May Day Revolutionaries
The unrest in Paris reported on the evening news is nothing new, it would perhaps be more newsworthy if Paris were to be passive on May Day.
It is some seven years since I was last in Paris, it was May Day and there was a thought that Sean O’Casey might have found inspiration for The Plough and the Stars character the Young Covey among those gathered in the Place de la Bastille on that May Day morning.
In a Dublin bar with Rosie Redmond and a barman, the Young Covey declares his Socialist credentials to an uncomprehending listener:
The Covey: There’s only one freedom for th’ workin’ man: conthrol o’ th’ means o’ production, rates of exchange, an’ th’ means of disthribution. (Tapping Rosie on the shoulder) Look here, comrade, I’ll leave here tomorrow night for you a copy of Jenersky’s, “Thesis on the Origin, Development, an’ Consolidation of the Evolutionary Idea of the Proletariat.”
Rosie (throwing off her shawl on to the counter, and showing an exemplified glad neck, which reveals a good deal of a white bosom). If y’ass Rosie, it’s heartbreakin’ to see a young fella thinkin’ of anything, or admirin’ anything, but silk thransparent stockin’s showin’ off the shape of a little lassie’s legs!
The Covey might have been excused for his imaginings, he could not have imagined the miseries that would be created by Stalin and Mao, but it seemed extraordinary that two of the most murderous dictators in history would still be depicted on banners.
Walking among the radical groups gathered in the spring sunshine that day, it seemed astonishing that after the decades of revelations concerning the Soviet and Chinese Communist regimes, there were still people who would regard such leaders as ideal. Of course, my perception would have been regarded as ‘false consciousness.’
Memories arose of the Hard Left in college days, they knew they were right and declared their rightness with the enthusiasm of the Young Covey. Their views could be the only correct understanding of society and their prescription for revolutionary change must be the best way forward for working people. Should the working classes decide that they didn’t actually want the Hard Left and decline to vote for them; this was further evidence of how right they had been in the first place – working class rejection of revolutionary politics was because of ‘false consciousness’ on the part of the workers. Working people who understood the truth would see the rightness of the cause and must be educated as to their own best interests. To deny their arguments, as we were doing, was simply to be absorbed by the same false consciousness that enshrouded the workers.
It being Paris and a public holiday, the world around was enjoying its day. The groups gathered would have gone home confirmed in their views. Perhaps they would have suggested that I needed a copy of Jenersky’s, Thesis on the Origin, Development, an’ Consolidation of the Evolutionary Idea of the Proletariat – or its Twenty-First Century equivalent.
Other than that song Bring Flowers of the Rarest I don’t remember May being much of a social of religious event growing up. Oddly enough it seemed more of a thing when I was in England.
The old pagan traditions continue in places like Glastonbury.