Saturday, May 02, 2020

May Day through the years

So is the past due to repeat itself? In many respects, it already has. The battles of 1919 and 1934 are as relevant now as they were then, and despite a century of technological innovation and social progress, many of the same wretched, oppressive, dangerous conditions that 20th-century workers fought so hard against remain today. Those glaring structural flaws — rampant capitalist exploitation, the greed of soulless bosses, government disinterest in workers’ lives, and a lack of proper sanitation, safety measures, or health care — have only been magnified in the harsh light of this pandemic. It’s no wonder that the workers themselves are drawing on the lessons of the past to demand a better future, and if a general strike truly is in the cards, now’s the time to show our hand.

When Emma Goldman wrote, “Ask for work. If they don't give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread” in her 1910 collection Anarchism and Other Essays, she could not have imagined the exact contours of the crisis workers face today. For many, there is no work, there is no bread, there are no masks. But there are their fellow workers, and for now, that might just be enough to win the rest.

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