A Word in Season


To all whose hearts beat true to the cause of oppressed humanity—English, German, Dutchman or Jew ; black, white, yellow or red ; without distinction of race or sex—fraternal greeting!

To all who suffer the torments of capitalist oppression, who hunger and thirst amidst mocking plethora, who are weary of to-day and apprehensive of to-morrow—English, German, Dutchman or Jew ; black, white, yellow or red ; without distinction of race or sex—fraternal sympathy and, this May-day message : Hope !

Hope, the eternal, the very spirit of May-day. It presided at the village festival in days when romance still dressed life in other hues than drab ; it quickened the nimble feet of youth footing it on the green ; it disputed with Time the unexpended years to the credit of robust middle age ; it passed magic fingers over the seamed and shrunken visage of ripe maturity, blotting out the battle scars of three score years and ten. It was resurrected in every rising blade of green, and in every bursting bud.

And now, when the maypole is a tradition, kept alive only by novelists, and publicans’ signboards, when promise of good crops gladdens so little those whose bugbear is a glutted market, when the brightness of Spring only accentuates the dinginess of modern existence, each recurring May-day still bids us—Hope!

Hope for the workers of the world;—but not, mind you, in indolent inactivity or feeble effort—there is no hope in that. Nor in gay procession or flaunting banner, or the passing of empty resolution. Nor in blind following after the loud, or unenquiring acceptance of the outpourings of passionate hearts. Nor in numbers, nor in barricades, nor in the heroic devotion of those who dare to “seal their faith with their blood.” Nor in charity, or love, or justice, or the “inalienable rights of man.” There is no hope here.

The hope of the workers lies in their Socialist knowledge. This only can strike the shackles off their limbs and take them up out of the capitalist house of bondage. This only can remove the barriers of national conceit and race enmity so strong for the upholding of this capitalist house of bondage. This only can save them from the blandishment of the all-promising misleader and the sophistry of the self-seeking demagogue.

For the study of social science teaches that if it is not exact truth that all men are brothers, at least it is certain that the workers of all countries are bound together by the bond of common interest, and that the struggle of the future is not between English or German, Dutchman or Jew, but between the workers of all countries on the one hand and the capitalists of the world on the other.

The study of social science also marks out the road to be followed with such distinctness that the wiles of the Jack-with-a-lantern are without avail. Everywhere the harrassed workers are falling victims to place-hunting traitors trading on the name of Socialism. Such are particularly prominent on May-day, with procession and banner, shallow as they are blatant, and promising everything—if you will only follow them.

Socialism can never be betrayed by such men : it is only Ignorance that falls a victim. A thorough grounding in economics, industrial history, and so forth is the sure eradicator of party “bosses” and political pimps. Only when the workers understand their own politics can they exact faithful service from those they elect to high places, or confer power upon them against the enemy. Therefore our appeal to you this May-day is, not for faith, for faith may be betrayed, not for following, for followers breed usurpers, but for your companionship in the study of working-class history, working-class economics, and working-class politics. For in this way alone can we realise the hopeful promise of May-day—the overthrow of the capitalist system of society, and the consequent emancipation of all mankind, without distinction of race or sex.

(Edirorial, Socialist Standard, May 1908)

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