Whenever May 1 draws near, the media tell us the story of the Chigago martyrs. The crackdown on a strike in the US would have stirred and organized European workers to the point of creating a worldwide day of celebration. The story implies a leadership of the US labor movement, something that is just the opposite of the reality of the moment. More importantly, it forgets the real context and purpose of the call, all too uncomfortable even today. May 1st is born in Paris, not in Chicago and not to pay tribute to anyone but to organize into a simultaneous struggle the universal working class.
Tag: II International
Between 1896 and 1917, the left wing of the Second International, with Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin at the forefront, fought against the nascent feminist movement, then focused on extending the suffrage to bourgeois and petty-bourgeois women. It was this battle that gave rise to the birth of March 8 as a day of workers’ demands. The confrontation against feminism was settled with the outbreak of the First World Imperialist War and the Russian Revolution.
The postcards, although not much used by the scarce apparatus of the Second International, were nevertheless the main means of communication and the most spontaneous, which the workers used to extend and strengthen internationalism before the World War.
The commitment and effort put into cultural dissemination was thus very different from that of the associations and state institutions dedicated then and now to promoting the knowledge and consumption of cultural objects. It was above all of a moral nature. It expressed the immediate dimension of communism’s perspective of abundance as the liberation of knowledge and the free development of human experience and sensibility.
Few elements of working class history are still as present among workers today as the memory of the “Casas del Pueblo” (People’s Houses) of the Second International in Spain. They were the largest experience of organization of militant groups of the time, but above all, they represented a massive effort of workers’ training and discussion.
The real slaughter that we witnessed in the nursing homes during the Covid pandemic has brought media attention to more or less cooperative “co-living” models, whose functioning has been shown to be much more reliable than the average nursing home. As always, they try to get us excited about the idea that “everything could be better” without having overcome the economic system. This is not true. Production in this society is guided by the placement of capital and the realization of profit. And nursing homes are excellent placements of capital. They are not going to become anything else. On the other hand, the “alternative” models that today are presented as novel, were not born precisely from capital and its state, but from the workers’ organizations of the end of the 19th century. It might be a good idea to recall their history now.
The original March 8 was neither “Women’s Day” nor was it celebrated in March. What does today’s celebration really commemorate and when did it cease to be what its creators intended it to be?