MILLIONS of working people celebrated May Day across the world this week. In the socialist countries it’s a holiday celebrating international labour; in the struggling world where the unions are part of the liberation movement it’s a festival of solidarity and in the imperialist heartlands, not least of all in Britain, it’s a day of demonstrations of the organised working class to raise the demands of the class in struggle against capitalist exploitation and oppression.
May Day is a day of solidarity and a time for reflection, when we pause to remember the first modern May Day back in 1886 and the fight for the 8 hour day. It ended in the murder of six strikers by the police in Chicago and the deaths of eight police a few days later in a bombing during a union protest in the city’s Haymarket Square. Eight trade union leaders were arrested and four convicted on trumped up charges and executed by the State of Illinois.
Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel and Adolph Fischer were executed by the State of Illinois in 1887. In 1889 the First International, the International Working Men’s Association, declared May Day an international working class holiday to commemorate the Haymarket Martyrs and the red flag, representing the blood of working class martyrs – the martyred dead of Labour’s anthem – was adopted as the international symbol of the working class.
We’ve come a long way since then. We’ve seen the Great October Russian Revolution of 1917 and the establishment of the Soviet Union; the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan that led to the founding of people’s democracies in Europe and in the countries that smashed the chains of colonialism in the post-war era. We witnessed the tragic counter-revolutionary wave that destroyed the USSR and the socialist states of Europe in the late 1980s and now we’re part of the fight-back for peace and socialism that is sweeping the world of the 21st century from Venezuela to Nepal.
Just a few years ago the imperialists were bragging that socialism was “dead”. Francis Fukuyama, the American neo-conservative bourgeois philosopher, who helped draw up the “Project for the New American Century”, was going around bragging that the struggle between ideologies was largely over, ending so he thought with the victory of bourgeois “democracy” that would pave the way for the “new world order” led by US imperialism. Now Professor Fukuyama is having second thoughts. He now believes the Iraq war was a mistake. He has distanced himself from the neo-con doctrines he once embraced as the American dream of world domination dies on the streets of Baghdad and the mountains of the Himalayas.
As the imperialist world totters on the brink of a great depression it’s clear that capitalism cannot solve the problems of the world. Capitalism cannot feed, clothe or educate the billions of the world nor can it stave off the ecological disaster that is largely its own creation.
Socialism is the only answer. It’s a fact that all the wealth of Britain and all the wealth of the world is produced by workers slaving away in the fields and mines and factories. What is also true is that, outside the remaining socialist countries, working people receive only a miserably fraction of the wealth that they produce every day of their lives. Only socialism can end this. That’s why we remember and celebrate May Day – to unite and fight for workers rights and the communist ideal. Only through socialism can the will of the masses, the overwhelming majority of the people, be carried out. Only socialism and mass democracy – not the sham democracy of the bourgeoisie or the myths of the social democrats – can end the class system and free working people from their slavery.