In the midst of a world where the spectre of famine is stalking, and where daily it becomes more obvious that newly-won peace is only an armistice, the Labour Government saw fit to stage a victory celebration.
Their decision was not greeted with universal acclaim. The die-hard section of the capitalist class did not wish to celebrate victory after the defeat of their Party at the polls, and attacked the event as involving needless expense and being in bad taste. Many workers saw in the great show a tragic encore of the 1919 parade and were not enthusiastic. And on the eve of V-day thousands of miserable housewives, queuing for hours for bread and potatoes., cursed a thoughtless Government for making the celebrations coincide with the Whitsun Bank Holiday. But the Labour Party advocates of planning had planned things quite well, so that the holiday would interfere as little as possible with the production drive. And the L.P.T.B., too, had tilings well under control. The issue of workmen’s tickets was curtailed; the cheering multitudes of workers’ hud to pay full fare.
But in spite of the dismal background of world politics and the grey prospects at home the parade was a roaring success, though rain spoiled the other celebrations. Millions of workers, huddled together on hard pavements, cramped and uncomfortable, tired and under-nourished, yet happy to escape for a few hours from the hard realities of a humdrum existence under capitalism, cheered themselves hoarse while the colourful procession glorifying the doubtful victory of British capitalism marched by.
The Royal Family, whose professional duty it is to be present at these circuses, were out in full force; Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, representatives of the two chief parties of capitalism, travelled in one carriage so as not to split the cheers; Monty and the other big brass-hats were there; fighters and bombers circled overhead; nobody dropped an atom bomb by mistake and everything passed off quite smoothly. But the main body of the procession was made up of working men and women from all over the world who for five long years faced untold dangers and hardships to safeguard the markets of the world for British, American and Russian capitalism. For a few short hours they enjoyed the tribute of cheers from their fellow workers, and then returned to the dreary future which all workers share, at best a degrading lifetime of exploitation known as a “steady job,” and at worst the dole queue or the bread line.
There were some notable absentees from the procession. Marshal Stalin sent no representatives and the Poles were absent. After less than a year of peace the victors are so disunited that they are not prepared to march together to celebrate the defeat of their common enemy. And what has been the fate of “poor little Poland,” on whose behalf our masters told us that this war was fought? She has merely passed from subjection under one great power, Germany, to the domination of another great power, Russia.
Socialists took no part in the hollow cheering. They are no kill-joys, but they cannot cheer an empty victory. When their fellow workers all over the world think as they do, there will he something worth shouting about. No hysterical press propaganda, no military parades, no jingoistic music, no blood bespattered national emblems, no cynical politicians or saluting puppet monarchs will have a place in the day of victory of the working class. Spontaneous, rejoicings will ring out throughout the world, and men and women will at long last be able to build a world, where they can be useful, humane, comfortable and happy.