HAVANA TIMES, May 20 – In 1889, the Second International declared May 1 as International Workers Day. Its origin was the murder of eight anarchist workers in Chicago who were demanding the eight-hour workday. Since then, workers’ movements and labor parties recall this date around the entire world with large demonstrations, though in the USA, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands “Labor Day” takes place on September 1.
According to the socio-political conditions in each country, the date becomes a day for raising economic, social and political demands.
Workers Day has been recognized by almost all bourgeois governments, including the Catholic Church, and has been declared a holiday. It is not only permitted, but support is given to its celebration and its parades of workers.
It is the result of the struggles of workers for their rights within the capitalist system, which will exist until the workers themselves can put an end to wage-labor exploitation.
The international labor movement at the time of the First International intended for workers to take power and that wage labor be eliminated. However, with the Second International’s conciliatory politics —which Karl Marx (1818-1883) never shared— this movement increasingly became a systemic appendix of the bourgeois state; it was used in most capitalist countries to balance the excesses of the exploiters.
The social democratic parties that emerged from the Second International split into two basic currents: those that followed the path of reconciliation with the bourgeoisie, and those that continued the struggle for workers power. This latter current was headed by the Russian Bolsheviks and led by V. I. Lenin, who founded the first workers’ state in 1917.
After Lenin’s death, bureaucratic deviations in the “worker state” abandoned the struggle for the abolition of wage labor and adopted Stalinist revisions in all the theories, plans and revolutionary programs of First International, which led to the disaster with which we are all familiar.
Nevertheless, those revolutionary currents faithful to the legacies of the revolutionary socialists of the second half of the 19th century continued battling, despite the betrayals of social democracy and Stalinism.
This treachery transformed the taking of the power by workers’ parties into bureaucratized states where monopoly capitalism reigned under the administration of “communist parties” that they wanted to sell the world as socialism.
In these countries there appeared a new kind of neo-bourgeois class that exercised effective control over the means of production and the social surpluses. They imposed dictatorships that exercised control over the wage workers in their respective countries and ended up restoring private capitalism.
Those deviations discredited the idea of socialism and fomented international rejection of it among workers, democrats and revolutionaries everywhere. All these people who didn’t share the Stalinists’ sectarian, hegemonic-bureaucratic frameworks developed from the Third International were labeled “anti-communists.”
Today it’s no longer possible to continue ignoring the failure of those workers’ parties that took power, and as “socialists” reproduced “indirectly representative democratic” bourgeois systems of government.
The forces made the role of the bureaucratic apparatus of the state absolute, which acted to the detriment workers and the people’s self-government (direct and truly participative democracy, without intermediaries). Moreover, the state blocked the development of freely associative cooperative production relationships —the genesis of socialism— and continued with the capitalist logic of obtaining profits through wage labor.
In this way, Stalinists and their followers undermined the theories of Marx, Engels, Lenin and other revolutionaries concerning the need to “destroy” the bourgeois state and to drive it to its extinction through the self-government of the workers and people. Instead they replicated the former state and even strengthened it.
For those Stalinist “communists,” this involved replacing all of the bourgeoisie and its representatives in governmental institutions and companies with “representatives” of the working class, preferably members or followers of the “communist party.”
With that, they believed the “bourgeois machinery would be destroyed and substituted by the proletarian state.” The Soviets (councils of workers, farmers and soldiers) —in which reigned direct, decisive and participative democracy— were substituted by top-down bureaucratic institutions controlled by the communist party.
We all know what this “revolutionary” interpretation of the role of the party and the state under socialism led to, though it’s still present in the thinking of many “communists” who have not been able to undo those Stalinist prejudices that many of us shared in the past, educated as we were in the neo-Stalinist tradition.
Socialism is not possible if power is not exercised directly and democratically by the people and the workers.
In Cuba today, a peaceful yet inflamed ideological and political struggle is taking place between those who want to advance socialism and those other “revolutionaries” who obstinately preserve the centralized statist system that, along with the system of wage-labor, generates bureaucracy and corruption.
These bureaucratic forces block the free development of the productive forces, science and modern technology, and impede the self-government of worker and social communities. The end result of this is stagnation in the revolution (the socialization /democratization process).
The study of the origin and evolution of May Day, as International Workers Day is a basic armament in hands of revolutionary Cubans who aspire to preserve the revolution and make it advance toward a true socialism. This would imply power in the hands of the workers and not in those of retrograde sectors of the bureaucracy who would try to kidnap it and have Cuba end up like all of those other countries where “real” socialism existed.
This is why at this year’s May Day parade in Havana —despite all the obstacles erected— present was the banner “Socialism is Democracy / Dump the Bureaucracy.”