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Fourth International, May 1946


Review of the Month

May Day 1946


From Fourth International, May 1946, Vol.7 No.5, pp.131-132.
Transcribed, edited & formatted by Ted Crawford & David Walters in 2008 for ETOL.


This year brings the sixtieth anniversary of May Day, the international working class holiday. Workers everywhere celebrate it in a world where military hostilities have ceased but where no peace has come. For the first time in years, serried ranks of labor once again mobilize in the streets of most of the major cities of Europe. There is scarcely a city that is not indelibly scarred by the second imperialist war. Countless workers march amid debris and ruins that must still be cleared away. In Germany, in Austria, in Hungary, in Poland, in the Balkans and other occupied areas, the workers celebrate their holiday of action and solidarity under the bayonets of the “democratic” imperialists on the one hand, and the Kremlin’s military detachments, on the other. Within the Soviet Union the Stalinist betrayers of Bolshevism, once more stage their hollow and cynical ceremonial parades, suspended during the war years.

It is the grimmest “peacetime” May Day in Europe’s history. As a direct consequence of the war, and further aggravated by the deliberate policies of the imperialists and their Kremlin “ally,” famine and disease will on this day also exact their heavy toll, threatening in the end to destroy more millions than the war had devoured.


But the spirit of the class has not been crushed by all the sufferings and horrors. The will to struggle has not and will not be destroyed. The workers are resuming their march, and with them marches Europe’s only hope of rehabilitation and salvation.

No less dire is the plight of the peoples of Asia who are seething with revolt likewise amid war ruins, imperialist oppression and man-made famine. They face hungry death by the tens of millions. They too can pin their hopes of liberation only upon the colonial detachments of the proletariat who celebrate this May Day in the cities of Japan, China, India and throughout the Orient.

Together with the workers of all the continents, the giant American working class participates in this traditional holiday amid the threats of the Washington-Wall Street rulers to precipitate another world war. A stride toward this frightful catastrophe has already been taken during the current unbridled propaganda campaign against the USSR. Let there be no illusions on this score! The imperialist war-mongers will not rest content with wresting isolated concessions from the Kremlin. They are out to destroy at any cost the Soviet Union, which even as a profoundly degenerated workers’ state represents a social system incompatible with capitalism, and which is an intolerable obstacle in the way of Wall Street’s progress toward unchallenged world domination.

History has never seen a more self-confident, arrogant, brutal, power-drunk and ruthless bourgeoisie than that of the United States. The speed at which they are moving toward war is indicated by the unprecedented peacetime measures they are jamming through Congress under cover of the initial barrage of propaganda, namely:

  1. the extension of the presidential wartime powers;
  2. the perpetuation of military control of the atomic bomb;
  3. the extension of the draft;
  4. the introduction of universal military training.

The character and role of the American bourgeoisie impose the greatest responsibilities upon the American working class. It is the youngest and strongest section of the world proletariat. It has never suffered a major defeat: If the American bourgeoisie is the richest and most powerful in the world, it is exclusively because all its wealth and power derives directly from the workers. This dependence was amply demonstrated during the recent great strike struggles when the basic plants were shut down and stayed shut from one end of the country to the other. Given its own independent political organization, given its own class program, what miracles can this working class not achieve! The only power that can halt the next war is the power of the American workers in alliance with their brothers abroad. Therein lies the hope of mankind.


The masses of workers in this country as well as abroad do as not yet follow a revolutionary leadership. Virtually everywhere the celebrations this May Day take place overwhelmingly under the banners of the misleaders and betrayers of the struggle for socialism. Stalinists, reformists, Laborite flunkeys of British imperialism, trade-union footmen of American imperialism, etc., etc., continue to dominate the scene in their respective countries. This absence of mass revolutionary parties provides vacillators, fainthearts and petty-bourgeois impressionists with a convenient pretext for deserting the struggle. But the workers and the agonized peoples of the world cannot find either solace or refuge in skepticism, pessimism or cynicism. They must continue to struggle; they must continue to seek the revolutionary way out.

A revolutionary mass party cannot be sucked out of any one’s thumb. It must be built by the workers themselves. This takes time. It took Lenin and his co-thinkers thirty years to build the Bolshevik party, the only party that proved capable of leading workers to victory. Moreover, it is extremely difficult to build mass revolutionary parties under conditions of defeat. One pays for defeats in politics as in war. With the defeat of the 1905 revolution, Lenin’s party in Russia dwindled to a mere handful. During the years of reaction (1907-12) Lenin found himself almost hermetically isolated in exile.

The defeat of 1905 never assumed the proportions of any single defeat in the catastrophic chain of defeats suffered by the working class from 1923 right up to the outbreak of the war: The defeat of the German revolution in 1923, the defeat of the Chinese revolution in 1925-27, the assumption of power by Hitler in Germany in 1933, Franco’s victory in the Spanish civil war. Each of these defeats dealt the heaviest blows to the revolutionary vanguard, tending to still further isolate it.

The war came as the most terrible defeat of all. Who could possibly expect to build a mass revolutionary party in the very course of the war? Had the Trotskyist movement, the most viciously persecuted vanguard in labor history, come out weakened by the war, it would have been hardly surprising. However, just the opposite happened.


The most important – and in the final analysis the decisive – gain which the world working class records on this May Day is the emergence of much stronger Trotskyist parties in country after country. The Fourth International proved capable of withstanding the unprecedented test of 16 consecutive years of defeats in peacetime (1923-39) followed by more than six years of war. In Greece, in Belgium, in France, in Germany, in Austria, in Holland the ranks of the Trotskyist were decimated, first, by the Gestapo and then the GPU. But the parties not only survived, but are growing. In Italy, after two decades of Mussolini’s rule, a new Trotskyist movement has risen.

Sections of the Fourth International exist in England and in the colonies, India, China, Indo-China and Indonesia. It is well represented in the countries of Latin America, with sections in Chile, Cuba, Mexico, and groups in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, etc. There are Trotskyist organizations in Egypt, Palestine, South Africa, Australia and Canada. And right in the bastion of world imperialism is the growing organization of the Socialist Workers Party, which, while it does not belong to the Fourth International, still remains true and continues the struggle for the principles of Trotskyism.

The only movement that held world gatherings on the eve of the war, and following its outbreak, was the Trotskyist movement (Founding Congress of the Fourth International in 1938, Emergency Congress in 1940). The Fourth International demonstrated its viability when in the very midst of the war, under the noses of the Gestapo, it convened a European Conference in February 1944. All these facts augur well for its future successes.


We are confident of tomorrow. Because together with our great teachers we believe that the working class in America as well as the workers throughout the world, will prove wholly capable of building a revolutionary party as did the Russian workers. We are confident of tomorrow. Because together with our great teachers we understand the unconditional necessity – the inevitability – of the proletarian revolution.

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Last updated on 9.2.2009