Reports from US and Israel
Workers, youth and immigrants march together on May Day
Boston’s 2002 May Day rally was called by the local AFL/CIO together with immigrant organisations in support of immigrant rights and legalisation of immigrants. AFL-CIO leader Linda Chavez-Thompson and local immigrant and union leaders spoke. The rally was held in downtown Boston, on Boston Common, and attended by approximately 200-300 people, over half of them immigrant, union members. The most prominent union was SEIU Local 254, which leads the Boston-area Justice for Janitors campaign. This union local has recently been placed in "trusteeship" i.e. taken over by the national union and some of the old guard leadership was replaced. The previous, longstanding right wing leadership refused to support its immigrant workforce and even collaborated with Tufts University in mass layoffs of the immigrant janitors and custodians there in 1997-’98.
Our Socialist Alternatives (US CWI section) branch had a literature/information table at the May Day rally in the Common and we intervened with a leaflet in Brazilian-Portuguese and one in English; giving some political perspectives and advertising a public meeting we are holding on immigrants’ rights. We were in fact the only left organization with non-English literature and/or fliers. We sold 21 papers and distributed about 200 leaflets.
At night (May 1st) a Labor film festival opened at a well-known local cinema. Howard Zinn, the well-known left academic, attended and introduced the presentation of a film about the Harvard sit-in for a Living Wage that took place last Spring. The film, really a video, is called ‘Occupation’ and it is being shown on campuses around the country: about 300 people attended the Labor Film night and we distributed another 100 plus leaflets and sold 2 papers before the video began.
For the third year running, anti-capitalist youth have teamed up with local unions for May Day demonstrations in downtown Minneapolis. In 2000, Hotel Workers protesting abuse of immigrant workers and young people, numbering around 200, faced down police violence to re-establish the traditions of May Day in the Twin Cities. In 2001, over 500 demonstrated, with union stewards maintaining a discipline and successfully avoiding confrontation with the police.
This year nearly 400 demonstrated, with HERE and SEIU organising protests in front of a union busting hotel. A contingent from the Somali community joined in to show their opposition to recent police and FBI abuse. A mentally ill Somali man was recently murdered – shot 16 times – by the local police force. Several Somali businesses have been arbitrarily shut down, being after being accused of funnelling money to "terrorists" back home.
Young people, many around the growing anarchist scene in the area, made up over half the May Day march. Some anarchists split the march halfway through in order to show their opposition to the marching with a police permit, provoking verbal clashes with the carpenter union stewards. But the police, stung by recent public outcry against several recent instances of brutality, studiously avoided clashing with the anarchist’s illegal march.
Socialist Alternative sold 15 papers and made 7 contacts. One young downtown service worker saw the march and immediately took his "lunch break" to join in. He came right up to me and excitedly asked to buy a paper. He was even more excited when I told him it was a socialist publication, and signed up to receive email information about our SA branch meetings.
Ty Moore, Minneapolis.
The day after the May Day seminars and rally, Maavak Sozialisti (‘Socialist Struggle’ – CWI section in Israel) held a public meeting on internationalism. Thirteen people attended, including two contacts and a new person (one of the new people turned up wearing a Maavak Sozialisti T-shirt).
The atmosphere at the meeting was lively and very positive. In the past, our public meetings have often been taken up answering "Is socialism really possible?" type questions, but in this meeting, no doubts were raised. Instead, the new people started the discussion by enthusiastically raising original and exciting ideas on how we could recruit more comrades.
On Friday, we featured on the weekly, prime time evening TV news, in an extended item on May Day. With their Maavak Sozialisti T-shirts, our comrades were very visible on the demonstration and in the seminars. One comrade was interviewed, and spoke about the need to struggle against the billionaire families that control Israeli society, and are robbing us blind. He explained that one of the main reasons the pro-market governments and powers drew up the Oslo agreements was for the purpose of increasing the exploitation of Arab and Palestinian workers, including moving factories from Israel to Arab countries. When asked what the alternative was, he said workers’ solidarity and revolution.