Sixty-four years ago the American labor movement established May First as a day of demonstration and struggle for the eight-hour day.
This year the leaders of the American labor movement, AFL, CIO and independent, have joined with the most reactionary and anti-labor employers' organizations, the NAM and the United States Chamber of Commerce, to herd the workers into "Loyalty Day'' parades on April 29.
The labor leaders justify this deed on the ground that May Day has been taken over by the Stalinists in the United States for demonstrations organized to further their own political ends. Yet next to the capitalists themselves the Stalinists will be the chief beneficiaries of the Loyalty Day parades organized by this unholy alliance.
Since 1886, when the predecessors of the AFL proclaimed May First as a day of national strikes and demonstrations for the eight-hour day, May Day had become accepted by militant and socialist workers all over the world as THEIR chief day of mobilization for struggle.
To the demand for the eight-hour day were added, as the years went by, the other chief slogans of the working-class and socialist movements. The third congress of the Second International, composed of the leading labor and socialist organizations of its time, passed a resolution in 1893 which read:
"The demonstration on May First for the eight-hour day must serve at the same time as a demonstration of the determined will of the working class to destroy class distinctions through social change and thus enter on the road, the only road leading to peace for all peoples, to international peace."
The workers' demonstrations on May Day were met in most countries by police violence. The employers and their governments did not want to see the workers mobilized in vast demonstrations which revealed to themselves and to all classes of society the potential power of the working class. And as the revolutionary socialist ideas of Marx and Engels gained acceptance among the workers, the conservative labor leaders themselves grew fearful of the mobilization of the rank and file on May Day, and therefore either made it into a harmless "holiday" with games and festivals, or turned against it altogether, as in the present instance.
But especially in Europe, May Day had become deeply embedded in the consciousness of the workers. Stalin and Hitler, each in his own way, paid tribute to this fact by turning May First into a day for vast military and storm-troop demonstrations. The workers were forced to march in these parades, but not under their own banners, not in parades organized by themselves, for their own demands. To prevent them from marching for freedom and in defiance of their exploiters and oppressors, they were and are dragooned to march under banners proclaiming their loyalty to Hitler and the Third Reich, to Stalin and his totalitarian
Here in America no dictator forces the labor movement to parade in joint demonstrations of "loyalty" with the NAM and the Chamber of Commerce. These demonstrations of loyalty to the capitalist system, to the administration of the H bomb and the witch-hunt, to the system of profits and unemployment, are voluntary and hence doubly degrading.
The bankers and manufacturers will not waddle down the streets in these parades under their own banners inscribed with the sign of the dollar, for that would expose to all how few of them control the destinies of millions.
And all over the world the Stalinist hacks will grin also. For they know that despite their misleaders the workers feel no loyalty to the millionaires. And to the workers of the world they will proclaim: "See! Either you march with us, or you march with those who exploit you, who seek to break your organizations, who denounce your every demand and every claim as 'subversive.'"
But the choice before the workers of America and the world is not between "loyalty" to capitalism and "loyalty" to Stalinism. The workers can still be loyal to themselves, to their own interest, to their own class.
That is the message of Independent Socialism on this May Day of 1950.
And even though, on this day the movement of Independent Socialism is too small to take to the streets, the gatherings of the ISL will represent the glorious tradition of the workers' May Dayand the liberating ideas of the struggle for socialism.