On Newness and History as Occupy and the World Celebrate May Day
Continued from previous page
We offer this meeting place so as to best learn from one another, and especially so as to learn from our various positive experiences as well as the negative ones. It is not about fearing a repetition of history, since history does not repeat, but so as to see more clearly some of the many places from which the movements come so as to walk along further together, from different parts of the world and our many generations. Caminar preguntando.
In our forthcoming book we offer only the slightest of glances, and only into the past 20 years of creation and resistance in Latin America. This could be a multi volume project – especially considering the radical and revolutionary history is not often available to us, and particularly the more autonomous movements and understandings of our collective history.
So let us retake our history and bring it with our present – so as to learn more – and find more places of encuentro and rendevous that can be less secret.
Openly Defined: May Day is International Workers’ Day. It is celebrated every year by tens of millions of people in most countries around the world. It originated with the struggle for the eight-hour workday, and in particular with the experience of the police repression against workers in Chicago in 1886. In the 1980s more diverse movements began organizing around May Day, and since 2001 the concept has shifted to one not only celebrating workers, but also for immigrant rights, social justice and against capitalist globalization and war.
Over one hundred people fit into a room meant for 50 – it is a union hall and we are planning for May Day 2012 in New York. The air is stale, but the energy high. The room is filled with Occupy movement participants, immigrant rights groups and communities, progressive labor organized in unions, and those from labor not representing their unions, or without unions, but identifying as labor, and a few people from neighborhood workers centers and other community based groups. The form of organization the May Day planning has taken is a spokes council. (Inspired by the global justice movement, and rumor is also the Spanish anarchists of the 1930s.) It is a directly democratic form of organization that can be used so that decisions are made, or ideas shared, based on those people speaking who are already involved in some form of organizing, reflected in things such as working groups, affinity groups or organizations. No more than one person from each group has a formal “voice” though everyone has “ears” and contributes to the idea of what their voice, technically a spoke, says to the group. Often there are constant whispered conversations up and down the line of a spokes to figure out what the “voice” should say, based on what others in the group feel and think. Consensus or agreement is reached in each group before ideas are shared and proposed. (See spokes council drawing in this pamphlet.) It is only early March and the people in the room are confident there will be at least tens of thousands of people on the streets of New York for May Day. And we know from our very composition that it will be organized and unorganized workers, the precarious, immigrants and all sorts of radicals.
This is not a “typical” May Day, or better said, it is not being planned to be typical, but rather is a vision of May Day coming from the new movements, together with the changing concepts of May Day and work that are described below. This is just one of countless examples of a current form of organization and practice that has antecedents, though most of those organizing do not know of the various histories. Below we share a glance at some of it with regard to May Day.