May Day 2023

The following statement was distributed at the 8 Hour Monument in Melbourne on May Day, 1 May.

The Origins of May Day

On the 1st of May, 1886, unions in Chicago, heavily influenced by the American anarchist movement, went on strike for the eight hour day.  A worker was shot dead by a cop, so a protest was called for 4 May.  After an unidentified person threw a bomb, the police started shooting.  When the dust settled, seven cops and at least four civilians were dead.  Some of the cops had probably died from friendly fire.  A huge anti-Anarchist campaign ensued and eight Anarchists were convicted in a kangaroo court.  The State killed four, while one committed suicide.  The labour movement started a campaign for the exoneration of the Haymarket Martyrs and eventually succeeded.  In the process, May Day became the day of the international workers’ movement.

The Workers’ Movement Today

We continue to spend most of our waking lives working for bosses who enrich themselves at our expense. Governments, maintaining the interests of capitalism, continue to enact policies which are hurtling us to climate destruction. The capitalists use their media companies to scapegoat most vulnerable: migrants, refugees, the LGBT community. Meanwhile, the one real weapon we have at our disposal to fight for our own interests, our unions, are tied down by a thousand anti-worker laws and integrated as far as possible into the State.

In industrialised countries, the established union movement continues its long decline.  This is especially true in Australia. For decades, union leaders have told members to put their hopes in governments and not in the power to strike.They are unwilling to face the reality that rights are taken and not granted – that it has always been direct action, within or outside the law, and the threat of revolution which produces change in our favour, and not changes in government. Declining union density is not a reason to shrink from the task of taking such bold action. Indeed, the cowardice of the union officials contributes significantly to the decline in membership. In France (where union density is even lower than here in Australia) the working class is in open rebellion against the bosses, and their puppet, President Macron, as they attempt to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64. If the movement fails, it will only be because the union leadership has done everything to limit the movement, and to avoid the indefinite strike!

One Solution: Revolution

No government can save us. Only the working class free itself. We need to make a revolution.  We need to overthrow capitalism and build libertarian communism, worldwide.  For this, the labour movement needs to be built anew.  We need to organise in the workplace and rebuild our unions from the ground up.  We need rank and file control. The practices by which we build our movement will be the ones that form the basis of the new society. 


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