May Day in England

Post date: 29/04/2023

British Battalion commissar Bob Cooney wrote the following piece in the 1 May 1938 issue of the Volunteer for Liberty, the official newspaper of the English-speaking International Brigades.

In the final section Cooney mentions the United Peace Alliance. This was a campaign initiated by Sydney Elliot, editor of the co-operative newspaper Reynold’s News, for the establishment of an anti-fascist popular front in Britain. Many on the British left, particularly the Communist Party, sought to establish a ‘peace bloc’ of progressive nations in Europe to resist the expansion of fascism. It would seek to unite Britain with the popular front governments of France and Spain, as well as the Soviet Union.

Cover of Volunteer for Liberty, 1 May 1938, Vol. II, No. 19. It features the slogans 'Arms for Spain' and 'Fortify - Resist - Win'.

May Day – day of International Solidarity has a greater significance this year than ever before.

The workers of the world know that their fate is being decided on the battlefields of Spain and China. They know that their own mass actions will have a decisive influence on the outcome of the fight in these countries.

When the workers of the world march today, Spain and China will be uppermost in their minds. 

In England they will march with a feeling of shame that it is the British government which, by its support of the fascist powers, enables the agony of Spain and China to continue.

But they will also march with a feeling of pride in the knowledge that they represent a different England from that of Chamberlain.

They represent the England whose gallant sons once marched behind Garibaldi in the fight for a free united Italy.

They represent the England of the dockers who in 1922 gave the lead to a series of acts of international solidarity which forced the end of the intervention against the young Soviet Republic. 

They represent the England of Bed Bradley, Phillips Spratt, and the scores of other Englishmen who have served years of confinement in Indian jails for the part they have played in the fight for India’s freedom.

They represent the England of the British Battalion in Spain, the England that puts the claims of International Solidarity above life itself.

Because they represent these things, the workers of England will march with pride today.

They will also march with hope, because they see the battle for unity is being won. From a thousand platforms throughout the land, the demand for the United Peace Alliance will be sounded. 

The Peace Alliance is coming! And when it comes – when Britain ceases to be a prop of international fascism – when Britain takes its place in the forefront of the democratic peoples…on that day the fascist indenciaries can prepare to depart for the oblivion that awaits them.

Posted on 1 May 2023.

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