May Day

UNITED STATES

Traditionally the working class the world over celebrates May Day as the international day of labor solidarity.

The initiative for establishing May Day as a day of struggle for the workers’ demands came from the early trade unions in the US. The Federation of Trade Unions in 1884 adopted a resolution saying “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labour from May First 1886’’.

It was as part of that great strike movement, that there occurred in Chicago the bombing of a workers’ demonstration, known as the Haymarket Massacre. In their attempt to stop the 8-hour day movement, the employers railroaded* four Chicago trade-union leaders to the gallows and others to prison, as part of a frame-up charging them with responsibility for the bombing.

As the years pass, the Chicago Haymarket takes on greater significance. The martyrs of Haymarket moved the Socialist International Congress in Paris in 1889 to declare May | as International Labor Day honoring the Haymarket martyrs. The Paris Congress in 1889 adopted a resolution calling on “the workers of the various countries’ to organise, on May 1, demonstrations of the toiling masses to “demand of the state authorities the legal reduction of the working day to eight hours.”’

In its subsequent Congress, it established May Day as an international day of struggle. While continuing to demand the 8-hour day, it also saw May Day “as a demonstration of the determined will of the working class to destroy class distinctions through social change and thus enter on... the only road leading to ... international peace.’’

In the Paris resolution already referred to, it states: “Since demonstrations have already been decided upon for May 1, 1890 by the AFL at its convention, the day is accepted for the international demonstrations.’’

May Day in its origin was closely associated with the demand for the 8-hour day — a political demand which Lenin in 1900 characterised as “the demand of the whole proletariat’’ presented “not to individual employers but to the government as the representative of the whole of the present-day social and political system.”’

In the subsequent years, other general slogans became associated with May Day, such as “Universal Suffrage’’, “Hands Off Soviet Russia,’’* “Against Imperialist War and Colonial Oppression’’, “Freeing of Political Prisoners’’ and “International Working-Class Solidarity’’.

Historically and down to the present day, May Day is recognised as:

1) The occasion to review the results of the workers’ struggles and to demonstrate support for the issues and demands on which the next big steps forward must be taken;

2) A day of militant struggle and not merely a festival or fete;

3) A day of international working-class struggle against the employers and their capitalist system of profit-making and oppression and for social change to Socialism.