Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Would Samuel Gompers recognize May Day 2013? Perhaps.

In a sense, it's unfair to compare the attitudes of one generation with the attitudes of another. Just because Thomas Jefferson didn't endorse interracial gay atheist marriage doesn't mean that he's a fascist - especially since fascism didn't exist in the 18th century.

But it is illuminating the compare the attitudes of different generations.

Last year at about this time, I wrote a post in my tymshft blog that explained why those of us in the United States don't join in the worldwide May Day celebrations. As part of that post, I quoted extensively from a page at the Massachusetts AFL-CIO web site. This site explains why one of the AFL-CIO's predecessors, the American Federaion of Labor and its leader Samuel Gompers, opposed May 1 labor celebrations. An excerpt:

Especially after the 1886 Haymarket riot, where several police officers and union members were killed in Chicago, May Day had become a day to protest the arrests of anarchists, socialists, and unionists, as well as an opportunity to push for better working conditions. Samuel Gompers and the AFL saw that the presence of more extreme elements of the Labor Movement would be detrimental to perception of the festival. To solve this, the AFL worked to elevate Labor Day over May Day, and also made an effort to bring a more moderate attitude to the Labor Day festivities. The AFL, whose city labor councils sponsored many of the Labor Day celebrations, banned radical speakers, red flags, internationalist slogans, and anything else that could shed an unfavorable light upon Labor Day or organized labor.

Which is why we celebrate Labor Day in September - and why I titled my 2012 tymshft post with the title The American perspective on May Day – or, I am not a Commie.

But when I searched for a modern-day American perspective on May Day, I ran across a number of press releases from - well, from the AFL-CIO. Here's an excerpt from one of them:

Los Angeles, CA – Immigration reform advocates from a diverse coalition of community, faith, student and labor organizations will be preparing for a massive march on May 1st calling for commonsense immigration reform. Preparation activities will include sign making, banner painting and a creative art workshop featuring political artist Favianna Rodriguez

Immigrant families and local leaders will be available for media interviews in Spanish and English.

The May 1st coalition is united behind a comprehensive solution to fix our broken immigration system – one that raises the quality of jobs for all workers, keeps families together and creates a realistic roadmap for aspiring citizens.

Does this align with AFL objectives of over a century ago? It depends upon how you feel about illegal immigration (those two words alone draw battle lines). Some believe that a May Day march for immigration reform is an un-American act that threatens our nation's security and economy. Others believe that a May Day march is the most American thing that can be done, and is in complete accord with Gompers' ideals - many 19th century laborers, after all, were immigrants.

But why would it be in the economic interest of labor unions to support immigration reform? One answer can be found here:

As recently as the mid-1990s, many unions took protectionist stances against allowing new immigrants to come to this country. It was only after these unions saw the abuses that became prevalent under an employer-driven system for verifying immigration status that the labor movement embraced a new position. The movement recognized that for working people to thrive, all employees had to have full rights in the workplace.

However, support of immigration reform puts the AFL-CIO in alliance with some uncomfortable bedfellows, as Trevor Loudon gleefully noted:

The Communist Party’s interest in immigrants has nothing to do with compassion or humanity. The communists want amnesty for current illegals and to encourage further illegal immigration for several reasons.

Firstly, they want to dilute the existing patriot culture in the US by creating large immigrant communities, with little allegiance to the ideas that gave birth to the American republic.

Secondly, they want to overload taxpayers with increased crime, education, welfare and healthcare costs, to impoverish middle America and spread revolutionary discontent.

Thirdly, and in the short term most importantly, the Communists want to give several million illegals the vote – knowing that they tend to vote overwhelmingly Democrat.

Several million more Democrat voters would almost certainly deliver the US to the Democrats and their communist allies, forever.

Then again, you can't necessarily judge someone by his or her bedfellows. After all, the isolationists in the United States who opposed fighting the Nazis in World War II were, of all things, allied with the Communist Party USA themselves - at least until Hitler declared war on the Soviet Union. Take a look at this account of a protest, which may have been in Boston:

This protest parade (I think in Boston) was a demonstration against America's entering the war against Hitler and the Axis powers. The signs carried in the street demand that America stay out of the war and, collaterally, call for more bread for the underprivileged and economically stressed families at home. What we don't know is if the photograph here from news reel footagewas was taken in 1940 or 1941. We tend to think it was 1940, because of the Communist/left-wing tennor [sic] of the protest signs. When Stalin signed the Non-Aggression Pact with Hitler (August 1939), Moscow ordered American Communist to reverse course and protest against defense spending and to join the isolationists in pushing the peace issue. After the NAZI invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941), however, Moscow ordered American Communist to reserse course again and demand intervention.

So, happy May Day everyone. Wave the flag! No, the flag that has blue in it.
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