May 02, 2007


May 1st is International Workers Day and it is celebrated in much of the world as a day of solidarity and renewal in the struggle for workers rights. Despite having been born in the United States during the labor movements of the 1880's it is notably absent as a national holiday in that country today. But not in Armenia....

Yes, comrades, even in the depoliticized Republic of Armenia, where an unregulated free market of labour and production is in full swing, some 2000 die-hard supporters of the Armenian Communist Party (HKK) rallied in Yerevan, waving the red banners of the Soviet Union and chanting "Long Live May 1st" and "Long Live the Communist Party".

Some of us who were in Armenia during the Brezhnev era remember the throngs of people who marched through Lenin Square proclaiming the supremacy of the Soviet state and the ruling Communist Party.

True to form, the Stalinists of that era betrayed the lofty ideals of May 1st. Soviet Armenia was no "workers democracy"; far from it. Perhaps a tiny minority actually believed the official Soviet rhetoric of the time, but for the vast majority of workers it was a day when they were obliged by local party officials and party apparatchiks in the factories to attend these gratuitous state-sponsored manifestations of alleged workers' power and ideological purity.

We also remember, with much amusement and a bit of resentment, how even diaspora Armenians studying in Yerevan at the time were organized into "foreign solidarity contingents" and urged to march as well or else been seen as trouble makers.

But it was an ideology empty of any real content and devoid of any mechanisms for workers to exercise their democratic rights in a so-called "workers state".

Some in Armenia today recollect those days with a fond nostalgia bordering on collective amnesia. Those in power back then cared little for the plight of workers and peasants, and nothing much has changed today. At least those in power today don't conceal their true convictions in further developing an undemocratic market economy.

One wonders whether the "left" in Armenia has anything to offer the people, especially those segments who ask themselves whether a true alternative exists, or might arise, to counter the free market forces running amok today. Devoid of any overarching national collective ideal (something that briefly appeared after the Karabakh victory but long since squandered), perhaps there is an opening for those who envisage a need to rally those sectors in Armenia that are being left behind in the wake of the monopolization of the means of production and the absolutist political power it affords a tiny minority of oligarchs and business king-pins.

Ruben Tovmasian, the Armenian Communist Party's First Secretary stated the following at the party's May Day rally in Yerevan...

At a time when the whole country is unemployed, when the worker sits idly at home, when blood rather than tears drop from his eyes, I call on all of you to be with the Communist Party on May 12th (He refers here to the date for parliamentary elections)

Comrade Tovmasian, if he is a good student of history, especially that of his own party's sordid past, must realize that it will take more than patriotic rhetorical exhortations to stir the m,asses to seek a real alternative to the representatives of the economic oligarchs and their political cronies who run the country today.

The socio-economic contradictions appear to exist in Armenia for such a movement to take hold. What is visibly lacking is the political leadership, ideological conviction, and clarity of purpose needed to transport this potential into the realm of possibility.


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