Marxist activists across the globe joined 1st May demonstrations over the weekend, commemorating International Workers’ Day. With the bosses on the attack, and workers moving into action, it is time for the unions to prepare for battle.
This 1 May, for May Day 2022, comrades from the International Marxist Tendency participated in demonstrations, protests, and other activities in dozens of locations across the globe, raising the revolutionary banner of socialism as the only road forward for the working class.
Given the dramatic events in world politics, and the increasingly unbearable burden on workers and youth, our ideas connected with the mood even more than in the past.
See below for a report from the 1 May celebrations in London; or visit marxist.com to see highlights of our international May Day activities.
Lenin on May Day: “Prepare for battle!”
May Day – properly known as International Workers’ Day – was established in 1889 by the Second International, in commemoration of the struggle for an eight-hour working day by the American labour movement.
133 years later, workers across the world are still fighting the same battles: against poverty pay; against long hours and injurious conditions; and for decent, secure jobs.
And as with their heroic fight in the 19th century, it is workers in the USA who are once again offering inspiration to millions – this time by organising at multinational corporations such as Amazon and Starbucks.
This will undoubtedly set off a chain reaction of copycat unionisation efforts in similarly brutal workplaces in Britain and other countries.
Already, as inflation bites and the bosses step up their attacks, workers in the UK are “rising like lions from their slumber”, to quote the great revolutionary poet Percy Shelley.
Trade union membership has risen for five years in a row, accompanying a half-decade high in the number of disputes. And this is only set to increase, as new layers of workers are drawn into struggle to defend their lives and livelihoods.
Young workers. Women workers. Black and Asian workers. Those most exploited and oppressed under capitalism. These are the people being swept into the movement as the crisis deepens and the employers go on the offensive.
Already, this has led to the beginning of a transformation inside the unions.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham was elected by rank-and-file members thanks to her fighting stance. And #TimeForRealChange activists in Unison were elected to do exactly that: provide real change for public sector workers in local government, schools, and the NHS.
The task ahead is to complete this transformation: to forge a Marxist leadership in the trade union movement – armed with a bold socialist programme – that can mobilise workers for a militant fightback against the Tories and the bosses.
“May Day is the day when the workers of all lands celebrate their solidarity in the struggle against all coercion and oppression of man by man; the struggle to free the toiling millions from hunger, poverty, and humiliation…”
“Let us prepare with redoubled energy for the decisive battle that is at hand!…Let the celebration of May Day win thousands of new fighters to our cause and swell our forces in the great struggle for the freedom of all the people – for the liberation of all who toil from the yoke of capital!”
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Marxists on the march in London
Last Sunday, on 1 May, thousands of trade unionists and socialists gathered at the Marx Memorial Library at Clerkenwell Green for London’s May Day celebrations.
This was the first exclusively May Day rally since the outbreak of the pandemic, with last year’s march organised to coincide with a Kill the Bill demonstration.
This year’s event highlighted the renewed sense of militancy that is spreading across the labour movement, as workers and youth move into action against the bosses’ attacks.
The RMT – currently balloting for the largest national rail strike in the union’s history – led the march down to Trafalgar Square, with passers-by honking their horns and cheering in support along the way.
Many trade union branches from across the city were represented on the demo, from Unite to PCS. And a variety of protest placards were visible: demanding a £15 per hour living wage for striking railway cleaners in the RMT; and denouncing the recent ‘jobs massacre’ at P&O Ferries.
Union membership is on the rise across Britain, with new layers of workers being drawn into the struggle to defend their lives and livelihoods.
Unfortunately, however, the largest trade unions did not mobilise their members for this commemoration of workers’ struggles throughout history.
Socialist Appeal activists formed the most dynamic, energetic, and revolutionary bloc, with chants including: “The system is broken. Time to fight. Workers of the world, unite!”; “No cuts. No job losses. Expropriate the bosses!”; and “One solution: Revolution!”
Leeds Marxists were out in force on Saturday 30 April to celebrate International Workers’ Day on the streets of an uncharacteristically sunny Leeds.
The city’s May Day celebrations, organised by Leeds TUC, saw a coming together of trade unions, campaigns, and left-wing organisations for an afternoon of music, marching, and speeches.
Led by a jubilant brass band, and with banners held high, the march through Leeds city centre was met by the public with equal parts appreciation and intrigue, with the majority of people responding kindly to flyers and slogans.
After the march, the crowd heard speeches from BFAWU general secretary Sarah Wooley, Labour MP Richard Burgon, and Unison president Paul Holmes, as well as from activists from various unions and campaigns.
One notable speech was from a Domino’s delivery driver who had recently played a role in unionising his workplace. He spoke about how he and his colleagues had won an increase in pay, and about the importance of workers fighting as one.
After this, a member of the RMT gave a report on the recent P&O ‘jobs massacre’, before informing the crowd about the upcoming balloting of over 40,000 members for a national railway strike. Nothing would change, he emphasised, unless the working class recognised its power and took on the bosses.
After this event, Leeds Get Organised (LGO) held a training session for young trade unionists, followed by workers’ patrols.
LGO is an initiative set up by the Leeds TUC and BFAWU to increase the union presence in historically under-unionised industries, with a particular focus on the hospitality and food sector.
Overall, the mood on May Day was militant – a reflection of the fact that working class militancy is on the rise. And with the struggle sharpening, the ideas of Marxism are gaining a bigger echo!
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Socialist Appeal comrades from across Leicestershire attended the recent May Day event in Leicester, celebrating 150 years of the local district TUC. The event itself aimed to build solidarity with workers in the garment industry, which is a huge part of the city’s economy.
There were speakers throughout the day who talked about local campaigns and issues, including a panel discussing the garment industry.
Unfortunately, many of the contributions in these discussions lacked clear and bold demands. Some made vague appeals to “organise in new and creative ways”. One GMB official, meanwhile, suggested cooperation between workers and clothes factory bosses.
By contrast, our comrades stood out with radical demands, including:
- Workers to be employed on full contracts from day one, with a £15 per hour minimum wage and a 30-hour working week.
- Full implementation of all health and safety legislation, under the control and oversight of the trade unions.
- Full union recognition.
- Nationalisation of the sector under workers’ control, if these demands cannot be met.
As a result, we stood out as the largest, youngest, and most vibrant group present.
On the back of this, we’re hoping to hold a public meeting in Leicester next Saturday on the cost-of-living crisis.
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Around 150-200 people attended the Tyne and Wear May Day march and rally in Newcastle on Saturday 30 April. Speakers included RMT president Alex Gordon; NEU president Daniel Kebede; and the editor of the Morning Star.
The event has dwindled in size over recent years, and it was noticeable that there were very few trade union banners present. But that didn’t dent comrades’ enthusiasm!
A sizeable bloc of Socialist Appeal activists attended – by far the largest and most dynamic contingent on the day. The energy and youthfulness of the comrades, in particular, stood out.
Both our paper and our well-stocked book stall also received a lot of interest, with plenty of people approaching us to chat about the ideas we had to offer.
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