May Day message from the Socialist Party
May Day is not simply a time of celebration for our Party and those who toil.
May Day is also a solemn occasion, a time when we bow our heads in respect for those who have fallen.
On May Day, we remember that the flag of those who toil is not red simply by accident or for artistic reasons. As the traditional labour song goes, “Our life’s blood has dyed its every fold.”
We are revolutionary optimists. Those who toil have won many victories, and they have a great future. In fact, it is only those who toil who are capable of wiping out all the misery and suffering in this world brought about by centuries of exploitation and oppression. But, while we understand why the future of those who toil is bright, we are also sober, thorough-going revolutionaries. We know that the road ahead is tortuous, full of twists and turns.
May Day is a time for casting away illusions and preparing for the struggle for a more just, fair and humane society. It is a time for those who toil to heighten their vigilance against their enemies. It is a time to unite real friends to defeat real enemies.Not all those who wave the red flag or claim to speak for those who toil actually do so. Even at the time of the origins of May Day and the eight-hour movement, there were two lines in the labour movement.
On the one hand, there were those like Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons, who died on the gallows for the cause of labour. These revolutionaries insisted that the demand for the eight-hour day was only the opening shot in a long war, a war that would only end with the complete emancipation of those who toil and the total defeat of capitalism.
On the other hand, there were those like Samuel Gompers, who also claimed to support May Day. They argued that the eight-hour day, an improvement in wages, and trade union organisation would solve all the workers’ problems. Rather than overthrowing the capitalism, they argued that labour should try to win friends among the capitalist politicians and support one faction against another.
Who was right and who was wrong? The revolutionaries like Parsons and Eugene Debs? Or the reformist traitors like Gompers?
We can answer these questions by looking at our conditions today. Over one hundred years have passed and we are still fighting to defend – and attain the eight-hour day. On one hand, we have millions of those who toil who are being driven to the point of exhaustion with forced overtime, moonlighting or speedup. On the other hand, we have millions more who have a zero-hour day, workers thrown out into the streets without jobs, workers who make up the vast army of the unemployed.
Of course, the workers have made some gains in this century of struggle. There have been times when the capitalists and their agents were on the run.Faced with the alternative of massive rebellion, the capitalists made a considerable number of concessions to the workers and the oppressed peoples. But what are these gains, really?
To a certain extent, the gains won in struggle served to strengthen the unity and fighting capacity of those who toil. But when you consider the wealth that those who toil have produced, when you consider the power and potential for abundance of the productive forces that those who toil have themselves created, then these reforms are shown up for what they really are. They are nothing but crumbs, scraps left over on the table after the capitalists have had their feast.
It is socialism, and only socialism, that can help us eliminate exploitation, oppression, abuse and humiliation of those who toil – build it now!
President of the Socialist Party