May Day originated with the call for a general strike, on May 1, 1886, in support of the eight hour workday. Three days later, the police clashed with anarchist labor activists in Chicago's Haymarket, and in the tragic aftermath, May Day would be forever enshrined as the labor movement's most hallowed holiday.
Now, May Day 2012 is set to arrive with a "rise up" of Occupy forces in some 115 cities. It's a rebirth; a commitment to the ideals and a sensibility that started off as a limited protest in a park called Zuccotti. Now it's raged its way into the public consciousness, drawing a line in the sand between the so-called 99 per centers and the forces of the 1% — the Mega-Banking gang that's seized control of the economy and figuratively bombed this country back into a financial stone age, with ordinary folk forced to wear the yoke of unbearable personal debt, living without jobs, driven from their homes at the whims of the foreclosure fraudsters.
May Day, in the Pagan scheme of things, is a time to clean house, sweep out the bad old energy and start a paradigm shift. In this case, for those taking to the street, it's a housecleaning so that everyone has a place at the table, not just those living in Fortress Chase, Castle Goldman or the twin Bastilles of Fannie and Freddie.
Now, when Occupy descends on the scene this May Day, allegedly the Mega Bankers will be ready. According to Max Abelson, writing for Bloomberg, they've all gotten together and hired Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations to keep tabs on the movement. It raises the question: Are there any dirty tricks in the offing? After all, ironically, Pinkerton's legacy extends back to the nineteenth century, when the firm's services were in demand by the precursors to the Mega Bankers, a/k/a the Robber Barons. If you remember your labor history, it was the Pinkerton "detectives" who were ubiquitous as strikebreakers, scabs and spies. Ah, the wonders of history repeating itself (and where's Santayana when we need him?).
Taking back control of our lives is what Occupy is all about and, in that sense, those who take action – whether it's in the courts or in the streets – are partisans of a kind – no different, I'd argue, than those who took to the hills during the Second World War. The Italian partisans even had a song, "Bella Ciao," which has gone on to become the musical personification of any struggle that pits the oppressed against the forces of reaction. In Iran, it was sung by those who gathered in the street to protest the results of the 2009 election.
There's another very important angle to be considered this upcoming May Day: maybe an effort to reclaim the high ground for a significant constituency of the banking community not under the voodoo spell of the Financial Services Roundtable and its lobbyists. I'm talking about the regional, community and mutual banks and the credit unions, institutions that have the potential to offer real options to real people. It takes a bit of creative thinking, no doubt, given that they don't have the big bucks to pay for the lavish Madison Avenue 30-second spots about how great it is to accumulate miles on credit cards. But it can be done, I believe, because there's a sizable community of people (and it's getting bigger) who'd be receptive to the notion that you can get the services you need without having to support the same companies that have inflicted so much damage on the economy and the country.
In what may be a nod to the future, even Bob Dylan himself allowed "Blowing in the Wind" to be used – gratis – by a U.K. cooperative bank that's trying to do some paradigm-shifting of its own. While that might just be one drop in the bucket, maybe down the line, with the help of Occupy, the spigot might open enough to create a flood, a new way of thinking about how business can be done to benefit all.
And in the last analysis, wouldn't that be good for business?
Joel Sucher, a filmmaker with Pacific Street Films in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., is working on "Foreclosure Diaries," a documentary.