While millions around the world were celebrating International Workers’ Day May 1st, the Communist Progressive Labor Party held their own May Day celebrations in Flatbush last Saturday.
Known for its ongoing struggles for a wageless and classless society lead by the working class, PLP members gathered at the intersection of Flatbush and Nostrand Avenue. Here, participants expressed their anti-capitalist, anti-sexist and anti-racist rage, explaining how their version differs from the one Americans are familiar with.
“This is not asking for the bosses or people in power to give us crumbs,” said Jonathan, a PL member from Crown Heights. “This May Day, we’re telling them that we’re gonna take it all. That’s our plan.”
Jonathan also explained his view on what it will take to accomplish revolution. “We have to fight to overthrow the system. The system can’t be changed from the inside. It has to be overthrown and smashed. We can’t rely on these politicians of any kind or these union leaders to really give us what we want. What we want as a whole working class is unity and an end to the constant suffering that happens every day.”
A marcher named Jessica linked the neighborhood to the importance of this particular May Day. “We want people in this community to get involved rather than just the people in Manhattan,” she said. “People know about that May Day. Bringing it here to people who aren’t as familiar is always helpful for us because a lot of us live here. This is our community. We don’t have an agenda. This is for the working class people to come out and unite for the most part.”
Lead by a sign advocating class war, the PLP’ers began their march down Flatbush Avenue, chanting “They say cut back, we say fight back!” and “The Workers United Will Never Be Defeated!” through turns on a compact megaphone. Flatbush Councilman Jumaane Williams made a brief appearance right before the group’s departure, taking a copy of PL’s newspaper Challenge being handed out.
Even though it shares the same origins from the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago, PLP’s May Day analyzes racial ideologies in ways the traditional one doesn’t, according to a veteran member. “We are the ones who are really struggling to unite all races,” said Mike, who is celebrating 10 years as a member of PLP. “Other groups don’t really hold a strong message on what racism is and what the concept of racism is. We want to destroy that concept; we want to explain to everyone that it’s a social construct that’s basically a way of controlling and manipulating people and confusing them to believe their enemies are with each other when our enemies are people who oppress us and the ruling class.”
The Cold War and Red Scares of the 20th Century haven’t endeared many Americans to support Communism. Ask most what they think about the political system and you’re likely to hear responses along the lines of, “It’s an evil, dangerous system where people have no rights” or “Look at how China and Russia fared under Communism.” But to Progressive Labor’s fighters, these viewpoints are nothing less than typical misconceptions.
“The people that are at the forefront of bashing this idea of workers running society for themselves based on a collective organization and egalitarian principles: that ideology isn’t a friendly ideology to the people who want to run society based on individualistic practices,”said Reymundo, who sat on a committee to help organize the day’s activities. “We hear a lot of this bashing of multi-racial unity. From these same mouths come the bashing of the idea of Communism.”
To Jessica, Anti-Communism is a by-product of a McCarthyist news cycle. “That’s something that’s been put in by the media, especially in this country If something is so hated, you have to understand why. What is all the propaganda about? What is the force behind it that these people want to hide?”
“We are not anarchists.” said Mike. “We have a concrete analysis of how to fight back. We’re not crazy radicals. We do understand that it’s gonna take a revolution to change the world, but we are not doing that until we have everyone on the same page.”
Once the march ended at a private dinner reception, the members reflected on another May Day in the books.
“People were very receptive,” said longtime Progressive Laborer Karen after hearing a few speeches from her comrades at the reception. “Flatbush is more and more integrated–Arabs, black, white, Latino. We got a very good response from people. I thought it was great.”
Reymundo was more prophetic in his final words about PLP’s 2012 May Day celebration.
“Maybe yesterday I was a little bit hopeless. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be a little bit hopeless. But today that’s not true. Because today I see workers from around the world fighting back and telling me their stories. We can’t possibly be hopeless today. Today is the most hopeful day of the year.”