may day: wet dynamite eventually dries

What the theorists of May Day revolution had failed to take into account were the traditional and only partly conscious associations of the date itself. For centuries it had been a particularly relaxed popular holiday, given over to joyous singing, dancing and courting; love making and not class war. But, May Day is also Dionysus, the fertility rite, the people’s deity, the fight for the Golden Bough in the grove at Alban and toppling the king as revolution. There is a duality to all.The king is dead. Farewell to sober rationalization and dystopic control. And never becomes before the day is out.

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Yes, emancipation from the conservative constraints of history – of ritual, veneration, magic, cult, and exhibition – opens the door to a new cultural politics, but that door can swing in more than one direction. In Benjamin’s time, one portal led to the aestheticization of politics (fascism), the other to the politicization of art (communism). For Benjamin, practices were the battleground for politics, and neither their tendencies nor outcomes (i.e., progressive or otherwise) could be foreclosed in advance…Read More:

Walter Benjamin:Brecht has said of Communism that it is “the middle term.” “Communism is not radical. It is capitalism that is radical.” How radical it is can be seen in its attitude toward the family – as in every other matter. It insists upon the family at any price, even where intensification of family life can only aggravate the suffering already caused by conditions utterly unworthy of human being. read more: image:

The ancient Romans, no doubt trying to rationalize more primitive rites of vegetation and fertility magic, telescoped between April 28 and May 3 the festivals of Flora, goddess of flowers, Maia, goddess of growth, and the “lares” , spirits of hearth and field. The first recorded May Day parades were probably made up of flower decked Romans carrying the enthroned effigy of Maia through the streets. Prostitutes contributed to the vernal spirit by disrobing and posing in alluring attitudes.

The triumph of Christianity and the establishment of the church’s own spring rites in the feasts of Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost failed to alter radically the observance of May 1 as an unofficial holiday. The rationalizing myths vanished, but the magic ceremonies associated with the day survived down to the industrial age. So did the attendant mood of joyful license. nearly everywhere, May Day remained the supreme non-religious festival of spring.  What is apparent is how fertility rites, and ancient festivals have been appropriated by religion and in turn market capitalism under the sanctified and taboo subject of family with its own component of reproduction. Go forth and multiply as the womb itself is a variable asset that through the forces of moral suasion can be maneuvered as raw material to supply new consumers.

---When Marxist study lost its attraction in the 1980s, Luxemburg arose still interest among feminist theorist. Luxemburg herself did not participate into women's rights movement; women's liberation was for her part of the liberation from the oppression of capitalism. However, she saw that socialist emancipation is incomplete without women's emancipation.---read more: image:

Walter Benjamin:Furthermore, the mother, among all family members, is the most unequivocally determined as to her social function: she produces the next generation. The question raised by Brecht’s play( The Mother ) is: Can this social function become a revolutionary one, and how? In a capitalist economic system, the more directly a person is engaged in production relations, the more he or she is subjected to exploitation. Under today’s conditions, the family is an organization for the exploitation of the worker as mother. Pelagea Vlassova, “widow of a worker and mother of a worker,” is therefore someone who is doubly exploited: first, as a member of the working class, and, second, as a woman and mother. The doubly exploited childbearer represents the exploited in their most extreme oppression. If mothers are revolutionized, there is nothing left to revolutionize. Read More:

Walter Benjamin:Communism is not radical. Therefore, it has no intention of simply abolishing family relations. It merely tests them to determine their capacity for change. It asks itself: Can the family be dismantled so that its components may be socially refunctioned? These components are not so much the family members themselves as their relationships with one another. Of these, it is clear that none is more important than the relationship between mother and child. read more: image:

While the Maypole itself was gradually abandoned, much May Day symbolism survived in he new, revolutionary May 1. In Paris, the phenomenon led to an odd class struggle among the flowers themselves. As far back as 1893 Parisian workers taking part in May 1 demonstrations had decorated their lapels with a sprig of flowering hawthorn, like the village May Day celebrants of former times. A little later, French socialist leaders launched an attempt to replace the hawthorn by the wild rose, no less traditional but presumably more revolutionary because of its color.

Fernand Leger. Rosa Luxemburg on May Day, 1913:The sign under which this whole development, both economic and political, has been consummated, the formula back to which its results point, is imperialism. This is no new element, no unexpected turn in the general historical path of the capitalist society. Armaments and wars, international contradictions and colonial politics accompany the history of capitalism from its cradle. It is the most extreme intensification of these elements, a drawing together, a gigantic storming of these contradictions which has produced a new epoch in the course of modern society. In a dialectical interaction, both cause and effect of the immense accumulation of capital and the heightening and sharpening of the contradictions which go with it internally, between capital and labor; externally, between the capitalist states – imperialism has opened the final phase, the division of the world by the assault of capital. A chain of unending, exorbitant armaments on land and on sea in all capitalist countries because of rivalries; a chain of bloody wars which have spread from Africa to Europe and which at any moment could light the spark which would become a world fire; ...Read More

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The Great Depression, the civil war between Nazis and Communists before Hitler took power, and the Popular Front of the 1930’s brought violent new May Day clashes in one country or another, but the long-term trend has been in the opposite direction. May 1, 1906 seemed to mark the apogee when insurrectionary Marxists like Jules Guesde believed that May 1 was “the dynamite which will blow up capitalist society,” while affirming May 1 as a branded product of Marxist-revolutionary character to the chagrin of anarchists and moderate socialists. A year later, Rosa Luxemburg was already lamenting that “the bourgeoisie no longer believes… that the very idea of may 1 is already the beginning of the end for capitalism.”

Walter Benjamin:This step-by-step advance of ordinary common sense, the opposite of radicalism, leads the mother to the head of the May Day demonstration, where she is beaten down. So much for the mother. It is time to turn the tables and ask: If the mother leads, what is happening to the son? It is the son, after all, who reads books and prepares himself for leadership. There are four characters – mother and son, theory and praxis – and they regroup themselves; they play a game of change and change about. Once the critical moment arrives when ordinary common sense becomes the leader, theory is only good enough to do the housework. The son must cut bread while the mother, who is illiterate, works the printing press; the necessity of life no longer catalogues people according to their sex. In the workers’ room, space is made for a blackboard between the kitchen range and the bed. When the State is turned upside down for the sake of a kopeck, much will change within the family, too; and at the moment the place of the bride, who personifies the ideal of the future, will be taken by the mother, who, with all her forty years’ experience, will confirm Marx and Lenin. read more:



The argument put forward—and shown to be true—is that the working-class cannot hope for Socialism from trade unions, Co-operatives or from reform movements. Trade unions, Rosa Luxemburg, shows, are a part of capitalism itself. They are the workers’ weapons of defence against the capitalist class which aims at increasing its profits. They are useful in that they enable the workers to sell their labour-power under more favourable conditions than would otherwise be the case….

May 2010."Senior executives from BP, Halliburton and Transocean corporations in their testimony before Congress today are saying that the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe is “not our fault.” We cannot allow the giant corporations that have created this disaster and so much suffering to avoid responsibility. On Wednesday, May 12, demonstrations organized by Seize BP will take place in more than 20 cities to protest the mounting economic and environmental damage from BP’s offshore oil drilling. The Seize BP Campaign is demanding that the government seize BP’s assets and place them in a trust to be used to provide for compensation and damages." read more:

…However, they are not able to take the offensive against capitalism, to overthrow it, because they are badly handicapped. They are handicapped because the continued increase in the use of machinery makes for a greater productivity of labour, and therefore enables the capitalist class to employ fewer hands for the production of a given quantity of goods. Furthermore, trade unions cannot increase the share of wealth going to the working class. Owing to the development of capitalism and the greater productivity of labour, this share is continually being reduced. When the workers produce more, their wages do not rise in the same proportion .Read More:

Co-operative Societies are no more able than trade unions to end capitalism. As Rosa Luxemburg points out (pp. 35-6) they can survive within the present system only if they become pure capitalist enterprises. They have to compete with capitalist firms, and to do so successfully they must adopt capitalist methods of production: “Labour is intensified. The work day is lengthened or shortened, according to the situation of the market. And, depending on the requirements of the market, labour is either employed or thrown back into the street. In other words, use is made of all the methods that enable an enterprise to stand up against its competitors in the market. The workers forming a co-operative in the field of production . . . are obliged to take toward themselves the role of the capitalist entrepreneur—a contradiction that accounts for the usual failure of production co-operatives, which either become pure capitalist enterprises or, if the workers’ interests continue to predominate, end by dissolving”. Read More:

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