International Workers Day.

anti thatcher

The origin of our present holiday lies in the fight for an eight-hour working day, in which cause the leaders of the socialist Second International called for an international day of protest to be held at the beginning of May 1890. They did so just as the American Federation of Labour was planning its own demonstration on the same date. The UK protest actually took place on a Sunday, and in London alone attracted 300,000 protesters to Hyde Park.

Initially, May Day was intended to be a one-off protest, and in some ways quite a solemn affair. But it persisted amid a flourishing of trade unionism. The symbolism of the workers’ Easter, of rebirth and renewal, dramatised this experience of revival.

The Tories were reported in 2010 to be considering scrapping May Day. The associations with a moribund labourism – or worse with anticapitalist tumult – are hardly obliging in the effort to cultivate a business-and-shopping facade for Brit-town. Yet it would be a futile gesture on their part. This impression on the international calendar was made by workers without the blessing of governments, and the evidence of history suggests that it can survive far worse interdictions. The fact that Occupy has now selected 1 May as the moment for another offensive attests to the enduring relevance of May Day as international workers’ day.

The Guardian May 2011



3 responses to this post.

  1. Although before that it was (and is) the pagan feast of Beltane and the first day of summer!


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