May Day, 1937–A Warning
Another “May Day” has come and still the position of the workers is unchanged. Denied access to the means of wealth production, except by the consent of the capitalist owners of those means of production, the workers suffer the miseries arising from their enslaved condition.
On the surface the prospects for Labour do not appear very bright at present. In Europe the opportunities for working-class organisation and unity appear to have grown less. In Germany and Italy Hitler and Mussolini seem firmly entrenched in power and able to drive underground all attempts of the more active workers to organise some resistance to capitalist oppression. In Austria a situation similar in many ways exists and in Spain the workers are fighting a heroic battle, with the loss of thousands of valuable lives, striving to resist the attempt to fasten on them regime that promises to put an end for the present to working-class organisation of any useful kind. In America huge labour disputes over trade union recognition are, at this late day, the principal feature of industry.
As far as the Fascist and near-Fascist regimes are concerned, gloomy though the future may appear to the faint-hearted and the pessimists, there is at least one thing certain—no governmental system can carry on indefinitely that closely fetters opinion and refuses to allow any but official political and industrial organisations. However securely founded such administrations may appear, their internal contradictions will eventually bring disaster. Some of the security of these systems has been due to the fact that they have been prepared to adorn themselves with phrases borrowed from the Labour movement and they have also been prepared to destroy some of their members in the interests of expediency.
In all probability the Labour demonstrations, outside the countries under Fascist regimes, will take the form principally of protests against Fascism itself. This is a dangerous trend that may have unfortunate consequences for the worker in the future. Setting up Fascism as a peculiar and overriding danger to the working-class movement focuses attention on one aspect of capitalism only and plays into the hands of the capitalist rulers of the so-called democratic countries, giving them a useful slogan with which to rally the workers against any opposing capitalist groups they care to designate as “Fascist.” In other words, it prepares the ground for a war between “democracy” and “Fascism” in pursuit of hidden capitalist aims—similar to the protestation and the reality of the last Great War.
As Fascism is at bottom but capitalism naked and unashamed, it is urgent that workers should not allow themselves to be ensnared in a net that there seems no doubt will be spread by crafty rulers experienced in the art of converting mass emotion to their own uses. Capitalist ownership of the means of production is the real source of the workers’ poverty and misery. Capitalism, by whatever name it is called, is the workers’ real enemy.
Capitalism is not only the workers’ real enemy, but its periodical financial and industrial convulsions show how creaky it is and how incapable of running smoothly. It produces contradictions and absurdities that glare at us everywhere and frequently bring to destitution and misery large groups of the world’s population. One important instance is before us now. Only a short time ago the producers in the wheat areas of the world were being reduced to destitution because, so we were told, the world was choked with unsaleable wheat —although millions of people were unable to get sufficient bread for their needs. America had huge stocks, a deal of which had to be used up in ways that practically amount to wasting it, while quantities were actually destroyed, in the effort to reduce the abundance that was bringing so much ruin. In the last few weeks the price of bread has gone up and, according to reports, a wheat famine is threatened. The wanton destruction under capitalist direction, together with a deliberate reduction in the sown areas and a ruinous harvest, have been the main factors in reversing the situation. The position has only been aggravated by heavy buying by Germany and Italy. What more could one want to make clear the inadequacy of capitalism as a social system?
Contradictions such as this show how important it is that workers should occupy themselves organising to end this system that oppresses them instead of merely demonstrating at times against effects of it.
It is good that workers are prepared to demonstrate their international solidarity, but it should be a demonstration of real and understanding solidarity. Not mere words and emotion that, like a weathercock, can be changed with every wind. Lack of real understanding of the workers’ unchanging wage-slavery while capitalism lasts, in spite of huge May Day demonstrations, enabled the opposing capitalist rulers to line up the workers against each other in the devastating war of twenty years ago. Lately the signs of another world war have made their ominous appearance with the beginning of an armaments race. It is an urgent matter that workers should reflect calmly and not allow plausible argument to manoeuvre them into the shambles again.