A follow-up to Hilary Lindsay’s initial report on the May Day Rally, “Workers Speak Out Against Corporate Elite” – part of Halifax Media Co-op’s continuing coverage
At the end of the May Day Rally at Halifax’s Victoria Park, some 125 workers, youth, women and retirees refused suggestions to go their separate ways. Massing behind the May Day banner, they joined over fifty postal workers from throughout the Maritimes who had the honour of leading the May Day March through the downtown core en route to the Mi’kmaq Friendship Centre in the North End for the annual May Day Forum & Cultural Program.
May Day 2011 was organized on the theme of “Defend the Rights of All!” and marchers vigorously shouted such slogans as “May Day is Workers’ Day!”; “Stephen Harper Must Go!”; “Whose Rights? Our Rights!”; “All for One and One for All”; “Whose Economy? Our Economy!”, “Solidarité!” and “Workers United Will Never Be Defeated!”
It is instructive that, on the day before the elections celebrated as the cornerstone of “democracy” in Canada, police videotaped demonstrators for the automated data bases shared by the different agencies of the political police. Even young children were videotaped, raising the question: do they also have files on the children?!!
The march halted in front of the Citadel Inn where Dave Blakeney, national education secretary of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, gave an impromptu and passionate speech, stressing that the two most important slogans raised throughout the march were “Who Decides? We Decide!” and “Whose Democracy? Our Democracy!”
Giving the example of how the workers had taken things in their own hands that day, despite orders to do otherwise and the masses of cops, Blakeney urged participants, some from small rural towns, to learn from these moments, however brief, as to how people can create their own space, acquire their own political experience, and build their own strength – the strength that comes from working class numbers, organization, self-reliance and the working class outlook and spirit.
“Revolution is not merely a matter of insurrection, but of a thousand little steps that must be taken towards empowerment.” Saying no to the negation of rights is the beginning of the affirmation of those rights in practice – of empowerment.
Most of the postal workers then returned to a union educational course being held at the hotel to loud cheers of support from people for their struggle against Harper and Canada Post.
Some 70-75 people participated in the May Day Forum & Cultural Program.
When the marchers arrived at the Mi’kmaq Friendship Centre, they sat down to an amazing feast of curried chicken, chili, vegetarian samozas, and cornbread prepared by five volunteers who had worked hard since the early hours of the morning.
Tony Seed of the Halifax May Day Committee (HMDC) chaired a discussion on the necessity to develop practical politics to change the situation in our favour on the basis of an independent agenda set by the working class itself. Dave Blakeney and Isaac Saney made presentations. Many of those in attendance, from a Mi’kmaq elder to young workers and youth, who comprised the majority of participants, made important contributions.
One theme was that whoever forms the next government, the participants had neither any euphoria about the NDP “orange crush” nor a disillusionment with a Harper parliamentary majority; without our own active and conscious participation as workers in the political and economic affairs of the country, nothing will change. This is the key to the defence of the rights of all – from the hereditary rights of the First Nations to pensions, jobs and livelihood and the rights of all peoples to live in peace.
One of the highlights of the cultural program was “Liberation” performed by the acclaimed Spoken Word artist, El Jones, a passionate ode to the liberation of the Cuban people, followed by labour poems and music by Rev. Doncaster’s Neighbourhood Band.
Likely the largest rally by Nova Scotians taking an independent stand during the elections, the May Day rally called by the HMDC – as with every other rally across Canada, in particular the 2,500-strong rally on Parliament Hill called by the Hamilton Steelworkers, USW Local 1005 – was completely blacked-out by the Halifax Chronicle Herald and the monopoly-owned media.
This is the significance – there is a force which clearly states that it is free of the shackles imposed on the workers by the media and the Grand Pooh-Bahs who think that the workers’ voice should be silenced. A new chapter is being opened in the defence of the rights of all. The workers’ voice rang loud and clear on May Day across the land and around the world. Congratulations to all the participants! Bravo!
The author is also chair of the Halifax May Day Committee