Our View: May Day 2013

Economics

 

Today, May Day, workers, students, immigrants, and all those who struggle for equality and democracy worldwide will take to the streets in a show of strength and solidarity. On May Day 2013, coming just a week after a factory collapse in Bangladesh cost the lives of more than 400, as technocrats in Brussels continue to bleed the sick economies of Southern Europe with self-defeating austerity measures, and here, in the United States, as more and more men and women, young and old alike are added to rolls of the precarious workforce, we at The Mantle add our voices to all those in the square:

 

Shake the midtown towers,

 

Shatter the downtown air!

 

While May Day is a national holiday in over eighty countries across the globe, it is not in the United States, where it was first celebrated in 1890 in commemoration of the Haymarket Riot four years prior. Instead, and we imagine this will come as a surprise to the majority of American citizens (at least those who didn’t have to pass a citizenship exam), today is Law Day in the United States. President Dwight Eisenhower declared on May 1st 1958, the first Law Day, that “the world no longer has a choice between force and law. If civilization is to survive it must choose the rule of law.” Thus we have the absurdity of dueling holidays; which, however, nicely represents the opposition between labor and law under State Capitalism, where law enforcement is quickly deployed to suppress the "anarchic violence" of workers demanding an eight-hour day, students protesting in support of an affordable education, or immigrants striking against proposed deportation measures.

There is much to be cynical about in a world where the lives of factory workers can’t be protected while they labor, where the vital energies of the young are wasted in marginal employment, where retiree pensions are slowly devoured by predatory banking practices. But the workers who fill the squares on May Day, the students who participate in Free Universities, and the immigrants who march shoulder to shoulder demanding that their work should not require the sacrifice of their dignity—they are not cynical. They have discovered that the most potent antidote to cynicism is irony. The people in the streets understand the true meaning of Law Day when they face off against the helmeted, masked, and armed forces of the state. The marchers on May Day know that what faces the people with weapons of war is not law but naked force, and they respond with arms more devastating to the authorities than rocks or bombs: they respond with their laughter. We at The Mantle laugh with them.

 

 

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Editorial, Labor, United States, Violence