Th. Rothstein 1919

The Two May Days

Pseudonym: John Bryan
Source: The Call, 1 May 1919, p. 6 (911 words)
Transcribed: Ted Crawford
HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

For five years the workers of the world, with the sole exception of revolutionary Russia, did not know their First of May. Betrayed by their leaders, deluded by the master class, swayed by the passions of blood and vengeance, they were busily engaged in massacring one another for the glory of capitalist profits, or else piling up at home munitions of war, day and night, without stoppage, as if their own happiness and that of the dearest to them depended upon it. Universal brotherhood, international solidarity of the working-class, abolition or limitation of armaments, peace of the world, eight hours’ day—all these First of May watchwords, for which they had been demonstrating year in and year out for just a quarter of a century before, were forgotten or deliberately and scornfully dismissed, as Youth’s great dreams are often forgotten or dismissed by Manhood’s haughty conceit or cynical treason. Those were bitter days—the days when those of us who had the old faith still in them perceived the utter hollowness of the International, with all its insincere watchwords, and traitorous and corrupt leaders. The capitalist world had triumphed. King Capital, “dripping blood from every pore,” as Marx once said figuratively, but now come true literally, was sitting proudly in his chariot dragged by all the best horses from the Socialist stable—the Hyndmans, the Renaudels, the Vanderveldes, the Plekhanoffs, the Scheidemanns—and crushing under its heavy wheels all our noblest ideals and sweetest hopes. Who but those in distant Russia, who had dared to rise in double revolution to throw off the double monster of Tsardom and Capitalism, could have the heart to come out into the streets to greet the First of May with the welcome of brotherhood and peace?

But now we are at “peace.” The hands have grown weary of massacre, and in our hearts Hope and Faith and even Charity, have begun to blossom. Even Charity, we say, for are we not ready to extend our magnanimous pardon to those who, for five years, stood against us on the opposite side of the trenches, and in whom we are beginning to see, once more, our brothers? Why, some of us are even prepared to forgive the Russian Bolsheviks who have had the audacity to carry out the behests of the Second International to the letter, much to the horror of the capitalist world and its new supporters! Yes, on this First of May the Renaudel-Thomas Socialists, who for five years had patriotically refrained from insisting on an inquiry into the circumstances of the assassination of Jaurès, and the Scheidemenn-Noske Socialists, who are directly guilty of the murder of Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, and whose hands are dripping with the blood of thousands of Socialist workers, will extend to each other a full and hearty amnesty for their respective attitudes during the war, and once more proclaim the old truths about universal brotherhood and universal peace. And nationally, too, do we not perceive a touching approximation, in faith and charity, of those who, during the war, were in opposite camps like the Kautskians and the Scheidemannites in Germany, and the Longuetists and Renaudelites in France? No wonder that the Belgian “Socialist” leaders themselves, the Vanderveldes and the Brouckères, who are so eminently fitted by providence to act as go-betweens, are beginning to relent, and have decided to rejoin the Second International in order that they may once more asume those presidential functions which they discharged so well during the war! Reborn at Berne, with that wonderful internationalist, Hjalmar Beaming, the friend of Mr Goulkevitch, the Tsarist Minister in Stockholm, acting as godfather, blessed by Kautsky, Henderson, Axelrod, and other high priests of “democratic” Socialism, and now rejoined by Vandervelde himself, this Second International will celebrate the First of May of the new series, loyal to one another arid disloyal to the capitalist class until the next “war to end war” breaks out and they are recalled to their posts by their respective Governments and general staffs.

But there will be another International; which will celebrate the First of May in a different spirit and in different circumstances. Labour, triumphant in mortal combat with all the material and moral forces of Capitalism—with this consciousness the workers of Russia, Hungary, and Bavaria, in their millions, will come out into the streets on this great occasion, and will be supported in moral union, by those sections of the Socialist proletariat in the Scandinavian countries, in Rumania, in Switzerland, in Italy, and even in France, who now form part of the Third International. Theirs will not be the thought of festive watchwords to be proclaimed and then put away till next year. Theirs will be the firm and serious resolve to fight on here and there, in grim reality, for the defence of their glorious conquests against a world of enemies and traitors who are attacking them, from outside and inside, by weapons of death and by lies and calumnies. It is a red, red First of May that they will celebrate, red in their Socialist faith of their inevitable triumph, and red with the blood which they have, and will yet, shed for themselves and for their brothers who are still blind, inert, and who remain the tools of their masters.

Which of the two May Days shall we, in this country, we, the British Socialist Party, celebrate?