International Workers’ Day, a day to remember
First of May, May Day or International Workers’ Day, is an occasion celebrated all over the world to express solidarity, unity and support with workers.
Various groups such as syndicalists, anarchists, communists and other leftists commemorate and celebrate May1.
It is celebrated for various reasons, but mainly to recall a forgotten but basic simple fact about the world we live in, which is built by the efforts and hands of a class of people referred to as ”workers”; people who literally build our world, but who have very limited access to the prosperity that their work creates.
The history of May 1 celebrations can be traced back to the struggle for the eight-hour working day by American workers in 1875 in the city of Chicago where workers’ protests were brutally crushed by the police in an event known as the Haymarket Affair. Many civilians and demonstrating workers were killed while their leaders were jailed and in many cases even sentenced to death. The world reacted strongly to these events.
Since the Second International (1889–1916, an international organization for socialist and worker’s parties) selected May 1 as the ”International Workers’ Day”, it has been a symbol for international solidarity with and among workers who have been and still are subject to the common system of oppression and exploitation.
The potential power of workers and May 1 as a historical example of solidarity could thus explain why May Day demonstrations are banned in many countries or commemorated on days with less historical significance, as is the case in North America. The potentiality and durability of such solidarity frightens oppressing and authoritarian regimes. This is why May 1 demonstrations have been violently suppressed in many countries – among them Turkey – or banned and restricted like in Iran both before and after the 1979 revolution. In the wake of such crackdowns it becomes clear why, during uprisings such as the short-lived experience of the Arab Spring, May1 has always been celebrated by large crowds.
May 1 is widely observed in countries with a long history in workers’ movements such as Germany, France, the former Soviet states and today’s Russia. It’s a day for internationalism that crosses national borders and barriers to manifest the power of the working class.