Letter of Tony Seed and Aaron Doncaster*
Heartfelt greetings and congratulations to everyone for making Halifax May Day 2015 take place! Although we are both absent from Nova Scotia, we are so much with you in spirit.
May Day is the Day of International Working Class Solidarity and Struggle – the day the workers and the oppressed all over the world mark advances in the struggle for unity, rights and dignity.
On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 enterprises across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history; in Chicago, the epicentre for the 8-hour day agitators, 40,000 went out on strike, the Haymarket Massacre, and the murder of Albert Parsons, Johann Most, August Spies and Louis Lingg the response.
May First was first celebrated as a single world-wide day of solidarity in 1890, organized by the International Workers’ Congress. It captured the imagination of working people and since then hundreds of millions of workers around the globe, including in Canada, have stood together on this day to affirm their rights and claims on society as the producers of all the material wealth and providers of all services. The day is a symbol of the common cause of the workers of the world.
The aim of the first May Day was to secure the eight-hour working day and improvements to working conditions. On May Day, 1919, workers of Halifax, led by the building trades, downed tools and launched a General Strike against war profiteering and all-round exploitation carried out by capital in the name of “recovering from the (Halifax) Explosion.”
In every period since then, many of the old problems have persisted, while particular problems have emerged as the most important to be solved so that workers and the whole society can move forward.
In 2007 workers and youth made a start in restoring the commemoration of MAY DAY in our city by rallying in Victoria Park – during a rain storm. In 2008, matters advanced: a Halifax May Day Committee (HMDC) was established to ensure its commemoration as an annual event in our calendar.
Along with the call to work for an anti-war government in Canada, it advanced its main slogans:
Defend the Rights of All!
All for One, and One for All!
Who Decides? We Decide!
Unity! Resistance! Dignity!
Workers and Oppressed Peoples of All Countries, Unite!
Its work was distinguished especially from the three aspects of upholding the principle of unity in action, restoring collective memory, and renewing the working class movement, which was firmly put on the agenda of the workers and their allies for solution. This year the labour council has come forward to sponsoring the march.
Today the most crucial problem facing working people in Nova Scotia – as the premeditated attack of the McNeil Liberals against the just cause of the nurses illustrates – remains: Who Decides?
Renewal Update puts it well:
“Working people in Canada are marking May Day under the banner of defeating the Harper Conservative government and its anti-social, anti-worker and pro-war direction. They are defending and affirming their rights and the rights of all, putting their demands at centre stage as part of setting a new direction for the society.”
By leading this work for renewal workers can empower not only themselves but the entire polity and open society’s path to progress.
Along with organizing vigorous rallies and marches, the HMDC made an indelible contribution by establishing its annual May Day Forum – a conscious rejection of the politics of liquidation and a-class, spectator “entertainment” put forward as a substitute for the independent action and thinking of the working class. The necessity for and popularity of such a form was attested by the growth in participation from May Day to the next and the quality of its programme.
The May Day statement of CPC(M-L) puts it well:
“The importance of establishing such social forms cannot be underestimated in the fight for democratic renewal. They provide a means to ensure the unity of the people under conditions where reactionary forces use the mass media and disinformation to sow doubt about the people’s capacity to fight, smash the people’s ability to think and plan coherently, and disorganize any opposition.”
On a personal note, we especially wish to hail all those who worked so selflessly and anonymously for the re-establishment of HALIFAX MAY DAY, the annual May Day Rally, May Day March and the May Day Forum, including Dave Shaw (PSAC) and Ivy Shaw (CUPW), Wayne Mundle and Darrell Tingley (retired postal workers, CUPW), Toni MacAfee and Jeff Callaghan (CUPW Regional Office), Robin Oakley, William Hollingsworth, Charles Spurr, Elizabeth McCormack, Alan Bezanson, Brad Fougere, Bill McKiggan, the Corkills, Isaac Saney, Timothy Bood, and the members of NSCUBA and the No Harbour for War Committee, and many others: Greetings all!
On the occasion of May First 2015 let us step up the work for people’s empowerment and for an anti-war government!
* Co-chair, Halifax May Day Committee