International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day in most countries and often referred to as May Day, is a celebration of labourers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labour movement and occurs every year on May Day (1 May).
While it may belong to a tradition of spring festivals, the date was chosen in 1889 for political reasons by the Marxist International Socialist Congress, which met in Paris and established the Second International as a successor to the earlier International Workingmen’s Association. They adopted a resolution for a “great international demonstration” in support of working-class demands for the eight-hour day. The date had been chosen by the American Federation of Labor to continue an earlier campaign for the eight-hour day in the United States, which had culminated in the Haymarket affair, which occurred in Chicago on 4 May 1886. May Day subsequently became an annual event. The 1904 Sixth Conference of the Second International, called on “all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the eight-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.”
The first of May is a national, public holiday in many countries across the world, in most cases as “International Workers’ Day” or a similar name. Some countries celebrate a Labour Day on other dates significant to them, such as the United States and Canada, which celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday of September.
On 21 April 1856, Australian stonemasons in Victoria undertook a mass stoppage as part of the eight-hour workday movement. It became a yearly commemoration, inspiring American workers to have their first stoppage. 1 May was chosen to be International Workers’ Day to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago. In that year beginning on 1 May, there was a general strike for the eight-hour workday. On 4 May, the police acted to disperse a public assembly in support of the strike when an unidentified person threw a bomb. The police responded by firing on the workers. The event led to the deaths of seven police officers and at least thirty-eight civilians; sixty police officers were injured, as were one hundred and fifteen civilians. Hundreds of labour leaders and sympathizers were later rounded-up and four were executed by hanging, after a trial that was seen as a miscarriage of justice. The following day on 5 May, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the state militia fired on a crowd of strikers killing seven, including a schoolboy and a man feeding chickens in his yard.
In 1889, a meeting in Paris was held by the first congress of the Second International, following a proposal by Raymond Lavigne that called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests. On May 1, 1890, the call encouraged May Day demonstrations took place in the United States and most countries in Europe Demonstrations were also held in Chile and Peru. May Day was formally recognized as an annual event at the International’s second congress in 1891. Subsequently, the May Day riots of 1894 occurred. The International Socialist Congress, Amsterdam 1904 called on “all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.” The congress made it “mandatory upon the proletarian organisations of all countries to stop work on 1 May, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers.”
In the United States and Canada, a September holiday, called Labor or Labour Day, was first proposed in the 1880s. In 1882, Matthew Maguire, a machinist, first proposed a Labor Day holiday on the first Monday of September while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union (CLU) of New York. Others argue that it was first proposed by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor in May 1882, after witnessing the annual labour festival held in Toronto, Canada.In 1887, Oregon was the first state of the United States to make it an official public holiday. By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, thirty US states officially celebrated Labor Day. Thus by 1887 in North America, Labour Day was an established, official holiday but in September, not on 1 May.
A 1 May rally in Bucharest in 1967
May Day has been a focal point for demonstrations by various socialist, communist and anarchist groups since the Second International. May Day is one of the most important holidays in communist countries such as China, North Korea, Cuba and the former Soviet Union countries. May Day celebrations in these countries typically feature elaborate workforce parades, including displays of military hardware and soldiers.
Today, the majority of countries around the world celebrate a workers’ day on 1 May.
Link from: Wikipedia
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