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50 Years Ago: Our May Day Message

JUST OVER SIXTY YEARS ago an international labour conference of reformers of various kinds, thrown up by the labour movement and movements for national self-determination, proposed that the workers throughout the world should take a holiday on the 1st May each year for the purpose of holding demonstrations as an expression of their international brotherhood. Each succeeding year until the outbreak of the first world war these demonstrations were held. On the platforms appeared a hotch-potch of political “leaders”, Trade Union “leaders”, “leaders” of nationalist movements and, of course, the ubiquitous “intellectuals.” Fiery speeches were delivered and the emotions of huge audiences were stirred up until, at an agreed upon moment, a resolution expressing the international fraternity of labour, was put from each platform and carried with acclamation.

May Day is here again but, to the Labour movement, only as a faint memory of times long since gone by. The ideals of those times are now nearly dead and forgotten by the movement that sponsored them. Two devastating world wars, the rise of modern dictatorships, the struggles for new national groupings, the emergence of Labour governments and the unscrupulous and defiling hand of Russian “communism” have submerged these ideals in a world tortured and torn into fragments by conflicting sectional interests and breathlessly bent on a gigantic armaments race.

In place of the solidarity of labour workers in their trade unions take action to resist, or hinder, the employment of their fellows, both at home and from abroad; support national groups of capitalists in their struggle against foreign competitors; and to resist foreign competition. Labour “leaders” who once cut a figure as rugged sons of toil, claiming to represent their fellows in antagonism to the interests of the employers, have now become transformed into pontiffs of industry and trade, supporters of “national” ideals and banquet addicts.

(From front page article by “GILMAC”, Socialist Standard, May 1952)