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What you need to know about May Day


TRIBE Member
I took this guys Political Theory course when I was at York. Good little piece of history:

What you need to know about May Day

Leo Panitch

For more than 100 years, May Day has symbolized the common struggles of
workers around the globe. Why is it largely ignored in North America? The
answer lies in part in American labour's long repression of its own
radical past, out of which international May Day was actually born a
century ago.

The seeds were sown in the campaign for the eight-hour work day. On May 1,
1886, hundreds of thousands of North American workers mobilized to strike.
In Chicago, the demonstration spilled over into support for workers at a
major farm-implements factory who'd been locked out for union activities.
On May 3, during a pitched battle between picketers and scabs, police shot
two workers. At a protest rally in Haymarket Square the next day, a bomb
was tossed into the police ranks and police directed their fire
indiscriminately at the crowd. Eight anarchist leaders were arrested,
tried and sentenced to death (three were later pardoned).

These events triggered international protests, and in 1889, the first
congress of the new socialist parties associated with the Second
International (the successor to the First International organized by Karl
Marx in the 1860s) called on workers everywhere to join in an annual
one-day strike on May 1 - not so much to demand specific reforms as an
annual demonstration of labour solidarity and working-class power. May Day
was both a product of, and an element in, the rapid growth of new mass
working-class parties of Europe - which soon forced official recognition
by employers and governments of this "workers' holiday."

But the American Federation of Labor, chastened by the "red scare" that
followed the Haymarket events, went along with those who opposed May Day
observances. Instead, in 1894, the AFL embraced president Grover
Cleveland's decree that the first Monday of September would be the annual
Labor Day. The Canadian government of Sir Robert Thompson enacted
identical Labour Day legislation a month later.

Ever since, May Day and Labour Day have represented in North America the
two faces of working-class political tradition, one symbolizing its
revolutionary potential, the other its long search for reform and
respectability. With the support of the state and business, the latter has
predominated - but the more radical tradition has never been entirely

This radical May Day tradition is nowhere better captured than in Bryan
Palmer's monumental book, Cultures of Darkness: Night Travels in the
Histories of Transgression [From Medieval to Modern] (Monthly Review
Press, 2000). Palmer, one of Canada's foremost Marxist labour historians,
has done more than anyone to recover and analyze the cultures of
resistance that working people developed in practising class struggle from
below. He's strongly critical of labour-movement leaders who've appealed
to those elements of working-class culture that crave ersatz bourgeois

Set amid chapters on peasants and witches in late feudalism, on pirates
and slaves during the rise of mercantile imperialism, on fraternal lodge
members and anarchists in the new cities of industrial capitalism, on
lesbians, homosexuals and communists under fascism, and on the mafia,
youth gangs and race riots, jazz, beats and bohemians in modern U.S.
capitalism, are two chapters that brilliantly tell the story of May Day.
One locates Haymarket in the context of the Victorian bourgeoisie's fears
of what they called the "dangerous classes." This account confirms the
central role of the "anarcho-communist movement in Chicago [which] was
blessed with talented leaders, dedicated ranks and the most active
left-wing press in the country. The dangerous classes were becoming truly

The other chapter, a survey of "Festivals of Revolution," locates "the
celebratory May Day, a festive seizure of working-class initiative that
encompassed demands for shorter hours, improvement in conditions, and
socialist agitation and organization" against the backdrop of the
traditional spring calendar of class confrontation.

Over the past century communist revolutions were made in the name of the
working class, and social democratic parties were often elected into
government. In their different ways, both turned May Day to the purposes
of the state. Before the 20th century was out the communist regimes
imploded in internal contradictions between authoritarianism and the
democratic purpose of socialism, while most social democratic ones,
trapped in the internal contradictions between the welfare state and
increasingly powerful capital markets, accommodated to neo-liberalism and
become openly disdainful of "old labour."

As for the United States, the tragic legacy of the repression of its
radical labour past is an increasingly de-unionized working class
mobilized by fundamentalist Christian churches. Canada, with its NDP and
30-per-cent unionized labour force, looks good by comparison.

Working classes have suffered defeat after defeat in this era of
capitalist globalization. But they're also in the process of being
transformed: The decimated industrial proletariat of the global North is
being replaced by a bigger industrial proletariat in the global South. In
both regions, a new working class is still being formed in the new service
and communication sectors spawned by global capitalism (where the
eight-hour day is often unknown). Union movements and workers' parties
from Poland to Korea to South Africa to Brazil have been spawned in the
past 20 years. Two more book out of Monthly Review Press - Ursula Huw's
The Making of a Cybertariat (2003) and the late Daniel Singer's Whose
Millennium? Theirs or Ours? (1999) - don't deal with May Day per se, but
capture particularly well this global economic and political
transformation. They tell much that is sober yet inspiring about why May I
still symbolizes the struggle for a future beyond capitalism rather than
just a homage to the struggles of the past.

Leo Panitch teaches political economy at York University and is co-editor
of The Socialist Register.
Cannabis Seed Wedding Bands


TRIBE Member
Lets see what our brother are up to around the world shall we:

Millions march on May Day

US immigrants stage boycott day
IN PICTURES: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/4963410.stm

Workers in London May Day march

The Idea of May Day on the March- Rosa Luxemburg, 1913


TRIBE Member
man_slut said:
The Idea of May Day on the March- Rosa Luxemburg, 1913

The sign under which this whole development, both economic and political, has been consummated, the formula back to which its results point, is imperialism. This is no new element, no unexpected turn in the general historical path of the capitalist society. Armaments and wars, international contradictions and colonial politics accompany the history of capitalism from its cradle. It is the most extreme intensification of these elements, a drawing together, a gigantic storming of these contradictions which has produced a new epoch in the course of modern society. In a dialectical interaction, both cause and effect of the immense accumulation of capital and the heightening and sharpening of the contradictions which go with it internally, between capital and labor; externally, between the capitalist states--imperialism has opened the final phase, the division of the world by the assault of capital. A chain of unending, exorbitant armaments on land and on sea in all capitalist countries because of rivalries; a chain of bloody wars which have spread from Africa to Europe and which at any moment could light the spark which would become a world fire; moreover, for years the uncheckable specter of inflation, of mass hunger in the whole capitalist world--all of these are the signs under which the world holiday of labor, after nearly a quarter of a century, approaches. And each of these signs is a flaming testimony of the living truth and the power of the idea of May Day.