Support the Mayday 2014 Fight for Fifteen

by JOHN HALLE

(Note: The proposal here develops ideas advanced by Socialist Alternative’s Alan Akrivos at the Brecht Forum event, Socialism at the Ballot Box. Video here.)

Most on the left are at least dimly aware that Labor Day was originally celebrated on May 1 to commemorate the framing and execution of the Haymarket strikers and that Mayday, at its peak, attracted tens of thousands of marchers in cities across the country.  The combination of the iron fist of state repression and the velvet glove of the New Deal ultimately crushed radical labor movements of which Mayday was an integral part, resulting in only traces of it remaining by the end of the last century.

But its spirit could not be entirely extinguished: the largest mass arrest in U.S. history took place on Mayday anti-war protest of 1971, demonstrators brutally apprehended and held Pinochet style in Washington’s RFK stadium.

In 2006, millions of undocumented workers shut down the streets of several cities demanding changes in that draconian and repressive Sensenbrenner Bill, H.R. 4437.

Most recently, in the waning days of the Occupy movement, Mayday again rose from the dead attracting 30 to 40,000 to New York City’s Union Square capping it with a march to Wall Street where over 30 were arrested.

Unfortunately, following the demise of OWS, only a few hard-core activists celebrated in 2013.

Was 2012 a fluke or did it represent an initial, albeit stumbling, attempt to re-attach the future of working class politics to its illustrious past?

This decision is up to us.  We can choose to make Mayday again the centerpiece of a new anti-capitalist politics and with the widespread hopelessness now turning to rage at the 1%, 2014 is the year to do it.

The way to do it is by using Mayday to put forward a single demand on the owners and operators of the economy: a 15 dollar an hour minimum wage.  The necessary teeth will be provided by our committing ourselves to begin the demonstration at 4 PM, making May 1, 2014 a seven hour work day re-initiating, albeit on a reduced scale, the long standing Mayday tradition of a day without work, or, to put it in political terms, a general strike.

Should 5/1 for 15 not succeed, it should be expanded it to a full day, possibly on election day 2014. A second day could be added on 2015 scaling up to a full week in 2016 with the explicit intention of bringing capital, and capitalism, to its knees, where it belongs.

Just as the eight hour working day was a unifying demand which brought together the strands of a balkanized left leading to the formation of a Socialist Party, so too can the 15 dollar wage provide the foundation for a resurgence of organized, working class political power.

It is no surprise that Kshama Sawant was able to ride the Fight for 15 to victory in November becoming the first elected socialist in a century.  And she has made it her top priority now that she is in office.  She, and other national leaders and all self-described supporters of “working families”, should be in the forefront of planning to insure that Mayday is returned to its rightful place as a celebration of the beginnings of a long awaited American spring.

JOHN HALLE is Director of Studies in Music Theory and Practice at Bard College. He can be reached at: halle@bard.edu.

John Halle blogs at Outrages and Interludes

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Vacy Vlanza
Without BDS, Palestine is Alone
Laura Finley
Adjunct Professors and Worker’s Rights
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode Three, Where We Thrill Everyone by Playing Like “Utter Bloody Garbage”
Weekend Edition
July 24-26, 2015
Mike Whitney
Picked Out a Coffin Yet? Take Ibuprofen and Die
Henry Giroux
America’s New Brutalism: the Death of Sandra Bland
Rob Urie
Capitalism, Engineered Dependencies and the Eurozone
Michael Lanigan
Lynn’s Story: an Irish Woman in Search of an Abortion
Paul Street
Deleting Crimes at the New York Times: Airbrushing History at the Paper of Record
ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
Making Sense of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Geopolitical Implications
Andrew Levine
After the Iran Deal: Israel is Down But Far From Out
Uri Avnery
Sheldon’s Stooges: Netanyahu and the King of Vegas
David Swanson
George Clooney Paid by War Profiteers
ANDRE VLTCHEK
They Say Paraguay is in Africa: Mosaic of Horror
Horace G. Campbell
Obama in Kenya: Will He Cater to the Barons or the People?
Michael Welton
Surviving Together: Canadian Public Tradition Under Threat
Rev. William Alberts
American Imperialism’s Military Chaplains
Yorgos Mitralias
Black Days: August 4th,1914 Germany and July 13th, 2015 Greece
Jeffrey R. Wilson
“It Started Like a Guilty Thing”: the Beginning of Hamlet and the Beginning of Modern Politics