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May Day 1935

The Introduction below originally appeared in Labor Challenge, May 5, 1975, which also republished the Workers Party 1935 May Day Manifesto.

The Manifesto was originally published as a May Day Supplement to The Vanguard, Organ of the Workers Party of Canada. For ease of reading on screen, we have inserted additional paragraph breaks, but we have removed subheads that were inserted in the 1975 reprint


by Ian Angus

This month marks the 85th annual celebration of May Day, the day of international labor solidarity. The working class in 1975 faces a worldwide capitalist economic crisis, just as it did forty years ago in the Great Depression. Then, as today, revolutionary socialists called for mass united action to defend the standard of living of the working class. The manifesto below was issued in 1935, for the 45th celebration of May Day by the Workers Party of Canada, forerunner of the League for Socialist Action/Ligue Socialiste Ouvričre.

For the celebration of May Day in 1935, Toronto working class activists organized a broad united front demonstration. Eighty-three organizations participated. The principal contingents were, according to the CCF newspaper New Commonwealth: The International Ladies Garment Workers Union; the CCF; Poale Zion; Independent Workers Order; Workmen’s Circle; Jewish Society Farbund; Workers Party of Canada; Spartacus Youth League; Cooperative Commonwealth Youth Movement; Toronto Union of the Unemployed; Millinery Workers Union: Capmakers Union; Fur Workers Union; Left Poale Zion; and Finnish Workers and Farmers organizations. The demonstration was endorsed by the Toronto Trades and Labour Council.

The Toronto Star reported:

      "8,100 strong, CCF and international labour union members marched from Clarence Square, Wellington Street and Spadina Ave., to Willowvale Park. The marchers included 1,000 girl members of the A.F. of L. Garment Workers Union. Girls, as well as men, carried placards. ‘Down with fascism—It is the weapon of the capitalist class,’ banners urged. The parade was organized by the Workers May Day Conference, said to represent all labour bodies not of Communist origin."

The absence of the substantial forces under Communist Party leadership was the fault of the CP itself. Faced, as The Vanguard wrote, with "a broad representative united front ... without benefit of Stalinist clergy," the CP demanded that the Workers May Day Committee immediately unite with the CP-controlled and misnamed United May Day Committee. Rather than applaud this first step by social democrats and traditionally conservative unions to build a May Day demonstration, the CP condemned it as divisive. and built its own demonstration.

The Workers Party, by contrast, participated fully in the united front. WPC leader Jack MacDonald was one of the main spokespersons for the united front and was widely quoted in the press. This led the CP to declare the march "Trotskyite-dominated." Chief marshal William Dennison, later mayor of Toronto, was denounced as a "well-known Trotskyite CCFer" in the April 9 issue of the CP’s paper, The Worker.

As New Commonwealth wrote:

      "When the conference representing all elements in Toronto was jointly established by the C.C.F., the way was established for a single parade. But the fact that there were two Trotskyites in a neutral committee of eighty-three organizations was too much for the Communist element. They fled in anger and proceeded with their own arrangements."

Despite the Stalinist abstention, the demonstration was a huge success. The Trotskyists of the Workers Party and the Spartacus Youth League played a central role in involving a broad spectrum of labor leaders and rank and file unionists in the demonstration. Jack MacDonald, the most prominent leader of the WPC, was a featured speaker at the evening rally, and received broad press coverage. Other speakers included James Simpson, recently elected mayor of Toronto and a well-known CCFer; John Queen, CCF mayor of Winnipeg; Sam Kraisman of the ILGWU; CCF MP William Irvine; and Maurice Spector, one of the founders of the WPC.

Labor Challenge is publishing this manifesto because it is an important historic document—and because what it says is as relevant for the 85th celebration of May Day as for the 45th.

The Day of International Workers' Solidarity

Never was there a May Day, when the working class of the world faced more momentous issues and tasks than this First of May 1935. The capitalist rulers are marshalling every available force for the new division of spoils—the second imperialist World War.

Not that there has been any real peace since the conclusion of the Versailles Peace. The victory of Allied imperialism immediately created all the conditions for the new Armageddon. The League of Nations inevitably proved to be a confederacy of the victor imperialists. Armaments increased despite the fake Disarmament Conferences. The colonial peoples were kept in subjection by the system of mandates. Each capitalist state conducted tariff warfare against the others.

The crisis has lasted for more than six years and still there is no relief in prospect. The Stevens investigation has vividly shown up the horrible conditions of exploitation that prevail. On one hand we find the utmost centralization and concentration of capital and at the other end we find the masses subjected to increasing misery and merciless wage cutting, to foreclosures and eviction. Over a million and a half are on relief and their pittance is being attacked. Eleven thousand people who each enjoy incomes of more than ten thousand a year together receive as much as 400,000 miserably paid workers. The average income of the Canadian farmer is less than $700 a year.

Yet there is no limit to the productivity of the machine process. On all hands it is admitted that there is too much wheat, coffee, acreage, railroads etc. In other words, production is shackled and sabotaged by the capitalists who are guided by their lust for profit and not by the wants and needs of the masses.

The death bed program of Bennett, like Roosevelt’s NRA, is a program to strengthen finance and monopoly capital at the expense of the workers, farmers and middle classes. It is the forerunner of the Fascist program of Mussolini and Hitler which involves the complete destruction of all workers’ organizations and the establishment of a bloody dictatorship.

The workers must organize their forces for the complete overthrow of the system of wage slavery. Parliamentary activity, important though it be, is not enough. The Workers Party urges the necessity of the organization of the unorganized. The masses must be mobilized in the extra-parliamentary struggle—in the everyday struggle for the improvement of their living standards—and this struggle must be carried on with the ultimate view of complete liberation from the profit system.

Every item of repressive capitalist legislation, every attack on freedom of assemblage, discussion and other civil liberties of the workers must be relentlessly fought. In this struggle the workers must endeavour to effect a united front on all specific issues of common interest.

The workers have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to gain. Workers of the world—unite!

The war danger compels the working class to take up a clear and unequivocal position. There must be an end to the illusions fostered by pacifist sources that the League of Nations is an instrument of peace and that anything can be hoped for in the "Disarmament" Conferences. The League of Nations is the organization of that section of the imperialist powers that is anxious to maintain the status quo against a "new deal" in markets and colonies.

Military expenditures have increased colossally. To see the principal cause of the war danger in the intrigues of the munitions makers is false. The socialization of the war industry under capitalism would leave the roots of war untouched.

War will cease when the profit motive is taken out of all industry, not merely the armament industry. War will cease when the capitalist state whose primary function is the protection of Private Property is replaced by the Workers State.

The workers were mobilized in the last war under the slogans of "democracy". The workers must not let themselves be duped again. The ENEMY IS AT HOME. The way to combat the war danger is to organize the mass struggle against the profit system. The way to fight for peace once war is declared is to work for the overthrow of the capitalist order. Each national section of the working class must direct its fire against its own capitalist class, every section of the working class must fraternize with its brothers in the "enemy" country.

The Workers Party calls upon all workers to be prepared for the defence of the Soviet Union by conducting an active struggle for the overthrow of capitalism in each country. Military alliances with capitalist powers will not guarantee the Soviet Union from capitalist intervention. Only the revolutionary struggle of the workers in the capitalist countries, only the establishment of mass parties under the leadership of a new Fourth International will free the Soviet Union from the perils of its capitalist environment and unite with it in the common work of building a socialist society.

The only power that can save humanity from the peril of barbarism is the working class. It must free itself of all dependence on the possessing classes. It must cease all collaboration with the exploiters and embark on the road of class struggle, the road of socialist victory.

The Second International betrayed socialism when in 1914 its parties cooperated with the imperialist governments. Socialism was again betrayed when the socialist parties preferred to cooperate with the liberal democratic capitalist regimes after the war. Socialism is either international or it is not socialism.

The Third International was created in 1919 under the leadership of Lenin to be the directing centre of the struggle for the World Revolution. The Third International since the triumph of the Stalinist Bureaucracy has abandoned internationalism in favor of "socialism-in-one-country." The "Communist" Parties affiliated to Moscow primarily serve the diplomatic interests of the Soviet Foreign Office, which is no longer in harmony with the real interests of the proletarian revolution. The first consideration of the Stalin regime today is to maintain the status quo.

If the forces of the working class are to be assembled for the fulfillment of its historic mission as the grave-digger of capitalism, it will be under the aegis of the new International, the Fourth International.

Civilization hovers at the edge of an abyss. Socialism is the salvation. Property generates War. Property incites Fascism. Private Property is the enemy. Production must be released from the fetters of Property.

The resources of the world must pass into the possession of working humanity. All other problems, the problems of nationality and of race and color will be solved once society is freed from exploitation and class divisions. A socialist state will bring real democracy and real self-determination to all the hitherto subject and disinherited peoples.

The forces of education and culture under the Workers State will all operate in the direction of the eradication of traditional race and national prejudices and hatreds in favor of international cooperation and brotherhood.




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