May Day or Mayday?

14 May

Chris Byron // Deep Green Resistance Orlando

May Day is one of the last vestiges of worker solidarity in the United States. Initially the holiday was a left-wing celebration of union organizing, and a protest against the state for executing seven innocent anarchists. Both are on the decline. Union membership in the United States has been rapidly dwindling since the 1960s, and anarchism is becoming less understood, and less known.1

Since the decline of union membership, and worker solidarity, along with the financialization of the economy, and off shoring of mechanized jobs, workers’ wages have stagnated or declined, employment has been shaky, job benefits have decreased, and un-surprisingly, anxiety has risen. The boom and bust periods of our economy (business cycles), are cycling faster and faster, and re-employment is losing its corrective momentum.

Worker solidarity and unionization are important though for reasons external to matters of wage and job security. In a capitalist economy, the only form of power the working class has is solidarity, organization, and collective impetus. When Wall Street and a handful of top tier businessman can steer entire campaigns, legislation, and economic shifts, no individual of the working class has the resources or power to combat the anarchy they find themselves in. Thus, organizing, and solidarity, of a collective interest, against a particular interest, is a viable means to converting fatalism into malleable destiny. The whims of the market – which at essence is merely a particular sociological relationship – put the lives of millions of Americans, and billions of international citizens, in a precarious position.

There was a time when the means to life were just that, the actual means to life. Water, healthy soil, clean air, vegetation, and large animal populations – that were regulated by their own breeding habits, and not farm raised – were the means to life. Under capitalism, all of these things are now commodities. As a matter of fact, one of the hall marks of capitalism, unlike past modes of production, is that everything from sex, labor, love, and even the means to life, is commoditized. The only means to life left for the working class is money. They have no direct access to clean water (their taps are becoming more polluted by the day),2 healthy soil, nor even fresh air (for instance, air purifier sales are rapidly on the rise, yet asthma and respiratory infection is increasing just as rapidly, the solution in this case, will inevitably turn out to be the disease).3 Thus, all the working class has is their wage, by which they hope to garner the means to life, against the backdrop of a market that holds their wage hostage to the capitalist classes’ whims of competition and investment. Ironically, this is the new ‘anarchy’ the working class has come to now, not the romantic and impassioned anarchy that was the catalyst for May Day. I digress.

There is unfortunately a liberal myth going around that claims to be the solution both to the destruction of the means to life, and the decline of wages, employment, and offshoring of jobs. This mythical solution is ‘Green Jobs.’ Think Progress, American Progress, the White House, and other liberal propaganda outlets, believe Green Jobs is the panacea to all our problems. There’s a glaring issue of myopia here. Increased and developing infrastructures, and a booming economy, are the very factors that lead to the destruction of the means of life. Green Jobs advocates proclaim that their plans can offset global warming; which in itself is another area of myopia. Let’s offer an olive branch: even if we presume that global warming will be offset by the implementing of some massive green infrastructure, we are left with two fundamental questions. First, where are the raw materials going to come from? If May Day is about international workers solidarity, we need to face the facts that raw materials come from third world countries, which will be exploited far worse than most Americans are. We ought not to raise ourselves on the bleeding backs of those we claim to share international solidarity with. Second, in the production, distribution, and consumption of more raw materials and resources, other equally important environmental factors will be infringed upon. Distribution and production inevitably pollutes more soil, air and water. Moreover, in a capitalistic economy, consumption and production are identical; they cannot be understood independently of one another. If the third world produces our materials, and we consume them, then our very act of consumption – which feeds more capital into the market – necessitates that capital go back into more production. And so the maelstrom continues. The living is converted into the dead, and the dead is consumed, and goes on to kill off more of the living.

Thus, even if we stave off the global warming problem,4 we are still left asking ourselves: where do we drink, what’s left that’s safe to eat, and where can we breathe without succumbing to cancer and infection? Just as the health of the planet is myopically being reduced down to an issue of global warming, so too is the precarious nature of the working class, being reduced down to a particular solution for one nation.

Nonetheless it remains true that worker solidarity, organizing, and collective action are vital elements to staving off any of the above mentioned problems. However, the true cancer at root here – industrial civilization – is not the means by which the exploited classes, internationally, can nor ought to liberate themselves. The working class needs to cease producing capital for the capitalist class. In the production of capital for the capitalist, they reproduce the cycle of investment, competition, market anarchy, and ultimately exploitation, which is the cancer of their own precarious subsistence. Thus, collective organizing, and action, need to be merged into a new kind of labor; restoring the means to life. Healing soil, allowing forest to regrow, cleaning lakes, etc. There is no capital in this venue of work, but there is the promise of the restoration of the means to life, outside of money as the fetishized medium. May Day should stop being the hallmark day where we of the left celebrate and reunite to demand increased wages, and more job security, when in the not too distant future, those wages cannot buy the means to life (as they will be poisoned, rotten, and dead), and those jobs will cease to exist, because infinite industrial expansion, on a planet of finite resources, will inevitably implode.

Mayday is also an emergency call for aid, from a derelict vessel, where the means to life are also rapidly dwindling. If we do not restore the means to life promptly, May Day will quickly become Mayday, the analogy will become reality. It’s a sad truism that workers of the world now have everything to lose, and a planet to save.





4 This is not actual possible either, in a growing global market, but we are operating under the fiction of an olive branch.

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