As the London May Day demonstrators assembled outside Marx House, Clerkenwell Green, for the march to Trafalgar Square, the colourful proliferation of banners representing a wide range of organisations, together with the much higher trade union turn-out than in recent years, meant that one began to see what a great day of celebration this important day in the socialist calendar could be.
On this day, millions across the world have taken to the streets ever since 1889, when the first congress of the Second International declared 1 May as International Workers’ Day. This day was initially chosen to honour the American workers’ triumphant strike for the eight-hour day on 1 May 1886 and as a homage to those gunned down by the Chicago police as well as their leaders – Albert Parsons, August Spiers, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden and Louis Lingg – who were condemned to death for their leadership of the strike and declared “guilty of murder” (policemen also died when they attacked the assembled protesters in Haymarket Square). One hundred and twenty years later, the echo of Spiers’ words from the gallows must continue to remind us of our strength: “There will be a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”
The strength and power of the working-class movement has been demonstrated all over the globe ever since. May Day has become an occasion when we celebrate our achievements, express international solidarity and reaffirm that socialism is the way forward for humanity. With the establishment of socialism in the USSR and its historic victory over Nazi fascism, millions of toiling people have been inspired to fight for a better life.
From the storming of the Winter Palace in 1917 to the victorious end of the anti-fascist war, when the red flag was raised on the Reichstag in Berlin in 1945, the flying of the red flag with its hammer and sickle has been indelibly linked to the achievements of our movement and is a symbol of progressive humanity. Whereas internationally, from east to west, from Asia to South America, red flags have dominated May Day, in the imperialist heartlands, far fewer are seen, as our historic day has been hijacked as a ‘spring holiday’ and drained of all revolutionary fervour by the dominance of the social-democratic leadership. It is time that socialists in Britain reclaimed the day, increased our symbolic use of the hammer and sickle, proudly declared our communist ideals and explained that communism is still the only way forward for humanity.
The Soviet Union, under the leadership of comrade Stalin and the Communist Party, fought the Nazi imperialists almost single-handedly, with 90 percent of the Hitler army marauding on its soil for four years. It played by far the greatest role in the Nazis’ defeat, which was a tribute to its socialist economy – its programme of industrialisation and collectivisation – that provided it with the wherewithal to defeat the Nazi war machine against which the heavily armed bourgeoisies of various western European countries, such as France and Holland, were unable to hold out for longer than a few weeks – if that. Since its socialist economy was built in a period of a mere 10 years, transforming the Soviet Union from a backwater into a superpower in that short time, the Soviet Union’s defeat of such an industrially advanced country as Germany is proof that socialism, in unleashing to the full the productive powers of the masses of working people, sets free a truly extraordinary and mighty indefeasible force. We can infer that after capitalism’s final defeat, the energy of the liberated masses, devoting itself 100 percent to the exponential improvement of their wellbeing, will unimaginably transform social existence – banishing forever poverty, ignorance and war.
The Soviet Union was a bastion of peace and justice, and the world has been suffering in an unprecedented manner from the unbridled aggression of western imperialism ever since she collapsed.
Let us resolve to build a working-class movement that will make May Day celebrations take up the challenge that Lenin put to Russian workers in 1896: “It is high time for us … to break the chains with which the capitalists and the government have bound us in order to keep us in subjection… [and] … to join the struggle of our brothers, the workers in other lands, to stand with them under a common flag upon which is inscribed: Workers of the World, Unite!” (Union of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, 19 April 1896)
Long live the Great October Socialist Revolution!
Long live May Day!
Workers of the world, unite!