Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May Day, Anarchy and the ongoing Occupation

There was a holiday on Tuesday of this week. Did anyone celebrate May Day at Ramapo? Plenty of people did in NYC and around the world in cooperation with the continuing Occupy movement and related groups.

Here's a brief history of May Day, according to the Industrial Workers of the World website:

"Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers' Day of May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don't realize that May Day has its origins here in this country and is as "American" as baseball and apple pie...

In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and Jack London's The Iron Heel. As early as the 1860's, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn't until the late 1880's that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class.

...On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day agitators, 40,000 went out on strike..."

IWW's account includes prominently the participation of anarchists - who also play a major role today in the Occupy movement.

According to a recent post on Occupy's main site, here's a quick breakdown of anarchism-in-practice:

"The easiest way to explain anarchism is to say that it is a political movement that aims to bring about a genuinely free society - that is, one where humans only enter those kinds of relations with one another that would not have to be enforced by the constant threat of violence. History has shown that vast inequalities of wealth, institutions like slavery, debt peonage or wage labour, can only exist if backed up by armies, prisons, and police. Anarchists wish to see human relations that would not have to be backed up by armies, prisons and police. Anarchism envisions a society based on equality and solidarity, which could exist solely on the free consent of participants."

I think it's kind of badass, though I do prefer my neo-Marxism, which - admittedly - embraces anarchism to some theological extent and focuses more on the ideas than the process (Marx did indeed predict bloodshed and plenty of it).

I absolutely agree with Occupy writer David Graeber (of the University of London) that there is a difference between protests (which validates the system) and direct action (which disregards it and moves toward something truly better). But I digress. A lot. Sorry.

The point is, May Day is still relevant! The general strikes held this week by tens of thousands of people in the United States and around the world are proof that May Day continues to be important and, damnit, we still have reasons to fight. And I'm certainly not alone in that opinion. Check out this amateur video of May Day 2012:

Remember, you can't evict an idea whose time as come. Ours is here, we just need to seize it and refuse to let go.

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