May Day is the only event that transcends all divisions of religion, race, nationality or any other prejudice of the past amongst human beings. It is commemorated in all continents.
This year May Day falls at a time when the severe crises of capitalism have led to an unprecedented onslaught against the working classes of all countries. If the Keynesian model of capitalism with state intervention in the economy was a disaster for the oppressed masses, the consequences of the monetarist model of free market economics have been preposterous. The policies of deregulation, privatisation, restructuring, downsizing and liberalisation have wreaked havoc on workers’ lives across the globe. In spite of a relative lull of the last two decades of mild reaction, there are now stirrings of a new resurgence of class struggle on a world scale. The Arab Spring, the worldwide Occupy movement, mass street protests in Russia, local strikes and uprisings in China, general strikes by millions of workers in Greece, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Portugal, France, Hungary, Romania, Britain, and beyond Europe in every continent, from India to Chile to Israel, all point to the beginning of new wave of revolutions.
Even the most ardent reformists now have to admit that capitalism is in a state of terminal decay. Astonishingly, an article in the mainstream British paper The Guardian last week said, “Communism is not just the carnival of mass protest when the system is brought to a halt; Communism is also, above all, a new form of organisation, discipline and hard work...Marx’s key insight remains valid, today perhaps more than ever...We feel free because it lacks the very language to articulate our unfreedom...Today all the main terms we use to designate the present conflict — ‘war on terror’, ‘democracy and freedom’, ‘human rights’, etc, are false terms, mystifying our perception of the situation instead of allowing us to think about it.” Forbidden terms make a comeback in the bourgeois media with a vengeance.
May Day is commemorated in the memory of American workers martyred by the state in Chicago on May 1, 1886. They were in a demonstration demanding an eight-hour workday with white flags. When they reached the Hay Market, the police shot at them and their flags turned red, drenched in their blood. But the decision to commemorate this day as an international workers day was not taken by any government or an international institution of the ruling classes. It was under the leadership of great Marxist teacher, Fredrick Engels, when the founding congress of the second international, held in July 1889 in Paris, decided that this day would become the symbol of proletarian internationalism. May Day is the only event that transcends all divisions of religion, race, nationality or any other prejudice of the past amongst human beings. It is commemorated in all continents, in every nook and corner of this planet, by the toilers. In an article in 1904, Lenin wrote on the significance of May Day: “Comrade workers! May Day is coming, the day workers of all lands celebrate. Their awakening to a class conscious life, their solidarity in the struggle against all coercion and oppression of man by man, the struggle to free the toiling millions from hunger, poverty and humiliation. Two worlds stand facing each other in this great struggle: the world of capital and the world of labour, the world of exploitation and slavery and the world of brotherhood and freedom.”
However, with the ideological and political degeneration of the second international, the proletarian internationalism of May Day began to fade. Social patriotism began to dominate the workers organisations; reformism and opportunism became the hallmarks of social democracy. The sole purpose of designating May Day by the Paris International Socialist Congress was, by means of simultaneous demonstrations by workers of all countries on the same day, to prepare, unite and organise them into a single international proletarian organisation of revolutionary socialism. It had to be built on the lines of the First International Workingmen’s Association created by the Communist League under the leadership of Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels in 1864. The Marxist international is based on one world centre and political orientation that organises the workers as a class cutting across national, religious and other divisions imposed by the ruling classes to drive a wedge into the class unity of the proletariat. It is an organisation that is based on the method of democratic centralism — maximum internal democracy and debate, and maximum unity in action. With the crushing domination of the world market, this planet has become an economic whole. It is an epoch of world politics, world diplomacy, world wars. Hence, a world revolution is essential to ultimately emancipate humankind from misery, poverty, want and deprivation perpetuated by the crises of capitalism.
It is not an accident that there were demonstrations in more than 900 cities across the planet in support of the Occupy Wall Street Movement this year. The main reason was that this movement erupted in the most dominant capitalist country in the world, the USA. It inspired millions of youth and workers across the world; it was from the womb of the mightiest imperialist power in history that this revolt of the oppressed classes had sparked. This year’s May Day would be commemorated with greater zeal and militancy. With the lives of workers becoming more and more miserable, the situation is becoming unbearable. Lenin once wrote, “Politics is but precipitated economics.” Mass consciousness is fast catching up with the economic realities. This would ultimately reflect in the political arena with the new explosion of class struggle. The challenge of May Day is clear: it has to be understood from the essence of its origins, i.e. “Workers of the world unite!” There is no room for any reforms or amelioration of life under capitalism; it has to be overthrown for the salvation of the human race. A socialist victory of the class struggle in any important country will spread the revolutionary change across the globalised world that is interconnected as never before.
The writer is the editor of Asian Marxist Review and International Secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
[This article was originally published in the Pakistani Daily Times]