Celebrating International Workers Day 2020 with Redbait
Celebrating International Workers Day 2020 with Redbait by Flint Beard
On International Workers Day (i.e. May Day) 2020, and with the current political climate in this unprecedented era, I sat down with the members of Redbait for a chat about the international holiday. Redbait is a loud and proud group of political activists first, and a band second. Message is not just at the forefront of Redbait as a project, message IS the project.
To that end, the band has made wise use of their downtime during the Stay At Home orders that have been put in place due to the COVID-19 crisis, and to commemorate the holiday they have designed, printed, and released their own custom “May 1 PSA Propaganda Poster Set” that covers all the different facets of the band’s message in a really cool way. These can be purchased from their bandcamp site at www.redbait.bandcamp.com/merch, and you can rest easy that they are all, of course, union made.
Check out the posters in the following images:
All said about message and merch, don’t be led to believe that the music is an afterthought or in any way not up to snuff, with the release their debut 7” here on New Age Records back in mid-2019, and more in the pipeline, the band has more than proved that their music is formidable enough on it’s own to stand shoulder to shoulder with their monolithic message and mission.
Read up (and prepare to “red up”) below:
- First off, in a nutshell for those who aren't familiar, what is International Worker's Day, and how is it commemorated the world over?
Nicholas: The first IWD took place in 1905. Its dual purpose was to demand an 8-hour work day, as well as protest the executions of the protest leaders at the Haymarket Affair. We (USA) celebrate Labor Day on September 7, because IWD commemorates a black mark on American history. Over the past century, IWD has been less of a protest and more of a celebration of workers. Most nations celebrate it differently. It’s a national holiday in many parts of the world, and even a paid holiday in some.
Richard: Nicholas covered it pretty well. Unfortunately, due to the crushing of and distractions from class consciousness in the USA, it has flown under the radar in the US in recent history, which stands in contrast to the mass and often militant turnouts from around the world. For better or worse, the deteriorating quality of life in the US has been reigniting this flame, however.
- How does IWD and the ideals acknowledged and celebrated on this day align with the ethos of Redbait?
Nicholas: The members of Redbait put our faith in the Working Class, meaning all those who sell their time in exchange for labor. Our combined experience and institutional knowledge is immeasurable. International Workers Day is a celebration of what workers have accomplished through unionism, grassroots organizing, boycotts, and stoppages (strikes).
Richard: The ethos should resonate with anyone who is not a part of the owner/upper class. We all sell our time and lives to subsist in this world, and as a result all share a similar struggle.
- A lot of modern hardcore bands are happy to voice opinions that align with social progressivism, but you don't see a lot of outright, loud and proud politically themed bands in 2020. Why do you think that is?
Madeline: When you put your politics out there, there's always the possibility of backlash and public scrutiny. It’s that vulnerability that I think turns people off from being very politically outspoken. It’s also emotionally heavy. Every song is a reminder of the problems in the world that are too big for you to fix.
Rebecca: I think people are scared of criticism. Personally, I welcome it. Most of my ideas come from having written something stupid and having someone with a different perspective challenge me on it. Those challenges can strengthen or change your arguments, but the discourse is important no matter what.
Nicholas: Real talk: progressivism is a threat to the status quo. One cannot shake nine decades of blacklisting, imprisonment, deportation, and even execution for demanding progress. True story: a comrade of mine, who is credited with organizing actions that integrated American Bandstand in 1976, was also charged and faced prison time for “transporting Communism across state lines”. We know plenty of people who have been doxxed and threatened. For too many, it’s too scary to fly that flag.
Richard: Armchair broad statements of support for progressive causes are easy and low risk to most bands. I think it really comes down to why you started playing music in the first place? Are you specifically trying to communicate a message? Or are you trying to be the latest hype band? The latter lends itself to being apolitical in order to garner the largest crowds/not rock the boat.
- Redbait is made up of mostly vegan and straight edge members. How do you feel these moral principles fit into your political ideologies specifically?
Madeline: Being vegan straight edge is about the elimination of unnecessary violence. It's against the commodification of both human and animal suffering. Every choice we make has political implications because we don't exist in a vacuum. Class is also inextricably tied to both positions. Consider the conditions of slaughterhouse workers who are pushed to work until they are physically injured, making unlivable wages, enduring psychological trauma from spending each day killing animals. A significant portion of meat industry workers are immigrants. Employers prey on immigrants because they are less likely to report workplace abuses or push back on an employer because of their immigration status.
Drugs and alcohol are often used to treat the symptoms of living in a capitalist society. People sometimes choose to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol because they are overworked, underpaid, dealing with stress at work and at home, etc. Part of being straight edge is not only recognizing the harm drugs pose to yourself but also the role of drugs in the context of the U.S. empire. Historically, drugs have been trafficked through communities for the purpose of demobilizing leftist revolutionary struggles. We've seen this in Latin America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Let's not forget "The War on Drugs". We've had state agencies introduce a mass influx of drugs into vulnerable communities, leading to a huge increase in arrests of men of color. They are constantly imprisoning more and more people to continue building up prison populations to extract free labor. I am straight edge because I am against imperialism, white supremacy, and U.S. empire.
Nicholas: Madeline said it all. I just wanted to point out that we currently have one vegetarian, and had one omnivore in the past, including any fill-ins. We have one non-edge member now, and one past member wasn’t edge.
Richard: Straight edge to me is a fight against complacency driven by escapism. Life is rough, and reality is bleak at times. When you don’t address that via substances, you’re left with the options to wallow in it or fight against it. Veganism is a fight against the commodification of everything in a capitalist society. Everything has a price and determined value. We’ve extended this to living creatures and reduced their value to their utility to serve human needs instead of their intrinsic value as a life. When you follow an anti-capitalist ideology, it logically extends to solidarity with other living creatures as their suffering is tied up in the same fight as ours.
- If someone wanted to learn more about leftist political theories or learn more about how to become more involved themselves, what further reading or websites would you recommend?
Madeline: I know people are divided on the importance of theory, but I promise you it matters. A lot of it is too dense and not easily digestible but there are some helpful supplements out there to consider before you dive into all three volumes of Capital. There are podcasts like Rev Left and Red Menace that are great when it comes to understanding theory and being able to apply it to the world around you. I'm also a Michael Parenti fanboy so I'd recommend anything of his if you want to learn more about working-class and revolutionary history.
Nicholas: I too love Parenti. I always recommend “Das Kapital for Beginners” by Rius. Lots of humor and it’s illustrated. Historical reading is my favorite way to study. “Red Victory” by Bruce Lincoln, “Thirty Years in a Red House” by Zhu Xiao Di, and anything by Misha Glenny. These are not written by Communists, but they give an honest view of Communists practicing Socialism.
Rebecca: I recommend the book Making a Killing about the economics of the animal trade.
- Lastly, your band rips and is a mainstay of the modern New Age roster! When can we expect a follow up to the "Cages" seven inch!?
B.: We are writing an LP. The plan, since last year, was to have it released in the fall/early winter of this year. However, as for many bands, the Stay At Home orders in the midst of COVID-19 have our timeline thrown off. We have about 11 or 12 songs written. Some of which, however, are songs that have been written by one person during the quarantine and haven’t been played as a full band yet. It’s not impossible to have the record done this year though. Nonetheless, we are extremely thrilled with what we have so far. We’ve continued to stick to the format we’ve always had, but I think it’s safe to say there are some exciting left turns and surprises with the way some of these songs have turned out.
Nicholas: Admittedly, our process takes longer than usual, because there are 6 people involved. Many bands have a “guitarist writes the music, singer writes the lyrics, and everyone else shuts up and plays”. It is not that way with Redbait. We try every idea, and scrap what does not work (the Socialist way!), but we still try it. In everything we do, we make all efforts to include everyone in the process. That takes time.
Richard: B. and Nicholas pretty much said it all. We’re all very antsy to get back to writing, performing, and seeing our friends again.