Editorial from the May 1911 issue of the Socialist Standard
The month of May, named from Maia, the Roman Goddess of Spring, is reminiscent of ancient games and festivals, of the growing warmth of the sun, of the lengthening day, the opening flowers, and the perennial re-birth of Nature. Even in the stony deserts in which we live, move, and have our being some little influence of May is felt. May is, indeed, symbolical of the springtime of life. What wonder, then, that the one-time merry month should be looked upon as emblematic of a newer social phase, of the re-birth of Society, and of the germing of hope in the breasts of workingmen?
Yet sadly enough must it be confessed that symbolism is impotent. It is but a pale reflex of things that matter. Demonstrations that were to stimulate the workers into interest in their class mission, that were to induce them to clamour for the end of slavery, turned directly into a vain clamour for eight hours’ slavery. The promised revolt of the workers against exploitation became an ardent support of Liberal capitalism with its vague promises of reform. Such is ever the danger of mere enthusiasm, mere spasmodic emotion that is not based consciously on class interest, and is not recognised as such on every day equally with May Day.
As we have been told, we have reforms; but we ask, is the gulf between the classes narrower or wider than before ? We have had years of Liberal-cam-Labour legislation, yet the chasm between the classes is wider than ever. We toil harder. Our real wages are less. Despite trade booms and growing wealth, there is more and wider spread poverty now than when the Liberals went into office, as even a prominent Liberal statistician is moved to confess. This is “progress” under reform. It is the ashes into which the I.L.P. policy of advance to “Socialism” by the reform method turns in practice. There is no hope for the proletariat in the futile endeavour to build up Socialism by an accumulation of reforms within capitalism. Reform does (and must, in accordance with economic laws) entirely fail to keep pace with the worsening trend of capitalism ; and pursuit of it still leaves the gulf to widen, and our emancipation to be achieved.
In the economic field, also, the hopelessness of the endeavour to bridge the class gulf and reduce exploitation is abundantly plain. Increases in wages confessedly fail to keep pace with the rise in prices of necessaries due to the cheapened production of gold. Decreases in hours utterly fail to keep pace with the speeding-up of production and the more rapid exhaustion of the toiler. Consequently there is as little hope in industrial methods as there, is in reform; they are at best but a means of covering an inevitable retreat.
We do not. however, counsel non-resistance. Far from it. That would be suicide. It would place us even more completely at the mercy of our unscrupulous exploiters But it must be recognised that even though we slacken the inevitable increase in exploitation under capitalism, we are, nevertheless. still losing ground, and that victory lies not that way.
"The first step in the revolution by the working class," said Marx and Engels in the "Communist Manifesto," “is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class. to win the battle of democracy." And unless this step be taken the working class will but wallow deeper into the Slough of Despond, despite their struggling. The revolutionary method alone can lead to victory. It alone can help us make the best of both present and future. It alone can result in the end of capitalism and the emancipation of those who produce. Once this is seen by the wage earners their freedom is at hand. Once they become revolutionary in aim, and understand the magnitude of the issue at stake, then all else in their struggle assumes its true subordinate proportion.
The future of humanity depends upon the |consummation of the revolution for Socialism. In this light most of the present trade union and political activity of the workers is seen to be worse than useless, and must be ruthlessly opposed. And for the rest, such as is part of the necessary organisation and resistance of the working class must fall into line and receive consideration only in so far as it is necessary to the revolutionary end which in our guiding star.
No reform can weigh anything in the balance against Socialism, and no reform, no padding of the chains of slavery, can deserve the enthusiasm of the working class. Too often have they allowed red-herrings to lure them from the straight path of their class policy. The energy of the workers must not be frittered away, as it has so often been, in futile demonstrations for utterly hopeless reforms. Their enthusiasm and heroism must be reserved for occasions worthy of them, for the policy that will benefit their whole class, not for a day, but for all time
One thing above all others must inspire them—the need for the conquest of the world by the working class.
On their backs society is built. By their intelligence is its production carried on. And by their labour alone is its wealth produced. Today they are the only necessary class, and upon them must the ownership and control of social wealth devolve. Once the worker's victory is complete classes disappear, and all find health and joy in participating in the needful but immensely lightened labour of the Socialist commonweal. Consequently, on the working class alone does the future of the whole human race depend. As it has been wisely said: militant, the workers' cause is identified with class; triumphant, with humanity.
Let the worker, therefore, ponder the magnitude of his class mission. He will become ashamed of the pettiness of his present ideals and the squalor of his aims. Let him realise how much depends on him in the present epoch of social change, and he will see that his aim can be no less than Socialism, and his inspiring motto no less than that of the Socialist Party - "The World for the Workers." This we offer as a motto for May Day—and, indeed, for every day until the victory of the working class is an accomplished fact.