May Day Ramblings – From The Oklahoma Leader, May 1924

[Another prescient op-ed by Oklahoma labor leader Oscar Ameringer rescued from the public domain. Enjoy!]

They are marching In brand new overalls with funny little caps on their noodles. This is the regulation uniform prescribed by the bosses to distinguish them from the better classes. Some two thousand years ago the Romans passed a law providing that the slaves should wear certain garbs to distinguish them from free men, but it turned out that were so many slaves and so darned few free men in Rome that the free few got scared; the slave uniform only advertised the strength of the slave class and the pitifully small number of bosses. Hence the law was speedily repealed. To my notion these old Roman slave drivers got scared for nothing. There never was a time in the history of the inhuman race when the slaves did not outnumber the masters at least a hundred to one, but if the hundreds ever successfully outvoted or out maneuvered the ones, It escaped my attention. To tell the cruel truth there is absolutely nothing in numbers. The majority has always played with the loaded dice furnished by the “Intelligent” minority. Give a man a brain and all other things will be added unto him, including numerical superiority. From this it follows that as long as labor is contented in parading its numerical superiority dressed in company overalls, there is no occasion for the bosses to get unduly excited


As the May Day parade is meandering down Main Street trying to keep step with a band in front and another behind (playing in different time, in different keys, and differing tempo) I notice the slogans they are lugging along. Here is the familiar “One for all and all for one” Then comes another old timer “An injury to one is the concern of all”. An ancient hunk of horse sense translated into Anglo Saxon says “United we stand and divided we fall” These slogans sound mighty fine, but they don’t mean anything. The parade itself is nicely divided into sections and compartments with precious little connection between them. Here come the machinists; they’re are on strike just now, so they are first place in the parade, right behind the mounted police and the patrol wagon. As a rule, strikers usually march in front of the police or ride In the patrol wagon, but In honor of May Day the customary procedure is reversed. Behind the striking machinists come the pattern makers and blacksmiths, who at present are working overtime in the shop at which the machinists are striking The reason for the unusual prosperity of the latter crafts is due to the fact that the dilettantes who have taken the places of the striking machinists are spoiling more patterns than they put in the machinery. By this I don’t mean to say that these pattern makers and blacksmiths are not In full sympathy with the striking machinists behind the patrol wagon. On the contrary, these three organizations already purchased nearly $60 worth of bonds from the strikers to help them in the noble struggle against the forces of capital. Besides, they too are suffering from this strike, for only yesterday one of their members was hit by a brick which one of strikers had thrown Into a bunch of workers as they were leaving the plant. Strange how indiscriminating bricks are anyhow. By examining the marchers still closer we will discover that they wear a miscellaneous collection of buttons, charms, and insignia designating national, religious, political, and lodge affiliations. In fact each of the parading crafts might be sub divided into numerous and sundry subsidiary organizations, the members of which have sworn undying allegiance to each other Thus it comes about that union brothers are only full brothers if they pray in the same church, make the same mystic signs, vote the same ticket, and in addition happen to have been born in the same country. So long as working men are craftsmen, countrymen, white men and black men, church and lodge brothers, democrats and republicans before they are laboring men, there is little danger of the immediate surrender of the capitalist system.


About twenty years ago I wrote a leaflet titled “Union Scabs and Others”. The wind up was something like this:


Said the sheriff to the condemned union man “Brother I am sorry to have to hang you, but I know you will be glad to know that the gallows was built by a union carpenter, the rope bears the union label, and here is my union card.”


At the end of the parade there will be a ball game between the Jerktown Tigers and the Brotherhood of Underpaid Boneheads. Kid McSluggers and Baby O’Sneat will give a rousing five round sparring match. For those craving more intellectual recreation, there will be a fat man’s race and a speech by the Honorable Senator Artemus Hotair on The Dignity of Labor.

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