1960s >> 1965 >> no-729-may-1965

May Day Myths

The myths of capitalism die hard.

There is, for example, the myth that the processions and demonstrations which take place on May Day have something to do with the unity of the working class.

It is true that the First of May is traditionally the workers’ day, the day on which working people of all countries should express their solidarity with each other. The Socialist Party of Great Britain, and our companion parties abroad, celebrate the day in those terms. But apart from us, the tradition has been debased by modern realities.

The tanks, the missiles, the guns, the soldiers which are paraded through Moscow’s Red Square are expressing, not the international unity, but the national strifes and prejudices, of the working class.

Throughout the so-called Communist bloc the story is the same. Bellicose speeches spiced with one or two outworn and meaningless clichés, which in reality are a challenge to the Western capitalist powers on behalf of their counterparts in the East, are applauded as revolutionary statements of working class interests.

In this country, the situation is no better. The Labour movement, which claims May Day for its own, is concerned not with the unity of the working class but with aggravating the issues which divide them.

A part of this movement demonstrates over Vietnam, disappointed that the Wilson government has treated the war there just as any other capitalist administration would.

It demonstrates over rents, losing itself in the impenetrable jungle of capitalist reform. It attacks the Conservatives, mistakenly believing that they are greater enemies of the working class than are the Labour Party.

It demonstrates on many things, none of them of any worth. Hands off this country. Hands on that country. Get this person out of gaol. Put that person in.

These are all part of what the Left wing has always loved to call “spontaneous” demonstrations which show the “solidarity” of the workers. They are part of a favourite Left wing myth – that the working class are united.

This is a lie. The workers are split on a multitude of issues. They are split over the race and colour issue. They are split over which side they should take in the international disputes of the world’s ruling classes. They are even split over which party they want to run British capitalism.

These splits are the fruits of about sixty years of Labour Party propaganda. The Left wing – the “progressive” politicians – have never done anything to heal them. Rather have they created some of the worst of them.

There is, therefore, an urgent need for someone to state, constantly and consistently, the reasons why the working class should be united.

The working class are those people in capitalist society who get their living by working for a wage. They sell their ability to work to their employers, which means that their interests as sellers of labour power are one, against those of the class who buy their labour power.

In the process of labour the working class are exploited. Here is the source of their problems – their poverty, their degradation, the ceaseless pressures of insecurity which distort their Lives.

Here is the source of bad housing, of worry, of much misery and sickness.

Capitalism overshadows all our lives with fear and restrictions. All workers share an international unity of interest to abolish capitalism and replace it with socialism.

None of this is ever whispered at the multitude of Left wing demonstrations which deface May Day. The myths are dying hard, but facts have a force which cannot be denied.

The working class as a whole do not yet realise where their interests lie. If they demonstrate on May Day at all, it is for the wrong motives. Rather than waste their time in this way, they should unite to abolish the system which causes the problems they demonstrate about.

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