This statement from the International Workers Association recalls the history of the workers’ movement and the IWA’s own role in the early decades of the 20th century, before taking a look at where the anarcho-syndicalist international is now, in the run-up to planned days of action around May 1st.
The origin of May Day dates back to the United States on May 1st 1886 when a strike was launched in support of the 8-hour day. During this campaign a bomb was thrown at a demonstration in Chicago, the police arrested a number of anarchists who had been prominent in the struggle for the 8-hour day.
The arrested men were clearly innocent, but four were executed by the state while another died in his cell allegedly committing suicide. The execution of the four men, who became known as the Haymarket Martyrs, sparked a mass working class protest across the world that lead to May 1st being declared international workers day in commemoration of the sacrifice of the four murdered men.
On this May Day let us then not just remember the sacrifice of the Haymarket Martyrs, but also celebrate the Internationalism of the early workers’ movement that led to the mass protest against the execution of the four men. The message of May Day is that Capitalism is a worldwide system that has to be fought by the international working class. And that working class struggle must go beyond national borders and confront the capitalist enemy directly on an international scale.
And as we approach this May Day, the need for coordinated international working class action against capitalism has never been greater. Capitalism as a global system remains in the grip of crisis that it is seeking to overcome by attacking the working class. In country after country governments are driving down wages and working conditions and throws people into unemployment in an attempt to boost the ailing capitalist system. The capitalist rule is "expand or die", and the crisis is used as a pretext for slashing public services. In fact this is an expansion for opening of markets and capital for private corporations.
Job security is rapidly becoming a distant memory as increasing numbers of workers are forced to accept part time, temporary and flexible working contracts. This has been and is leading to a growing number of workers having to exist in a state of permanent insecurity under which life is reduced to a constant struggle of finding enough employment to survive. A globalized capitalist system is producing a worldwide reserve army of workers who can be hired and fired at will to meet the constantly changing demands of ever more flexible capitalist production methods.
In the face of this capitalist onslaught, the reformist unions have proved themselves powerless: They are dependent on legislative aid and subsidies from the ones who are pursuing the attacks and must either surrender or fight. If they mobilize at all, they are doomed to fail, since they are not built to counter attacks on broad fronts, and to rely on their own strength. In this way the unions become service-institutions and burdens on the back of the workers, not free tools for self-activity and emancipation.
Across the world this social democratic myth of social partnership is rapidly becoming bankrupt in the face of ever increasing capitalist attacks. In Europe, the capitalists and their states are attacking workers and dismantling the "so-called" welfare state. Cyprus is just the latest in the growing number of EU countries implementing austerity measures aimed at making workers pay for the greed of the bankers and the inherent instability of the capitalist system.
In China, India, Brazil and throughout the developing world, a process of rapid industrialization is underway ruining the lives of billions of workers while making a tiny elite rich. In Asia and Africa the majority still face a life of abject poverty under which millions of workers die from hunger and preventable diseases.
Social democratic ideas and methods offer no solutions, and the time has come to abandon the idea of trying to appease capitalism and instead start to confront it. To do this we as workers must act internationally and according to our own forces by organizations which are run by ourselves and not by paid "functionaries".
Such organizations do not class collaborate and won`t receive financial subsidies from the capitalists and the state. Anarchosyndicalism is in favor of direct action, mutual aid and workers solidarity. The immediate aim of anarchosyndicalism is to confront capitalism and the state in order to win gains for workers; our ultimate aim is to destroy capitalism and replace it with a society based on libertarian communism.
The IWA has a proud tradition of working class internationalism. It was (re)founded at a Congress that took place in Berlin between December 25th 1922 and January 2nd 1923 - as such 2013 marks the 90th anniversary of this Congress. The IWA was born at a time when capitalism had gone through a long period of globalization. Then, as now, capitalism used the forces of globalization against workers.
At the Berlin Congress of the IWA in 1922 there were anarcho-syndicalist unions present from 10 countries representing between one and two million workers. Over the next few years anarcho-syndicalism spread throughout the world. As the threat of fascism grew, anarcho-syndicalism engaged in a bitter conflict with fascism in an attempt to destroy it. However, fascism and the state-"communist" Bolshevik totalitarianism crushed the movement, and the IWA emerged from the Second World War in a poor state.
The last 30 years has however seen the influence of the IWA grow to the point where we now have 13 Sections, and as the IWA has grown, so has our ability to organize coordinated international actions. The IWA is today the only revolutionary workers organization able to organize international actions on a regular and sustained basis.
In the run up to this year's May Day, the IWA is launching three Days of Action, on April 29th, 30th and May 1st against Capitalist Austerity Measures, Exploitation, and Oppression. IWA Sections will organize actions with a focus on Global, Regional and Local issues/ work conflicts etc. as part of the IWA coordinated international campaign.
By calling these and other International Days of Action and countless Urgent Actions of Solidarity, the IWA wants to demonstrate that the workers’ movement has no country, and that we are able to overcome the petty forces of nationalism that seeks to divide and blind us to the true evil that is capitalism.
The Emancipation of the Workers must be the task of the Working-class itself.
Long live the IWA and anarcho-syndicalism!
Oslo, April 24, 2013