May Day is a day for celebration of the working class – the class whose labour is the source of all capitalist profit. Yet, although the power of these workers is so infinite, the wealth they produce is taken from them by a small ruling class of billionaire exploiters, the bourgeoisie. The latter not only appropriates to itself the whole of the wealth of society but also takes over political command over the whole of society, bending everything and everyone to its own purpose – the maximisation of profit.
Under the capitalist system, not only is there constant pressure on workers to work harder and longer, receiving less benefit in return, with endless attacks on wages, pensions, conditions of work, the quality of healthcare and their children's schools, but workers are also subjected to state repression – often violent – if they try to exert their collective muscle to ward off these attacks. This repression includes being charged by mounted police (as happened during the miners' strike of 1984/85), being subjected to imprisonment and fines under anti-union laws, and theft of union strike funds and other assets.
Strength in unity against anti- union laws
From time to time, the working class is able to surmount all intimidation and other obstacles to unite and fight. In April 2006, the French working class won a famous victory against the French bourgeoisie, which was trying to deprive young workers of protection against unfair dismissal during the first two years of their employment. French workers defied all the laws imposed by the bourgeoisie to keep them in check and rose up in their millions to put paid to this miserly measure. After three general strikes and an untold number of often violent demonstrations, the employers had to back down!
In Britain, it was riots on the streets and the refusal of millions to pay the unjust poll tax, which taxed unemployed 18-year olds at the same rate as the Queen, that forced the then Conservative government to withdraw the tax. However, British workers fighting back against the employers have to face not only state brutality, but also the fact that most of their unions are controlled by a bourgeois political party, the Labour Party, which strives with every fibre of its being to hold back the struggles of the working class. Had all the various unions called out their members to support the miners' strike, how different the outcome would have been! Instead they were mostly preaching cowardly submission to the dictates of bourgeois law against secondary action.
The French workers' action last year is another lesson showing that workers have the strength – if only they use it – to force their wishes on the bourgeoisie.
Of course, it is also true that the imperialist ruling class – in France as in Britain – has retaliated against the better pay and conditions demanded by French workers by moving capital abroad to low-wage countries, with the result that unemployment in France, even by official statistics, stands at 9.6 percent (22.6 percent of under 25s). This really leaves the French working class – as indeed the working class of every country – with a choice: either submit to wage reduction to keep their jobs or fight not just to better their situation under capitalism, but to overthrow the whole system of capitalist imperialism.
Labour – an imperialist party
Our ruling class is not just capitalist but also imperialist, getting such big profits from exploiting workers abroad that it is able to buy off a section of British workers with relatively better pay and conditions in order to avert the likelihood of unrest and revolution at home. This section of better-off workers, whose privileges are paid for out of imperialist superprofits, is at present rather large, but is getting smaller as profit-hungry corporations look for ways to cut their costs. That is why the Labour Party and most union leaders, who are political representatives of these privileged workers, refuse to do anything that could fundamentally harm the interests of the capitalist/imperialist system; they support imperialist wars for domination around the globe and even collude with the ruling class's attacks on working conditions at home. Rather than exposing the racist, warmongering system that is the cause of their problems, these Labourite leaders try to reconcile workers to the 'inevitability' of capitalism, the 'necessity' of cutbacks etc. Instead of fighting for jobs and security, they have become experts at negotiating redundancy packages as low as will still be effective at smothering working-class action in defence of jobs, thereby smoothing the way for further attacks on working conditions.
Communism is the way forward
By overthrowing capitalism and taking over all the important means of production into public ownership, and then organising production to meet the needs of the people rather than to enhance the profits of the rich, the working class would be able year by year continually to increase productivity, increasing its own standard of living rather than sweating only to enhance the profits of the rich. Thus the Soviet Union, after overthrowing capitalism, was able in a mere 10 years, between 1928-38, to turn itself into a mighty industrial superpower that went on to defeat the war machine of the German imperialists.
Of course, 74 years after the glorious 1917 October Revolution, the Soviet Union fell. This was not, however, because 'communism doesn't work', as the paid journalist and academic hirelings of the bourgeoisie would have us believe. It fell because the once mighty CPSU(B), which had led the Soviet peoples through revolution, civil war, wars of imperialist intervention, industrialisation, collectivisation, the war against fascism and a second round of reconstruction even more impressive than the first, fell prey to capitalist roaders after the death of Stalin in 1956. Revisionists such as Khrushchev lulled workers into a false sense of security by talking about communism while they actually implemented policies that led inevitably back to the restoration of capitalism. The lesson to learn from all this, however, is not that communism doesn't work, but that the gains of revolution must be jealously guarded against enemies at home as well as those abroad. This in turn can only be achieved by popularising revolutionary theory among the broadest possible section of the masses, who will then be much harder to hoodwink with false promises and revisionist practices.
By overthrowing capitalism, the working class does more than simply lay the basis for its own improved standard of living. It also lays the basis for solving the three major problems facing humanity today: poverty, war and ecological destruction. These cannot be solved so long as the truly diabolical profit motive determines what will and what will not be produced, and in what quantities, and how the fruits of production will be distributed among the people of the world. They can and will be solved when the only motivator of production is the wellbeing of the masses of the people – something that can only happen when the working class owns and control all the means of production.
This is why the communist message for May Day is:
Workers and oppressed peoples of the world, unite to overthrow imperialism:
you have nothing to lose but your chains!