BAY AREA, CALIF. — PLP members and friends celebrated May Day in activities throughout Northern California, providing many opportunities to advance our communist politics. Despite the limitations of liberal-led marches and rallies, workers were open to our revolutionary message. The ongoing struggle to develop newer Party members and recruit new ones remains the main limitation of our potential. Despite this we spread our communist ideas throughout all the May Day events.
In the inland port city of Stockton, Party members made contacts with longshoremen who had struck for eight hours to protest the war in Iraq. In San Francisco, by selling CHALLENGE and distributing leaflets to the dockers, significantly we brought a communist revolutionary analysis to this otherwise liberal-led march and rally. Previously, the International Longshoremen’s and Warehouseman’s Union (ILWU) had struck against the World Trade Organization in Seattle; for the framed Mumia Abu Jamal; and an “unofficial” one-day protest of an on-the-job death of one of their comrades.
These actions refute the lie that workers won’t fight around “political issues.” But they’re all framed to appeal to the capitalist electoral system. This ties into those capitalists who trace the Iraq war to the Bush administration attempt to run the Iraq war “on the cheap,” while undermining the overall U.S. world position. This is a far cry from the workers taking the bosses’ war head on. (See box.) Our challenge is to push beyond these limits and bring revolutionary politics to the forefront.
We also attended a rally and March in Dolores Park where a PL teacher met with former students who helped distribute our literature there.
In Oakland, PLP members joined the immigrant rights march. Those around us picked up our chants, focused on internationalism, working-class unity and revolutionary ideas. The march grew larger as it progressed and was the most multi-racial in recent years. Four student friends of the Party from a local university marched with us. Several Party members have already followed up contacts made there.
Elsewhere in the inland Bay Area, a young teacher comrade participated in a march organized by teachers against the budget cuts at their school. We hope to continue to develop this class struggle.
Transit workers, teachers and college students attended a May Day dinner this weekend. Old friends enjoyed good food, great speeches, and an afternoon of communist celebration. A conversation with an old friend revealed how the reality of life can be used to show workers that capitalism is the root of our problems. Our challenge is to present communist revolution as the answer. Overall, this May Day helped build the influence of the Bay Area Party.
During the May 1st West Coast dock strike, the ILWU continued to load military supplies bound for Iraq. They said, “We wanted to show we oppose the war but support the troops.” This position undermined the protest as one opposing the war.
Ninety years ago, Seattle dockworkers showed a clearer resolve. Then U.S. bosses had landed troops in Siberia to back Russian counter-revolutionaries opposing the Soviet revolution, one of 17 capitalist countries trying to destroy it. When a shipment of 50 rail cars loaded with “sewing machines” arrived in Seattle for dispatch to Russia, the longshoremen, thinking it odd that a country embroiled in civil war would need so many sewing machines, “accidentally” dropped a crate. It was filled with rifles bound for the U.S.-backed Russian general Kolchak. The longshoremen refused to load it and called for a permanent boycott of shipments to Russia. When 40 scabs showed up to load the weapons, they were met by 400 longshoremen.
Of course, it was a different world in 1918. The despair that had gripped communists when the Second International had caved into supporting their national governments’ war efforts was wiped away by the success of the revolution in Russia. Revolutionary optimism became primary. Thousands of pamphlets, leaflets and newspaper articles had influenced workers in Seattle about the struggle to support the first Workers’ Republic. Dock workers can learn from this international workers’ solidarity by U.S. workers.