May Day mayday

May we?: May Day has never been a big holiday in this country, not like in those formerly Red and pinkish countries that made such a big deal out of celebrating International Workers’ Day on May 1.

Ironically, the holiday began right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A after American labor unions called a general strike for May 1, 1886, in support of the eight-hour workday, only to have things degenerate into a police riot and bombing in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. The Socialist International responded to the ugly incident by declaring May Day.

The American powers-that-be tried to take the radical focus away from a holiday recognizing workers by creating the milquetoast Labor Day, and later, during the Red Scare, anti-communists went even further by declaring May 1 Loyalty Day.

But by then, the Soviets had already pretty well tarnished the idea of May Day by marking the holiday with annual parades of military hardware transforming it into something akin to Totalitarian Day.

Yet Leftists from around the Sacramento area this week seemed to be trying to revive the May Day of old with a variety of events.

The Sacramento Central Labor Council and other unions didn’t use the words “May Day,” but nonetheless held a lunchtime Worker’s Memorial Day event in the Capitol Park rose garden to honor workers killed or injured on the job and to slap President George Bush for rolling back workplace safety standards.

At Davis and other University of California campus sites across the state, thousands of UC workers turned out for rallies to show a face of solidarity to UC management during the May Day kickoff for new contract negotiations.

Sacramento Area Coalition Against the Death Penalty also used May Day (or rather the anti-communist alternative of Law Day, declared by American presidents since 1958 “to promote justice and civil order based on the rule of law”) to kick off a campaign calling for a death penalty moratorium in California, with Senator John Burton and actor Mike Farrell leading the charge during an event at the Sacramento County Courthouse.

Of course, these events were held simultaneously around noon, fracturing progressives. It’s no wonder conservatives have such a lock on this country. Most liberals’ idea of solidarity is to chant in unison about a million different gripes.

Clubbing the Pope: Speaking of liberals with a gripe, members of the Sierra Club are all pissed off at the Sacramento Bee for last week’s “Environment Inc.” series, and with Bites for agreeing with reporter Tom Knudson last week that the Sierra Club has gotten too fat and happy.

Several Sierra Clubbers contacted SN&R complaining about the label, and one even included a copy of the letter that head honcho Carl Pope sent to Knudson, which was a “gee whiz, I thought you were on our side” whine of the first order.

Yet a careful read between the lines of the letter only proves the point that Bites made last week. Pope touts SC accomplishments like “we helped to create the new giant Sequoia National Monument. Or that the Sierra Club and our colleagues helped galvanize 1.5 million Americans to comment in favor of the wild forest protection plan to save 60 million acres of National Forests.”

OK, let’s look at those accomplishments. The Sequoia National Monument is a pristine jewel, but Sierra Pacific Industries is now clearcutting forests on its borders. Sierra Clubbers admirably tried to stop that with a proposed clearcutting moratorium last year, but then did nothing to retaliate against Governor Gray Davis when he killed the measure, even as smaller environmental groups staged angry rallies over the issue. And aside from using it as a ploy for more fund raising or some anti-Republican platitudes, the Sierra Club has done little as President Bush killed the roadless initiative for the national forests.

Why? Because they’re trying to be pragmatic, to work toward consensus, to avoid joining the radical fringe, blah, blah, blah. But if they believed their own alarmist rhetoric, they would be trying to team up with like-minded groups to organize a general strike or otherwise lay their bodies over the gears of power.

But like the Soviets, Sierra Club has become more concerned with its own power and influence than with fighting for the powerless.