Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Friday, May 01, 2009

Ten May Day Commandments

[The following is the credo of a Red Sunday School in Glasgow, drafted on May Day 1917, in the midst of imperialist war, quoted from Ralph Samuel's article on 'British Marxist Historians', New Left Review, 120, (1980). Happy May Day people!]

1. Thou shalt inscribe on your banner: "Workers of all lands unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains: you have a world to win".

2. Thou shalt not be a patriot for a patriot is an international blackleg. Your duty to yourself and your class demands that you be a citizen of the world.

3. Thou shalt not usurp the right of any man or woman, nor shall you claim for yourself any natural advantage over your fellows; for every man and woman has an equal right to an equal share in the product of their collective labour.

4. Thou shalt not take part in any bourgeois war, for all modern wars are the result of the clash of economic interests, and your duty as an internationalist is to wage class war against all such wars.

5. Thou shalt teach Revolution, for revolution means the abolition of the present Political State, and the end of Capitalism, and the raising in their place an Industrial Republic.

6. Thou shalt demand on behalf of your class, the complete surrender of the capitalist class and all the means of production, distribution and exchange, with the land and all it contains, and by doing so you shall abolish class rule.

7. Thou shalt wage the class war, by pointing out that the history of recorded societies is a history of the Class Struggle, and that the emancipation of the working class from wage-slavery must be brought about by themselves.

8. Thou shalt take part at all times in the political and economic struggles of the working class. Thou shalt renounce craft unionism, and work for the organisation of the working class into one vast industrial union, to take and hold the means of life.

9. Thou shalt perform a mission in society by achieving an ideal of a fuller and higher life for all, in the abolition of classes, and by the regulation of industry by the Industrial Republic, which shall end the Political State.

10. Thou shalt remember that the economic structure of Society determines the legal and political super-structure, and the Social, Ethical, Religious, and intellectual lifeprocess in general. It is not men's consciousness which determines their life; on the contrary it is the social life which determines their consciousness.

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At 2:29 am, Blogger malaika said...

hi, i really enjoy your posts, not just for the oportunity to find another people interested but for the importance to organize us against capitalism

best regards


At 2:49 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! Great Blog! and I am right there with all you say! however, one thing concerns me in your profile you say that your favourite book is Animal farm,
may I point out that the book it's self is an attack on Socialism in general, the Author portrays corruption as an end result, some say it is an attack on Stalin, although it is the pigs who take control and not The pig.
There is also speculation that George Orwell was a British spy during the Spanish civil war.

At 9:10 am, Blogger Snowball said...

Malaika - many thanks.

Anon - I would not say that Animal Farm was my favourite book, but it was one of those things I read at school which probably played a small part in helping me break from the soft Stalinism I had inculcated early on after reading some of Isaac Deutscher's biography of Trotsky.

The book is not 'an attack on socialism in general' - it is a devastating critique of Stalinism by someone whose politics were between Labour Left reformist socialism and 'literary Trotskyism'. 'Snowball' as you know is one of the most famous representations of Leon Trotsky in world literature.

In his 1947 preface to the Ukrainian edition of Animal Farm, Orwell stressed that 'nothing has contributed so much to the corruption of the original idea of socialism as the belief that Russia is a socialist country and that every act of its rulers must be excused, if not imitated. And so for the past ten years I have been convinced that the destruction of the Soviet myth was essential if we wanted a revival of the socialist movement.'

See here. This is not to say there are problems with the work and its portrayal of the Russian Revolution - as highlighted in detail by John Molyneux in an article for International Socialism back in the 1980s.

I have never before heard the allegation that Orwell was a British spy during the Spanish Civil War - but if he was then why the hell would he bother to write a work like Homage to Catalonia after getting out of Spain with his life in 1938? That work champions the revolutionary spirit of the workers during the Spanish Civil War and damns British imperialism - and imperialism in general - completely and utterly.


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