1906 - After May Day
First Published: 1906 in Novo Vremé No. 5
Source: Georgi Dimitrov, Selected Works Sofia Press, Sofia, Volume 1, 1972, pp. 1-7
This year Labour Day was celebrated with rare impressiveness in all our bigger towns. The mass evacuation of workshops and factories, the non-appearance of the daily press and of various productions, the participation in the May Day demonstrations of a considerable number of workers who until yesterday were indifferent to the struggles of their organized comrades — all this lends to this year's May Day an unprecedented demonstrative and agitational character.
On this historically and politically great day we were fortunate not only to manifest our class solidarity and proletarian demands together with the whole world proletariat, not only to demonstrate against the existing capitalist regime, but also to count our ranks, to measure our forces and to review the road travelled, fortifying our conviction that the workers' socialist movement in Bulgaria, despite all ups and downs, is properly developing and forging ahead.
Thanks to the persistent and energetic propaganda car ried on among workers during the past year, our Party and trade union organizations in Sofia, Plovdiv, Roussé, Sliven, Pleven and other major proletarian centres can boast of considerable achievements in their educational and organizational work, as well as in their drive to improve working conditions and to clear the road of the workers' movement from alien influences and from those barriers which the bourgeoisie is systematically trying to set up. Under the influence of the workers' socialist organizations the frequent strikes, which at first were only a spontaneous manifestation of the seething dissatisfaction among the workers against unrestricted exploitation, have recently been assuming the character of an organized struggle for better working conditions and of a fine school for their class education. Although their practical results are very limited, they have been most useful in organizing and educating the workers. The number of workers taking an active part in the political struggles under the banner of our Party is steadily growing. The December demonstration against the crafts law and the mass workers' protest meetings on February 19 for the application, extension and addenda of the Law on Woman and Child Labour testify to the growing political consciousness of the workers. On the very morrow of May Day this could also be noticed in the struggle of the Sofia printers against the yellow press, in the person of its typical representative, the Vecherna Poshta (The Evening Post) of Shangov.
When pointing out these successes, however, one should not forget that although quite a bit has been done and achieved by our organizations,it is still far from sufficient. Much more is required to have them reach the degree of intensity, consciousness and discipline necessary for a victorious organization of the forthcoming workers' struggles.
The percentage of trade union members in Bulgaria is very small. Hundreds of workers, men and women, are still outside the reach of socialist propaganda, and have not yet been inspired by the idea of organization and organizational struggle. The number of trade union members at the factories is insignificant. There are only a few women workers in all our trade unions. Furthermore, there are trade unions, mainly in Sofia and Varna, which constitute a special union headed not by the Workers' Social Democratic Party but by some petty bourgeois faction. Many of our trade unions are weak organizationally and financially, owing to which they perform their trade union functions irregularly and inadequately. Others are in the process of consolidation and have not yet stepped soundly on their feet. The proletarian element is insufficiently represented in some Party organizations. There is a great shortage of advanced workers agitators and propagandists. Socialist education among the workers in certain towns is carried out unsystematically, even negligently. Our press has too limited a circulation, so that its influence over the workers' masses is limited. There are even organized workers (in some trade unions their number is not small), who do not receive the organ of their union Rabotnicheski Vestnik (Workers' Gazette) while many trade union workers do not subscribe to Novo Vremé.
Moreover, the Bulgarian workers live and work under appalling conditions. The long working day, the low wages and insanitary conditions at workshops and factories, work at night and on holidays, the wide use of woman and child labour, the frequent unemployment, the lack of any serious legislative brakes on exploitation — all this makes it impossible for the broad masses of workers to live decently, drives them to degeneration, checks their progress, organization and class consciousness. It is a well-known fact that the worker who is exhausted and emaciated from overwork and undernutrition cannot be a good element for the workers' organization. He does not get a chance to rest after his tiring work, cannot attend meetings and lectures regularly, read, meet freely with comrades, devote more attention to his organization and take an active part in its work for the organization and education of the workers. Many trade unions and educational societies are compelled to call their meetings and lectures very rarely, because the majority of their members work 12 to 15 and even 17 hours daily and have no regular rest on holidays. The financial weakness of our trade unions and their slow consolidation is due, above all, to the low wages which do not allow a substantial increase in the membership dues, which are quite insufficient to cover trade union work, propaganda and mutual aid. It is therefore a vital necessity for the proper development of the workers' organizations to win better working conditions and to obtain a genuine workers' legislation.
On the other hand, the restlessness of our working class, its organization and establishment as an independent and intransigent social and political force has drawn the attention of the bourgeoisie and prompted it to mobilize its forces and assume the offensive against the socialist movement. The application of the crafts law, the drawing up of the draft Law on Persons, the 'social policy' of the present government are aimed, in general, at diverting the workers' movement from its final and natural goal — the abolitionof the present-day capitalist exploitation, and at confining it to tasks that do not transcend the limits of the bourgeois system. And just as individual capitalists import from the West the most perfect means of production — the latest word of technology, so the bourgeoisie resorts to the most modern ways of combating social democracy. All bourgeois bodies and departments are seriously concerned with removing this 'dangerous enemy'. The bourgeois press, particularly the yellow press, spreads deception among the workers, so as to keep them in ignorance and to reconcile them with the present state of affairs. The Holy Synod translates and publishes 'scientific' pamphlets against socialism, freely disseminated in thousands of copies. 'Popular lectures' are being organized at which, along with general educational subjects, lectures are also held on the 'unsoundness' and the 'Utopian character' of Marxism. And the government organ Nov Vek (New Age) makes use of every opportunity to recommend its party as a defender and benefactor of the workers and to appeal to them to leave the socialist organizations and to rally under its banner. The government agents hastened to introduce Zubatou's methods in Bulgaria. They formed a railwaymen's union for the purpose of diverting the railway workers from their independent organization. And the Party of the Radical Democrats is getting ready to penetrate the workers' masses with its demagogy in order to organize them along bourgeois lines and against social democracy. Moreover, the Industrial Union does not confine itself to interventions in favour of individual industrialists, but goes further: it wants to preserve the capitalist class from the offensive of the socialist movement. It firmly opposes the application of the Law on Woman and Child Labour and insistently calls for a legislative ban on strikes. Nor does the Crafts Union" stand with folded hands. It, too, aims its arrows against the workers, trying by all possible means to bring them 'under the influence of the crafts' organizations and to prevent their becoming organized in the socialist trade unions.
It is clear, however, that we are on the eve of far-reaching and intense trade union and political struggles both for improving working conditions and for clearing the road of the workers' movement and parrying the reactionary blows of the bourgeoisie; struggles which require much stronger organizations than those which our working class has at present.
Today, after the celebration of the international socialist holiday, encouraged by the successes achieved so far, the Party and trade union organizations should, therefore, with redoubled energy continue their work for the organization and socialist education of the workers, doing their utmost to attract factory workers, men and women, no matter how difficult this may be. The organizations must do their utmost to make effective and expedient use of all the forces at their disposal for all-round socialist activity.
May Day is of great importance from the viewpoint of propaganda. The preparations for its celebration, the pre-May Day meetings, conferences, appeals and in particular the May Day demonstration have galvanized the workers, masses and aroused a certain interest in the movement, struggles and demands of the organized workers among them. The workers' organizations have been offered a rare opportunity to attract new workers. They must not only step up, but also more effectively organize their propaganda, paying attention to its purely socialist content. The Party organizations, trade unions and educational societies should hold regular meetings and lectures, while the workers' agitators should go zealously among the workers and make use of the post-May Day unrest in their midst to strengthen the workers' organizations. The consistent and daily work for the ideological and organizational consolidation of the trade unions, for enlisting new militants in their ranks, for a fruitful settlement of all conflicts between labour and capital, should be carried on most energetically. The present moment requires that all functionaries, all Party and trade union members devote all their efforts and capacities to the proletarian cause.
And thus, in the struggles against ignorance and bourgeois influence, for rallying the workers under the banner of social democracy, against individual capitalists and the state, for better working conditions and workers' legislation, against all organs of the bourgeoisie, for clearing the road of the workers' movement — the workers' socialist organizations will attract an ever greater part of the working class, will become an ever stronger factor, will go from victory to victory, and will come ever closer to the great proletarian goal — the emancipation of mankind from the present economic, political and spiritual oppression.