The right to protest tyranny without assault

Sooner or later these regimes will have to get it through their heads that you can’t outsmart forever the people who actually make this world go round, who know how to make & do things. There was once a wiseass manager who snorted at his work force that any monkey could do their jobs. “If that’s so,” one worker responded, “how come when we come back from strike we have to scrap the work management did while we were out because parts are built upside down, to the wrong prints, & assembled backwards?” A 10-year-old neighbor boy told this story asked, “If they’re so smart why didn’t they hire monkeys to begin with?”

Of course, in the long run, it doesn’t really matter what those managers & regimes get through their thick skulls. The only thing of consequence is when working people begin to understand & organize & exercise our collective power. And there’s “the rub” of social transformation. But it is our knowledge of how to do things, our massive numbers, & our collective strength that has the power to change the world & make it suitable for children to grow free.

This May Day scene from Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey shows protestors wearing gas masks in preparation for the barrage of tear gas they expected from riot cops. Gas masks have become de rigueur attire at protests today but those who can’t get them improvise with dust masks, protest versions of the niqab, scarves. In Brazil, residents being forcibly evicted from a favela showed up to battle riot cops in barrels & all manner of metal regalia. People who don’t know how to do anything except give orders & deploy troops will find in the long run that they are no match for the creativity of working people who make & move everything on this planet.

In the US, the Civil Rights movement faced such cop violence, including truncheons, water cannons, attack dogs, mounted police–but along with the anti-Vietnam War movement helped win the right to protest without assault. Of course, the same wasn’t true in dozens of other countries where (often US-backed) tyranny prevailed. We’re all in the same boat now & must stand together in demanding our rights of free speech, public assembly, & the right to oppose tyranny without being assaulted, shot, or jailed. The more they deny this, the more they prove our need to boot them from here to kingdom come.

The banner here reads “Workers who resist win.” True! And workers who resist respect their own collective power.

(Photo by Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)

African immigration to Europe: Immigration is a human right! Open the borders!


The tough one here is not the military cop in riot gear wielding the baton but the unarmed immigrants trying to rush the border fence topped with razor wire to cross from Morocco into Melilla, the north African enclave owned by Spain. They hope that by getting into European territory they stand a better chance of making it to the European continent for work.

Most who get past the daunting impediments arrive with extreme injuries from the razor wire, from being beaten by border guards (both in Morocco & Spain), from falling, & are malnourished since they’ve just spent weeks coming from their own countries. There isn’t a lot of available reporting about how they transit great distances, several borders, & difficult terrains to get to Morocco. If it’s anything comparable to what Central American & Mexican immigrants go through to get to the US, it must be a living hell.

On this occasion (May 1st), 400 immigrants stormed the border fence but only 150 got through. Those who were pushed back will camp in makeshift tents & be subjected to harassment by Moroccon police acting as a southern flank of European immigration policy. Those who do make it are not assured of moving on to Europe & are often deported & dumped back in Morocco.

How did human society come to this? How did such barbarism become the dominant political ethos of our historic era? More importantly, how the hell do we get rid of this social gangrene that forces people from their families & cultures, endangers their lives, & humiliates them as if they were beasts?

The growing combativity of immigrants in staking their rights to immigrate is a development of the greatest importance & ought to make our hearts sing. As the US immigrant rights movement chants, “No human being is illegal.” The only way to make those damn fortresses come down is to stand with them in a solid phalanx of solidarity. Neoliberal predation acknowledges no national borders & neither do we.

Immigration is a human right! Open the borders!

(Photo by Fernando Garcia/AP)

May Day 2014 protests

There are so many remarkable photos from around the world of the International Labor Day protests today. They were from Germany, France, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Cuba, Croatia, Russia, Greece, Spain, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Italy, Iraq. Protestors demanded higher wages, safety standards, & worker’s rights. Apparently riot cops don’t have the same appreciation as the rest of us for working people standing in solidarity since they came not to join protests but to attack them with truncheons, tear gas, & water cannons in several countries, particularly in Turkey, Cambodia, & Italy.

In Istanbul workers defied a ban on May Day protests & against gathering in Taksim Square, the venue of last summer’s uprising, by coming out in force. Police violence was extreme, especially the excessive use of tear gas. Many were injured. Cambodia also banned protests but sweatshop workers leading the protests were also out in force & sustained vicious beatings from riot cops.

It should be frankly acknowledged (& not without a certain amount of glee) that in some places riot cops appear to have gotten as good as they gave. Turkish protestors responded to police provocation with petrol bombs, Italian workers matched truncheon for truncheon, Cambodians held their ground despite the attacks. Workers from one labor organization in Manila danced around a burning effigy of Philippine president Aquino. (We’re gonna have to get those Filipino activists over here to teach us a thing or two.) There are no photos so far, as there have been in the past, of Greek workers matching police violence with paint bombs but we hope they’re only delayed in transmission.

Perhaps the most significant thing to note is the role of sweatshop workers who led the protests in Bangladesh & Cambodia. We hope retailers who think of sweatshop workers like oxen to be beaten & driven are terrified by the tsunami coming at them.

There are so many wonderful photos from today but this one of garment workers & others in Dhaka, Bangladesh demanding compensation for survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse & calling for workplace safety is one of the most impressive. We can well understand the political opposition to women’s rights when we see them playing such leading roles in social struggles of every kind all over this planet. The future looks brighter already.

US workers appear to be a hopeless lot & historically we are slow to act. We’re not dull-witted, just conservative when it comes to getting off our asses. But when we move we hold our own admirably. Our ancestors have many proud achievements to show for that. We’re not likely ever to put Filipino activists to shame but some of us will die trying.

Hats off to our brothers & sisters around the world! Solidarity forever is not just a slogan but our commitment.

(Photo by Andrew Biraj/Reuters)