May Day Justice May 1908

May Day in Russia.
Manifesto of the “Bund.”

Source: Anon, “May Day in Russia,” Justice, 9th May 1908, p.3 (1,033 words) Translated by K.B.;;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Comrades, Workers, – Right in the midst of the drunken saturnalia of the reaction, the holiday of Labour is approaching – the First of May.

One would imagine life itself tells now of nought but of death and despair. It seems as though to suffer in silence were natural; as though indifference were the frame of mind common to all, and the striving after personal happiness the only hope – and yet at this very moment we come to you with a faith that knows no despair, and a pride that brooks no cowardice.

The whole of our country has the appearance of a huge graveyard, with thieves of the night digging their dirty hands ‘neath the graves of the heroes who have fallen in the great battle, so that they may rob them and spit at them.

Those who, in the days of the grand proletarian hopes and the great proletarian battle, had helped us to bear our victories, have forsaken us as soon as the fatal breath of our temporary defeat has heralded the need of fresh victims and the coming of a new and a bitter struggle.

Others, who had looked upon us as their deliverers and had servilely kissed the hem of our banner, are now, in the days of our adversity and temporary defeat, throwing mud at the same banner, are belittling our ideals, and are not even loth to defame our martyrs.

And, finally, our eternal enemies, whom but a short time ago we had compelled to respect our demands have, as soon as they realised that for the present they are still in possession of the necessary force, entered upon a mad dance, maiming and breaking all that lives and grows.

In the ranks of the proletariat, also, there is to be observed a not uncommon and fatal indifference, and it would seem as though history had turned its back upon those who have fought for a brighter future – and yet we come to you with the cry – “Long live our bright ideal, Socialism; our method, the struggle; the only bearer of the standard, the proletariat!”

Comrades, why must we remain faithful at a time full of doubt and misgiving? Why do we not shed idle tears at a time of general sadness? Why must we keep bright our arms at a time of general weakness? Because, in the whole of our modern society we are the only class who have a true conception of its life; its growth, and its development. We look upon society not as upon a dark and thick forest, without beginning and without end, each corner of which is full of chance and danger. No, society to us is more like a pathway; true, a long and heavy and stony path, but still a path which has its beginning had its final aim. And ever following this long and difficult path on the road to the Socialist future, the proletariat has learnt that if it is futile to become over-elated by its victories, it must still less be afraid of and discouraged by its defeats. The future the grave of the oppressors and the loving mother of those who are striving after it, and who have sacrificed on its altar of their best and noblest.

We can well understand those who have expected more from their faith than from their own strong arms, and are now mourning over the green graves of their dead hopes, All bourgeois, circles have at all times and in all countries changed their war-march to that of a funeral tune as soon as the enemy showed himself to be stronger than they were able to calculate But the proletarian masses have ever learnt a lesson from their disasters, and have made use of the bricks of their ruins in the building of their temple of the future. The Socialist ideal was not killed on the barricades of 1848, and was not consumed in the flames of the Commune of 1871. On the contrary, unexpectedly even for its adherents, it has ever grown and become more powerful and more bold after every adversity.

And thus also, now in Russia, the class war of the proletariat is not dead; it lives and acts, ever wielding and forging fresh weapons, and is ever preparing for the days for fresh victories over the autocracy and capital.

Comrades, the First of May is the bridge between ourselves and the future. It is the mighty cable which connects us with the international proletariat. Let us meet the great holiday of the proletariat; not with the dangerous indifference of the defeated, but with the joy of the victory of to-morrow.

Comrades, the Jewish proletariat is how living through a particularly heavy time, The great masses of the Jews have sunk to a level of dull despair; their blood, which has been spilt so profusely, has made them blind; the blows which have been dealt them so heavily have made them deaf; and they see not that the national and citizen rights of the Jewish people can but grow together with the growth of the forces of those who will fight for them. Indifference and despair have imprisoned as in an iron vice their spirit and political will; an unrighteous and unjust contempt for the struggle for liberty and for the heroes and martyrs of that struggle – such is the dominant feeling. By celebrating the first of May we will demonstrate that not dead is the great power which in the days of the self-sacrificing struggle fought for the rights and liberties of all the oppressed.

Comrades, let there a general cessation of work on the day of the First of May wherever duly possible. Let the banner, pierced by many bullets, torn by much powder, but yet not taken by the enemy, inspire with enthusiasm and courage all those who are groaning under the treble load.

Comrades, celebrate the First of day of May! Long live the First of May! Long live Socialism! Long live the fighting proletariat! Long life the Bund!

The Central Committee of the Bund.
April, 1908