50 Years Ago:The Decline of May Day

CAPITALISM POLLUTES almost every institution with which it comes into contact. Whether such institutions are absorbed from a previous social system or whether they grow from the foundations of the capitalist system itself, they are either moulded to suit the interests of the capitalist class or are deflected from their original purpose to meet the needs of capital. May Day is no exception.

. . . May Day today has little of its original character left. It is not taken seriously by many workers. Whereas it was once an opportunity for an outing with a definite purpose in view, it is now merely an opportunity for an outing, which few are prepared to take.

The national political parties that formed the Second International lined up with their respective capitalist gangs in the 1914-1918 war and urged their members at each others throats in a war they said would end war. No May Day demonstrations were held in this country during the war. The discontent amongst the workers following that war caused a brief revival of the May Day demonstrations spirit. On May 2nd, 1920 the Daily Herald estimated that “not less than 8,000,000 workers took a full day’s holiday” and the London demonstration was estimated at nearly one million. Similar demonstrations were held in Japan, China, India and other eastern and colonial countries where they had not been previously organised. 1926, the year of the General Strike in this country, was another year of large May Day demonstrations, but, apart from these occasional bursts of enthusiasm, May Day as a day of demonstration of working class solidarity has steadily declined. The labour and trade union leaders have assisted this decline and helped to ensure that May Day shall not embarrass the capitalist class by providing an opportunity for international working class activity. Because, if the workers can act in world wide co-operation on one day in the year, there is no reason to suppose that they will not do so on the other 364 days.

As class consciousness grows amongst the workers in all lands, co-operative action will be planned. It will not stop at the organisation of marches and demonstrations to the parks and squares of the great cities. It will be co-operation to speed the abolition of capitalism.

(From front-page article, Socialist Standard, May 1951)

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