Obi Egbuna Jr Simunye
While the entire planet commemorates May Day for the purpose of dealing with fundamental issues that affect citizens of the world who make up the everyday work force, US imperialism is forced by circumstances to rewrite their own history.
Due to this dynamic, so-called African Americans are reminded of the fifth verse in our anthem of resistance “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, written by James Weldon Johnson “Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us”.
The nefarious intentions of US imperialism to both crush organised labour inside US borders and use gullible stoolpigeons in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America to pose as trade unionists for the sole purpose of advancing neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism on a global scale, hoping to undermine the revolutionary goals and objectives of authentic indigenous liberation movements, was a staple at the height of the Cold War and remains a crucial strategic goal of US Foreign Policy today.
Thanks to sustainable organised resistance, even Africans worldwide who have considered Pan Africanism, both ambitious and idealistic, appear to be warming up to the idea that Africans in the Diaspora need a more detailed and intimate understanding of cultural, historical, social and political developments on our beloved mother continent past and present.
This growing sentiment will continue to flourish in the arena of education primarily for two reasons.
Africans in the western hemisphere no longer accept a historical narrative that begins when our ancestors arrived on the shores of the US, Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic in slave chains, or glorified accounts of royal dynasties during the antiquity period in ancient Africa for the purpose of propagating the notion that Africa is part of our glorious past but not our present or future.
We are humbled at the opportunity that presents a different perspective of May Day that exposes how US-EU imperialism deliberately used Reuben Jamela and the Zimbabwe Federation of Labour in the 1970s and former Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai while he was leader of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, what many would consider his first reactionary political detail, is connected to the work of our bold sister Lucy Parsons founding the Industrial Workers of the World and Phillip Randolph starting the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
The Federation of Organised Trades and Labour Unions decided in October of 1884, that May 1, 1886 would organise strikes all over the United States with the slogan “Eight Hour Day No work in Pay”.
On May 3, 1886 building momentum from nearly 500 000 workers protesting in solidarity, decided to target the McCormick Harvesting Company.
This prompted police officers who were present to help the strikebreakers, not the protesters, to shoot and kill between two and six workers.
The next day at Haymarket Square, a bomb filled with dynamite was hurled at police officers who decided to break up the demonstrators.
According to accounts, four police officers were killed and several demonstrators were wounded. This resulted in the execution of Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fischer and George Engel. Parsons was the husband of Lucy Parsons and the couple was forced to flee Texas because of their interracial marriage. Parsons was the founder and editor of the anarchist paper the Alarm and belonged to the Knights of Labour and the International Working Peoples Association.
The Chicago Police Department referred to Sister Lucy as more dangerous than a thousand rioters.
Another crucial development in US imperialism’s crusade to smash organised labour was the Pullman strike of 1894 in Chicago that was spearheaded by the American Railway Union that started with 4 000 factory workers striking for having their wages lowered. When this strike gained full steam, 250 000 workers in 27 states were involved.
The president of the US Government at the time was Grover Cleveland, who decided to deploy 12 000 troops of the US Army to stop strikers for obstructing the trains. Once the smoke cleared, 30 strikers were dead and 57 were wounded, this fascist overture also caused $80 million of damage. This political embarrassment forced President Cleveland and the US Congress to decide on passing a bill declaring Labour Day a holiday in September for the purpose of US imperialism absolving themselves from the atrocities committed by police and military officers at both the Haymarket Affair in 1886 and during the Pullman Strike at 1994.
It would be interesting on May Day next year to conduct an international poll that would gauge what percentage of nations that celebrate this important holiday stems from Gestapo and military tactics used by the country that poses as the caretakers of democracy and human rights against its everyday workers. For so-called African Americans, if the name Pullman rings a bell, this is the same racist and white supremacist who allowed his white customers to refer to his porters as George, which was his first name.
This ritual was an ode to the days of chattel slavery, where all slaves took on the name of the plantation owner, which reinforced that we were property with no identity of our own, whose sole purpose in life was to engage in forced free labour from sun up to sun down.
The so-called African American porters called George that worked for Mr Pullman spent 10 percent of their time cleaning the trains with no compensation, had to pay for their meals, uniforms and lodging, which represented 50 percent of their wages.
It must also be noted that porters on other railroads rode half rate on their days off, while Mr Pullman’s porters had to pay full price and conductor jobs were reserved for whites exclusively. This inspired A Phillip Randolph to organise the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
In the book “Dirty Work 2 The CIA and Africa” edited by Ellen Ray, William Schaap, Karl Van Meter, and Louis Wolf, an essay titled “The CIA and African Trade Unions” by Barry Cohen highlights a quote by former US President Richard Nixon while he was Vice President for Dwight D Eisenhower following a tour of Africa while addressing US Congress.
“It is of vital importance that the American government should closely follow what goes on in the trade-union sphere and that the American consular and diplomatic representatives should get to know the trade union leaders of these countries intimately. . . .”
Cohen highlighted CIA operatives funding the formation of the Moroccan Labour Federation, infiltrating trade unions in Algeria and the creation of the International Federation of Free Trade Unions that stemmed from a split from the World Federation of Trade Unions that was a target of the CIA to rally support for the Marshall Plan.
Cohen then went on to target how the AFL-CIO won control of the ICTFU’s executive board and established a regional office in Ghana in the late 50’s. The creation of the All African Trade Union Federation at the All African Peoples Conference in Ghana threw a monkey wrench in these plans. The next revelation was the CIA’s role in creating the African American Labour Centrer in 1964, two years before the overthrow of the Osagyefo.
This shows Zimbabweans in particular and Africans in general that the money the CIA used to finance Jamela’s travel to trade union centres in Europe in the late 50’s is inextricably linked to the creation of the Westminster Foundation of Democracy by US-EU imperialism, for the purpose of funnelling blood money to ZCTU giving birth to MDC.
From that moment on, Mr Tsvangirai impersonating a trade unionist was over and his masquerade and caricature as the next President of Zimbabwe was in full swing, the only problem was neither he or Wellington Chibebe, his replacement as Secretary General of ZCTU, could claim to be cut from the same cloth as national heroes and former Zimbabwean Vice Presidents Joshua Nkomo, Simon Muzenda and Joseph Msika, all of whom are products of revolutionary trade unionism.
This is why those organizations like Trans Africa Forum and the Congress of Black Trade Unionists embarrassed themselves by attempting to pull wool over our eyes by stating they were aligned with the workers in Zimbabwe.
They arrived at the conclusion openly supporting MDC in Zimbabwe was equivalent to supporting UNITA in Angola and RENAMO in Mozambique.
What President Mugabe and ZANU-PF have done is show that if you truly are committed to workers’ rights, don’t do US-EU imperialism’s dirty work.
Obi Egbuna Jr is the US Correspondent to the Herald and the external Relations Officer of ZICUFA(Zimbabwe Cuba Friendship Association). His email is [email protected]