From the May 1944 issue of the Socialist Standard
Another May Day has come, but the old basis of the May Day demonstrations by labour organisations has vanished. Instead of celebrating the international unity of the working class, the leaders of the labour movement, Right, Left and Centre, are nowadays urging their followers on to greater carnage in the world war. How far away we seem now from the large open-air meetings from the platforms of which fiery orators read out, amidst shouts of applause, fraternal greetings to workers all over the world; and, bitter thought, pledges of international unity in the struggle against capitalism.
The cynic might use these old meetings as an illustration of the hollowness of popular enthusiasm. Yet, whatever may have been the real intentions and feelings of the orators, it is unquestionable that the workers who gathered around the various platforms on May Day were in earnest. Their understanding of the workers' position under capitalism was limited; they were moved by the flowery phrases of the orators and hung on their words spellbound; like the weathercock, they turned with every wind; but they felt, however dimly, a fundamental unity with their kind, and really meant those messages that were sent across the world, and that is one of the things that make the present situation so tragic.
We have always held aloof from these May Day demonstrations, because we knew they did not express the real interests of the workers, and were being used to tie the workers to the wheels of all sorts of strange vans which continually landed the workers into the bog of despair. The result has proved the truth of all our claims.
For us, however. May Day this year has a special significance. On the same day forty years ago a small band of enthusiastic and enlightened working men, without funds, literature or premises, were preparing to set on the march a party dedicated to one object and one object only—the establishment of Socialism. That party, the Socialist Party of Great Britain, was founded in June, 1904, and has continued to pursue unswervingly, in spite of two world wars, the object of its founders from that day to this, without seeking to invite members by following any of the alluring byways that drew away from the struggle nearly all of the people who at the time jeered at the policy advocated. Time is showing how right we were and how wrong were our opponents.
To us the real meaning of May Day could only be the international solidarity of the workers against the master class at home and abroad, and the position in that respect remains the same to-day as it always was. Whatever may be the alluring colours in which the rulers of society masquerade, they are still the social oppressors of the working class.
Events have furnished evidence in abundance of the soundness of our outlook. Where now are the groups which used the enthusiasm of the May Day demonstrations to support all kinds of side issues, including the nationalist movements that only expressed the frustrated desires of the capitalists of subject nations? They are either supporters of capitalist governments or gone with the foul winds of war.
The last great war threw up groups of professed supporters of the working class movement, who claimed to have found new paths to lead the working class into the promised land of freedom. But their efforts did more to blind the workers to their real interests than to help them. To-day what remains of those “left” groups have undergone such modification that the originators would feel strangers in their ranks. Present tendencies convince us that the end of this war will throw up a new crop of “left” monstrosities to keep the workers dazzled and bewildered .
It may be urged, because we have grown slowly in spite of the years we have been plodding away, that this is against the soundness of our case. But it is not so. We have grown slowly because the conscious and unconscious supporters of capitalism have used every wile to bamboozle the worker and head off his aspirations for freedom. But all things come to an end in time, and the efforts of capitalist supporters to keep the workers in ignorance of the fact that society to-day is run by the workers for the benefit of idle drawers of dividends are also approaching an end. The workers are learning fast and becoming more and more difficult to fob off with the promise of better times some day if only they will suffer and wait.
We urge the workers now, as of yore, to use the sound brains they have to examine dispassionately the case we put forward in all our literature—that the only solution to the economic ills from which they suffer is the establishment of a system of society in which all that are able will participate in the production of the means to live and enjoy life, and all will participate without stint in the common enjoyment of what is commonly produced. Give us also the benefit of sincerity, because it must surely be clear that working men would not give up their hard-earned leisure year after year unless they were convinced that the end would be worth the effort.
For us, then, our thought this May Day is—Socialism and the end of oppression.