Spanish Cartoonist Miguel Brieva, Spanish Anarchist Ricardo Mella, and May Day


The Ideal Worker

“Wow!…It seems that the company isn’t obtaining the profits that it should…Well, say no more: first thing tomorrow I’ll resign without severance pay or anything! And if it occurs to me to protest, I’ll call the police and hope they crack open my head!” – Miguel Brieva (translation by Stephen Vilaseca)

First of May

Don’t you, worker, feel a little like a poet, slightly crazy, somewhat happy? Look, it’s the great day of flowers, of the resurrection of life. See, we are in the heart of renewal, in the middle of vitality, in abundant love. Everything praises the glory of flowery May.

You can surrender your cult of enthusiasm, of vigor, of energy to the god of victories like the young girls who sing their virginal desires at the foot of the altar. You have won, and the songs of triumph wouldn’t sound bad in the throats of fanatics.

The First of May is also your day. You have your party and your icon. Have fun, now laugh, laugh, drink, dance, sing: march in correct and full formation toward a happy future. Your heroes ahead; in front your banners; get to the doors of the authoritarian synagogue, pray your annual prayer, and sing, dance, drink, laugh, perorate, have fun again. You have your party and your icon. The First of May is also your party.

Do you know what your idol is called? Saint Routine Enlighten You. Do you know what you are celebrating and why you are celebrating it? May the divine image of slavery create in your head the clarity of all truths. March, march, like a flock of sheep, like a drove of mules, like a herd of pigs, behind your banners and your heroes. At the end of the work day, with your hoarse voice, your bruised bones, your blurred vision, your thought shaky because of exhaustion, perhaps you will find your house rigid, your loves asleep, your hopes dead, your foolish acts frustrated. Maybe the miserable reality of your misfortunes sweeps flowery May’s waves of dementia and poetry from your mind. You have performed your duty like a good citizen, a disciplined worker, a fervent believer. And you can sleep peacefully.

For centuries upon centuries your tribute to routine will be sterile. Your processions like so many other carnivals will be a mockery of the people. A pastime, a curiosity, an anachronism, and nothing more. Some give speeches, others listen; those over there applaud, these here smile. The merrymaking continues. Three hundred sixty five days later they will repeat the same pantomime with equal seriousness and level-headedness. It was because of something that you reached the pinnacle of political ability, of civic education, of social power. Domesticity is the clairvoyant sign of civilization.

Don’t you see how the wealthy people are trembling with fear? Don’t you see the fright of the powerful? On this cursed day everything is shaking: the State, Property, the Church, the Army, the Magistracy. Only you are calm, magnificent, that is to say, majestic. You are the ruler of the roost.

You are right to feel, on this famous day, a little like a poet, slightly crazy, somewhat happy. Tomorrow it will be late. The workshop, the factory, the furrow await you; a barbaric foreman, a rude bourgeois beckons you. Who knows if you will end up in prison! Anyway make the most of it: the illusion of freedom is worth living it up.

But, my friend, if you don’t know more, if you don’t want more, if you just do and pretend, resign yourself to being a slave for centuries upon centuries, for you will have deserved it. The First of May will be your INRI.

– Ricardo Mella, Acción Libertaria, num. 20. Gijón, April 28, 1911(translated by Stephen Vilaseca)