In the United States, Memorial Day is a time for remembering our family members and friends who have passed away; and for honoring them and sharing our memories of them with everyone who still remembers them – and for passing on the stories of their lives to our children who either never got to know them or whose memories of them are only faint memories from their earliest years.
It is also a celebration of the lives of the millions of worker-soldiers who died fighting the endless wars fought by US armies, all of which – since the U.S. Civil War – have been imperialist wars fought not in defense of the United States but in pursuit of the profit-mad dreams of the U.S. capitalist class.
The U.S. capitalist class and its owned-and-operated propaganda outlets known to Marxists as “the bourgeois press” cynically “salute” the worker-soldiers who have given their lives in imperialist wars – wars which did not make the workers’ lives one bit easier but only heaped even more wealth into the bank accounts of the top 5% of the population: the U.S. capitalist class. The blood of millions of worker-soldiers around the world has been harvested by the capitalists for the capitalists’ own benefit – they whose own sons and daughters more often than not have found ready-made legal “loopholes” allowing them to escape endangering their own lives on the front lines of the U.S.’ bloody imperialist wars. The capitalist class always makes certain that its bought-and-paid-for politicians provide the sons and daughters of the rich with ways to avoid military service in wartime. Yet they all have the nerve to trumpet their phony patriotism on days like this by wrapping themselves in the flag and disgustingly pretending to “honor” the memories of those they have sent to early graves in pursuit of profits for the wealthiest 5% of US citizens.
Meanwhile, the victims of their bloodthirstiness – the worker-soldiers who have had their bodies and minds battered and broken during their descent into the horrors of modern warfare – are thrown away as so much trash; and tens of thousands are left to suffer from the physical and psychological damage that is the “reward” every soldier receives for military service in shooting wars.
Thousands of homeless veterans are forced to roam the streets of U.S. cities, abused every day by the racist, vicious police thugs of the U.S. capitalist class. The families of worker-soldiers who are on active duty – and even elderly retired vets – are forced to beg for assistance to keep a roof over their heads while dad or mom are off brutalizing U.S. imperialism’s “enemies du jour”. It is disgusting that so many families of active U.S. soldiers must rely on charity for their basic needs, like food and clothing – while mom or dad risk their lives so that the numerically tiny billionaire class of the US can amass even greater wealth. Why do we allow this to go on?
For revolutionary Trotskyists, we respect ALL of the victims of U.S. imperialism and its endless wars, not just the worker-soldiers who are driven into the bloody arms of the U.S. war machine in order to find a job or pay for college. We honor the so-called “enemy” workers who are always the victims of imperialist war, slaughtered in the millions by our own sons and daughters. Yes it is our own sons and daughters who serve the aims of US bankers and war profiteers by serving in the military of the mortal enemies of all the world’s workers – the U.S. capitalist class.
We do not honor or support the cynical memorials for US soldiers that are organized by the professional killers of workers in the Pentagon, or by their capitalist masters. They spend millions of dollars every Memorial Day to fly U.S. flags from every flagpole and to place them on the graves of every soldier they sent to their deaths in pursuit of war profits. But when it comes time to pay for rent for the families of soldiers on active duty or for clothes for their kids or for housing for homeless vets, or for drug treatment centers or medical care for vets who have returned home suffering from effects of the wars they fought in, these phony capitalist “patriots”, wrapped in the flag every Memorial Day, are nowhere to be found! We do not support the imperialist armed forces of the US capitalist state, whose role is to crush every workers’ rebellion that occurs anywhere in the world so as to “keep the world safe for the U.S. capitalist class and their corporations”. The soldiers in the armed forces of the US capitalist class, though they are our own sons and daughters – are not “our troops”: they are THEIR troops; the troops of the US capitalist class and their imperialist war machine. They answer to orders given by the US capitalist class, not to orders given by us. It is a sad fact that many US workers encourage their own children to join the military forces of the very capitalist class that exploits workers at home and murders them overseas! Our sons and daughters are being sent all over the world to murder their working class sisters and brothers – and we allow the US capitalist class to do this, while at the same time we shed tears over the thousands of dead US worker-soldiers who have given their lives so a handful of filthy rich US capitalists can continue to live like kings! This is what happens when workers are so politically ignorant that they can not tell their friends from their mortal enemies.
Memorial Day is a time for those of us in the revolutionary Trotskyist workers movement to remember and honor the lives of the tens of millions of worker-socialists and communists who have died fighting for a world in which no one’s sons or daughters will ever have to fight in an imperialist war again. We honor the memories of these millions of worker-communists who sacrificed their own personal comfort by dedicating their lives not to a cozy but vacuous debt-ridden “middle class” dream but to the emancipation of all of the world’s workers from exploitation at the hands of the capitalists, and who gave their lives fighting not for the 1% but for the benefit of the workers of the entire world. These heroic worker-communists led every successful workers revolution in history – and died fighting in the many unsuccessful revolutions as well. They have been slandered and abused by the capitalists of the world who first sought to drown their struggles for the emancipation of the working class in blood and then falsified the history of what they fought and died for so that workers today don’t even know that these worker-heroes ever lived or what they fought and died for. From the coal mines of Kentucky to the copper mines of Arizona; from the cotton fields of the South to the oil fields of Alaska, courageous workers who fought against slavery and then fought to organize unions to defend the rights of workers were brutally attacked and many killed at the hands of the cops and company gun thugs and hired strikebreakers unleashed against them by the ancestors of today’s U.S. capitalist class. On every Memorial Day the Trotskyists remember them all!
We remember the worker-revolutionaries of the Civil War era who came out of the struggle against slavery and became beacons of freedom to workers and peasants and slaves all over the world: Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and John Brown and his brave wife and family. We honor the memory of the ex-slaves, free blacks and abolitionist workers who volunteered to fight in the Union Army in the U.S. Civil War and who did so specifically to overthrow the slave power of the Confederacy, arms in hand! The U.S. Civil War was the LAST time that the US military fought on the progressive side of a war. Ever since then every US war has been an imperialist war fought primarily to increase the personal wealth and political and economic power of the U.S. capitalist class!
In Chicago we honor the memories of those brave worker-communists and trades unionists who were shot down in cold blood by the Chicago Police under the orders of the steel bosses at what has become known as “The Memorial Day Massacre” of 1937. This was the blood-price demanded by the “Little Steel” bosses for the workers daring to organize steel unions here in the “Land of the Free”(TM).
We honor the memories of the Haymarket Martyrs, anarchist and socialist workers executed by the capitalists of Chicago for daring to fight for the rights of workers and an 8-hour day. We honor the memory of Lucy Parsons, who kept the spirit of the Haymarket Martyrs alive to the last day of her life. We honor the memories of the civil rights workers who gave their lives fighting for rights for black workers and who died so often at the hands of the hired killers of the US capitalist class – the cops, the FBI and their Klan and Nazi henchmen. We remember and honor the memory of Medgar Evers, Robert F. Williams, Viola Liuzzo – and so many others whose names the world will never know.
We honor the great worker-revolutionaries who rose from the ranks to become leaders of the workers of the US, and who paid for their honesty, self-sacrifice and dedication to the cause of the working class with long prison terms: Socialist Party leader, opponent of the military draft in WWI and defender of the Russian Revolution Eugene Debs; Trotskyist leader James Cannon; Marine Corps veteran and Black Panther Party leader Geronimo Pratt; black Communist Party member, movie star, athlete and legendary opera singer Paul Robeson; heroic US Communists Ethel and Julius Rosenberg – to name but a few. How many U.S. workers even know these names? The US capitalist class has made sure that their names are never mentioned in the bourgeois press or memorialized by Hollywood. It is up to the revolutionary socialists to keep their memories alive!
We remember and honor the heroic workers and peasants who fought to overthrow Tsarism and then had the courage to forge ahead and overthrow capitalism as well in the great Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 and the Civil War that followed! Thousands of these brave workers and peasants were butchered at the hands of the counterrevolutionary White Guard armies, sponsored by the United States, Great Britain and other imperialist powers of the “free world”. Many lived through the horrors of the Civil War in Bolshevik Russia only to be later brutalized at the hands of Stalin and, later, Hitler and their executioners. And yet they continued to fight to put the Stalinized Soviet Union back on the road of Lenin and Trotsky to the end of their lives!
Of course we honor the great syndicalist and communist leaders from all over the world who gave their lives fighting for the emancipation of the working class internationally: “Big Bill” Haywood, John Reed, Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht, Vladimir Lenin, Abram Leon – and the millions of communist women and men whose names will forever be unknown to the world – who fought for the working class forces in every workers revolution, from the Paris Commune to the failed revolutionary movements in China in 1927, Indonesia in the 1960s, the Philippines, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Iran, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Sri Lanka, South Africa – to name but a few; we honor the millions of worker-communists and their friends butchered by the US capitalist class in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Korea and the victims of US imperialism being murdered by our deluded sons and daughters every day in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and so many other countries. We honor the men and women of the Trotskyist Left Opposition imprisoned and executed in the Stalinist USSR, who carried the banner of Lenin and Trotsky in the face of brutal persecution until death closed their eyes forever! Their names will never be known to history but their heroic struggles will never be forgotten so long as there is a revolutionary Marxist/Leninist/Trotskyist workers party in existence!
Capitalism must die so that the working class may live! Workers of the World, Unite!