Thursday, May 01, 2008

Bread and Roses – Happy May Day!

If you have a minute to down tools and look up from your work – whether paid or unpaid – for a minute, I urge you to perform at least one subtle act of resistance, or defiance, against that great yoke of human life – work – in celebration of today's international workers' holiday and moment for remembering labour struggles.

Of course, it isn't a holiday here in Victoria, Australia, because this state celebrates 'Labour Day' on another day that commemorates the start of the eight-hour day campaign in the 19th century. All the same, it is still important to pause and reflect on how workers across the world have traditionally celebrated our struggles for justice and our rights as workers. So I'm using this moment to have a cup of tea and quickly write this post – my small act of resistance against the sometimes overwhelming expectation to 'get the job done' before the end of the day.

Of course, May Day is still tied so intrinsically to the celebrations of various socialist, communist, anarchist, anarcho-syndicalist and various other democratic (or otherwise) versions of movements for revolutionary change. However differently
they envisaged what they were changing, how they were to achieve the change, and what they wanted instead, they usually fiercely clung to the ideal of people across the world uniting in celebration of their struggles on this one day. Tonight, if things go as they predictably do on this day across the world, you will probably see footage of rallies turning into riots by anarchists in France or Socialists somewhere in South America, but before you go 'tut-tut, bloody commies' and write them off, do spare a thought for the fact that over 100 years since the early socialists started campaigning around food, land, freedom and dignity and liberty in labour, including around the slogans of bread and land, or my old favourite, 'bread and roses', the United Nations is warning us that we are entering one of the worst global food crises – putting the health, security and lives of millions of people at risk.

So no, capitalism hasn't solved world hunger after all.

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