May 01 2009

Globe & Post: Workers of the World, Unite

On this May Day, Terry Glavin continues his relentless assault on the corruption of the left, with an eye to its pragmatic and beneficial root values that will guide the progressive movement’s reconstruction (sooner than later, one hopes). An excerpt from The Fighting Spirit Of May Day: What We Want For Ourselves We Demand For All:

May Day and Labour Day arose from the same uncomplicated basis of working-class unity. A fair day’s pay for an honest day’s work. What we want for ourselves we demand for all. Any saboteur of this common purpose is a scab.

This is raw, unambiguous and unsophisticated language, but its moral clarity is the basis of progressive internationalism. It is universal in purpose and global in ambition, and it is the bedrock beneath the fight for free trade unions, the eight-hour day, safe working conditions and proper labour law. This isn’t just the dusty antiquarian stuff of maudlin labour ballads. These are still life-and-death struggles in much of the world today.

If this means nothing to you, it could be that you’re just too busy enjoying the fruits of victories won by people who fought these battles for you a long time ago. But if you thought that it’s still the old bedrock principles of international workers’ solidarity that rally the Canadian labour movement to the cause of, say, Palestinian, Israeli, Iranian or Afghan workers, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Dig as deep as you want, you’ll be lucky to find much of it.

Nowadays, Canada’s union officials are just as likely to be engaged in highbrow apologetics for the worst enemies of the world’s bravest workers. It’s commonplace now to happen upon union officials at rallies where everyone’s shouting slogans that give courage and comfort to despotic regimes that distinguish themselves by busting unions, jailing union organizers and lynching strikers.

As Glavin points out, labour leaders like Sid Ryan are becoming increasingly disassociated from the rank and file. If there is hope, it lies in the proles.

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