Workers of the world unite!

WE HAVE always maintained that May Day is of supreme importance for the workers’ movement, and not just in a symbolic or sentimentalist sense. It is much more than that.

Those joining May Day demonstrations are those who recognise the need for workers to unite across sectional and national divisions and fight for communism.

In a sense, the march is a physical representation of that aspiration.

May Day acts as a barometer of the class struggle - it is an indicator of where we are now and what is to come, a display of our weaknesses and strengths. Lenin, writing in 1900, observed that the May Day demonstration in the Russian city of Kharkov “showed what a great political demonstration a working class festival can become and what we lack to make these celebrations a really great...manifestation of the class conscious proletariat” (Collected Works, Volume 4, p358).

If we look back at the May Day marches of recent years it quickly becomes apparent that much is indeed lacking in the workers’ movement, and the left in Britain.

At previous London May Day marches by far the biggest contingents have come from Turkish and Kurdish revolutionary organisations. This speaks volumes about the commitment of Britain’s own revolutionary left.

The Communist Party of Great Britain always presents the largest and most militant contingent from the ‘British’ revolutionary left - despite our relatively small numbers.

However, we say this more in sorrow than in jubilation. This state of affairs can be put down more to the chronic weakness of the left, rather than to our own strengths.

This is all a far cry from the early days of May Day, which used to be mass demonstrations of workers’ militancy. The first May Day march in 1886, which took place in America, rode on the crest of a wave of strikes, which culminated in a virtual nationwide general strike.

The number of strikes in that year had tripled compared to the previous year, and had also changed in nature - becoming more ‘political’, less ‘economistic’. Naturally, the May Day march testified to the sudden increase in working class militancy.

Similarly, 1890 saw Europe-wide May Day strikes and protests. Germany saw 10% of the working population go on strike, while in France nearly one million workers followed suit, leading Engels to proclaim, “Today...the European and American proletariat is reviewing its fighting forces, mobilised as one army, under one flag.”

This is the authentic May Day spirit. While we cannot ‘invent’ strikes or magically wave our banners and suddenly bring mass working class militancy into existence from nowhere, we can recapture the mood of communist optimism and communist solidarity which May Day represents.

The streets of London will reverberate again with the loud and disciplined voices of a mass working class movement.

Long live May Day! Long live communism!

Danny Hammil