(Photo above: General strike on May Day in Sri Lanka)
The ORGANIZER Weekly Newsletter
Special Supplement to Issue No. 62
May 11, 2022
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IN THIS ISSUE:
• IWC Report: May Day Around the World: The International Campaign Against War Is Getting Organized
• Report from Sacramento, Calif.
• Report from San Jose, Calif.
• Updated list of U.S. Endorsers of April 3 Emergency Antiwar Appeal
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May Day Around the World: The International Campaign Against War Is Getting Organized
On May Day 2022, workers and their organizations gathered in many countries around the world – with many exceptions this year: in a number of countries, war, repression, and restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic prevented workers from gathering. Conversely, in some countries where workers are on the offensive, such as Sri Lanka, some of the May Day rallies called by labor organizations were extremely massive.
Where trade union and political initiatives did take place, the rejection of war was sometimes expressed among the demands. Present in these demonstrations and marches were the activists who took part in the International Emergency Meeting Against War on April 3. They circulated the meeting’s appeal, which had originally been signed by labor activists from 50 countries, and translated it into some 20 languages, to make it known and to get it signed.
This appeal, titled “Workers of the world, labor organizations, oppressed peoples, unite against war and exploitation,” echoed far and wide. The appeal states:
“These ongoing wars and the destruction and barbarism that they unleash against workers and peoples, are the fruit of the capitalist system based on private ownership of the means of production – and its decay. … The war unleashed by order of President Putin on February 24, 2022 in Ukraine is no exception to the rule. Nothing can justify this intervention. … Having stated that, we cannot ignore the fact that the great capitalist powers – led by the U.S. Biden administration, the European Union and the capitalist countries that make up the E.U. … – had done everything yesterday to provoke this conflict. They are doing everything today to stir it up. … We must reject any form of sacred union / national unity with warmongering governments, with the multinationals and the capitalists that provoke wars. The only union that is consistent with the cause of peace and social justice is the union of the workers and peoples of the whole world.”
This issue of the IWC newsletter provides an overview of the international campaign against war in the May Day demonstrations based on correspondence from Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Burundi, Canada, China (including Hong Kong), France, Hungary, Mexico, Moldova, Palestine, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Rwanda, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.
This joint effort, bringing workers, young people and labor activists of all tendencies together in the same struggle and throughout the world, is an encouragement to ensure the success of the World Conference Against War and Exploitation, for a Workers’ International (Paris, October 29 and 30, 2022), which will open with the International Conference of Working Women.
In London, the demonstration was organized by the Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils and the regional trade union organizations Unite, CWU, PCS, RMT, ASLEF, GMB, UNISON, FBU, etc., as well as several migrant workers’ organizations and political organizations. Signatures were collected on the call by the International Emergency Meeting Against War among trade unionists and students at the rally outside the Marx Memorial Library.
The call for the emergency meeting was generally well received and opened up discussion: some members of the European Left Party refused to acknowledge Putin’s responsibility, but most agreed. On May 1st, in a provincial town, a group of 15 activists from a Roma association from five municipalities expressed their agreement and signed the appeal “We don’t want war, but peace at all costs.” We are not giving up the fight to end this war.
Referring to “the martyrs of Chicago who gave their lives for the 8-hour day,” the activists of the Bangladesh Workers’ Democratic Party, signatories of the call for the emergency meeting against the war, recalled the relevance of the May Day struggle for shorter working hours: “We send you this photo which shows the elderly forced to work in our country because there is no retirement pension system.”
Under the yoke of the Taliban regime’s terror, workers obviously have no right to assemble or demonstrate, neither on May Day nor on any other day of the year. Despite these terrible conditions, activists of the Left Radical of Afghanistan inform us that on the occasion of International Workers’ Day the call of the International Emergency Meeting Against War was translated into Dari (the Persian dialect spoken in Afghanistan) and widely circulated, not only in Afghanistan, but also in Iran.
The call was supported and endorsed by dozens of workers, young people and activists. Because of the Taliban regime’s repression, “workers, youth, women and activists celebrated May Day in small groups across the country. During these clandestine meetings, workers expressed their condolences to the families of the seven miners shot dead last week in Samangan province (northern Afghanistan). On this May Day 2022 in Afghanistan, the slogans were: ‘No to war and imperialist intervention’ and ‘Work, bread and freedom for all workers’.”
“The celebration of May 1st 2022 took place under the dual sign of the defense of workers’ demands and the rejection of war and exploitation,” states our correspondent. “Numerous events were organized, including the march, followed by a rally at the Cotonou Labour Exchange, the teachers’ meeting in Porto-Novo and the day of reflection among health workers in Cotonou. In addition to the workers’ demands linked to the high cost of living and the April 26 meeting between the trade union confederations and the President of the Republic, the question of war was at the centre of the reflections and exchanges around the appeal by the International Emergency Meeting. Especially since the Russian-Ukrainian war is being used by the government: on April 26, it clearly told workers’ representatives that it was no longer in a position to raise wages, given ‘the negative effects of the war in Ukraine’, and postponed this possibility until November 2022. In addition to the demands for the ‘withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine’ and the ‘dissolution of NATO’, the workers also demanded the ‘withdrawal of all occupying and recolonizing troops from the African continent’ and the ‘rejection of the deployment and installation in Benin of the French occupying troops expelled from Mali’. In total, 69 new signatures of workers and activists were collected.”
There was no rally on May 1st, as in other countries of the Maghreb and the Mashreq (because the feast of Aïd, which marks the end of Ramadan, fell on that day this year). But 35 new activists, workers and young people joined the appeal by the International Meeting, among them Amel Hadjadj, feminist activist and editor of the Algerian Feminist Journal; Hamid Bouhbib, worker activist and former member of the leadership of the Socialist Workers’ Party (PST); Adel Abderazak, worker activist, university teacher, co-founder of the PST; and Karim Bouadjaoui, former deputy of the Workers’ Party (PT) and president of the Workers’ Solidarity Committee.
At the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) rally in Gauteng province, signatures were collected on the appeal by the April 3 emergency meeting. In the north-western mining province of Rustenburg, the President of the Republic (and of the ANC), Cyril Ramaphosa, was due to address the meeting of the trade union centre COSATU, a partner of the ANC and the Communist Party in the governing coalition. But Ramaphosa had to be evacuated by security forces when several hundred miners invaded the lawn and then the podium, booing the president. They considered Ramaphosa to be an accomplice of their employers, the bosses of the gold and platinum mining company Sibanye-Stillwater, who are refusing their unions NUM and AMCU’s demand for a 1,000 rand increase. It should be remembered that in August 2012 the repression of the Marikana miners’ strike (in Rustenburg) left 34 strikers dead after the police intervened at the request of a certain Cyril Ramaphosa, then a shareholder in one of the mining companies.
In Brussels, our correspondents report, the May Day celebration of the General Federation of Workers in Belgium (FGTB) was an opportunity for its leaders to express their “disappointment” with the Socialist Party ministers, who sit alongside right-wing parties in government, and to call on them to “get their act together,” which did not convince many of the workers and union activists present. “The appeal of the emergency meeting against the war in a bilingual French/Dutch version was massively distributed and 42 signatures were collected: workers, trade unionists, students, showed their agreement with the call’s slogans.”
As they did in the popular demonstration of April 25 (commemorating, as every year, the Portuguese Revolution of April 1974), marked by the massive presence of young people, the activists of O Trabalho had a stand in the May Day demonstration to get the appeal of the International Emergency Meeting Against War signed: “Many interesting discussions took place with activists from the CP, the PS and others. Several hundred copies of the appeal were distributed.”
The Spanish State
In Bilbao (Basque Country), reports our correspondent, whether they demonstrated in the march of the pro-independence union LAB, or in the one called by the organizations ELA, UGT, CCOO, CNT, ESK, ESTE-EILAS, “the workers expressed their demands for the defense of their jobs and their working conditions, for an increase in wages and pensions, the defense of public health, against wage inequalities between men and women and for the repeal of the counter-reforms of work and retirement pensions” that the left-wing government (in which the Socialist and Communist parties as well as Podemos are represented) refuses to carry out. Workers and activists signed the call for the emergency meeting in the trade union march.
This year, May Day fell one week after Macron’s re-election.
Nevertheless, in all the cities there were large demonstrations where, on union banners and signs, workers and young people sought to express their determination to fight for their demands. Foremost among them was the refusal to postpone the retirement age, but also for increasing wages and retirement pensions and freezing of prices, etc.
On this “day of international workers’ solidarity,” many workers and young people expressed their indignation over the increase in the military budget, while the demands were not being met.
Activists from the Independent Democratic Workers’ Party (POID) took to the streets in 54 cities to publicize and sign the appeal — an appeal that attracted an important amount of support among trade union activists, workers and young people: 1,961 of them signed it. 821 workers, activists and young people bought the newspaper La Tribune des Travailleurs.
According to our correspondent, “tens of thousands of workers marched in a procession in the Maltepe district of Istanbul. The police had arrested more than 160 people who had tried to defy the ban on demonstrations in the central Taksim Square in Istanbul. The Workers’ Own Party (IKEP) participated in the Maltepe demonstration as part of the procession led by the United Workers’ Front (BIZ), which has been campaigning for months for a workers’ government, for emergency measures for workers. The United Workers’ Front organized a forum where workers from different sectors in which struggles for demands are developing were given the floor.” IKEP published a special May Day issue of its journal for the occasion, reproducing the call of the International Emergency Meeting.
China and Hong Kong
In mainland China, activists and groups have expressed their agreement with the appeal by the emergency meeting. Some have circulated the Chinese version on social networks, others have indicated that “a printed version will be circulated.” In Hong Kong, states a correspondent, “as in the rest of China, the crackdown (National Security Law) and restrictions related to a new wave of Covid-19 contamination did not allow for any mass public gatherings, with gatherings of more than four people being banned. However, several trade union organizations held a picket in front of the government headquarters (the cleaners’ union, the association of women workers, etc.) to demand, in particular, an unemployment insurance system – which does not exist in Hong Kong – and better protection for workers.”
From Moldova, a small republic located between Ukraine and Romania, where recent clashes threaten to import war, activists of the organization Popular Resistance greeted the workers of the world on the occasion of this International Workers’ Day against exploitation “and above all, against war,” they insisted. In a leaflet, they “express[ed] their solidarity with the workers of Ukraine and Russia, victims of a fratricidal war, and condemn the ruling classes of these countries and the imperialists of the United States and the European Union whose policies have led to this bloodbath.”
In Russia, the unleashing of repression since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine has prevented workers from demonstrating their aspirations for peace and their demands. The only rallies that took place, called by the “Communist” Party or the State-integrated trade unions, merely repeated the chauvinist and patriotic propaganda of Putin’s regime.
One of our correspondents informs us: “On the eve of May Day, trade union activist Kirill Ukratsev was arrested. On the occasion of the International Workers’ Day, citizens wanted to express their support for Kirill and their solidarity with his trade union with this graffiti: The regime has proved that it will crush any attempt to fight for economic and political rights. It will not allow workers’ solidarit; it only needs their submission to the undivided power of the oligarchs. Strength and determination in the struggle of the working class!”
Under the title: “May Day for Palestinian workers: ongoing suffering, colonization, occupation and apartheid,” an activist from Gaza, signatory of the call of the International Emergency Meeting recalls that it is “in a difficult context, marked in particular by the continuation of the occupation, the maintaining of colonization and the atrocious measures of the occupation that Palestinian workers are celebrating World Labor Day this May Day 2022.”
Despite this, “workers continue to work in the heart of the conflict. … They are exploited by racial discrimination; their Israeli employers take advantage of this context and refuse to give them guarantees. They are underpaid compared to Israeli workers. With minimal protection, Palestinian workers are forced to pay social security contributions and membership fees to the trade union of Israeli workers, without being represented in the union.”
Denouncing “the silence of the official international community,” he salutes “trade unions and workers around the world who are celebrating this May Day 2022 with Palestinian flags and banners, highlighting the courage, determination and resistance of Palestinian workers.”
Several thousand copies of the appeal by the International Emergency Meeting were distributed by activists of all tendencies who are preparing the World Conference Against War and Exploitation (teacher and oil trade unionists, political activists) in the May Day rallies in Mexicali and Tijuana (Baja California), in the Zocalo Square in the federal capital, Mexico City, as well as in Tuxtla Gutierrez and San Cristobal (state of Chiapas).
Although it has its roots in the history of the labor movement in the United States, in the repression of the 1886 strike in Chicago, May Day has long been ignored by the leaders of the U.S. labor movement. But for several years now, some trade union organizations have revived May Day and reclaimed it as their own.
In California, a demonstration was held in Los Angeles at the call from the Los Angeles Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) and community organizations. In San Francisco, it was the Labor Council (which brings together most of the trade union organizations in the city) that called for a demonstration. Many signatures of union activists and officials were collected on the call for the emergency meeting.
In Sacramento, a march brought together farm workers affiliated with the United Farm Workers of America and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the AFL-CIO’s constituency group that advocates for Latino/a workers. Demanding the regularization of all undocumented workers (“Citizenship For All!”), the march went to the Democratic Party (Biden’s party) headquarters in the city.
“The tomatoes you eat, I’ve been picking them in the fields for 20 years,” explained Gabriel, an immigrant worker who still has no papers. Like him, Xochitl, a farm worker, is revolted by years of unfulfilled promises by the Democratic Party: “This is my home. I am the one working in the fields, not the big bosses who employ us. But it’s me, not the bosses, who can be deported at any moment because I don’t have papers!”
Speaking at the rally, Mya Shone, a member of the editorial board of the working-class newspaper The Organizer concluded:
“To our labor union leaders who have given approval to President Biden’s war plans and increased expenditure for arms production, we say you do not speak for us. These are our unions, and we stand against war and exploitation. To the Democratic Party, in front of whose headquarters in Sacramento we stand today, we say: Deepening exploitation and repression are all that you have to offer the working class and oppressed communities.
“That is why I call upon all of you gathered here to sign the appeal [by the International Emergency Meeting Against War] and distribute it widely. Let us also join together to build labor and community coalitions that will be building blocks for our own political party, a working-class party independent of the two parties of capital. … Let us speak with one voice to say: workers of the world, workers’ organizations, oppressed peoples, let us unite against war and exploitation.” [See Mya Shone’s full statement below.]
And also …
In Switzerland, activists had the appeal signed at the trade union march in Geneva. In Peru, signatures were collected despite the healthcare restrictions that hampered initiatives on May Day (the appeal appeared in the workers’ newspaper El Organizador). New signatures were also collected in Canada, Senegal, Rwanda and Burundi, including the signature of a leader of the Association of Single Mothers.
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May Day 2022 in Sacramento, Calif.
On Sunday, May 1, the Sacramento (CA) chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA, AFL-CIO) held its 20th Annual International Workers Day / 1 Mayo march.
The appeal sent out to build support for this event urged working people and youth to “send a message to President Biden that ‘Ya Basta!’ – Enough Is Enough! – the separation of families will no longer be tolerated. The families and workers who are forced to migrate need protection, they demand a ‘Pathway to Citizenship Now!’
“We will march,” the LCLAA invitation stated, “out of SEIU 2015, over the Tower Bridge (Sacramento River), to the California Democratic Party office on 9th and S streets to demand this ‘pathway to citizenship’ for the farm workers who harvest our fruits and vegetables who have been waiting too long for a life without fear from being deported and separated from their families, and all asylum seekers.”
We are publishing below the statement to the Sacramento May Day rally delivered by Mya Shone, member of the Editorial Board of The Organizer Weekly Newsletter.
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“Some of you here today know what it is like to be compelled to flee your homes”:
Mya Shone’s May Day Speech to Sacramento LCLAA Demonstration
Sisters, brothers, siblings, compañeras y compañeros,
Our march and protest this May Day-International Workers Day  is taking place in the midst of another barbaric and genocidal war of expansion, domination, pillage, and profit for which there is no benefit for the working class in any part of the world. Cities, towns and villages in Ukraine have been leveled or rendered uninhabitable with the number of wounded and dead in the thousands. Already a quarter of Ukraine’s population have been forced to flee their homes.
Some of you here today know what it is like to be compelled to flee your homes. For many, if not you, then your mothers and fathers, or grandparents.
While the war in Ukraine was unleashed by the Putin regime in Russia on February 24th, it also was provoked by the United States and its European allies in NATO in this era of permanent war.
It was scarcely five months after the last U.S. soldier left Afghanistan last summer that President Biden sent combat units from the United States to NATO’s eastern flank. A few weeks later, in early March, Congress approved $13.6 billion to fund a war in Ukraine. Then, on April 13, President Biden requested another $800 million and yet another $800 million a few days afterward. Are you tallying up the numbers? Don’t stop there! This week Biden asked Congress for another $33 billion, with a warning that Ukraine will be another protracted war.
We, workers, know what this means. We know the cost of war. Year after year, the United States Congress allocates more than half of its budget appropriations to the military, $813 billion this year. But that is not all that Congress spends on war. Federal expenditure for direct military actions — such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria— is estimated at $8 trillion since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Meanwhile, we are told that there are there are no funds for childcare and not enough funds for education, medical care, or housing. Meanwhile, nearly one third of the population in the United States, 100 million people, live in economic insecurity on the brink of being unable to feed, clothe and provide housing and medical care for themselves and their families.
We stand here together today to say no more.
On April 3, more than 200 activists from all tendencies of the workers movement from 47 countries gathered for an international emergency meeting against war. The appeal that was issued afterwards has been signed by activists and leaders in 51 countries. That appeal states in part:
“These ongoing wars, and the destruction and barbarism that they unleash against workers and peoples, are the very fruit of the capitalist system based upon the private ownership of the means of production and its decay. It is a system which, in order to reap ever greater profits, shrinks from no aggression.”
Those who sign the appeal agree: “Nothing can justify the Russian intervention. This is why we are for stopping this intervention, for an immediate ceasefire, and for the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.”
Furthermore, understanding that the United States, NATO, and the European Union are co-belligerents, “we combine the demand for the “withdrawal of Russian troops” with the demand for the “withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Europe,” and the “withdrawal of all foreign occupation troops from all countries of the world.”
I call upon you gathered here today to sign this international appeal.
We know that there is no time to lose. One half of all children in Ukraine have been forced from their homes by war; Mexican, Central American, and Haitian migrants fleeing oppression and economic dislocation have been refused entry into the United States; six million Palestinians live in refugee camps and diaspora; 32 million Africans are either internally displaced or refugees. Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas … Peoples throughout the world are ravaged by war and exploitation.
To our labor union leaders who have given approval to President Biden’s war plans and increased expenditure for arms production, we say you do not speak for us. It is our unions and we stand against war and exploitation.
To the Democratic Party, in front of whose headquarters in Sacramento we stand today, we say: Deepening exploitation and repression are all that you have to offer the working class and oppressed communities. That is why I call upon all of you gathered here to sign the appeal and distribute it widely. Let us also join together to build labor and community coalitions that will be building blocks for our own political party, a working-class party independent of the two parties of capital.
Let us speak with one voice to say: workers of the world, workers’ organizations, oppressed peoples, let us unite against war and exploitation.
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May Day in San Jose, Calif.
By E.J. Esperanza
In San Jose, hundreds marched to city hall in contingents representing service workers, immigrant workers, domestic workers, and community-based organizations, among others. Speaking at the rally, Jofel, an undocumented activist with the Movement for Papeles Para Todos (Citizenship for All) stated the movement’s demands:
“We demand citizenship for all, without exclusions or divisions, we demand a stop to deportations and the release of children at the border and reunification of families, and the closures of detention centers, and the abolition of ICE, and that fights for full recognition of all our civil and democratic rights as migrant workers, including the right to vote, the right to education, the right to a fair wage, the right to housing, the right to health care, the right to a fair retirement, and the right to travel the world freely with legal status without discrimination.”
Galvanizing those in attendance, Jofel stressed that the campaign “is organized independently of the Democrats and Republicans, who, as we all know, have betrayed us with empty promises and want to divide our community with exclusions and deportations.” She called instead on building a movement “based on the collective power of the 11 million undocumented workers living in the country in alliance with all the exploited and oppressed sectors of the working class through labor stoppages like we saw on that historic day – May 1, 2006 – a day without immigrants, where over 10 million immigrants shut down major cities across the country.”
Jofel ended her rousing speech by calling on all organizations to support the local fight in San Jose to extend voting rights to undocumented immigrants in municipal elections without regard to legal status, an important step forward toward in wining citizenship for all.
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U.S. List of Endorsers of April 3 Emergency Appeal Against War
Donna Dewitt*, President Emerita (ret), South Carolina AFL-CIO, Charleston, SC; Desirée Rojas*, President, Sacramento Chapter, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (AFLCIO), Sacramento, CA; Sean McMahon, Immigrant rights activist, San Francisco, CA; Rodger Scott*, Past President, AFT 2121 San Francisco, CA; Nnamdi Lumumba, State Organizer, Ujima People’s Progress Party (Maryland); Petros Bein, Maryland; Lita Blanc*, Past President, United Educators of San Francisco; San Francisco, CA; Marlena Santoyo, Philadelphia Federation of Teachers; Alan Benjamin, Socialist Organizer National Organizing Committee, San Francisco, CA; Connie White*, Member, Continuations Committee of Labor & Community for an Independent Party (LCIP), Long Beach, CA; Michael Carano, Teamsters Local 348, retired Tallmadge, OH; Mya Shone; Socialist Organizer National Organizing Committee, Vallejo, CA; David Walters*, IBEW 1245 Retired, Pacifica, CA; Dan Kaplan*, Executive Secretary, retired, AFT Local 1493, Berkeley, CA.
Jim Lafferty, Executive Director Emeritus, National Lawyers Guild, Los Angeles, CA; William Bronston*, M.D., Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), chair, California Capitol Chapter, Carmicheal, CA; Ralph Schoenman, Secretary General, International War Crimes Tribunal (Vietnam War); Marilyn Vogt-Downey, longtime political activist, NYC/Brooklyn; Marie Dupont, Haiti Liberté, Brooklyn, NY; Kathe Burick*, AFT 2121, San Francisco, CA; F. Christophe Silvera*, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 808, Long Island City, New York; Tim Stinson, Socialist Organizer,. Eugene, OR; Millie Phillips, editorial board member, The Organizer, Oakland, CA; Don Bryant*, NALC Branch 40, North Royalton, OH; Bradley Wiedmaier*, Former Executive Board, SEIU UHW United Healthcare Workers West & SEIU 2015 California Long Care Health Workers, San Francisco CA; Cheryl Thornton*, SEIU 1021, San Francisco, CA; Ali C, activist, Oakland, CA; Brenda Barros*, SEIU 1021 (San Francisco General Hospital), San Francisco, CA; Bill Shields*, AFT 2121 (retired), San Francisco, CA; Alan Perez*, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) School Counselor, Oakland CA; Melody Davis*, O.E.B.D.C., Oakland, CA; Paul Cook, activist, Oakland, CA; William D Cooper, A Waking Dream, Oakland, CA; Juan Juluz, Oakland, CA; Kevin Nuro, activist; Menlo Park, CA; Cynthia Landry*, SEIU, San Francisco, CA; Claudette Jaime*, UFCW, Local 5, Oakland, CA; Robert Kolbe*, SEIU 1021, San Francisco, CA; Phil Javier, San Francisco, CA.
(* for id. only).