Various Subjects

Labour and War

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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From the time when the May Day celebration was instituted, the proletariat has sought to make it a general strike and an international demonstration directed primarily against militarism and war. Our May Day celebration this year bears, at first sight, an absolutely opposite character. We shall celebrate May Day with intense labour, and our principal slogan will be: to the front against White Poland.

Not a general strike, but a general festival of labour. Not a demonstration against militarism, but a strengthening of our army. That is the spectacle that the First of May presents this year in Soviet Russia.

What is this? A violation of the fundamental idea of the proletarian celebration, a retreat from international solidarity? Not at all. On the contrary, we have come not to destroy the law but to fulfil it. [Matthew 5:17] If, to outward view, the First of May seems to have been turned upside down in our country, that is only because the Russian proletariat has overturned the bourgeoisie and taken the helm itself.

The May Day strike was instituted as a sharp protest against capitalist exploitation and a reminder of the coming order of socialist solidarity and lofty humanity. We have overthrown capitalist exploitation. We can achieve the new order only through intense labour. The workers of Europe declare a strike on this day, a strike against their bourgeoisie, in the name of socialism. By our voluntary work on rest-days we are laying the foundation of the socialist building. Behind the difference of form lies unity of thought and endeavour.

The proletarians of the whole world demonstrate on this day against militarism and war, because in all bourgeois countries militarism is the basest instrument of class oppression, and war is state-organised plundering and mass murder for the sake of profit.

The army of socialist Russia is an organisation for armed defence of the working people against international aggressors and thugs. Our war is a defence of our conquests, defence of a happy future for our children and grandchildren.

The international proletariat protests on the First of May against capitalist militarism because it is the worst enemy of the working people. On the First of May the Russian proletariat strains every nerve to support the Red Army, because this is its own instrument, its own bulwark and defence.

Above the difference in external forms, a difference due to the fact that there the bourgeoisie is in power, whereas here the proletariat is in power, one and the same spirit reigns, the spirit of revolutionary struggle against class enslavement.

Blow your bugles louder, proletarians of Russia. Let your hammers resound more loudly on May Day. Aim more accurately on this day, Red soldier. Work more firmly with your bayonet, know that the blows you strike, whether on the anvil or on the enemy’s body, are true service to the cause of the world proletariat, and the highest expression of the idea of May Day.

April 29, 1920

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Last updated on: 27.12.2006