"Each Passing May Day is a Challenge
To the CatholieWorkers of the World" IN olden times the first of May
was associated with Our Lads'. flowers, maypole dancing on thct village green ; and the workers in the fields of England had a holiday.
Now May Day is the' day on which the workers of the whole world celebrate their liberation and re-affirm their solidarity.
The great ethane in economic life which began in England and the continent of Europe over one hundred and fifty years ago. has extended to such a degree that it covers the whole world. All countries have been industrialised to some extent. possess the same methods of production and a similar kind of civilisation. This industrial revolution has created a working class which bands together for its own protection. The change in conditions has come about gradually in some countries, but in others there has been a violent transition from primitive life to highly-concentrated industry. but whatever the change that has been necessary, the results have been the same, and the murk of the machine is world-wide. It has brought about a working class which has similar problems, similar difficulties and similar frustrations.
The relations between employers and employees made national trade unions necessary, but the growth of international unions has been effected by this world-wide revolution in methods of industry, which has overcome distances and put the problem of life and work on an international basis. This abolition of distances of travel, however, is nothing compared with the way in which ideas are disseminated. Ideas, news, information, whether true or not. is flashed around the world to millions by Press. radio and screen. The conditions of life brought about by this apply equally to India as well as to England or France. e.g., a dock strike in America affects the life of the people of Europe and other parts of the world.
Leaderless and Disillusioned
In spite of all this. however, the masses to-day are still leaderless and disillusioned. In the last generation they pinned their hopes to political leaders, and found that they had led them into a wilderness of strife and despair; they have discovered that the pursuit of wealth only exasperates greed, and breeds conflict.
Yet the workers still are thirsting for justice and decency.
I think they are ready to follow a road of sacrifice and discipline, if some way out of the present world chaos can be found. The voice of Communism is calling them. appealing to them to taste the fruits of " Red Utopia."
Yet it can be said that in Europe wherever the Red Army has penetrated it has destroyed all belief in Communism, for the Russian soldiers. products of the 1917 revolution, have proved themselves to be in the main illiterate, immoral. brutal and contemptuous of the dignity of their fellow men. The
promised land " of Lenin has, in fact, tended to bewilder even its own occupants.
Yet still the workers feel the need for some ideal. some aim to live for. The Marxist Appeal, " Workers of the World Unite." has evoked a real response in the hearts of the workers and has tended to offer a solution to the manifold despair which has existed. Through propaganda, through force and through political intrigue, Communism has made great headway, till to-day it does affect the lives of the workers in almost every land. In Eastern Europe it is virtually in control of the lives of millions of citizens. In France it is a political force, which although not in control, can influence most decisions which affect the life of the country. Its stranglehold on the French trade unions is real, and through this, it can be said to be in complete control of the economic and international Policies of the Fourth Republic. Even in Asia, the workers have found their dignity, their destiny, and see in Communism a means of improving standards of life-ruling where in the past they have been ruled.
At home in Britain the workers have not yet been engulfed by the " Red Wave " and in fact are not convinced that they ever will be. But it is safe to say that indirectly they arc being influenced to a high degree.
Manv trade unions with an apathetic following, have allowed the Communist Party of Great Britain So take over important posts and therefore direct the policies of the unions.
Many will say this is not true, but facts are facts, e.g., the Amalgamated Engineering Union. one of the most powerful unions in the country, has more Communist officials than any other union in the country. and has three national organisers, who are members of the Communist Party. The Miners' Union is another example, with Arthur Horner as their general secretary. who is also a key figure in the National Communist Party. Many Communists also become officials of the unions by proclaiming a different political creed ad are usually members of the Labour Party, until they have obtained an official position, and then proceed to becomes COM-.
muniets in practice, I even know one Labour Party delegate from the North-East who is a known Communist, paying his subscription to the local branch, and at the same time having a vote at the Labour Party Conference. even though this is strictly against the rules of the Socialists.
Al! this then makes it easy to understand why the workers are still feeling in despair and in disillusionment even though they have the machinery to protect their rights. their dignity, and to improve their conditions. In the past few months, many irresponsible strikes have taken place, the leaders of which have ignored the proper channels of negotiation of grievances, and have added to the difficulties of the appointed leaders.
The Opportunity Now
I have not tried to give in detail a solution to these many problems as it has already been attempted so many times by others, but consider.
ing that we Catholics are numerically superior to the Communists, at least we should be in the forefront of any such solution. Then, again, the Church has a solution, so many times expounded by so many Pontiffs, but unfortunately to so many deaf ears. Too often have phrases been used to convey the urgency of the matter. Organisations have been created such as the "Catholic Trade Union Assoseation ' which are known but not yet accepted by the majority. Leadership and unity are still lacking in most of our Catholic social movements, and not enough is clone to blend the spiritual with the material.
Christ the Worker may be known in the Church, but is He known in the Factory. the Market-place? Let us remember that we have the opportunity now-will we have it in the future?
When we can say that each Catholic worker in England has become militant, has influenced his environment to Christian ways of life and accepted the Carpenter of Nazareth as the Guide, then the Workers of the world can and will unite to attain their common dignity as sons of God.
" May Day " then will again be celebrated and connected with flowers and beauty, and indeed, as in olden times, with Mary.