For decades, May Day, the international workers’ day, has been a celebration of the struggles and achievements of the working class. It is, in most of the world, the official “Labor Day.”

Here in the U.S., increasing attacks on the labor movement and working families by the extremist Bush administration have put workers on the defensive.

But this year, May Day takes place in the context of a resurgence of militancy and unity among labor and the broad movement for progressive social change.

As shown in the recent Steelworkers convention, the labor movement is increasingly returning to its militant, class-struggle roots and emerging as a leading force for progressive change in our nation. Labor showed its renewed muscle and determination with an unprecedented grassroots mobilization around the November 2004 elections, incorporating new organizational forms and activating many rank-and-filers. The movement was able to elect a number of trade unionists to local office.

While some on the left threw up their hands in despair, Bush’s re-election seems only to have spurred the labor movement, and its growing alliance with a wide range of people’s organizations, to fight harder, broader and better.

A few weeks ago, the USWA and PACE merged to form the nation’s biggest industrial union, saying they were doing so to “combat the assault on workers’ rights that is threatening to undermine decades of social and economic progress.” The Steelworkers also threw out the discredited anticommunist clause that was used to divide and disable labor in the 1950s.

Labor and its allies are not only showing new, united strength on defensive battles — with Social Security front and center — but they are also moving onto the offensive, and scoring victories. Of special note are the wonderful student-labor victories at Georgetown University and Washington University in St. Louis, which demonstrate the power of unity between these two key sectors of the American people.

This year, the Chicago Federation of Labor and the Illinois AFL-CIO are sponsoring a historic May Day celebration in the city where the holiday was born.

May Day, the class struggle holiday, is being reborn in the land of its birth. That is cause for celebration.

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