The Socialist Party promotes the struggle for socialism. And that struggle is not for a Utopia of a dim and distant future. On this May-Day, in a world driven mad by capitalist greed and brutality, we call upon you, Fellow Worker, to help us. May Day demonstrations began with the passing of a resolution by the Second International Working Men’s Association in 1889 to set aside the first of May as a workers' holiday in order to hold mass meetings to affirm the international solidarity of labour. The idea originated in a movement demanding the reduction of the daily hours of labour.
Although this was the official beginning of labour May Day demonstrations it had been preceded by a movement in America in 1886 for a reduction of the hours of labour. This ended when the police fired on a peaceful meeting in Chicago, and arrested and executed some of the leaders who were subsequently referred to in the Labour movement as the “Chicago Martyrs.” The trial of these leaders was a travesty of legal procedure, and the intention to convict and execute them as “dangerous agitators” was obvious throughout the proceedings. This brutal attempt to quell the workers’ struggle for better conditions was a failure, as became evident not long afterwards. From 1889 onwards the Social Democratic Parties, together with the Trade Unions and other groups, had mass demonstrations on May Day, but in the course of time part of the original idea disappeared. Nowadays, instead of staying away from work on the 1st of May for the purpose of demonstrating, the first Sunday in May is chosen. This has taken some of the anti-capitalist fervour out of the movement. In times gone by, however mixed up and side-tracked the participants in the procession may have been, these earlier demonstrations were at least demonstrations against the domination and iniquity of capital.
May-Day 2017, finds working class internationalism at one of its lowest ebbs for many a year. How low can be seen from the success the rulers have had in the various countries in turning May-Day demonstrations from their former purpose. The celebration of labour each year was a gesture by the workers' that they repudiated the national and ethnic hatreds fostered by reactionary interests for their own profit-seeking ends. It gave, expression to their longing for peace and their growing desire to co-operate with their fellow workers in other lands. But today there exists a growing tide of nationalism. There is no practical effective internationalism except that which springs forth from the workers' community of interest, sweeping across national frontiers like a cleansing wind blowing away bestial hatreds and fears. The future of the human race demands the destruction of the national barriers which divide the peoples of the world. Not the defence of national independence but the destruction of capitalism must be the watchword of those who would build for the future of the humanity and at the same time help to stem the flood of war in which capitalism constantly threatens to engulf civilisation. The doctrine that each group of workers should rally round their own ruling class in defence of the “national interest” only plays into the hands of the war-mongers in every country. Just as British and American workers gain hope and courage whenever they read of Russian and Chinese workers who have resisted the mass propaganda of their rulers for war and nationalism, so also the internationally minded workers in Russia and China would be inspired to further brave efforts if they heard that their British and American comrades were refusing to ally themselves with Anglo-American expansionism and correspondingly depressed to learn that many of those workers were falling into line behind their capitalist rulers. Let the global capitalists quarrel about their profit-seeking interests. Let the world's workers set an example to their fellows in all lands by proclaiming that the interest of the working class is in internationalism, not in wars for markets. Let working-class May-Day be an answer to all who would seek to turn the thoughts of the workers to nationalism and war.
Our message for May Day is the same as it has always been, and is the same for every day of the year. More than that, it is the only message of hope in a distracted world. The ills the workers suffer today are the product of Capitalism; a system in which the means of production and distribution are owned by a privileged class who accumulate wealth from the labour of the working class which lives by the sale of its labouring power to the owning class. The goods the workers produce have to be sold on the markets of the world so that the capitalist owners can reap their profit. Hence there is a struggle for markets, trade routes and sources of supply. Out of these struggles wars develop as well as the other iniquities that flourish today and flourished yesterday. As long as capitalism lasts there is no cure for the evils it throws up. Reformers, however well intentioned, cannot accomplish any lasting cures for these evils. The only sure and effective cure is to remove the source from which these evils flow—remove capitalism and replace it by a system in which everything that is in and on the earth is the common possession of mankind. A system in which all those who are able will take part in producing what is required and each will receive what he needs.
Our message therefore is a message of hope. The evils of today can be removed when the workers understand their cause, the remedy, and organise together in socialist parties to apply that remedy.