Socialist Action | Happy May Day 2022!

Good evening, comrades, siblings and friends.  International Workers’ Day, unlike Labour Day in September, is the occasion to celebrate not only workers’ solidarity and our past gains, but the struggle for socialism.  May Day is rooted in the quest for a world without exploitation and oppression. Socialist Action has been at the forefront of May First actions for decades.  Clearly, on May Day 2022, despite big challenges, there are positive signs.  Young workers are organizing unions.  Witness the breakthrough at Amazon in the US.  Witness the successful unionization drives at West Jet, Indigo bookstores, Canada Goose in Winnipeg, various Starbucks locations, at a Vancouver hotel, and a near-win at Staples in Oakville.  Celebrate the election of a new progressive president of the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union, and the triumph of Teamsters for a Democratic Union across North America.  Note the significant support for Workers’ Action Movement candidates at recent CLC and OFL conventions, and the re-election of revolutionary socialists to leading positions in OPSEU and the Public Service Alliance.  The so-called Great Resignation shows that young workers are fed up with low-wage, insecure jobs, and they’re fighting back.

Joseph Ryan, Revolutionary Socialist, 1944-2022

Joseph Ryan, – his friends usually called him Joe, – called me in late May from his home in Denver offering to resume his editorship of our COVID-interrupted print edition of our monthly newspaper, Socialist Action. I heartedly agreed and at Joe’s request sent him a dozen articles for inclusion in what we planned to be our summer issue. Joe was especially motivated to return to editing our newspaper by our website articles on the war in Ukraine. As was Joe’s lifelong habit, he insisted on letting us know where he stood, in this case, mercilessly pillorying those on the left who ignored the central role of U.S. imperialism in instigating the 2014 fascist-led coup and the coup government’s subsequent murderous attacks on the Russian-speaking people of the Donbas that set into motion today’s war and its associated horrors.

The History of Wildcat Strikes

The continued “maturation” of late-stage capitalism saw multiple societal trends intersect violently in the 2020s. The Covid-19 pandemic intersected with real-time climate collapse and ongoing state violence against Indigenous, black, and other racialized people, which triggered spontaneous mass mobilisations against these multiple oppressions. That spontaneous display of anger towards the status quo spilled over into the labour movement as well. With decades of neoliberal austerity and outsourcing, union representation in Canada has fallen to only 30%. At the same time, the pandemic killed off and disabled a record number of workers and forced even more into early retirement. Workers now wield more economic leverage while being less organised than earlier periods of labour struggle. This combination of material factors built up to “The Great Resignation,” where individual workers eschew any company loyalty to take advantage of a labour shortage to maximise individual gains. But bubbling under the surface of this hyper-individualised approach to bargaining with the bosses is a resurgence in strike action of multiple flavours. Unions in multiple sectors struck for safer work conditions, better pay, an end to two-tiered contracts, and more. Yet many non-unionised workers, particularly front-line workers, also stood up and collectively struck in illegal job actions known as wildcat strikes. Given historic levels of worker upheaval and societal crisis combined with low levels of union representation, it is imperative to understand the wildcat strike as a tactic. By looking at important wildcat strikes in North American history, from the Pullman strike of 1894 to the 2020 wildcat of Albertan healthcare workers, we will highlight important lessons for the labour movement going forward

Coverage of China’s Covid-Zero Strategy and Manufacturing Consent

As neoliberal governments faced yet another wave of Covid-19 in December 2021, this time fueled by the even-more contagious Omicron variant, politicians and corporate-owned media began laying the ideological groundwork for the scrapping of all public health protections. Despite workers and oppressed people continuing to get sick, developing chronic illnesses, and dying, and the ongoing uncertainty about new variants emerging, the resumption of maximum production and consumption again stands as the only priority. As the exploited classes are primed to acquiesce to an erosion of our right to a safe workplace, media and politicians work overtime to discredit any alternative pandemic response. In this quest, the biggest obstacle remains China’s successful and dynamic Covid-zero strategy.