K: “Guess what? The south west TUC are actually organising a big event for Mayday this year.”
K: “I bet you can’t guess exactly what that are going to do?”
B: “Oh a challenge huh? Well, they will not do it on May day, it will be on the following Saturday. There will be an A to B march from City Hall at …11.00 am?! It will finish in Castle Park for a Rally at the band stand.”
K: “Ha, yes, exactly that! Also I’ve managed to find out where the next organising meeting for the march is. They’ve invited a few groups along, maybe our invite got lost in the post, lucky we found out about it huh?”
So we decided to pop along to the meeting to see if we could have some say on the plans for May Day. Last year we were involved in a group organising (and encouraging others to organise) a week of action based around Mayday including a march and rally hosted by BADACA. We thought we would see how plans were panning out for this years May Day celebrations, expecting a large public meeting (last year had 30+ people at the ‘first of may group’ meetings) we instead found ourselves in some sort of steering committee, mainly consisting of the same old Union bureaucrats, socialists and a nice guy from Real Democracy Bristol. Our self appointed chair was Andy Robertson, RMT high flier and Bristol Secretary for the TUC.
On the agenda was who would get to speak at the rally. Guessing who would be speaking was as predictable at the march route: Someone from NHS who spoke last time (Wooo!), Anne Lemon from the NUT (Chortle!) and… drum roll please!?… John Macinally, vice president of PCS and sometime chair of BADACA (Wayhay, he’ll have something new and interesting to say!) Seriously, get his son to speak, he has much more interesting things to say. Last year BADACA and the TUC kindly offered us a space to speak at their rally but nobody was available to do so, (mainly because last year the theme was the NHS and we felt we didn’t know enough on this subject to do a space) apparently this year the TUC have changed their mind.
For this years event we offered to arrange someone to speak on the history of Mayday and asked about more radical speakers. There were general mutters of agreement from around the table, people seemed fine with the proposal and a nice Real Democracy guy was very much behind the idea. But self important Andy was much less keen with a definite no. Attempts to persuade Andy to think again fell on deaf ears and hopes that the fact that everyone else was fine with the idea were misplaced as Andy moved on to the next agenda point.
The person from Real Democracy pointed out that Andy had carelessly moved on before a decision was reached! Regardless of the fact most people were fine with the Anarchists organising a speaker on the Radical history of Mayday (after all, they were allowed to speak last year) officer Andy pointed out that he was in charge around here. He said “I have been delegated by the TUC and the TUC would not want that.” Even though the TUC had wanted it last year Andy explained that this day was about the Unions and Anarchism has no place. We offered to speak on alternative subjects after Andy said everyone already knew the history of Mayday. Poor Officer Andy must have forgotten that history himself as he didn’t realise that radical politics, direct action, Unions and Mayday (International Workers day) are inextricably linked and have a long history. The Martyrs of Haymarket must be turning in their graves to know that Mayday now is nothing more than a state sanctioned holiday. If we are lucky there will be a march on everyone’s day off and union bureaucrats like Officer Andy occasionally organise token one day strikes to keep the workers foggy eyed and content that they are not really in the lap of the state, aswell as keeping the pay cheques from the union coming.
We thought Andy, but also everyone else would like to hear about how Anarchism, Unionism and Mayday are linked to here is a video of the Mayday event Bristol Radical History Group kindly organised as part of our week of Mayday events so big thanks to them again.
So there you have it. Mayday is not about marching from A-B, it is about radical organising and real industrial action, so for a supposed delegate for the Trades Union Council to refute the place of radical politics, practices, and history in International Workers day is not only laughable, wrong and narrow minded, it is an insult to all those workers, the real Union Men and Women, who fought and died for the working conditions we take for granted today.