The First of May

[Chicago was the scene of strikes in 1886 to win the eight hour day, which led to the framing and execution of the Haymarket martyrs in 1887. In 1889 the Second International issued a call for the first of May 1890 to to be made a day of protest by workers. In this leaflet, Parisian anarchists consider if this might be the spark for the revolution.]

BLANQUI Anarchy is Humanity’s Future

Comrades from the workshops

Its is a century now since we bent our backs under the master’s rod – the bourgeoisie – a century since we allowed ourselves to be led uncomplaining and unprotesting, like an ox to the slaughterhouse.

Is this going to carry on forever? No!

The hatred contained for such a long time within our hearts is beginning to spill over.

On every side we hear the cry of the suffering proletarian, heralding the great Revolution that is in the making. Plainly, and we all know this, like a trail of gunpowder, the idea of revolt is spreading everywhere.

Now all it needs is a spark to trigger the event that is to free us all of our exploiters.

Who or what is going to strike that spark? That, we do not know.

This coming May 1st, the Toilers of the entire world will take to the streets: to do what? Why will they do so? To demand what? A palliative that is not going to be able to bring about any improvement in our lot.

But no matter, for its is not for anarchists to commit nor to prevent anybody from taking to the streets.

And who knows? If those who walk out of work that day realize what they are doing and what they want to do, it may very well the beginnings of the Revolution.

Whether it be May 1st or in 10 years’ time when the hygienic effort of bourgeois disinfection begins; when that day comes, let us remember the suffering endured; let us feel the hunger pangs again let us see ourselves momentarily as we what we are, slaves, the executioners’ hounds, made powerful by our weakness; and without pity or wrath, but cold and implacable, let us lash out as we must, until the sun of Equality finally cuts through the dense blanket of clouds screening it from our eyes.

And you Mothers and Families

You who very often find yourselves obliged to go without the food you need, to dry the tears of your children, remember who you are and stand up to our common enemies too.

Tell yourselves this; that since the land produces three more than it takes to feed everyone – and the bourgeois admit as much – you want your children’s lives guaranteed; you want them to have, before they are born, some plot of ground in which to rest.

Refuse to raise any more paupers and afflicted fated to be murdered little by little by hunger and wretchedness, assuming that artillery and deprivation have not made a pulp of your sons and rottenness of your daughters.

Comrades, fellow convicts

Even should it come, and if, on May 1st, the blood flows in Paris, let us sally forth from our wretched hovels and if, at last, the rifles spit death and should the corpses stack up in Paris, Fire! Fire everywhere!

Once outside of the foul places that serve as our houses and where disease exercises its latent rule, we must never go back there again. Must a man stay where he grows sickly, where vermin teem, where our lungs are assailed by lack of air and unhealthy air at that, where it is impossible to raise our offspring?

(To say that there are still folk who would preserves these hovels, on the pretext that they are our handwork). Away, scum!

It is our turn to bask in our properties.

And who is the owner: the ones who create them or those who watch as they are being built?

But, comrades, if the Revolution is to have any effect, it must be triumphant. So let us be wary of those who pose as saviours and those who urge us to take to the streets; they are always the same people.

Insofar as we can we must revolt in the shadows.

We are not going to be able to strike at the heart of the beast that consumes us unless we use guile to entrap it.

One stick of dynamite surreptitiously placed is going to make more impact than 100 men who march to their deaths against a squadron.

Wherever there are property deeds, wherever the bourgeoisie has set up its headquarters, we must bring the torch. Churches, town halls, police stations must be blown up or put to the torch, but, as far as possible, the hand that does the avenging deed has to remain unknown. Only then can we start over and make an effective revolution with a few people.

If we must sacrifice our lives, let us steel ourselves to that, but at the very least we must sell our lives dearly.

Unfortunately, even now, there seems to be an attachment to this existence which is merely one long martyrdom and there are so many into whom the thought of death strike fear.

Let us act with courage and sangfroid, comrades; is it not better to die at one fell stroke than to killed slowly the way we are?

You fear agony, but what is our life but one drawn-out agony, often more terrifying and ghastly than the throes that herald death.

Remember the Chicago martyrs who sang of the Revolution even with the ropes around their necks.

Remember Reinsdorf; remember the likes of Gallo, Cyvoct, Duval, Pini and the rest, good anarchists who did not stall until you were ready before they attacked our masters in an effort to lighten the burden rather than unwittingly drag you along.

Yes, remember, and come the day of the Revolution, death to all exploitation and exploiters, to all that represents … authority. Do not forget that their victims number in the millions. They are merely a few thousand.

Long live the Revolution!

Long live Anarchy!

Down with Authority!

Above all, let us not put our trust in politicians, universal suffrage can see the day.*

The Jeunesse libertaire meets every Saturday – Open access, no admission charge

* presumably meaning something like ‘is on the rise’.

Thanks to Paul Sharkey for translating this.

Note on names

August Reinsdorf was executed in 1885 for attempting to assassinate the Kaiser. Charles Gallo attacked the Paris stock exchange in 1886 and would die in New Caledonia in 1923. Antoine Cyvoct, sent to New Caledonia for an 1882 bombing he denied being involved with, would eventually be liberated in 1898. Clement Duval, anarchist expropriator, would escape from French Guyana in 1901. Vittorio Pini, anarchist expropriator, died in French Guyana in 1903.


Scan of original:

Translated by: Paul Sharkey.