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Solidarity on International Workers’ Day

Solidarity on International Workers’ Day

Since today is International Workers’ Day, I’m taking today off to commemorate it in my own way, by reading—poetry, analysis, social theory, and history. For those who aren’t familiar with the day’s origins, it is a commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket massacre in Chicago. While demonstrators were on peaceful general strike for an eight-hour work day, an unknown person threw a bomb at police, resulting in police firing guns. Four civilians and seven police officers died. In the following period, labor activist and immigrant communities were profiled, their businesses and meeting halls ransacked without search warrants, and arrested under pretense. Eight anarchists were convicted of conspiracy by an extremely prejudiced courtroom and seven sentenced to death, though the bomber was never identified.

Today, International Workers’ Day is commemorated throughout the world by working-class, immigrant, and labor activists. It is a day of international solidarity as we all struggle for a more just world. What are you doing to commemorate International Workers’ Day?

A Worker Reads History
by Bertolt Brecht

Who built the seven gates of Thebes?
The books are filled with names of kings.
Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?
And Babylon, so many times destroyed.
Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima’s houses,
That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?
In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished
Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome
Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Byzantium lives in song.
Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend
The night the seas rushed in,
The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.

Young Alexander conquered India.
He alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Was there not even a cook in his army?
Phillip of Spain wept as his fleet
was sunk and destroyed. Were there no other tears?
Frederick the Great triumphed in the Seven Years War.
Who triumphed with him?

Each page a victory
At whose expense the victory ball?
Every ten years a great man,
Who paid the piper?

So many particulars.
So many questions.

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Comments (2)

  • Jeff

    Right on, Kenji! Let’s take May Day off from drudgery and do something positive to change the system. My poetic contribution, also from Brecht, is a hopeful message for all of us (me included) who sometimes get cynical about our chances of defeating material exploitation and racism when they are so entrenched in social relations and culture. We CAN learn to fly!

    Along with our exploratory thinking about Stink (and instead of bickering endlessly), we Buddhists can join one of the many demonstrations in cities across the country. Here are a couple of examples in San Francisco. Take off work a couple hours early if you can.

    Occupy SF: Anti-Capitalist March – 3 PM rally at Polk & McAllister; 4 PM March to Occupation.

    March for Immigrant and Worker Rights – assemble 3 PM at 24th Street BART station @ Mission; March to Civic Center for 5 PM Rally

    If you can’t make it today, there are plenty of similar protests and activities going on all year round in YOUR neighborhood. How about if we post some of these actions on the site?

    Again, all thanks to Katie, Dawn, and Kenji for selflessly making this happen.

    “Bishop, I can fly,
    The tailor said to the Bishop.
    Just watch how it works.
    And he climbed with things
    That looked like wings
    To the broad, broad roof of the church.
    The Bishop passed by.
    It’s all a lie,
    Man is no bird,
    No one will ever fly,
    The Bishop said of the tailor.

    The tailor is done for,
    The people said to the Bishop.
    It was the talk of the fair.
    His wings were smashed
    And he was dashed
    On the hard, hard stones of the square.
    Toll the bells in the steeple,
    It was all a lie,
    Man is no bird,
    No one will ever fly,
    The Bishop said to the people.”

    Bertolt Brecht “Songs for Children, Ulm 1592”

  • Tony Staples

    I really enjoyed this article and thank the author for his thoughts and work. I am an active socialist in Britain trying to give the working class in this country an alternative to the destruction and exploitation of capitalism.

    I am on a journey, I am trying to reconcile my socialism with my serious interest in buddhism. There are many views and articles on this subject but I need to make the two fit together in my own way so that I can ‘do justice to both’, that said I would like to combine the two as one!

    The journey continues and it is articles like this that help me on my way, thank you.

© 2017 Buddhist Peace Fellowship

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