Friday, March 18, 2005

Chile's Gladys Marín "One of the Essential Ones"

A couple of days before International Women’s Day, the skies accompany us in our pain, the wind does not smell of death, but rather of hope. Woman, mother, wife, Communist, tireless fighter, straight talker, always on one single line ... that was our Gladys Marín, president of the Communist Party of Chile, ex-Parliamentary deputy (and, it is worth noting, the youngest-ever member of Parliament, being only 24 years old when she was elected by the people to that post.

A message from Chile: Our Gladys Marín — one of the essential ones - [People's Weekly World Newspaper]

Thursday, March 17, 2005

May Day Parade to be Led by Bernie Sanders

AMERICA’S only socialist congressman is to lead this year’s May Day parade through Edinburgh, Scotland.

Bernie Sanders, who sits for the state of Vermont in the US House of Representatives, is one of his country’s most outspoken critics of the war in Iraq. And he has led opposition to a spate of corporate scandals rocking America.

Congressman Sanders says he champions "the cause of ordinary hard working American families". More on this story here.

On May 1 the world working class and labour unions display their strength in demonstrations and strikes. May Day "International Workers' Day" is a reminder to the ruling classes that the days of Capital are numbered.

May Day was born from the struggle for the eight-hour work day, and is recognized around the world as a working class holiday, a day of solidarity between workers of all nationalities; a celebration universally feared and resented by the captains of finance and industry.

The seeds were planted in 1791 in Philadelphia where the carpenters first struck for a ten-hour work day. By the 1830s the ten-hour day became a general demand with workers struggling against 12+ hour days.

The American Civil War eliminated slavery in the United States and gave momentum to labour agitating for fair working hours. Marx noted that "out of the death of slavery a new life at once arose. The first real fruit of the Civil War was the eight-hours' agitation, that ran with the seven- leagued boots of the locomotive from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from New England to California."

By 1872 Six years later, in 1872, a hundred thousand workers led by the Knights of Labor in New York City struck and won the eight-hour day, mostly for building trades workers. It was in this rising ferment for the eight-hour day that May Day was born.

The catalyst was The Haymarket incident in Chicago, where hundreds of police clashed with IWPA demonstrators over several days, resulting in deaths on both sides. The anarchist leaders if the IWPA were treated to a show trial and, lacking evidence, where murdered by the state for their beliefs. All were posthumously pardoned.

The AFL (American Federation of Labor) convention in 1888 announced that May 1, 1890, would be a day when labor would enforce the eight-hour day with strikes and demonstrations. Ironically, in 1905 after decades of rightward drift, the AFL had disavowed May Day altogether, celebrating instead Labor Day on the first Monday of September, a celebration sanctioned by the US federal government in 1894 (see Mar 4, How Labor Won Its Day).

Summarized from various sources including Liberation & Marxism, issue no. 27, 1996. L&M, 55 W. 17 St., 5th Fl., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: l& Web:

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Internationale (MP3)

The Internationale, originally French, was written by Eugène Pottier in Paris 1871. Pottier was a socialist and was also a participant during the Paris Commune, which the Internationale was written to celebrate. Pierre Degeyter put the song to music in 1873.

In the years 1918 through late 1943, It was the official anthem of the Soviet Union. For obvious reasons, it is also the anthem of many Communist parties and socialist movements worldwide.

Many times since 1871 the Internationale has been the song of mass protests around the world. Poignantly, the students during Tiananmen Square drew comfort from the song during their ill-fated rebellion. Like them, I find the words and the music very inspirational.

Billy Bragg has released an version of the Internationale, which is admirable and I commend him for it. Bragg's version is very good, however, the sheer poetic imagery of the Pottier's words remind me of some of Poe's better work. "Criminals of want", "reason in revolt now thunders", "servile masses", "drive the indolent from the soil", "farewell the spirit craven", "strike the iron while its hot!" Nothing is watered down, the lines are drawn clearly as is the call to action, all in vivid colour.

The Internationale:

Arise! ye starvelings, from your slumbers;
Arise! ye criminals of want.

For Reason in revolt now thunders,
And ends at last the age of cant.
Now away with all superstitions.
Servile masses, arise! arise!
We'll change forthwith the old conditions,
And spurn the dust to win the prize.

Then comrades, come rally,
And the last fight let us face.
The Internationale
Unites the human race.

We peasants, artisans, and others
Enrolled among the sons of toil,
Let's claim the earth henceforth for brothers,
Drive the indolent from the soil!

On our flesh too long has fed the raven;
We've too long been the vulture's prey.
But now farewell the spirit craven:
The dawn brings in a brighter day.

Then comrades, come rally,
And the last fight let us face.
The Internationale
Unites the human race.

No saviour from on high delivers;
No trust have we in prince or peer.
Our own right hand the chains must shiver:
Chains of hatred, greed, and fear.
Ere the thieves will out with their booty
And to all give a happier lot,
Each at his forge must do his duty
And strike the iron while it's hot!

Then comrades, come rally,
And the last fight let us face.
The Internationale
Unites the human race.

This page has the Internationale in many languages available for free download.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Socialist A.B.C.

This is a great poem/folk song by Alex Glasgow (1935 -2001). A list of Alex's songs can be found at MWM Records. Glasgow was born the son of a coal miner in Gateshead, England. He was well known as a song-writer and radio broadcaster, working for the BBC. His work ranged from angry polemic to tender love songs, including writing the music for the 1968 musical Close the Coalhouse Door.

The Socialist A.B.C.

When that I was and a little, tiny boy,
Me daddy said to me,
'The time has come, me bonny, bonny bairn,
To learn your ABC.'

Now Daddy was a lodge chairman
In the coalfields of the Tyne
And his ABC was different
From the Enid Blyton kind.

He sang,

'A is for Alienation
That made me the man that I am, and

B's for the Boss who's a Bastard,
A Bourgeois who don't give a damn.

C is for Capitalism,
The bosses' reactionary creed, and

D's for Dictatorship, laddie,
But the best proletarian breed.

E is for Exploitation
That workers have suffered so long, and

F is for old Ludwig Feuerbach,
The first one to say it was wrong.

G is all Gerrymanderers,
Like Lord Muck and Sir Whatsisname, and

H is the Hell that they'll go to
When the workers have kindled the flame.

I's for Imperialism,
And America's kind is the worst, and

J is for sweet Jingoism,
That the Tories all think of the first.

K is for good old Kier
Hardy, Who fought out the working class fight, and

L is for Vladimir Lenin,
Who showed him the left was all right.

M is of course for Karl Marx,
The daddy and the mommy of them all, and

N is for Nationalisation -
Without it we'd tumble and fall.

O is for Overproduction,
That capitalist economy brings, and

P is for all Private Property,
The greatest of all of the sins.

Q's for the Quid pro quo,
That we'll deal out so well and so soon, when

R for Revolution is shouted and
The Red Flag becomes the top tune.

S is for Sad Stalinism
That gave us all such a bad name, and

T is for Trotsky, the hero,
Who had to take all of the blame.

U's for the Union of Workers -
The Union will stand to the end, and

V is for Vodka, yes, Vodka,
The one drink that don't bring the bends.

W's for all Willing Workers,
And that's where the memory fades,

For X, Y, and Zed,' my dear daddy said,
'Will be written on the street barricades.'

Now that I'm not a little tiny boy,
Me daddy says to me,
'Please try to forget those thing that I said,Especially the ABC.'

For daddy is no longer a union man,
And he's had to change his plea.

His alphabet is different now,
Since they made him a Labour MP.

A short biography of Alex Glasgow can be found here.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

How Labor Won its Day

The Labor Day march across the Mackinac Bridge led by Michigan's governor. This photo comes from the Detroit News article "How Labor Won Its Day," which inspired the title of my blog. This is an abstract from that article (By Patricia K. Zacharias / The Detroit News):

History has almost forgotten Peter McGuire, an Irish-American cabinet maker and pioneer unionist who proposed a day dedicated to all who labor. Old records describe him as a red-headed, fiery, eloquent leader of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.

McGuire introduced his idea formally at a meeting of the Central Labor Union on May 18,1882. "Let us have, a festive day during which a parade through the streets of the city would permit public tribute to American Industry," [my emphasis rir] he said.

The following September New York workers staged a parade up Broadway to Union Square. Few, if any, workers got the day off. Most were warned against marching in the parade with the threat of getting fired. Despite the warning, more than 10,000 workers showed up for the march. Led by mounted police, bricklayers in white aprons paraded with a band playing "Killarney." The marchers passed a reviewing stand crowded with Knights of Labor: a holiday was born. McGuire's holiday moved across the country as slowly as did recognition of the rights of the working man.

Twelve years later, on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland, long a foe of organized labor, but under voter pressure, signed a Labor Day holiday bill. Earlier that same year, President Cleveland's most famous labor conflict, the Pullman strike in Chicago, had forced the president to call up federal troops. Employees of the Pullman Co., which produced sleeping cars for passenger trains, protested wage cuts. Led by Eugene V. Debs, the American Railway Union (ARU) in sympathy refused to haul railroad cars made by the company. A general railway strike ensued, interfering with mail delivery. When the ARU refused a court order to return to work, Cleveland sent in federal troops. "If it takes the entire army and navy of the United States to deliver a postal card in Chicago, that card will be delivered," he said. Rioting broke out: strikers were killed and leaders jailed, but even as the strike was broken, the labor movement gained steam [thereby forcing Cleveland's hand rir].

See the full article here.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Uruguay Inaugurates First Socialist President

March 1st, 2005, Dr. Tabare Vazquez took office as Uruguay's first socialist president, joining the ranks of left-leaning leaders in Latin America now six in all governing a majority of the region's people with a cautious approach to U.S.-backed free-market policies.

Uruguay Inaugurates First Socialist President As Latin America Continues Tilt Leftward