Study and Theory/
May 1st

Y. H. Brenner

The First of May

The group sat and discussed the fate of Pietel Yudilevich.

- You are a sceptic, friend! The tall sisters told him.

- You are skipping two sections, sir!" He was told with a sting by the two fat sisters.

- Today here, last year in London, next year who knows where - the tall sisters laughed.

"Today, the one who was a worker, last year, who will be put into practice and for the next year ..." The fat sisters spoke harshly.

 

The tall sisters were the daughters of a poor widow, both of whom made corsets and were drunks with pleasant faces.. But because all the Jews were short and the tall sisters were, for some reason, very tall, they had not found their husbands to this day, when they were twenty-six, twenty-eight years old. The fat sisters were the daughters of landlords, without a dowry, they knew how to play the piano, spoke only Russian, wore red blouses, and they were bitter about them too.

 

"But let him rest, let him rest” - shouted Baruch - Everyone on one; This is not the measure of mercy ... In this manner, you will eat him without salt, and you will not leave me anything from him. Leave him alone! Well, the guy, yesterday he was a Bundai and today a social democrat, the day before yesterday a bourgeoisie Zionist and tomorrow goodness know what - all this I forgive him, I forgive him, what can be done with a person who is not right in his mind, However if such a person comes and tells me that if there was a demonstration here today he does not know - you hear him, he does not know! – whether he would have participated in it too ... you understand  this,, that ... I cannot find a name anymore!

 

Baruch was tall and not fat, not young and he was not old in years, but his hands, with the crooked little finger on the right, produced special laziness, and his throat was always hoarse, like the throats of the Jews in the Zionist congresses in the early meetings.

 

The man in charge himself, Pietel Yudilevich, was less than twenty years younger, with a sympathetic yellowish face and a soft-spoken and melancholy voice, he sat slightly slumped blowing smoke rings at one of the tall sisters and one of the fat sisters on his right and left. He had listened to all the long follow-up of accusations with such misinformation, as if this did not seem to concern him at all. When Baruch finished his mandatory study, the man in charge nodded, and for this reason a golden curl fell on the left of his forehead, and then he said:

- Ah, yes, the first of May, the first of May ... when did the winter pass, and we did not see it ... That's how the days go by, so the wheel turns ...

- He is already looking for a way out, an opening to escape from the question posed directly to him! - commented one psychologist from the group.

"If you do not whisper about both of us," Baruch also said to the man in charge

"What do you want from me?" - Yudilevich has recently said, with the chuckle of a torment, so to speak - is there any possibility of demonstrations? What do you want?

- True, not here! The tall sisters admitted with innocence and sorrow - but abroad they were not ...

"Well, let's say that even in the Diaspora there were not many demonstrations, there were no grandiose manifestations. The fat sisters also stated angrily.

 

- And why was that? - Baruch hastened to prove - because our freedom festival is celebrated on a weekday. For example, I told the owner of my printing house: "Even if it depends on my place of work for the rest of my life, I will not work on the first of May, no matter what, even if there is a danger to life, I will not come to the printing press." However, it was impossible to demand this from the professional unions in each and every country to decide to celebrate our holiday. I forgive them in the fullest sense of the word! The English trade unions (the speaker suddenly began to speak from his heart), for example, they answered: Which of us would leave work on a working day? If it fell on a Sunday, on their Sabbath - oh, then it was quite another matter, in a completely different way! ... And as proof: a few years ago, I remember, the first of May fell on a Sunday ...

 

"Brother, it was the first year I was in London," Yudilievich interrupted his accusers with a nostalgic melody of "past and present."

- So? – the young ladies blushed and go excited - and was there a great celebration then? We read about this historic celebration ... in Hyde Park, London, was that it? Tell us, tell us, dear Yudilevich, how was the celebration, how was it!

- If someone would give me a glass of tea ...

The glass of tea was served-and Yudilievich said.

*

Peitel Yudilevich came from Geneva to London immediately after Passover. In London he had an older brother, who had a hat workshop, and Peitel said to himself: It is better to come to him after Passover. It is true that in the last few days that Yudilievich spent in Geneva there was a bit of a problem about chametz, which caused him to leave the city, but at least there was not any business about eating matzah! However, these accounts of chametz and matzah are not connected with the matter directly, so please forgive me listeners..

 

And indeed he came to London, straight to his brother. His brother, a simple and dejected man in his work, was glad of him; he had big hopes for Peitel, his student brother! But there was nothing to do, and the sister-in-law of Yudilievich, his brother's wife, wrinkled her nose... But that, too, is not of interest to us

 

He, Peitel, was then an Iscarian, and only an Iscarian, not half a Bundai and a half a social democrat like today (Yudilevich sometimes liked to sneer a bit about himself - a special measure of self-indulgence.) And if he did not, he wrote two or three popular articles for the main paper ... But – such a cunning guy - This too is not of interest to us..

 

Quiet, here it is. He came to London immediately after Passover, and a few weeks later (these weeks passed "just like that," as is the custom of the passing of such weeks of zero work!) Preparations began for the first of May. Overseas - and London in particular - the first of May is always early. Two weeks before that of the Russians, is not it?

 

What preparations are there - there is no need to describe them. Conferences and Commissaries, Articles and Proclamations, Gatherings and Awareness. He was still "green" in the city, he did not know yet about all the "branches" and "sections", but he was already a great help in local politics. The Central Committee of the social democrats then tried to deny the Anarchists the possibility of establishing a platform for themselves, but that the latter would participate by force with them in the course of the agitation under their banner. There were various tricks, and one of them was a combination of fraud regarding the “platforms” in the park – that same historical. Hyde Park. The Anarchists learned in advance about the conspiracy against them and were furious, and would publish a new and special manifesto devoted to this subject.

 

In short, the manifesto was a success..The first of May.  This is the day for us and for all the proletariat! The first of May! The holiday of spring and freedom! The festival of Global Solidarity for the Proletariat! Oh, get out of your forests, your holes in the ground, to participate in the procession! For on this day we show all our haters, to all our blood suckers, to all the people of the world, our strength, the power of our unity, the power ...

 

- No, no, no irony! Baruch stopped gravely.

Yudilevich continued:

 

... The style is known, but the anarchists would add more at the end: "Long live the general strike," and the other members managed to finish: "Long live the Jewish proletariat!", And specifically Poalei Zion, the "Turks" who for some reason added something else: "Onwards the militarisms!" - until the end.

And it was wonderful! The style is known, the words are known, old, repeated each and every year, and when they do, they make an impression and bring a tremor to the heart. Won’t you laugh?

- The pessimist already started, - The sisters’ anger passed - We want to hear the main thing, we want to know, what happened that day ...

- On that same day? That day came, finally. It was a London spring day. Not warm or cold. The bakers started the big strike and they went out with their flags for the first time. All the Jewish unions were supposed to gather in Mile End at 11 o’clock and then walk to the City, where they would join up with the English unions, and together they would go to Hyde Park. Of course, all the armies were already in place at 10 o’clock, but the bakers were out early before 9 o’clock, they started in Tottenham, the location of their union, and went to Commercial Road, and turned to Great Alie Street and Little Alie Street and came to The Line. The Line is a place without which no Jewish neighbourhood will be set out. You will find the like exactly the same in Dansk and New York, Vilna and Lemberg. In the line, Jews and Jewesses sat around fruit-laden pails, buckets filled with pickled zucchini, bowls full of soup for sale, tables laden with aprons for the girls - and they set out a feast. There the demonstrations met up with a cry: "_________ __________!"  However there was a Jewish neighbourhood in the eastern part of the city busy and admiring of the performance of the parades and the flags and the stripes and the red necklaces. The shops were not closed, but there seemed to be a lot of joy, anticipation, and awakening. Not one young man met his friend by crying out "Good Day" Half joking and half serious. The public agreement, that the day was a holiday, was almost complete. In particular, this spirit was taken by the most enthusiastic of the marchers, none of them produced the thought hovering around: The proletariat day is great! The future for all this is the future of socialism. All the festivals are cancelled, and it is impossible without festivals. The future of this holiday is to conquer all hearts and to exist forever ... great!

 

At ten-thirty the striking bakers arrived at the rest of their brethren, the sons of other proprietors, gathered in Mile End. All the different preachers who stood on upturned wagons stopped talking when they saw who was coming, and the crowd gathered to meet the strikers, who were the heroes of the day, in a ringing, gaudy "Let’s go" call. The cooks, organisers, agitators and the writers of the various unions, surrounded by wide red stripes from their left shoulder to their right sides, moved, ordered, led errands, organised a great noise and quarrels and made the same ridiculous impression of Jewish functionaries by their faces and actions; to differentiate…. But in all the large crowd, in those thousands of faces that had gathered, those thousands of oppressed bodies, gathered in one place, from the first glance there was some kind of …. Truth Some walked around with collection boxes for the Red Cross for the strikers; There was also no shortage of various party newspaper vendors and propaganda brochures. The edges of the garments were pulled in all directions. The talkers and preachers, usually with blunt and determined faces, moved their hands and their heads and made statements. For those whose voices were not heard, because of distance, they seemed to disguise themselves on the festival with masks. But the contents of all the things that were said, without the veneer of arrogance and innocence, were right and correct. "Do not look at me!" One of them called out - do not look at me, because you will not find anything in me, look at your surroundings, you are all drowning in poverty, in slavery, in those whose work is done by you ... You are all hungry and who is at fault? The one at fault is……And today is the first of May "...

 

"Do not trust the Parliaments!" Shouted the Redactor of the Anarchic Weekly in another place, because he is denying the parliaments ... Go into the houses of the despots - and look, and you will see ... But what do I say: Come in? The servant will show you the door ... The servant will hold your necks and throw you out ... that the masters are our despots, who we send, we choose, and we are slaves, and today is the first May ... "

 

Playing with them, in their revolutionary songs and in a great preparation for "actions that will not be done," the entire large Jewish crowd from Mile End left, through Whitechapel, to meet with their English brethren in the city. Even before the oriental marchers had seen the groups of English who stood on both sides of the road, hundreds of steps away from them, they hurried and raised, in honour of the meeting, a shout of "Let’s go," which seemed to them to be a powerful call, Like the sound of a slaughtered chicken. Many of the Jews saw fit to remove their hats, to honour the Gentiles, and to wave them in the air above their sweating brows. Another moment-and the two nations met: the Jews and the English! The English groups watched with curiosity, with a chuckle of chastity, disgusted at the poverty of their clothes and the blackness of the faces of the newcomers, who did not understand the removal of hats. – and were silent.

- It’s slander!! One of the group of listeners stopped the storyteller with great irritation – he was a tenth generation Zionist!

- It’s unbelievable, another answered but in a less terrible voice - because they met the demonstrating Jews in total silence. It was the Socialists who gathered. This is slander! This is passeville! I protest against this forcefully! I protest!

 

The virgins listening were ashamed for some reason and tried to cover up their shame and disguise themselves as unbelieving and protesting.

Yudilevich laughed at the word “passeville”, accepted the protest and continued to recount.

- The English were few in number, they did not applaud and they were silent. The way of the English is to be silent.

 

In their neighbourhood all the shops were closed because of the day of their strike, because in such a manner they are very careful, as is known, the nation loves the Bible and the Sabbath! And in the city there is no housing, just large closed contours, there was silence. But as the camp approached the western part of the city, rich men and women stood on the railings and watched the procession. Among the torn and worn Jewish demonstrators, they looked upwards with a warning: "Ahh, today you are afraid of us, explorators, because of our strength ... And indeed be afraid, afraid, afraid!..." But the majority looked upwards, even without laughter, they simply looked at the iron campaign passing. through the terminal ...

 

By the first hour, the other members of the party had also gathered among the English. They came to bear the flag and go to Hyde Park. At the front were the members of the English Social Democrats, followed by several representatives of the unions, followed by the Jewish Social Democrats, the Jewish Bundais, the Yiddish speaking anarchists, the aforementioned striking bakers, the Jewish professional unions, and, behind them all, as a sort of tag along there were also about thirty Zionist workers and socialists with their own small flag in their hands.

 

The difference between the masses of the two sets of nations was more than anticipated.. The English were all tall, beautiful, proud, dressed in splendour, strong, silent, with no power of celebratory wonder. There were no women amongst them, except for the teachers from the school who were basically socialists, who travelled with their nicely ironed children in long carriages. The Jewish masses, on the other hand, who were in multiples of their Jewish "brethren", were in contrast to them as creeping insects, hurrying with their bent backs, oppressed heights, trying to be celebratory, cheerful, to please. "As if they were saying:  “Do you see, we are also marching….we the socialists, we recognize our status in the party ... We do not need to be anathema to you ..." Among the young men, a decent number of green women and virgins, There were unhappy, which made the impression of our righteous matriarchs preparing the wick for the candles for Shabbat-Teshuvah.

- Yudilevich! - the narrator was stopped by his listeners.

He promised that he would no longer touch the demonstrators detrimentally - and returned to his story.

But what happened at Hyde Park actually?

- In Hyde Park there was a wide square and many grassy areas. During the rest of the year, the English lay on that grass and make love. Ugly "births", ugly as only the English women can be, the splendour of London, they walk arm-in-arm with their husbands, who, according to their religion and jewellery, sparkle on a gaunt white slab. Polite policemen dressed in black walk peacefully and protect the walkers and those who lie down from some kind of invisible disturbance. All this in the rest of the year. But on the same day the proletariats’ festival there was no love making and no women marching, but rather a decent number of policemen and people with beards within the English, old men with bare faces among the Jews, talking about the glorious future, the great holiday, the solidarity among the proletarians of all nations - until four in the afternoon. The redactor of the Anarchist weekly raised his voice to the other parties and showed how ridiculous it was to celebrate the first of May in a quiet, bourgeois way, shamefully ... And then, suddenly, the question was suddenly asked: What are they really doing here? From the side, almost beyond the low fence, the rabble of the "fifth class" was added. those who wander around in the eastern part of the city at night. A curious person momentarily wondered in a top hat and a gold chain on his belly; One of the "members of the class" wanted, in honour of the holiday, to knock the top hat from his fat neck, but that did not work either. The owner of the top hat jumped over the fence and escaped with an irritated laugh. - - - - -

 

The whole group unanimously did not let Yudilevich finish. No! No! That was not the case. He was indeed a witness but discussed it only from one point of view. All the European newspapers then wrote long articles about the magnificent demonstration of ten thousand people, which marched down one street after another.

 

Even though it was still early and there was nothing to do, he was asked to tell the story again, what happened later, what happened in the second year ...

And he did not refuse.

 

What happened afterwards? First, the bakers' strike, which dwindled and surrendered, was cancelled. Second, Peitel Yudilevich was certain, that his sister-in-law was right, because driving his brother mad and eating his bread had no purpose - and he would also come to the workshop to make hats. In the workshop were rags of materials, materials, day-to-day waves of dust, human arrows and arrows of insects, unorganized, ignorant of what an organization is, incapable of understanding what an organization is. The work was terrible, the wages were terrible, but his brother, the sweat-sucking landlord, was a depressed poor man, and he himself worked more than all his workers. He carried the sacks of rags from one place to another, and he was confused and abandoned to save and be saved. His brother Peitel, who was a student, was forced to come to work in his workshop for bread, was very insulting to his honour, the honour of the landlord, and consoled himself before others, as he sat and walked, repeating the same strange mumblings in English speech, ... which had become at that time his language: Only for the present time, only for the present time ... This was his prophecy, although it could not have been fulfilled. The stifling dust and the needle hurt his unusual fingers. No work was done. It was only a disgrace to look at the other conspicuous workers and the working women. It is only the disgrace of the tricks and the jealousy that are being done to them, by the workers and the easy way in which these tricks were carried out. Lately even the beautiful worker who made him very eager to keep on with this job and kept him at the workshop didn’t help, and after a few months he left the house, he left the workshop. He was fickle - what can you do?

 

In the May celebration of the following year he was once again idle, a free bird, for, indeed, the first of that month in that year was not on a Sunday but rather on a weekday, on a working day, as it was this year - and he had left his brother's workshop  and the newcomer who came to work, insisted and was not willing to be saved from work on that day. Instead, in another workshop, he knows, in a workshop under the supervision of the union a boycott had been declared on one of the members, who had been differentiated by his community and wanted to work, and they boycotted him.

 

What happened on that second May? There was nothing in that May. Not even external glory; not even a large Jewish crowd, and not even a lot of looking. The shops were open in the west of the city, the chariots clattered. In the first hour, the entire world was already scattered and they returned to their homes tired and empty. Only a few of the English came bearing flags, and the flag bearers had been hired. The Jewish organizations, of course, issued a decree to go out and take part in the procession, but they no longer had any influence. There were the same statements: "Today is the first of May ... Today is the first of May ..." - but there was already a dust-covered standstill. Moreover, the impression was not even of a workers' church, workers, oppressed by their externalism, but rather the creators of real life, rather a gathering of servants in shops and inns, of mere travellers, of idle people. Idle people who for some reason, as if in spite of them, they proved to be the most satisfying forms, to live prosperous lives, greedy people. The flag carriers of the Jewish organizations were, of course, not hired for money, but rather volunteers, intended, for the most part- just for an evening of boys pushing, gaping, wearing shorts. Some of them had swollen faces wearing kerchiefs, like boys, playing small townspeople. When one of them waved his hand, Yudilievich, who was about to come to his aid, hurried to help him, for he was good hearted, but at that time he had been expelled from his brother's house for over six months; an old man, one of the flag-bearers pushed his arm and called out to him:

“You, what are you doing here?"

*

The listeners suddenly laughed. This last words without knowing and unconsciously rang in their ears an echo of something understandable, seemed to them to be a symbol of something clear.

 

"And the fact that you were pushed a few years ago by a man in a crowd made such a strong impression on you that ... so much so ... that you would not have gone to demonstration now? Baruch argued forcefully Indeed everything can be forgiven for one receiving such an impression."Yes, I do not deny, the reason is easily explained: You went out to the celebration for the first of May, you were filled with feelings of solidarity with everything, prepared to embrace the whole universe, and suddenly you were hurt. Your most sacred feelings were hurt, and by whom? By the one you consider to be your closest brother. I forgive you! However what I cannot forgive is what you have just said, that if there was today a demonstration - you do not know, if you would participate, you agree yourself that but for that push you cannot walk on the other side, to the enemy camp, whatever you may be, a Zionist, a socialist and heavens knows what - and you are a socialist, a socialist You cannot deny that the capitalist order ...

- Gentlemen! - Yudilievich cried in his soft, melancholy voice, in the voice of a spoiled child masquerading as weeping - command this man not to hit his fist on the table as he spoke ... he spilt all my tea from my glass with his beatings…....

They served Yudelevitz a second glass.

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