Internationalist demonstrators at the assembly point of New York City May Day 2018 march in Union Square.
On May Day 2018, the international workers day, the Internationalist Group together with comrades of the Class Struggle Education League (CSEL) from New Hampshire, Revolutionary Internationalist Youth (RIY), the CUNY Internationalist Clubs, Class Struggle Education Workers (CSEW) and Tabajadores Internacionales Clasistas (TIC) organized a contingent of more than 50 demonstrators in the annual May Day march from Union Square in New York City. The Internationalist contingent was the largest on the march and was very visible, both at the starting point and at the destination in Foley Square, where it formed a semi-circle with its flags, banners and signs.
Internationalist contingent forms up at Union Square.
The Internationalists led off with six red flags with the hammer, sickle and “4” symbol of Leon Trotsky’s Fourth International. The lead banner called for “Workers Action to Stop Deportations” as well as “Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants.” A second called to “Fight Trump … and the Democrats” and to “Build a Revolutionary Workers Party.” This was followed by the banner of Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas, the immigrant workers group fraternally allied with the IG. Additional banners called for “Plenos derechos de ciudadanía para todos los inmigrantes,” “Down with Anti-Immigrant Racism and Bigotry” and “Smash the Capitalist State – Workers to Power.” The Internationalist contingent stood out not only for its size but also for its organization.
Internationalist demonstrators at end of march in Foley Square, downtown Manhattan, 1 May 2018.
Chants for the demonstration included “Defend Syria, Defeat U.S. imperialism,” “Asian, Latin, black and white, Workers of the world, unite,” “Luchar, vencer, Obreros al poder” (Fight to win, workers to power) and, referring to the recent teachers strikes, “West Virginia, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona, How about New York? Smash the Taylor Law!” Also “Not Trump, Not Democrats, Build a workers party!” Underscoring the struggle against police murder, marchers chanted “Stephon Clark, Saheed Vassell, Michael Brown, Shut the whole system down!” In a call-and-response chant they listed the names of two dozen victims of the racist killer cops. Students at the City University of New York called for “CIA, Out of CUNY Now!” And the slogan of the TIC was particularly popular, “Ni ilegales, ni criminales, somos obreros internacionales” (Neither illegal nor criminal, we are international workers).
There were several rallies around the city on May 1, both at Union Square, where around 300 leftists gathered, and at Washington Square, where workers centers, syndicalists (IWW) and various social democrats brought out a couple hundred in the early afternoon, and later several city unions (SEIU 32BJ, DC37, LIUNA) drew a reported 500 in the evening to hear various labor bureaucrats and Democrats. The DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) marched from Union Square back to the pro-Democratic Party event in Washington Square. Overall, the rallies were small, as they have been in recent years, with the union leaderships insisting on their own events separate from the left. More than 150 copies of The Internationalist were sold at the rallies and marches.
A particularly infuriating aspect of the protests was how Democratic mayor De Blasio’s NYPD confined the march of several hundred demonstrators to the sidewalks for the entire length of the route, enforced by a moving wall of bike cops. Last year, police threatened to arrest the entire demonstration, and ended up arresting 32 protesters.
After the march, the Internationalists held a social in a Midtown bar where several dozen of the participants and others relaxed, including with revolutionary and workers songs from Latin America, the U.S. and the Bolshevik Revolution, concluding with the singing of the Internationale.
A key factor in building the Internationalist contingent was the participation of supporters of the CSEL, who traveled from New Hampshire to participate in the April 30 demonstration in Philadelphia demanding freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal, and to join in the New York City May Day march. The Internationalist contingent was also the largest single group in the Philly demo. Two comrades from the Internationalist Group/Portland and Class Struggle Workers – Portland (CSWP), former leading activists in the IWW, traveled from the West Coast to participate in the mobilizations, selling, marching and passing on their own experiences in the class struggle.
Class Struggle Internatioanl Workers call for "Workers Action to Stop Deportations" at NYC May Day 2018 march.
At the social, Mike from the CSEL expressed pride in the mobilization and underscored the perspective of an early fusion between the Class Struggle Education League and the Internationalist Group, U.S. section of the League for the Fourth International. A spokesman for the IG emphasized the importance of the contingent in fighting for class independence and a proletarian revolutionary program at a time when virtually the entire left is tailing after the Democratic Party, both in the “women’s marches” and the mobilization for gun control. In conclusion, as the Trotskyists chanted on May 1, “Long live May Day, Workers to power!” ■
Report From Los Angeles
Internationalist Group marched in Los Angeles with Transport Workers Against Deportations and students at L.A. May Day 2018 demonstration. The transport workers mobilized in January to protest threat of deportation of Salvadoran immigrants and in February against I.C.E. raids.
There were three demos/marches in Los Angeles. The Internationalist Group mobilized for the third one, in the afternoon – the most left-wing march, organized by Union del Barrio. The IG marched together with around two dozen people, headed up by Transport Workers Against Deportations and including students and supporters, in a militant, class-struggle formation, politically counterposed to the “people power,” popular-frontist politics of the organizers.
The first march, in the morning, that started off at Pershing Square and marched to the Federal Building was the “official” march blessed by the mayor, the Democrats and the L.A. Federation of Labor. There were some union contingents (Teamsters, Roofers, SEIU among others), but they seemed to be largely composed of labor bureaucrats. In addition, there were various immigrant rights coalitions and social-democratic groups, the largest being Democratic Socialists of America.
A second rally put on by the Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSL) and its ANSWER Coalition was a pathetic event of only about 30 people, soaked in American flags (they had a giant Stars-and-Stripes draped over the podium from which they spoke).
For the afternoon march, a group of students came from Pasadena City College, where many had been handing out fliers and making signs with the PCC Internationalist Club in the days leading up to May Day. The transport workers arrived shortly after and raised their two banners (in English and Spanish) calling for full citizenship rights for all immigrants and to unionize immigrant workers. Most of the workers wore bright red union-printed shirts with “Transport Workers Against Deportations” on the front and “La lucha obrera no tiene fronteras” on the back.
We built a formation with the transport workers front and center, together with students and supporters. A speaker for the transport workers talked about how immigrants, black people and other targets of racist terror are not just victims, but as workers have the power to shut it down, and to unleash that power in defense of immigrants and all of the oppressed, workers. He emphasized the need to break from the Democrats and build a workers party. Thereupon march organizers scrambled to get their sound system set up and told everyone to gather around the truck with the speakers.
The speeches from the truck included the usual reformist appeals to cross-class unity of “the people,” and promoting the illusion that justice is possible under capitalism. After they chanted “No justice, no peace”, we responded with “Only revolution can bring justice!” A right-winger caused a ruckus near the truck, trying to disrupt the demo. The police handcuffed an immigrant Workers World supporter, but were later forced to let him go. Cops tried to tell organizers that they could not march, but the truck pulled into the street and the march began.
The demonstration was led by the Union del Barrio truck and banner that read “Esta es mi tierra/Esta es mi lucha” (This is my land, this is my struggle). The march went for two and a half miles from MacArthur Park to City Hall. The transport workers and Internationalists chanted “Luchar, vencer obreros al poder” (Fight to win, workers to power), “Stop deportations, this is the hour, labor/black/immigrant power,” “Defend immigrants, this is the hour, union labor has the power,” “Smash the fascists, smash the Klan, only workers defense guards can” and “Not Democrats, not Republicans, build a workers party,” among other slogans. Repeating the names of A.J. Weber, a 16-year-old black youth gunned down by L.A. County Sheriff's deputies in February; Stephon Clark, shot to death by Sacramento police in his back yard in March; Michael Brown and other victims of racist cop murder, they called to “Shut the whole system down.” It was the most militant group in the march and made a lot of heads turn.
Transport workers and Internationalists chanted “Luchar, vencer obreros al poder” (Fight to win, workers to power), “Stop deportations, this is the hour, labor/black/immigrant power,” and “Not Democrats, not Republicans, build a workers party.”
There was a Progressive Labor Party contingent marching behind us that picked up many of our chants. The ICWP (International Communist Workers Party, a split from PL) “Red Flag” was in front of us, but abruptly relocated to the back of the march a block after it began. Other groups in the march included Bayan (Filipino Stalinist mass front), IWW, Workers World Party, Koreatown Popular Assembly, United Electrical Workers, Corriente Obrera (sympathizers of the LIT, partisans of the political tradition of pseudo-Trotskyist Nahuel Moreno) and a group of indigenous dancers.
Part way through the march, Jasmine Abdullah (the Black Lives Matter organizer who was framed up in 2016 for “felony lynching”) was confronted with the presence of a white “protester” who has been working with the cops in setting her up for state repression. When this character showed up right in front of our formation, we gave an impromptu speech about who this guy is and chanted,“Cop informants not welcome here!” and “Defend Jasmine against this cop informant!” Soon after, the nefarious rat scurried away. ■