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.
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:http://personalpages.manchester.ac.uk/staff/m.dodge/Kingsbury_and_Jones.pdf
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.
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:http://anarchistwithoutcontent.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/communism-a-family-drama-in-epic-theater-by-walter-benjamin/
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.
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.”
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….
…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:http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/archive/luxemburg%281939%29.pdf
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:http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/archive/luxemburg%281939%29.pdf