May Day: from workers’ resistance to workers’ revolution

This May Day — International Workers’ Day — we have a lot to celebrate. Over the past year, workers across the United States have demonstrated a deep determination to fight back on the job, amounting to a major surge in the labor movement that is having profound effects on society. There has been a spike in strikes, the formation of new unions, and overall interest in the labor movement as a key vehicle to fight rampant and exploding inequality. 

One key example is the victory of workers at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, N.Y. In the face of an aggressive union-busting campaign waged by one of the most powerful corporations on Earth, the workers defied the odds and voted to form a union — the first ever at an Amazon facility in the United States. 

At another widely known global corporation, Starbucks, a union organizing drive has picked up major momentum and already scored an impressive series of victories. At well over 200 stores across the country, organizing committees have formed to file for a union election, and many have already won recognition. Just like at Amazon, the bosses have spared no expense to intimidate workers and spread lies about the union, but they have largely failed. 

There are so many other recent examples of workers standing up for their rights. Teachers in Sacramento, Calif., and Minneapolis went on strike. Thousands of graduate students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology formed a union. Tens of thousands of grocery store workers in the Northeast and in southern California won major concessions in their new contracts after demonstrating their determination to fight.

Clearly, the “striketober” phenomenon of last fall has taken root. Strikes by workers at Kellogg’s, John Deere, the Warrior Met coal mine in Alabama, and elsewhere inspired big sections of the working class nationwide. After so much abuse at the hands of the bosses during the pandemic, workers had had enough — and the momentum only grew from there.

Winning the class war once and for all

Acts of resistance like these strikes and organizing drives that challenge the billionaire class are crucially important. But will this battle ever end? In the fight between the exploited and the exploiters, can the exploited deliver a knockout blow?

Socialists believe the answer is yes. The millionaires and billionaires have the power to make the lives of workers unbearable because they own the economy and they run the government. Even though they do no productive work of their own, they get to decide what happens with all the vast wealth that workers create because they have legal ownership over the big corporations. In this sham democracy, they can control elected officials through campaign donations and the promise of lucrative positions after they leave “public service.” 

And beyond the legalized bribery that takes place in electoral politics, the most important parts of the government side with the bosses automatically. In a strike, the boss can call the cops to protect their property, but the workers can’t call the cops when the boss makes it impossible for their families to make ends meet. 

A revolution means that that relationship is reversed in a fundamental way. Instead of a tiny handful of elites, the workers would collectively decide how to distribute goods and services in a way that guarantees everyone a life with dignity. The government would protect this new, just social order and would no longer simply be a tool for the rich to repress the poor. 

Any act of resistance by workers — whether it is on the job or in neighborhoods, schools or anywhere else injustice occurs — brings us closer to this future that the people and the planet so desperately need. On May Day, we should celebrate these acts of courage and rededicate ourselves to finishing the fight.

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