The 1st of May (II)

Agitiamoci per Socialismo Anarchico (May 1, 1897), single issue, replacement for No. 8 of L’Agitazone. Translated by Paul Sharkey and appeared in The Complete Works of Malatesta, Vol. 3: A Long and Patient Work

At the time of writing, we do not yet know how important the 1st of May demonstration will be this year. Unfortunately, we do not have high Hopes.

The democratic socialist, who could ensure a solemn demonstration if only they committed to this agitation—in which class struggle could really be affirmed and organized—a tenth of the effort they put into the election campaign, stage the event indolently, merely because, at this point, staging it is a habit. Right from the outset they strove to turn the workers’ strike into a labor holiday, mounted, if possible, with the assent of the masters, and they so far as to want governments to declare it an official and mandatory holiday—and they are now carrying on in the same vein. They are afraid of playing with fire, afraid that the people might start to become conscious of their own strengths and start doing things for themselves. In their eyes, there is nothing but Parliament, and any other approach is a hurdle that they hearty abhor, even when they are required by convenience to consider it.

And what about us? Right now we are powerless to embark on anything of note, especially in the conditions presently being enforced on us by the government. This is to our shame, for the fault is largely our own, but the shame and blame would be beyond repair, if we did not have courage to own up to it and if we stayed on the wrong road.

We have moved away from the people and that has been our downfall. Going back among the people is the only way of salvaging our movement and our idea. It is through our efforts that the great Workers’ International must be reborn, corrected, and bolstered by the experience and study of the last 25 years, so that every 1st of May it will be able to review its forces and, once strong enough, achieve the yearned-for emancipation.

We need to get it into our heads— since the facts furnish us with daily proof of it—that thing cannot be improvised. Making preparations a fortnight in advance for some one-off publication, issuing an eleventh-hour appeal to the people who do not know us, who may never have heard of us or of our ideas, is of little or no use.

In order to succeed, it takes long-term, constant, day-to-day work; it takes practical work, done in conjunction with resistance societies, cooperatives, and educational circles, of gradually marshaling, organizing, and educating all the fighting forces of the proletariat. That much we promise to our comrades. That much we ask of them.

And if we all buckle down on this, the next 1st of May will find us in quite different conditions.