Once again we celebrate May Day, the international festival of the working class. These May Day celebrations are small in comparison to the great numbers and strength of our class. But throughout the world, in every major industrial centre, workers are uniting.
Today is our day, the day when the solidarity of the working people is expressed throughout the world by rallies as the sign of solidarity. May Day is there for us to strengthen our bonds of international comradeship.
Throughout the world, people today are adjusting themselves to the chaotic conditions created by global upheavals. Capitalism has left countries in ruins and made their peoples exiles and refugees. The capitalists heaps misery upon misery upon backs of the helpless and the vulnerable. For countless millions of human beings, life today is torturous hunger, unbearable toil, and dark boding anxiety. At the present time, war and pestilence and famine have grown. Everywhere the reformers search for cures and remedies. Yet the profits of the oligarchs and plutocrats continue to pile up bigger than ever.
Perhaps there has never been another May Day of such importance to the workers as the symbol of their international solidarity because there never was a May Day when capitalist interests were more solid in the international exploitation of the workers than they are at the present moment. As socialists we are very much concerned with the workers’ efforts to protect their standard of living against the encroachments of the employers. Our interest extends to every industry and every country. We are not at all afraid of the charge that we are interfering in matters in foreign lands. What happens to the workers anywhere is the affair of socialists everywhere.
On this May Day let us stand proud and upright to be counted. We need to get together. The world will always be against us if we are not for ourselves. We have been oppressed, we have suffered; we have endured, now let us unite and rise united against capitalism.
May Day is the preparation for social revolution, a trial mobilization of the forces of the working class. When the workers of the world are united we are ready for battle.
When we come to see these events with clearer eyes, unclouded by media misinformation but instead with discerning insight and understanding in our hearts, we must realise that even the most adverse situations ignite the fires of revolt and foster the forces that feed the social revolution. We in the World Socialist Movement are not fooled into believing the working class is the midst of a “revolutionary upsurge” nor that the idea that they wallow in “docility”. Our fellow-workers are not revolutionists as yet but there are signs of fresh hope appearing around the world.
The capitalist class is desperately striving to force working people to pay for the worldwide economic, social and ecological crises it has created. Around the world, the governments that are run by and for the rich are escalating their attacks against our fellow workers. In their insatiable quest to maximize profits, the employers and their state crush everything that stands in their way. We must dare to struggle and dare to win. Reject the divisions fomented by the ruling class and unite and fight.
There is a Better Way. Revolution is the Way
Even though, on this day, the World Socialist Movement is too small to make a significant presence, it does represent the liberating ideas of the struggle for socialism.
What is our vision for a socialist tomorrow?
• Work and leisure in a society of shared abundance
• A renaissance of art and culture
• A world in harmony with nature
This new world has a name: socialism, the complete reorganization of all aspects of social, economic and political life.
This new world will not happen by itself; it will come from a revolution that is the overthrow our masters by the ourselves alone. We have the ability to run the society; in fact, without us, they would be nothing.
The World Needs Socialism!
Socialism Requires Revolution!
The Revolution Needs Us!
We’re celebrating the anniversary of a General Strike held to win the 8 hour work day. That General Strike of May 1st, 1886 was called by the forerunner of the American Federation of Labor and organized throughout the Canada and the US.
On that day 300,000 to half a million workers set down their tools and marched in the largest industrial cities in North America. 80,000 in Chicago, 10,000 in Detroit, New York, St. Louis, etc. In an action of this size happened today, 4 to 6 million would be on strike and 100s of thousands in the streets.
In Milwaukee seven strikers and witnesses were killed by State Militia and four more by Police in Chicago.
On May 4th, what became known as the Haymarket Affair happened when a rally was held to protest the shootings itself turned violent when police waded into a peaceful crowd and someone threw a bomb into the police line. Shooting broke out and seven police and at least four workers were dead. According to contemporary newspaper reports, most of the police dead were caused by other police fire.
In the aftermath, seven labor leaders who organized the rally, were arrested for murder of the police. Because of the men’s anarchist politics six were sentenced to hang and four were executed, including one who had been at home with his children at the time of the rally. It is widely held as one of the worst cases of judicial injustice in American history.
These events were followed throughout the world. In 1890, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) requested that the Socialist International call an international day of action to agitate for an 8 hour work day. The 2nd International called for international rallies to be held. This is the origin of May Day as International Labor Day.
Which Labor Day?
Many say that May Day is the original Labor Day as opposed to the one held on the first Monday of September in Canada and the US. The September Labor Day had been celebrated for at least 4 years previous to the General Strike of 1886. It was developed by US rank and file unionists from the inspiration from a strike for the 8 hour day held in Toronto in the 1870s.
So both have much in common and both should be considered as legitimate since both were motivated by a desire to have “8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest and 8 hours for what we will”
From a labor song “Eight Hours”:
”The beasts that graze the hillside,
And the birds that wander free,
In the life that God has meted,
Have a better life than we.
Oh, hands and hearts are weary,
And homes are heavy with dole;
If our life’s to be filled with drudg’ry,
What need of a human soul.
Shout, shout the lusty rally,
From shipyard, shop, and mill.
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will;
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will.”
In other words, both May Day and Labor Day should be reminders of the need of working people to try and capture the good things in life.
The strike of 1886 was a flop. While hours dropped to 40 hours a week in some skilled trades where unions could control job conditions easily, the increase in unskilled factory work kept working hours at 50-60 per week until the 1930s. It took the desire for post-World War 2 industrial peace to establish the 40 hour week for some years in the 1950-60s.
Today, the average worker puts in more hours than ever before and there is an increase in workers in multiple jobs just to get by. Compare this to the legal maximum of 45 hours the British Empire established for Plantation slaves. On average, modern Americans work longer than plantation slaves in the 1800s. Families need 2 wage workers to survive vs. 1.3 in the 1880s. So the total amount of work needed to maintain a household has risen.
Why is it, that despite all the struggles, the marches, the organizing, we are more or less in the similar place as in 1886?
The World Socialist Movement argues it is because we haven’t learned the lessons of the first May Day and Labor Day. We cannot get the ‘life’ our class wanted in the 1880s by confronting the bosses with petition, pickets, pistols or pipe-bombs. Each of those strategies assumes we need bosses and they can be intimidated into lessening our poverty.
As Marx first showed, and we have argued ever since our inception as a political movement, in capitalism, the rich grow richer and all workers can do within capitalism is slow that process down. It is capitalism as a whole system – wages, profits, markets – which needs abolishing. The murder or intimidation of one ruthless boss won’t help. Nor will the formal change of the social structure at a particular workplace into a collective, etc. We need to see the enemy as entirety, only then can we make decisions to free ourselves and the world.
In 1886 strikers carried banners which stated a simple truth:
“Labor creates all wealth, All wealth belongs to labor”
Working people need to learn and understand that truth. The capitalists need us, capitalism needs us, we do not need it.
The rich will continue to get richer and we will continue to march on May Day until a majority of us decide that enough is enough. Sure, let’s support those who try and defend or increase their wages, but let’s face facts, in the long term they aren’t going to be any more than what it takes for us to merely survive.
Capitalism is killing us and it is killing the world.
There is enough for all and a decent life can be had by all only when socialism is established.
Abolish the Wage System!
The WSM has been organised to provide a clear and concise analysis of the capitalist system, its methods of organization and its problems. Workers can only solve those problems by eliminating capital and wages from the economy, and returning the control of wealth production to the worlds communities, where it resided before economic classes and governments arose. We invite you to investigate our work.