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Editorial of the Socialist
May Day 2014 - Step up the fight for a socialist world!
The first of May is traditionally a day of international workers' solidarity, celebrated by working class fighters around the world. Its origins lie in 19th century struggles, mainly among manual workers in the United States and Europe for the reduction of the working day to eight hours.
The socialist Second International called for an international day of protest to be held at the beginning of May 1890 on the same date as the American Federation of Labour was planning to hold a demonstration for an eight-hour day. The 1890 May Day protest in London on the nearest Sunday to 1 May saw around 300,000 assemble in Hyde Park.
Eight hours work, eight hours sleep and eight hours for leisure, family and cultural activities was inscribed on the banners of trade union, socialist and revolutionary organisations.
A limit of eight hours on the working day was one of the first measures introduced by the revolutionary government in Petrograd after the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was seen as a vital measure not only to reduce the hours of toil but to give workers time to be involved in the democratic decision-making of the councils or 'soviets'.
It is timely to remember this when capitalism in crisis has imposed in many countries working days without limit, and in some cases, the opposite - zero hours! In the context of mass unemployment, those searching for work today, including even university graduates, find themselves thrown into the 'precariat'.
The demands for a decent job for everyone in society and a 35-hour week, for wages that more than cover the cost of living, for free education and healthcare, for affordable housing and public transport, are all modest when compared with the vast, extravagant spending of the super-rich.
The gap between the 1% and the 99% is widening. In the campaign in Seattle in the US for a minimum wage of $15 an hour, led by Socialist Alternative (part of the Committee for a Workers' International), councillor Kshama Sawant described the 1% as conducting an "aerial bombing raid against the 99%". A fightback is vital.
May Day is an occasion to step up the struggle against all forms of oppression and discrimination. It is a time to remember those who have lost their lives, and those who risk them daily, in factories, fields and building sites worldwide. It is also a day to remember all those imprisoned for their beliefs and to demand their release.
As economists try to say that the worst of the world economic crisis is over, we see millions more people driven into poverty - across Europe and the Americas, as well as in Asia and Africa.
While in some countries the number of strikes and protests may be temporarily lower, in others - such as Greece - there are repeated mass actions, and there can be no doubt that anger is accumulating everywhere.
More social explosions are inevitable in numerous countries, as the 99% in society - those who own and earn relatively little or nothing - make themselves heard through action and organisation.
The urgency of building new mass workers' parties to conduct the struggle for genuine socialism everywhere increases by the day. Socialist programmes are vital, because taking the major companies - which control whole economies - into public ownership, combined with democratic economic planning, is the only way to provide jobs, homes and decent living standards for all in society.
The Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) is presently celebrating 40 years of its existence.
On May Day 2014, as well as marking the CWI's anniversary, we are celebrating the best traditions of the pioneers of the workers' movement: international solidarity between working class people and the struggle against war, oppression and exploitation. The destruction of the environment, which gathers pace as long as capitalism survives, adds urgency to the struggle for a socialist world.
Members of the sections and groups of the CWI, which includes the Socialist Party in England and Wales, are celebrating May Day 2014 in practically every time zone of the world. From Seattle to Sao Paulo, Brussels to Bangalore, London to Lagos, Tel Aviv to Toronto, Moscow to Melbourne, and in many more cities across the globe.
The Socialist sends May Day greetings to all its readers, and to workers and socialist fighters everywhere. The most decisive struggles to transform the world on socialist lines lie ahead.