A Call and a Challenge
May First—Immigrants and Allies Take to the Streets!
Risking life itself to cross the border.
Hounded by La Migra and treated like criminals.
Crowded into decaying neighborhoods.
Slowly dying in backbreaking fields and suffocating sweatshops.
The few rights you have are under assault.
They want to take away your very humanity.
May First 2006 in the United States of America: An undeniable force of over a million immigrants and their allies said ¡Basta Ya! Enough already!
People filled the streets in big cities, small cities, and rural towns—emptying factories and schools, closing restaurants and shops. More than half a million in Los Angeles. 400,000 in Chicago. Tens of thousands in New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Milwaukee. Many thousands more from coast to coast, including small towns and rural areas in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Texas. The crowds were overwhelmingly Latino, but there were many different immigrant groups as well—from Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Ireland.
This was a massive outpouring of resistance to government's efforts to intensify the persecution and exploitation of undocumented immigrants in this country.
At great personal risk, many hundreds of thousands of immigrants, overwhelmingly proletarians, came out of the shadows and lifted their heads in defiance. Such an outpouring of resistance is something to uphold and celebrate. Such a heroic spirit is something to support and spread.
An upsurge of protest among immigrants has grown over the last several months. And it is changing the political landscape in this country. It is drawing millions into struggle against the government, against the system. And it is raising big questions about the nature of this system, how to fight, and what it will take to actually put an end to exploitation and oppression.
The actions of a minority are inspiring and opening the minds of many more. And for all those angry about the direction the Bush Regime is taking this country, and the whole planet—there is an important example here.
Various anti-immigrant bills are being proposed in Congress. Fascist politicians like Congressman Tom Tancredo want to deny citizenship to the children born in the U.S. whose parents are undocumented immigrants. And vigilantes like the Minutemen are patrolling the border with guns, hunting immigrants who they call a threat to the “fabric of America.” In such a situation this new movement of immigrants is not being paralyzed by fear and driven deeper into the shadows. People are stepping out and saying: “¡Bush escucha! ¡Estamos en la lucha!” and “¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!” (“Bush listen up! We are in struggle!” and “The people united will never be defeated!”).
It is truly exciting and significant when hundreds of thousands of proletarians take to the streets, right here in the United States. And it was very fitting that these protests took place on May First—the revolutionary holiday of the international proletariat. Many of these demonstrations were billed as “A Day Without Immigrants” and the bit of truth this hit on was hard to miss—as factories, restaurants, construction, landscaping, transportation, and many other industries and services ground to a halt.
And significantly, this outpouring of protest found expression in small towns and rural areas where there have been dramatic demographic changes over the last few decades. In many of these places, which have rarely, if ever, seen any kind of political protest, meatpacking plants and other industries have systematically recruited workers from Mexico and Central America. And the Latino population of many of these rural counties has gone from zero in 1970 to 10-45% in 2000. In Dodge City, Kansas 1,500 immigrant proletarians marched down the main street and all five of the major beef packing plants in Kansas (which employ more than 12,000 people) were closed. In Emporia—a Kansas town of 25,000, with 20% Latino, more than 1,500 people protested at the county fairground near the Tyson meatpacking plant where many immigrants work. Immigrants protested in Storm Lake, Iowa, where 20% of the town's 10,000 people are Latino and Tyson Foods, the world’s largest meat producer, was forced to shut down for the day. And in dozens of other small towns, immigrants also took to the street on May First.
To the U.S. ruling class, the millions of immigrants who come across the border are something to fear and attack. But the revolutionary proletariat and its allies, welcomes these immigrant sisters and brothers, who are a strategic strength in the struggle for revolution.
There were lots of American flags at these demonstrations—reflecting widespread illusions about what the United States is all about and what it means for the masses of people here and around the world. In the midst of this, the Red Flag was taken up by thousands—including people who consciously see this as the flag of proletarian revolution. Some people carried the American flag and the red flag—reflecting the fact that this movement has not broken out of the bounds of acceptable bourgeois politics as well as the motion and potential in such a situation—and the need for revolutionary leadership.
Millions of non-immigrant people in this country who oppose the discrimination and mistreatment of immigrants have been inspired by this growing struggle for immigrant rights—and there were important expressions of this on May First. In Chicago, social workers who treat rape victims greeted the march with signs that said “Gracias” and “Thank You.” White church members provided water to protesters under a sign that read: “Yesterday's Immigrants Support Today's Immigrants—Your Journey is Our Journey.” A multi-national contingent of medical students chanted: “Our patients will be treated, papers are not needed.” And there were others who came out to these demonstrations with a similar message: “We are all immigrants” and “No Human Being is Illegal.” Such seeds of unity are significant and, if nurtured, can grow into something necessary, powerful and beautiful in the struggle against the system, in the fight for a better world.
On May 1, 2006—right here in the belly of the beast, it is truly exciting and significant that over a million immigrant proletarians took to the streets, in cities and towns throughout the USA, proclaiming their humanity and determination to fight for their rights. The sentiment that “we workers make society run” reflects a real truth, and at the same time, is not yet and needs to become class conscious—to recognize and act on the fact that as a class, the proletariat is the only class that can and must lead the fight to free all humanity. The outpouring of resistance by immigrants that marked May First this year is truly something that should be celebrated and joined. And it needs to be built off of, in a way that brings forth the class conscious leadership of the proletariat, prevents this movement from being channeled into ineffective bourgeois politics, and contributes in the most powerful way to the revolutionary struggle to free this planet from all oppression and exploitation.
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