Thursday, May 01, 2008
This May Day, millions of workers will march in every corner of the earth. They will march on that day which our working class ancestors won with their courage and militancy,” Howard Fast wrote in his famous essay ‘May Day- 1951’.
May Day commemorates the historic struggle of working people throughout the world, and is recognised today in most countries. The struggle for the eight-hour day began in the 1860s. In 1884, the Federation of Organised Trades and Labour Unions of America and Canada, organised in 1881 passed a resolution, which asserted that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s work from and after May 1, 1886, and that we recommend to labour organisations throughout this district that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution".
The following year the federation repeated the declaration that an eight-hour system was to go into effect on May 1, 1886. With workers being forced to work ten, twelve, and fourteen hours a day, support for the eight-hour movement grew rapidly. In the months prior to May 1, 1886, thousands of workers, organised and unorganised, members of the organisation Knights of Labour and of the federation, were drawn into the struggle. The socialist delegates in Paris in 1889 appointed May 1 as the official International Labour Day . The date was adopted in Canada in 1894 .The origins of Labour Day in Canada can be traced back to a printer’s revolt in 1872 in Toronto, where labourers tried to establish a 54-hour work week.
Chicago was the main centre of the agitation. The culmination of the unrest actually occurred on May 4, although the unrest began on May I. But in modern times, May Day refers to various socialist and labour movement celebrations as a commemoration of the Haymarket riot of 1886 in Chicago, Illinois. (Editors Note: wikipedia Haymarkets Riot. Most interesting quote: "Edward Aveling, Karl Marx's son-in-law, remarked, "If these men are ultimately hanged, it will be the Chicago Tribune that has done it".)
In the socialist circles, May Day is often known as International Workers’ Day. People celebrate the day as a victory day for the labour movement and the working class. International Workers’ Day , a name used interchangeably with May Day is a celebration of the social and economic achievements of the international labour movement. Hundreds of thousands of working people and their labour unions in Europe and most of the world including India organise street demonstrations.
***For kicks, I'd recommend doing a Google News search for "May Day Protests."