Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library

ON MAY DAY GREEN 1838

Bulletin of the Marx Memorial Library (1974), 70, (1), 13–14.

Abstract

his Conclusion that it "stands fully armed, commands vast organisations and steadily continues to exercise influence on the masses, turning the slightest vacillation in philosophical thought to its own advantage." Discussion on philosophical fundamentals is as much a part of the class struggle as a strike or a political programme. That the discussion is widening is no accident. I suggest that Lenin's "Materialism and Empirio-Critic)jsm" is lucid, penetrating and comprehensive on the fundamental issue as between Dialectical Materialism and all forms of Idealism, however cloaked in materialist terminology. ON MAY DAY GREEN 1838 Yorkshire members, many of whose forefathers played such an important part in the Chartist movement, and who are themselves very active in the workers' cause to-day, will probably find something rather piquant - and not without topical overtones in an account of a mass meeting in Barnsley in 1838. Though May Day itself was not celebrated by the Labour movement till half a century later, and then concentrated on a different vital demand, a gathering of "thousands of persons", according to the Chartist "Northern Star", assembled on the eve of that day on May Day Green, for the purpose of petitioning Parliament for the political rights denied to all but the propertied classes. J. Crabtree, who presided, after proclaiming the purpose of the meeting to demand Universal Suffrage, Annual Parliaments, Vote by Ballot "and every thing else that the people thought necessary for the protection of their rights (Hear, hear, and laughter) ... took into consideration the several objections which the enemies of the people frequently urge against the extension of the Elective Franchise, such as their ignorance of political subjects, their moral debasement, their incapacity to exercise a proper He scathingly characterised these as truly judgment, etc." "worthy of the men who raised them", remarking that a more ignorant set of men than the privileged order could not be found; and ... he had no doubt he could find 658 men (the number of members of the House of Commons. Ed.) in any manufacturing town in England, Ireland or Scotland." Referring to the Dorchester Labourers (then newly rescued from Botany Bay and brought home). he demanded: "What was it that brought them back? (Hear, hear). Certainly it was not the charity of the Whigs, nor the humanity of Lord John Russell. It was the people's exertions that brought them back; and they have now returned to bless the people for those exertions (Hear, hear, hear I}" The speaker denounced "in the most unqualified terms" the "slavery system" of apprenticeship, the fraudulent Reform Bill and the New Poor Law, to a constant loud chorus of agreement. After which, a resolution, "carried unanimously, with three cheers", declared that the petitioners were "deprived of those rights which 13

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P.B.