Sunday, May 1, 2016

From Our Branches (1904)

Party News from the November 1904 issue of the Socialist Standard

Reports from Branches for insertion under this heading must be in before the 20th of each month, otherwise they cannot appear.

Since our last report we have made good progress. More new members have been enrolled and our economic and history classes are doing splendid work by equipping them for a more effective fight against working-class ignorance and apathy. Our party organ The Socialist Standard, goes well, and of the first number we managed to dispose of 260 copies: a fine total, but one that the energy and enthusiasm of our members enabled us to pass on the second issue of which we have sold 386 copies. We may be relied upon to do our best to maintain and increase even this figure, believing that in our paper we have an excellent medium for the propagation of the principles of Socialism.

A Sunday School class for the children is held every Sunday afternoon, and is well-attended, and after the school a communal tea is provided to which all comrades are most heartily invited.—Press Committee.

The Edmonton Branch of the Socialist Party of Great Britain is as active and successful as ever in its endeavour to build up a sound revolutionary party, and thereby justify its name. Despite the broken weather, we have held several good open-air meetings during the past month, and in order to further equip ourselves for the prosecution of that class struggle, the existence of which the pseudo reformers deny, we have formed a discussion class, which already is showing good results, so much so, that even our youngest recruit is now able and willing to take the chair and open our propaganda meetings.

Some somewhat sensational developments on our local District Council, and the very acute form of the unemployed problem manifesting itself in the district, has enabled our local Punch and Judy politicians to work overtime at the parish pump, but signs are not wanting that the unemployed already suspect the motives of those who would lead them. Already two relief committees exist and the formation of a third is contemplated.

The painfully pathetic spectacle of the deputation that waited upon the District Council begging, in the name of the working-class, that the master-class should forget its classhood showed clearly enough that it was neither relief nor yet work that was wanted for the unemployed, but merely popularity and self-advertisement for a few unprincipled political quacks who are misleading the unemployed. In new of i those things we are not idle. We are steadily at work clearing the political atmosphere, and even day brings nearer the time when those misleaders of the working.class shall find themselves alone, and an intelligent proletariat will know its true friends in The Socialist Party which will do its duty regardless of temporary and therefore, fleeting success.

In response to an invitation several of us j journeyed to Waltham Cross on Saturday, Oct. : 15th. A splendid meeting was held, during which over 30 copies of The Socialist Standard were sold and many intelligent questions about Socialism and the various working-class parties claiming to be more or less Socialist were put and answered to the evident satisfaction of all concerned.

The following Saturday, Oct. 22, we again visited Waltham, holding two fine meetings—one at the Cross, followed by one at the Abbey. Fifty-five copies of The Socialist Standard—the whole supply we had with us—were rapidly sold out.

The welcome given us and the eagerness displayed by the workers in Waltham will not soon be forgotten by those who had the privilege of carrying to them the seeds of Revolutionary Socialism. It was, many of them said, the first time the Socialists had come there and they urged us to come again. Needless to say, we readily promised to return, and it shall not be long before the men and women of Waltham step forward ioto the field of Socialist politics in line with The Socialist Party of Great Britain.— A. Anderson.

Here we are doing all that a small branch placed in our position can do. Our literature sales have been fairly good, and our audiences though small at times, turn up regularly and consist mostly of men who will listen and reason, and are not led away by rhetoric, however brilliant. Solid educational work is being done and ere long we shall doubtless have our reward.

We have, of course, to combat the mischievous work of other bodies claiming to be Socialist, which finds expression in the mental confusion of those who take the floor against us. For example, it is a common thing to hear it urged against us that trade unionism is Socialism, and that trade unionists are Socialists!

However, the red flag is still flying, the knowledge of our principles is spreading, and the future is full of promise.—E. J. B. Allen.

Past October—and all's well.

Excepting for special occasions, we have now closed down our open-air propaganda meetings, and are organising a scheme of winter work that we hope wilt keep the branch in evidence and Socialism clearly defined before the people of the town. Developments will be duly reported, and although we cannot—knowing the neighbourhood and its inhabitants passing well—anticipate that these will be of a startling nature, we are yet sanguine that before many moons we shall have a tale to tell of a growing class-conscious proletarian fighting force enrolled under the standard of the Socialist Party of Great Britain, pressing sturdily along an undeviating path to the overthrow of capitalism and the realisation of the Co-operative Commonwealth. We plough a hard and lonely furrow to-day and the field of our endeavours is weed-encumbered and all but choked with stubble. But what a few can do to clear the ground and keep it clear that do we, and to-morrow we reap the harvest—or if we do not, it will not be fault of ours.

To all in the fight—Greeting!—Alec Gray.

J. J. Terrett’s farcical candidature for N. West Ham collapsed at a very early stage, although presumably backed officially by the S.D.F. But the "great” Joe is never happy unless he has a finger in the political pie in this much plagued borough, and is never satisfied unless he is "raising Cain" all along the line, and so he is now introducing a Parliamentary candidate in the person of Mr. W. W. Crotch from Norwich, and has succeeded in resuscitating the some time dormant N. West Ham Branch of the I.L.P.—a branch containing a number of persons who have been pursuing tactics detrimental even to I.L.P’ism, and for that reason have been expelled from the S. West Ham branch of that party. This branch of "don’t-know-where-they-are’s" have apparently at "Joe's” behest adopted Mr. W. W. Crotch as Parliamentary : candidate for the northern division of the borough, so that for our sins we have now two labour candidates, one in each division of West Ham. This kind of thing makes our position extremely hard. Our work would be much easier if we had to sow Socialist seed on virgin soil; but before we can do that we have to root up all the labour tares. Nevertheless, we are doing fairly well. We are successfully continuing our propaganda, having only failed to hold one meeting during the past month, that being due to the weather.

We are doing very well with literature, both Standards and pamphlets; and as we have had a number of greatly interested listeners and some enquirers, we hope soon to be able to announce a further increase in membership. I can confidently say that we shall be able to keep the uncompromising red flag flying here.—G. J. Hodson.

Obituary: Peter E. Newell (2016)

Obituary from the May 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

Our comrade Peter Newell died suddenly on 16th February. He was 90 years old.

Like many others of his generation, Peter first came across the Party at Speakers’ Corner in 1946. At the time, he was a member of the Communist Party, although he left that early the following year. After a period of extensive reading – Peter never did anything half-heartedly or without forethought – he joined our Party as a member of Fulham branch in 1952. He wrote many articles for the Standard during the 1950s, under his own name and later as PEN – his entirely apt initials.

Originally a draughtsman, in the early ‘60s he sought a change of career and became an employee of the Post Office, where he was active in the Union of Post Office Workers. Peter felt his union activities conflicted with his membership of the Party and this, together with personal and family problems, led to his resignation in 1964.

Edgar Hardcastle (‘Hardy’), also a member of our Party, was the head of the research department of the UPW. Hardy suggested Peter write for The Post, the union’s journal. Hardy and Norman Stagg, editor of The Post, fed Peter with material for his column ‘Bellman’s Roundabout’. Much of this came from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which, it was later revealed, turned out to be a CIA front group. Peter was approached by the ICFTU and attended several international conferences in the early ‘60s. He clearly knew something was amiss for his association lasted only a few years, however it sparked a lifelong interest in espionage which culminated in his last book America’s Secret Island, which was published last year. 

In the 1970s, Peter moved to Colchester and became a Drainage Technician for Colchester Borough Council, keeping records of sewers. As for many socialists, paid employment was merely an incidental part of his life, however he was a conscientious worker, always willing to do his bit.

At this time, Peter was writing extensively for Freedom and other radical journals.  He was co-author of Freedom Press’s Fighting the Revolution (1972) and sole author of Zapata of Mexico (1979). His chief association was with the short-lived Organisation of Revolutionary Anarchists, whose journal was Libertarian Struggle. This was a Platformist group, inspired by the Ukrainian revolutionary Nestor Makhno. Peter wrote ORA’s Aims and Principles, which drew on our own Declaration of Principles.

Peter rejoined Central branch in 1992, being a founder member of Colchester branch, now the East Anglian Regional branch.

He will be remembered for his informative articles in the Socialist Standard. He specialised in foreign affairs and was particularly knowledgeable on the history of our companion parties, writing a history of the Socialist Party of Canada, The Impossibilists, in 2008. His last article appeared in last month’s issue.

Peter was a quiet and unassuming man. He was profoundly afflicted by tinnitus from an early age, which led to his exemption from military service. He was uncomfortable at meetings, being unable to hear what was going on. Despite his lack of foreign languages, he travelled extensively, particularly enjoying his trips to Mexico, where he bravely visited remote locations associated with Zapata. He enjoyed music and was a well-known member of the local jazz club. Additional interests included philately – he wrote a guide to the stamps of Alderney and had a fine collection of handmade Tibetan stamps – and family history, his Symond Newell and Kett’s Rebellion (2007) dealing with his relative’s connection with the peasant revolt of 1549.

Our commiserations are extended to Dominique, his long term companion.


The Debasement of May Day: May Day, Yesterday and To-day (1959)

From the May 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard

May Day is here again, with its different kinds of celebrations. The one we are concerned with is the demonstrations and processions by workers that have been a feature in many parts of the world since the last decade of the 19th century.

We are holding our own May Day demonstrations, but ours are solely concerned with the advancement of our object, the achievement of Socialism.

May Day demonstrations began with the passing of a resolution by the Second International Working Men’s Association in 1889 to set aside the first of May as a workers' holiday in order to hold mass meetings to affirm the international solidarity of labour. The idea originated in a movement demanding the reduction of the daily hours of labour.

Although this was the official beginning of Labour May Day demonstrations it had been preceded by a movement in America in 1886 for a reduction of the hours of labour. This ended when the police fired on a peaceful meeting in Chicago, and arrested and executed some of the leaders who were subsequently referred to in the Labour movement as the “Chicago Martyrs.” The trial of these leaders was a travesty of legal procedure, and the intention to convict and execute them as “dangerous agitators” was obvious throughout the proceedings. This brutal attempt to quell the workers’ struggle for better conditions was a failure, as became evident not long afterwards.

From 1889 onwards the Social Democratic Parties, together with the Trade Unions and other groups, had mass demonstrations on May Day, but in the course of time part of the original idea disappeared. Nowadays, instead of staying away from work on the 1st of May for the purpose of demonstrating, the first Sunday in May is chosen. This has taken some of the anti-capitalist fervour out of the movement.

In times gone by, however mixed up and side-tracked the participants in the procession may have been, these earlier demonstrations were at least demonstrations against the domination and iniquity of capital.

In this country the main participants in May Day were the Trade Unions, the Social Democratic Party, the Independent Labour Party, The Fabian Society and, after 1906, the Labour Party.

At these demonstrations resolutions were carried against war, against exploitation, against child labour, and against Imperialism and the domination of oppressed groups of all colours.

In London Hyde Park was the centre of the demonstration. Huge crowds lined up on the Embankment and marched to Hyde Park in formation according to the group they represented, each accompanied by banners with a variety of slogans. At Hyde Park there were numerous platforms from which the ideas of each group were put forward, and to which masses of people, as well as those who had marched, flocked to hear the speakers. At a pre-arranged time the speaking stopped and a resolution acclaiming the international solidarity of labour was put from each platform, and carried with wild enthusiasm.

How different is the scene today, though superficially similar! Gone is the old fervour, misdirected, though much of it may have been. The rise of Russian State Capitalism has temporarily put the clock back. Though we took no part in these demonstration, as we knew they could achieve nothing fundamental, we yet had a sympathy for the anti-capitalist spirit behind these mass expressions of working class solidarity. They were workers, like ourselves, and. though filled with hazy half-formed ideas, yet giving expression to their antagonism to Capitalism in the only way they understood.

Now the demonstrations still take place but. apart from our own, they are largely Communist inspired for the purpose of supporting Russian State Capitalism, to which has since been added the State Capitalism of countries which have lately come into the same misleading orbit. They have long ceased to be demonstrations of the solidarity of labour against capital. In Russia they are demonstrations of Russia’s armed might, tanks and guns being a large part of the proceedings.

In the early years of the Socialist Party of Great Britain we were treated with scorn as impossibilists who would soon depart from the working class movement. Yet time has shown that we were the only realists and possibilists. The reformers of long ago who claimed to be Socialists have been swamped by the reform movements they supported. Some have departed from the scene, some linger on moribund, others, like the Labour Party, have become open supporters of Capitalism and are still trying to rub some of the rough edges off of it.

Our message for May Day is the same as it has always been, and is the same for every day of the year. More than that, it is the only message of hope in a distracted world. The ills the workers suffer today are the product of Capitalism; a system in which the means of production and distribution are owned by a privileged class who accumulate wealth from the labour of the working class which lives by the sale of its labouring power to the owning class.

The goods the workers produce have to be sold on the markets of the world so that the Capitalist owners can reap their profit. Hence there is a struggle for markets, trade routes and sources of supply. Out of these struggles wars develop as well as the other iniquities that flourish today and flourished yesterday. As long as Capitalism lasts there is no cure for the evils it throws up. Reformers, however well intentioned, cannot accomplish any lasting cures for these evils. The only sure and effective cure is to remove the source from which these evils flow—remove Capitalism and replace it by a system in which everything that is in and on the earth is the common possession of mankind. A system in which all those who are able will take part in producing what is required and each will receive what he needs.

Our message therefore is a message of hope. The evils of today can be removed when the workers understand their cause, the remedy, and organise together in Socialist Parties to apply that remedy.

May Day—After The Shambles (1946)

From the May 1946 issue of the Socialist Standard

When the Labour Movement was young the first of May was set aside as a day on which the working men of different countries would suspend work and join in mass meetings to send to each other fraternal greetings and expressions of solidarity in the struggle against capitalist oppression. National groups and parties that throughout the year were pouring scorn on each other and tearing each other to pieces decided on this day to bury the hatchet and join in united processions, their leaders appearing together in amity on the different platforms. Rising capitalist groups in subject nations also took advantage of these meetings to get working-class support for their attempt to get rid of the foreign capitalists who were wringing from their own nationals the surplus wealth for which they hungered.

Although these demonstrations were an expression of the immaturity and lack of political wisdom of the working class, yet they were also an indication, however vague and muddled it may have been, of the growing consciousness of the workers that, nationally and internationally, their interests were fundamentally identical and in opposition to the interests, of the capitalist class.

Since the first Labour May Day was celebrated there have been major and minor wars; two of the former on a gigantic scale. In each of these wars, those who slaughtered each other and brought torment and misery to countless working-class homes included most of the people who, on May Day, tramped in the processions behind banners urging international unity, and who roared their approval of the fraternal messages despatched from the different platforms.. Their political immaturity was exhibited in the easy way, in which they allowed themselves to be deluded into shedding their blood on the battlefields in the name of patriotism and in the alleged defence of countries which, both before and after, gave them only poverty and insecurity, bread lines and unemployment queues, medals and oblivion.

This is the first May Day after a long and terrible war, a war during which we were told the old old story, that the land was a land worth fighting and dying for (Pericles told his poor countrymen the same thing two thousand five hundred years ago!); that this war (like the last) was a war that would end wars forever, and never again would any nation or group of people be permitted to plunge the world into the misery of war. The shallowness of the claims have already been shown. The tragic game of sowing the seeds of war has already begun and U.N.O. has advertised it for all to see. The celebrated United Nations Council is but a thin veil to cloak the relentless struggle between the capitalists of the leading powers for the proceeds of the exploitation of the workers' labour. All governments are looking at each other with suspicion. Each is pulling diplomatic wires; veiled threats are made; all in the peacetime struggle for sources of supply, markets, and trade routes, to serve the only people who gain by the struggle—sections of the international capitalist class who own the means of production and distribution and the resulting product of the workers’ labour. The horrors of the last war do not deter them from risking more devastating wars, for the appetite of capital is insatiable and shrinks at nothing in the pursuit of profit.

The world is going hungry, not the capitalist, but the working-class world, and yet quantities of needful things are not available owing to barriers set up by a system in which production is only carried on where profit is anticipated. Even to-day, while many are poorly fed or destitute, a few, those with the money, can still get abundance. At this moment, if the resources of the world were pooled, as they would be under a reasonable and humane system of production, it is doubtful if anyone need go hungry, in spite of the devastation of Central Europe. It is curious to reflect on the spectacle of well-fed and well-groomed aristocratic animals, such as racehorses and greyhounds, whilst frantic appeals are being made on behalf of the starving people of Europe.

In this country there is a Labour Government, most of whose members were prominent at May Day meetings, but it accepts the problems of capitalism and handles them as any other avowedly capitalist government would, on the basis that things are not produced only for use, but are produced primarily for profit. Attempts are made to “salve their consciences" by pettifogging and pitiful discussions about what constitutes a reasonable return on capital—as if there were anything reasonable in robbery.

For many years we held aloof from the muddled emotional upsurge on these May Days, and we have watched numbers of those who gained applause on the platforms, by their fierce denunciations of some of the evils of capitalism, eventually go over to the side of the enemy by helping to induce workers to fight on behalf of the system that was responsible for those evils. They were not necessarily evil minded, those misleaders of the workers; they also principally lacked the political knowledge that would have enabled them to shatter the false pleas of the capitalist warmongers. But we have no pity to spare for deluded leaders. They help to perpetuate war, poverty and allied evils. It is our aim to arm workers with sufficient knowledge of the cause of their evil condition to enable them to dispense with leaders of all kinds and direct affairs themselves. When members of the Labour Government lined up at the Cenotaph last November to join in singing “Oh God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come,” they expressed their own futility. It is not to gods, devils or leaders that the workers must appeal for help, but to the brains they employ at their work with which they can acquire knowledge of the real source of their submerged condition. When they have that knowledge they will know how to act on it.

We have been too few in numbers to stage a demonstration of genuine Socialist fraternity on our own account until recent years. But just before the war we made attempts which showed that we could do valuable work in this way to help working-class political wisdom by May Day demonstrations of our own. This May Day we are again organising our own demonstration to urge workers to have done with reform policies and remedies that still leave them a prey to the profit seeker and human fodder for the battlefields.

The workers produce and distribute the wealth of to-day while the capitalists, the non-producing class, live like leeches on their backs. The worker, whether what he receives is called wages or salary, runs industry from top to bottom; he runs society itself, and yet depends for his job upon the will or the whim of the capitalist. The workers can just as easily run society for their own benefit as they now do for the benefit of the capitalists. The May Day message we deliver to the workers is the same message every year. Abolish the private ownership of the means of production and substitute for it the common ownership of those means of production. Not Nationalisation but Socialism is the solution to the workers' problems. By that, and that only, will war, poverty and insecurity be abolished and the world made a place of peace, plenty and security for all.

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Film Review from the October 1987 issue of the Socialist Standard

The title refers to a bullet. The film begins with the new recruits undergoing training to be soldiers. This takes the form of the most unbelievable verbal abuse - something in which the audience took delight. Furthermore, the recruits are told to give their rifles a name because that is the nearest they will get to a woman - women are seen only as objects of satisfaction. "You're useless without a rifle and the rifle is useless without you". 'Marines die. That's what we're here for, but the Marine Corps lives forever, and that means you live forever" they are told, to instill obedience and loyalty.

Like most dramatic films about the Vietnam war since Apocalypse Now, we only see the Vietnamese as cyphers and shadowy figures: prostitutes haggling over payments; evacuees fleeing, and snipers.

The voice-over is used, a common technique now in this type of film. The voice belongs to Private Joker, who wears a CND symbol along with the words "BORN TO KILL" on his helmet. When asked "How is the war going to be won if you wear a peace symbol?" by a high-ranking officer, he replies "I think I was trying to say something about quality".

In fact, in an interview the director said "We're never going to get down to doing anything about things that are really bad in the world until there is recognition within us of the darker side of our natures, the shadow side”.

The reasons for the war are never touched upon, but we see the effects on (young) soldiers. It is a powerful film showing war as it must be but we must get down to getting rid of the cause of war - capitalism - and not have to continue making conveyor-belt war films.

May Day Musings: The Tragedy of Demonstrations (1936)

From the May 1936 issue of the Socialist Standard

On May 1st thousands of workers walk in procession and gather round platforms to listen to fiery speeches and pass idle and fruitless resolutions on questions of the day. For many years now these May Day demonstrations have been held, and the net result of them all is nil, as far as helping the workers out of their difficulties is concerned.

Like most things, whilst they were new they called forth great enthusiasm, but that was long ago. In pre-war days they were taken seriously, and budding Labour leaders felt that if they wished to make a mark they must appear prominently in these gatherings. Those were the days before Labour Parties had taken a hand in government. Nowadays “statesmanship " fills up the time of the former rebels, to the almost complete exclusion of popular demonstrations. In other words, the labour machine is now so effective that it no longer needs to depend on these demonstrations to the extent that it used to do.

Each year at May Day demonstrations there is a star question of temporary importance, about which the speakers lash themselves into a fury. In pre-war days Ireland and India frequently occupied first place. Since the war Russia, the Means Test and Fascism have competed for first place. This year repression in Germany and Italy will take an important place and the orators will doubtless shed a tear for Ethiopia. It is interesting to record, as an example of the futility of mere protests, that exactly 50 years ago, after eight years of savage repression of the workers' organisations in Germany, the Reichstag, despite the protests, extended the anti-Socialist law for a further two years. Jew-baiting and the repression of labour agitation were as strong in Germany then as now, so little do times change as long as the mass of the people fail to understand Socialism and its implications. Italy, too, in the 'nineties of last century, passed through a period which exhibited almost every feature repeated since the war under Mussolini.

Fundamentally, the speakers on May Day are mainly concerned with abstract questions of justice or detailed questions of hours and conditions of labour in particular industries. It is for this reason that people of great diversity of political opinion can gather together on the same platform, and this is also reflected in the conflicting political views of the audiences that unite to cheer the speakers. In pre-war days the writer has seen Cecil Chesterton, Victor Grayson, an Indian Nationalist, an Irish Home Ruler, and other speakers expressing sectional viewpoints, all uniting to pass the resolution of the day—a protest against something or other that was about as useful as appealing to the sky to cease raining.

It is for this reason, the failure to obtain any real alteration, that the popularity of May Day is waning. But the empty satisfaction of registering a mere protest will still draw large crowds to these and similar demonstrations.

Enthusiasm is an excellent and valuable thing when rightly applied, but when it is wasted in fruitless directions it only leads to disheartenment and apathy. It is partly on this account that we criticise the May Day demonstrations, and not with any desire to jeer at the genuine enthusiasm of misinformed workers. To watch the serried ranks of bannered processions marching by and to realise that it is but the enthusiasm of a day is heartbreaking to those who have witnessed them for years.

Many of those who in times gone by loudly proclaimed the solidarity of labour from May Day platforms were afterwards found either on recruiting platforms or in other ways supporting the war of 1914-1918. Doubtless any future war will show many who are now leading the processions following a similar course. Then it was resistance to the German attack on freedom and the plight of small nations. To-morrow it will probably be the same, only with a different name—possibly Fascism and Ethiopia in place of Prussianism and Belgium.

But back of it all there is a gleam of hope. One day the processions that pass will be different. The marchers will be bent on ending the system that exploits them and plunges them into wars, for they will understand the real cause of their troubles and the only way to end them.

EU Referendum - An Irrelevant Sideshow (2016)

Editorial from the May 2016 issue of the Socialist Standard

We face months of debate over Britain staying in or leaving the European Union. It is already dominating headlines and all political discussions, yet it is not the most pressing issue facing us by a long shot.

In the UK thousands of early deaths each year are related to poor diet, fuel poverty and inequality. Wages have only just returned to the same value they had in 2008, before the Great Crash, and are growing slowly. 1.7 million people are unemployed (according to official statistics) and millions more are working in insecure and stressful jobs.

In reality, it doesn’t matter for the vast majority of us, yet the politicians and journalists are full of discussions about whether or not Britain should be part of the EU.

Those who own the productive wealth of society aren’t going to willingly let their capital lie idle. In or out of the EU, they will need workers and seek profits in pretty much the same way. They will always seek to make the most profit they can, and they will need the labour of those of us who work to make their profits for them.

In order to do business, there will have to be arrangements with other governments, especially those that neighbour Britain. Pretty much all free trade agreements have an arbitration process, which will mean courts telling the British government what to do in order to comply with the treaties it signed.

They’ll still need to ensure that goods and workers can get from A to B without massive queues, delays and bureaucracy. The only countries with truly controlled borders are the likes of Cuba and North Korea, whose examples are hardly worth following.

The owners of capital will still try to ensure that they get privileged access to the corridors of power, so that the rules and terms of trade are in their favour. Most of us will continue to have as little control over the laws of the land as before.

Worldwide millions die due to lack of available medical services. Starvation exists in the midst of plenty of food. Anthropogenic climate change is changing eco-systems across the world. Millions are displaced by war. These are human problems, that we must confront on a worldwide scale.

If we want practical control of our own lives, if we want to confront these problems, we have to organise on a worldwide basis, not a national basis. We need to join with the vast majority of the world who do not own it, in order to bring the wealth of the world under the democratic control of everyone, rather than taking sides in a factional dispute between members of the propertied class.

The Significance of May Day (1907)

Editorial from the May 1907 issue of the Socialist Standard

The First of May of our own times is in direct contrast to the May-day of old. The old festival had an organic connection with the daily work of the people. The old games, the decorations of greenery and flowers, the bringing home of the May; these reflected the joy of all at the awakening of nature, at the promise of the crops to come, and at the growing light and warmth of the season. To-day, however, agriculture has ceased to occupy the premier place and is consequently no longer reflected in the holidays of the people. On St Lubbock’s days, it is true, the joyless proletariat have, at the dictates of manufacture, brief breathing spells; but these are no spontaneous festivals of the people, and brief though they be they are all too long for the scanty wages of many.

Agriculture itself is, indeed, with intensive culture and the growing use of machinery, fast becoming an industry. The increase in culture under shelter and the rapidity of communication with other climes also diminish greatly the importance of the seasons, and tend to complete the change wrought by the rise of manufacture in the significance of the First of May.

To the sentimentalist, even in these times, May-day is still the festival of nature, and represents the past to which he would fain return. He is indeed the true impossibilist. But May-day in that sense is a mockery to the modern wage-slave who, surrounded by a landscape of bricks and mortar, can see no change that betokens Nature’s awakening from her winter slumbers.

The First of May, though nearly all its old associations are for ever lost, has now a new and deeper meaning. It comes to the toilers as seed time for the harvest to come; a seed time of fraternity and organisation with their fellows, for the harvest of deliverance from wage slavery. May-day yet retains a portion of its old significance; it is still a festival of the people, of those who work. No God has brought to these the word of Salvation, and no promise of a reward in Heaven can for ever dull them to present injustice. The proletariat’s Revelation lies in its own toilsome life, and its Heaven can only he the result of its own efforts.

The First of May is, then, a worker’s festival, a pledge of fraternity and internationalism, an awakening to the social mission of the working class. It is not a day that should be wasted by the workers in begging crumbs from the groaning table of those who have robbed them, but a day of education and organisation; a marshalling of forces for the conquest of the world by Labour.