Edited by Mike Talavera, with contributions from Gabriel Roshan, Jennifer Kelly, and Jenna Humphrey
In addition to the May Day marches in Austin and Los Angeles, many other cities celebrated International Workers’ Day last Wednesday. These modest but militant marches, actions, and performances demonstrate a clear break from the mainstream US left that has neglected the workers’ holiday for years. These examples show signs of growing momentum behind the trend to reclaim May Day and to reconnect with the International Communist Movement.
The May Day demonstration in Charlotte began as a rally on the corner of S. Tryon and Remount Rd, where a marcher gave a speech on May Day, its rebellious history dating back to Chicago in 1886, and the need to reconstitute the Communist Party of the USA. Following that, a member of Women’s Militant Front spoke on their current campaigns including a Boycott of the misogynist developers the Benham brothers and against local rapists like Manuel Fuentes.
From there, the group began marching towards Brookhill, a historically Black working-class neighborhood which for the past two years has been at the center of demolition talks by City Council and local developers. The march stopped at a high traffic area to allow a member of Serve the People Charlotte to deliver a speech about gentrification and their current campaigns.
The last stretch of the march included taking S. Tryon, one of Charlotte’s busiest streets, defying police who threatened arrest. The march reached its final rendezvous point, where a student gave a speech about the betrayal of the toothless left and why students must link up with workers’ struggles.
People were given literature, and one woman reached her hand out of her car to say, “Hell yeah, we need a revolution, thank y’all for doing this!” The demonstration was met with many other honks of solidarity from passersby.
Militants and activists marched through the working-class neighborhood of East Liberty, shouting anti-gentrification and May Day slogans.
The march took both sides of the street, with people flyering to onlookers with Incendiary News articles on one side while others waved red flags and banners on the other. Much hated and reviled by those living in the area, the “Zone 5” police (the police district for that area) was condemned for the shooting death of Mark Daniels and for their role in oppressing the people.
At one point during the march, a US flag was unfurled. “This American flag flew over the people of Iraq in Tikrit as a symbol of imperialist oppression,” one activist who is a former veteran said, “and now I’ve brought it here to symbolize the need to bring the war home.” The flag was stomped on and then set ablaze, to the sounds of several protestors and workers clapping and honking. A reactionary attacked the group shortly after but retreated away after the group defensively protected themselves.
Organizers celebrated May Day in Houston with several propaganda actions. Early in the morning, a large red banner with a hammer and sickle reading, “EVERYTHING WAS WON THROUGH REVOLUTIONARY VIOLENCE” was dropped across railroad tracks overlooking I-45, right over a local landmark graffiti. It was up during the morning rush hour, carrying forward a bold statement for the day: communists must not be content with reforms but principally be concerned with power.
Celebrations for May Day carried on into the evening as activists went to parks, rode buses and trains, and spoke at the downtown transit center to celebrate the holiday with workers just getting off work. Flyers were handed out and speeches were given about May Day that were met with applause.
One activist told Incendiary, “May day is a workers holiday, it is for them. In the absence of a May Day demonstration, which Houston desperately needs, we went to the workers themselves to agitate for this historic holiday. In the future there will be a Red May Day demonstration, as opposed to the revisionists who are celebrating the holiday on the Fourth with a police-permitted march, or who gather amongst themselves far removed from the masses.”
St. Louis militants and supporters of the US Maoist movement participated in various May Day actions. Riverfront Times newspaper dispensers were appropriated as future distribution sites for Incendiary as well as political education materials for the St. Louis masses.
The dispensers were stocked with pamphlets encouraging the masses to learn about people’s war by taking bold political actions. A statement was posted on the dispensers condemning the Riverfront Times and encouraging people to read and contribute to Incendiary. An anonymous source from St. Louis told Incendiary that militants intend to defend these dispensers from their former owners.
Also on May Day, the Community Power Network organization officially reconstituted under the international slogan combat and resist, and agitational banners were dropped at workplaces of the urban industrial proletariat and graffiti was seen in proletarian neighborhoods on main thoroughfares.
Pamphlets were distributed directly to workers at job sites by CPN members. The literature briefly summarized the importance of May Day and was accompanied by calls to organize against worker exploitation.
May Day in Kansas City this year was a multi-part event, put together by the city’s two revolutionary organizations: Serve the People – Kansas City and Revolutionary Worker’s Movement – Movimiento Revolucionario de Trabajadores, who organize in the fields of housing and labor respectively. It began with original street theater and ended with a night of cultural performances and speeches by local workers.
This was the first year that STP-KC has put on an International Workers’ Day event themselves, and they chose to hold their performance at apartment complexes where property managers have seriously neglected the health and safety of tenants and carry out baseless mass evictions periodically.
The theatrical play written for the event depicts a trio of put-upon renters – one of them a tenant organizer – who are pushed too far by the poor conditions of their homes and the pending eviction of their neighbor and organize to demand an end to evictions and an end to the inhumane conditions they live in. When they are ignored and one of them is roughed up by the landlord, the tenants gather even more of their neighbors and beat up the landlord and the mayor and HUD official who try to defend him into submission.
Upon arriving at Green Village, the first complex, the organizers and the tenant who showed up early to greet them were met with angry management who were quick to call the Kansas City Police Department. The performance began with neighborhood children sitting on the grass for a better view and young adult tenants gathering behind them.
When it became clear that the KCPD could not prevent the play from being performed and the gathered tenants from enjoying it, a member of management tried to shout over the play. When that did not work, he became physically confrontational and the performance had to be halted so organizers could provide a barrier between him and a tenant who had become the target of his frustration for her support of the local anti-eviction brigade.
After the manager was chased off, the play resumed with a larger and more enthusiastic audience drawn in by the commotion.
The performances at the other complex, Nob Hill, were less dramatic but still attracted tenant contacts, helped the brigade to make new contacts, and brought families out on their balconies to watch the educational performance.
One last performance was held at the May Day cultural event hosted by Revolutionary Worker’s Movement – Movimiento Revolucionario de Trabajadores.
This International Worker’s Day event was the first event of its kind for RWM-MRT and the public launch of an organization that has been slowly but steadily building momentum for months. In preparation, the worker’s organization commissioned two original paintings from talented local workers, booked a local laborer and musician to provide entertainment, and made food and desserts for the attendees.
While there were stirring speeches and performances throughout the night, the highlight was a speech on the state of US workers and the state of workers throughout the world. The speaker – an RWM-MRT representative – announced the upcoming campaign against wage theft and how it fits into the larger aims of RWM-MRT as a fighting organization for the proletariat.
The stirring speech called for the reconstitution of the Communist Party of the USA to lead the working class to victory, and to the ultimate goal of Communism.