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May Day Musings: The Tragedy of Demonstrations

 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.

Are We Armchair Socialists?

The charge is one of indifference, of detachment, of sectarianism. of refusing to join the blood-and-earth struggles for the betterment, the dignity and the survival of the human race. It is, in other words, a charge of being talkers, theorists—armchair Socialists.

We plead not guilty.

We have only one witness to call and that is History, whether it is the history of our early days or of more recent times.

During our sixty-odd years of life, the Socialist Party of Great Britain has seen two World Wars and many other periods when politics was a violent business. At such times, if we had truly been armchair theorists, we could have packed up our platforms, forgotten all had we ever said about capitalism and Socialism and quietly slunk away.

Ballot-Box or Baton?

An "Unemployed Demonstration" is one of the most saddening spectacles that civilisation can provide. Most of the industrial towns have their daily débâcle in front of the Union, but the futility of their actions does not seem to strike the demonstrators; in fact, all that seems to strike them is the policeman's baton. The humanitarian must turn aside in pity at the sight of a few hundred, or maybe thousand, starving and physically weakened individuals parading their distress and wretchedness up and down the streets, to be eventually sent scampering down back streets and alleys at the word of command from a police inspector. If only it were an equal combat, one would not feel its injustice quite so much. But there you have it.

The Riots: Not the Way to Help Ourselves

Self-regarding and typically under-employed, those exotically nominated experts in human behaviour have offered many wordless thanks for the unheralded events that enlivened the streets during those August nights. Suddenly they found the immediate future looking decidedly rosy with the prospect of well-paid sessions of unexciting analysis from TV sofas responding to badgering by equally tedious chat-show figureheads. Then there was the blossoming market for anaesthetic contributions to the newspapers, offering the seamier among them some help in recovering from the consequences of their exposed habit of phone-tapping. All of which sprang from the reassuring assumption that there was an easily accessible explanation, handily encapsulated in a slogan or even a single word, for the mobs with their rioting, looting and violence. This was a process to be helped in accordance with the weight of the qualifications of the “expert”.

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