May Day 2013

Yeah, I’ve been a bit quiet lately. I’ve been busy, and not able to focus on the blog.  I actually spent May Day itself sat at my desk writing, rather than joining in with a May Day parade.  

Happy May Day!

Workers in Greece,  marking May Day 2013

Workers in Greece, marking May Day 2013

May Day

The first day of May is one of the most important dates on the socialist/revolutionary calendar.  I’ve written about the history of May Day itself elsewhere, and I’m not going to go over it again here.  Anyone interested may find this article of use there.

From a Bermudian perspective, I have long called for May Day to be a public holiday, and so it should come as no surprise that I fully back the call of the various union leaders for the same.

That the PLP, which first brought the proposal to parliament in the 1980s, only for it to be hijacked by the UBP who adopted the North American September holiday (itself a calculated plot on the part of the USA initially, and Bermuda latterly), but for the PLP to have failed to make it a holiday between 1998 and 2012 remains a distinct mark of shame for the PLP.

Indeed, the failure of the PLP to truly push for this, making May Day a public holiday, was one of the key reasons that I eventually, effectively, ‘gave up’ on the PLP.  True, they made a rather half-hearted attempt in their last year or so, but fundamentally missed the point by going out to consultation and retreating in the face of business opposition.

Not that this was exactly unexpected.  The complete abdication on the part of the PLP to advance even minimum wage (let alone living wage) or overtime legislation (both times in the face of business opposition) set precedents, and the failure of the PLP to build on their constituency boundary changes with additional political reform (campaign financing, the Senate and proportional representation) betrayed both a lack of vision and backbone.

Quite frankly, the PLP have long since ceased to have the ambition of transforming capitalism – and by extension Bermudian society – and have no more vision beyond a limited managed capitalism and oligarchy.  They are no longer a viable vehicle for anti-capitalist politics.

Taking Stock

May Day is a day to both look back at the history of the working class and attempts to build a better world.  But it is not just about remembering past struggles (as important as this is for future struggles).  It is also about taking stock of the current situation and making plans for the future.

We are now into about the fifth year of the first great depression of the 21st Century.  While some areas are more affected than others (Europe, especially southern Europe, being particularly under attack), on a global level, the economic crisis continues, even if certain local factors mask it here and there (such as the USA).

I don’t think it is much of an exaggeration to say that the logic of neo-liberalism has been found wanting, and that capitalism remains in a prolonged economic crisis.

And yet, despite this economic crisis, capitalism remains politically secure.  There is no real threat of a sudden revolutionary rupture.

If anything, it is the right-wing which is benefiting the most from the crisis, politically.  Throughout Europe, and also the Middle East and North Africa, the spectre of some sort of neo-fascism is looming, not socialism.

Neoliberalism continues, zombie-like, but in Italy and Greece, as well as throughout the European continent (including the UK, with the current ‘rise of UKIP’ – which has largely absorbed the collapsed BNP vote) neo-fascist tendencies or potentials appear to be stirring.

What’s Left? 

The Left is not exactly absent, however.

In Greece there is the example of SYRIZIA, and in Spain the Indignados, are providing useful examples of a new Left.  And in Latin America, despite the death of Hugo Chavez, the general project of 21st Century Socialism continues, with the newly elected Maduro calling for a deepening of the revolution.

[It should be noted here though that, at least in Venezuela, but also Bolivia, it appears the the US is ratcheting up its attempts to reverse the Left there.]

The collapse of the Soviets and the counter-revolution in China, combined with the Third Way shift of social democracy, have essentially discredited the socialist project, even if many (myself included) would take issue with accepting either as being truly socialist, beyond the superficiality of rhetoric.

And yet, the notion of class and socialism is gradually re-asserting itself in popular consciousness.

The failed Occupy! movements helped reintroduce the notion of class-warfare, right in the heart of the capitalist centers, and the Arab Spring (despite being subsequently hijacked) held open the possibility of a new center-periphery dynamic, not unlike the hope that the national liberation movements of the 20th Century offered.

While both the Occupy! and Arab Spring movements have, effectively failed (at least for now), they did serve as a momentary revolutionary rupture, and have helped breathe new life into a new Left.

The sparks of revolution remain.

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