as monday's parade pours into the CNE grounds to disperse amid the glitz and slime of the midway, it becomes increasingly evident that the Labour Day ritual is growing stale. Each year, unionists gather 30,000 strong, supposedly in a display of solidarity and empowerment. But amazingly, they continue to allow themselves to be herded down Queen Street to the Ex, where political expression is prohibited and participants fade into a carnival of cotton candy and antiquated hucksterism.
Instead of ending the march in a grand show of unity at a picnic or concert or some other union-controlled spectacle, unionists struggle to cope with the ear-piercing flybys of the air show -- a showcase for our nation's capacity for terror and a reminder of the hardware available to be used against demonstrators when we challenge the global arrangement of power.
If any real resistance is to come out of this ordered array of marchers, it seems it must come from the radical folks of CUPE local 3903, the grad students and teaching assistants who galvanized the labour movement with their hard-fought 11-week strike last year.
Sure enough, at the end of the today's parade, some of their members set up a carnivalesque facsimile of kicking Mike Harris's ass. A banner advertises the event and a carny invites passersby to take a swing at the same ass that was illegally confiscated from a CUPE member's house by 40 Toronto police before a rally in June.
The ass enjoys some fine booting before being removed by CNE security with Toronto police in tow. Shoppers Drug Mart has rented the space on the lawn that the union local had chosen, and apparently no CNE property may be used by anyone in the Labour Day parade -- at least not if their activities are "political" in nature.
The fact that our labour leaders continue to organize a march to a space that claims to be void of "politics" is astounding. It might also be added that, as the police kick CUPE 3903 members off the lawn, advertisements for the American military are blaring from speakers behind them, fighter planes are swooping overhead and people are riding tortured elephants (six adults at a time) around a circle no more than 25 metres wide. The Labour Day march is a parade of passivity, delivering the most active and conscientious unionists into the hands of midway hucksters who make their cash off gambling for the cheapest, most useless prizes, surely made in the worst sweatshops of the Third World.
It might be a good thing for rank-and-file unionists to learn something from the anti-globalization struggles and decide to take collective control of the events of the workers' holiday.
Toby Moorsom is a York University grad student