Belated May Day greetings!

I went to the May Day march yesterday in London with my children. Absolute nightmare getting there, eventually had to walk and meet the march half-way…

Looking at it, I can only assume that “non-political” people would have viewed it as deeply unappealing, if not insane. There were people carrying pictures of Stalin (in this day and age!) and one banner had Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao! Deeply, deeply, deeply crazy… Lenin I can understand, given that awareness of what actually happened under Lenin is not well known in Leninist circles, but Stalin and Mao? Little wonder the so-called revolutionary left seems to be general decline….

Nor can I understand the carrying of flags and banners with Marx and Engels, or whatever the particular sects leader happens to be (although the latter all seemed to sport Stalin-like moustaches – must be a cultural thing, as the organisations came from the near-Middle East). Replacing Christ with Marx does not reduce the idolatry!

Then there was the little section of uniformed youth carrying red flags. Nothing says (to quote the Communist Manifesto) the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all" quite like uniforms and marching in step! As Murray Bookchin once insightfully noted, the Leninist "has always had a grudging admiration and respect for that most inhuman of all hierarchical institutions, the military." (Toward an Ecological Society, p. 254f). As for the uniforms themselves, well, they looked like those a nationalised McDonald’s would impose on their staff. Looking like you are going to say “Do you want fries with your ‘Big Joe’?” was hardly the desired effect, I am sure.

The anarchist section, as tradition seems to dictate, was at the back as usual. Reasonably big, not impressive but lots of red-and-black flags (which always look cool!). We were the most normal looking section, with a scattering of punks (which was nice to see, to be honest, as being on May Day meant their anarchism was deeper than the music and the look). Unfortunately, the new issue of Black Flag was not available (it was somewhere in transit, as sometimes happens). A few “V for Vendetta” masks were around – although given how distinctively dressed the punks who had them were, it did seem a bit pointless.

Overall, it looks like the May Day tradition is one which needs to be saved from the lefties, Turkish Stalinists and trade union bureaucrats if it is to survive. Given that the UK has the longest working week in Europe, the initial struggle which created it is as relevant as ever – an eight hour day would be a step forward (and this over 120 years since it was first raised!). Maybe it is time for a coordinated effort to raise the demand for a 6 or 4 hour day would be a good area of struggle for libertarians? Wage slavery is bad enough, so a struggle for more free time is inherently appealing to many… And if there is a “backward bending labour supply curve” then it would impact positively on unemployment by reducing the numbers seeking work.

So, let’s hear it for the 4 hour day… Something the IWW has been advocating for some time.

  


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