By Hanna Waldman
This May Day was certainly a reason to celebrate for members of the Workers Solidarity Alliance working to rebuild their organization after the pandemic. It was a day to connect with new friends, to reconnect with old ones, and to try new things. All of that was accomplished with this year’s May Day events, held via videoconference.
On the afternoon of April 30th, the WSA held its first ever event for families and children. The children in attendance were preschool-aged, and this was reflected in the planned activities. After a cheery greeting, Clarissa (Albany) sang “Alice the Camel,” a classic nursery rhyme song, with the children. Next, Hanna (Indiana) read them the short book A is for Activist by Indonesian activist and author Innosanto Nagara. Finally, the children participated in a craft project, thought up by Sachio and Danielle (Philadelphia), pasting pictures of working people onto a globe, celebrating the workers of the world united–May Day’s true purpose. The children greatly enjoyed the event, expressing delight at making new friends.
The following evening, May 1st, was the highly-anticipated main event, attended by people from all over the United States and Canada. It was opened by Melissa (New York City), who read a very brief speech, reminding attendees of the hope and potential of labor movements past, and a vision of bringing that potential into the future. Next, Sachio (Philadelphia) performed the folk song “Banks of Marble,” accompanied by Hanna (Indiana) on piano.
Clarissa (Albany) recited a very poignant, moving poem—a remembrance of absent comrades, an expression of the purpose behind the fight for racial justice, and a reminder that while May Day is a day of celebration, there is still much work to be done.
Following this introduction, the event opened to lively discussion. Hanna and Sachio reported on the children’s event the day prior. Many attendees hadn’t gone to May Day marches this year, as the pandemic raged on in their areas. This event gave them the opportunity to hear about May Day happenings in other parts of the continent.
Lucien-Charles (Quebec) discussed events in Quebec, including a family-friendly IWW event, and other events that involved clashes with police. He said that he was searching for ideas about what to do in his own neighbourhood, especially pertaining specifically to anarcho-syndicalism—a sentiment the other attendees affirmed.
Lucien-Charles explained that anarchists are in the minority in his area, and that “most of the leftists in his area are Trotskyist or social democrats.” Others chimed in with their own anecdotes and comments regarding the larger presence of other leftist groups in their local areas. Piper (New Jersey) discussed how, in some areas, the Democratic Socialists of America are the only representatives of the left, causing people whose views might differ— such as anarchists— to join them by default. Sachio mentioned that the DSA used to have a libertarian socialist caucus for this reason, and that WSA members participated in that caucus. Adam (Chicago) suggested using DSA connections to meet local leftists, both as allies and as potential WSA members.
Lucien-Charles mentioned the unfortunate closure of Black Cat Press, an anarchist publisher in in Edmonton, AB, after fifty years of operation. The discussion then moved on to favorite anarchist reading materials, which attendees were eager to share with each other.
At this point, the forty-minute time limit for Zoom meetings had nearly been reached. Lucien-Charles suggested an alternative, free platform so that future meetings could be longer. The discourse was so engaging and enjoyable that several attendees continued it on this other platform after the event came to a close.
Greg (New Jersey) said, “We’ll keep listening for how different IWA sections are celebrating May Day,” and offered to find out more about what other groups did, so those ideas can be incorporated into next year’s event.
“This is an experiment,” Sachio said of the event. “We’d love to do more events like this in the future… if the pandemic is over next year, we could do some really cool stuff.”
A spirit of eagerly looking forward pervaded the evening. Attendance was double what the organizers had expected, and enthusiasm was high. It brought WSA members together and renewed their enthusiasm for the fight ahead.