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legacies | political theory may day 2001-2012

The May Day challenge

proletarian internationalism
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The May Day challenge

Written by In Defence of Marxism Monday, 30 April 2012

[*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

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