The Real Workers’ Holiday

Late last week, President Obama issued a proclamation naming May 1st, 2016 as “Loyalty Day” in the United States. The proclamation reads, in part, “On this day, let us reaffirm our allegiance to the United States of America and pay tribute to the heritage of American freedom.”

Loyalty Day was first celebrated in 1921, during the First Red Scare. It was originally called “Americanization Day” and was created intentionally to replace International Workers’ Day, the worldwide celebration of worker solidarity. It was enshrined into law in 1955 by the U.S. Congress during the Second Red Scare, and has been proclaimed each year by every President since Eisenhower.

Throughout history, control of the calendar has been used to set the ideological agenda. One need not look very far into the history of Catholic liturgical calendar to see this. Samhain was transformed into the Feast of All Saints. The Vernal Equinox became the Annunciation. The Summer Solstice became the Nativity of John the Baptist. The list goes on and on.

This practice has not been lost on our own ruling class.

Utah Phillips said “Yes, the long memory is the most radical idea in this country. It is the loss of that long memory which deprives our people of that connective flow of thoughts and events that clarifies our vision, not of where we’re going, but where we want to go.”

In the years of struggle to come, it is more important than ever that we cultivate the long memory. Celebration of International Workers’ Day is the foundation upon which an understanding of what it means to be a true American rests. Our heritage as fighting working class radicals must not be undermined by the false consciousness imposed on us by the One Percent.

Below are a few links, highly recommended for the occasion. For a longer read, I would also recommend Sharon Smith’s excellent history of the labor movement in America, Subterranean Fire.

Today Is Our Day – by Jonah Walters at Jacobin – This May Day, we should celebrate the historic triumphs of the labor movement and the struggles to come.

The legacy of Haymarket – by Sharon Smith at Socialist Worker – Sharon Smith chronicles the hidden history of the Haymarket Martyrs, the movement for the eight-hour day and the origins of May Day.

In celebration of May Day – by Andrea Bauer at Freedom Socialist – A reflection on Karl Marx and the struggle for a shorter workday.


Toward A Universal Basic Income


Andrew Flowers writes about the movement in Switzerland to guarantee a basic income for all.

Werner posed a pair of simple questions to the crowd: What do you really want to do with your life? Are you doing what you really want to do? Whatever the answers, he suggested basic income was the means to achieve those goals. The idea is as simple as it is radical: Rather than concern itself with managing myriad social welfare and unemployment insurance programs, the government would instead regularly cut a no-strings-attached check to each citizen. No conditions. No questions. Everyone, rich or poor, employed or out of work would get the same amount of money. This arrangement would provide a path toward a new way of living: If people no longer had to worry about making ends meet, they could pursue the lives they want to live.

Read More: What Would Happen If We Just Gave People Money? | FiveThirtyEight

What is Neoliberalism?

George Monbiot explains.

So pervasive has neoliberalism become that we seldom even recognise it as an ideology. We appear to accept the proposition that this utopian, millenarian faith describes a neutral force; a kind of biological law, like Darwin’s theory of evolution. But the philosophy arose as a conscious attempt to reshape human life and shift the locus of power.

Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.

Read the full article: Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems | Books | The Guardian

Europe Is Up All Night

If a suspected terrorist sneezes in Europe, we see security camera footage repeated day and night with endless speculation and commentary on CNN, but there has been a virtual mainstream media blackout here in the United States of news about the French working class rising up over the past two weeks.

On March 31, thousands of French activists gathered at the Place de la République to protest French President François Hollande’s labor reforms, and they’ve been staying “up all night” ever since. The “Nuit Debout” protests are now spreading to Belgium, Britain, Spain and Germany.

Read More: Sonali Kolhatkar: Two Weeks Into a Major Uprising, French Activists Still Staying ‘Up All Night’ – Truthdig

Chicago Brings The Solidarity


Chicago’s streets were a sea of union red last Friday for a day of action to protest the austerity policies of Rahm Emanuel and Bruce Rauner.

I’m proud to have joined twenty thousand souls at the Thompson Center that day. What struck me, once again, was the broad support and solidarity in this movement. It wasn’t just teachers, or students, or parents, or union folks. We were joined by activists from Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ community, immigrant rights groups, neighborhood and community organizations and so many more. It’s always an inspiration to see.

Here are some great photos of the day from Bob Simpson.

You can also read this report from Gala M. Pierce: Striking for the city we deserve |

That Time The CIA and Pentagon Went To War

Against Each Other

William Rivers Pitt writes at Truthout about foolishness of “raw and ponderous weight” in Syria.

The Knights of Righteousness (yeah, that really is what they call themselves) have been armed and funded by — wait for it — the Central Intelligence Agency. Their opponents, the Syrian Democratic Forces, have been armed and funded by the Pentagon. Ergo, based upon the most recent battle in Marea, the Defense Department went to war with the CIA half a world away.

Read the full piece: The CIA and the Pentagon Are Shooting at Each Other | Truthout

Vox Goes Inside Jacobin

Dylan Matthews spent some time with Bhaskar Sunkara and Neal Meyer of Jacobin Magazine recently, and produced a marvelous profile piece for Vox. He points out that although the magazine is currently riding a wave of interest sparked by the Sanders campaign, it’s relevance will continue beyond the elections of 2016.

Jacobin has in the past five years become the leading intellectual voice of the American left, the most vibrant and relevant socialist publication in a very long time.

Sunkara started publishing copies of the magazine in his George Washington University dorm room back in 2011, when he was all of 21. The financial crisis appeared to have given socialism and Marxism another inning, and Sunkara wanted an outlet that took socialist theory more seriously than existing outlets like the Nation. Jacobin took off; it now boasts a print circulation of about 20,000 and has gained about 400 more subscribers a week since Bernie started his ascent in November. Jacobin’s success is a sign that even if Bernie fades, there’s still a constituency for socialist ideas — a fact that could turn out to be much more important than the Sanders campaign itself.

I think of Jacobin as a way to feed my mind each day, via their website as well as the print issues, and it’s a great pleasure to be involved with the magazine via our Southland Reading Group.

Read the entire profile: Inside Jacobin: how a socialist magazine is winning the left’s war of ideas – Vox

Einstein: Why Socialism?


In May of 1949, one of the greatest minds on the planet, renowned physicist Albert Einstein, wrote an essay for the inaugural issue of The Monthly Review. In it, he outlines the crisis facing human society and enumerates some of the evils that are part and parcel of the capitalist mode of production. He then turns to discuss the solution.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Read the full essay: Why Socialism?

Renewed Interest in Socialism

What does it mean to socialists?

Alan Maass of the ISO and Bhaskar Sunkara of the DSA discuss what the renewed interest in socialism in the United States surrounding the Sanders campaign means for socialists who are already organized, both in terms of the opportunities and of the challenges.

Sunkara spoke about the importance of ongoing struggle beyond an election campaign.

I think you can find those little incubators of, if not what socialism looks like, then the power of collective action. And I think the memory of those moments — of strikes and other extra-parliamentary activity — is more durable and longer lasting than something like a presidential campaign.

There’s a lot to be said about that and what it would take to transform society. It’s not just a battle of ideas and convincing people that we need more social democracy, but figuring out how to organize people to exert disruptive power, be it through a strike, or disrupting the day-to-day functioning of political parties like the Democratic Party, or shaking up the regular functioning of the trade union movement by sparking rank-and-file activity and militancy.

There’s a lot that needs to be said about that vision. Just because I focus at this moment heavily on the Sanders campaign doesn’t mean that I think that’s the only arena of struggle.

Read the entire discussion: Can America go socialist? |