour Day and a program called Mayworks.

Parliament Hill, May First 2011

[7] On May Day 2011 — as over 5,000 workers led by the Hamilton steelworkers (USW Local 1005) occupied Parliament Hill the day before the federal election with the banner “Stop Harper!” — in Halifax, some sideline elements vainly tried to hijack May Day and derail the May Day March with a diversion about “violence.” By actively defending the principle of unity in action, together we overcame this obstacle, all the different contingents marched as one through the city streets (pictured, left), culminating the day’s programme with a lively forum at the Mi’kmaq Friendship Centre;

[8] It is no surprise that suggestions to hold May Day this year on Sunday, April 29th, under the pretext that more workers would turn out, i.e., numbers, convenience, etc., have also not washed. April 29th, is, of course, not May Day;

[9] As Aaron has rightly pointed out on the “Haligonians for May Day” site on Facebook**, we have no sectarian peeve that this year someone else is organizing May Day. May Day is the worker’s day and is no-one’s private property;

On May Day 2011, the Halifax May Day Committee called on Canadians to stand as one to Stop Harper, elected one day later in what to date is more and more proven to be a fraudulent election and a fraudulent majority.

If the organizations that represent the interests of the workers had seen then the importance to hold governments to account, which they are beginning to see today, members of the HMDC feel the fraudulent Harper majority could have been stopped.

Now, it is more urgent than ever to oppose the federal and provincial governments’ secret deals and governments that do not defend the public interest, but support the monopolies and their nation-wrecking.

In Nova Scotia alone, wealth stolen from the people in the hundreds of millions of dollars together with the forest lands and the fisheries are being handed hollus-bolus to the Irvings and their ilk for private and anti-social ends, including imperialist wars of so-called humanitarian intervention, conquest and domination.

No to backroom deals between governments and monopolies like Irving and Lockheed Martin, NewPage and Resolute Forest Products (formerly AbitibiBowater), and Michelin! No to attacks on workers’ rights! No to “austerity budgets”! Defend the rights of teachers, health care workers and all public sector workers and the health care, education and other services they provide! Support the fishermen against DFO and the big corporations! No Harbour for War! Support workers fighting all over the world!

We warmly wish you all the very best in going All Out for May Day 2012 and extend our greetings to all the fighting forces in Nova Scotia and the Maritimes!

Please do not hesitate to e-mail me at tonyseed@bellaliant.net if you have any questions or points.

I hope we can stay in touch,

Tony Seed, on behalf of the Halifax May Day Committee

April 27, 2012

Edited for publication

* See https://tonyseed.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/vigorous-may-day-action-in-halifax/

** Unfortunately, Facebook migrated/destroyed many photos, reports and membership of our facebook group in some sort of “re-organization.” We will be rebuilding it, and welcome your reports and photos for inclusion.

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Filed under Fisheries & fishermen, Working Class

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