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Sunday, April 22, 2012

May Day/International Workers' Day






History

International Workers' Day is the commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, when, after an unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they dispersed a public meeting, Chicago police fired on workers during a general strike for the eight hour workday, killing several demonstrators and resulting in the deaths of several police officers, largely from friendly fire. In 1889, the first congress of the Second International, meeting in Paris for the centennial of the French Revolution and the Exposition Universelle, following a proposal by Raymond Lavigne, called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests. 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. In 1904, the International Socialist Conference meeting in Amsterdam called on "all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on May First 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 organizations of all countries to stop work on May 1, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers."
In many countries, the working classes sought to make May Day an official holiday, and their efforts largely succeeded. May Day has long been a focal point for demonstrations by various socialist,communist and anarchist groups. In some circles, bonfires are lit in commemoration of the Haymarket martyrs, usually at dawn. May Day has been an important official holiday in Communist countries such as the People's Republic of China, Cuba and the former Soviet Union. May Day celebrations typically feature elaborate popular and military parades in these countries.
In the United States and Canada, however, the official holiday for workers is Labor Day in September. This day was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, who organized the first parade in New York City. After the Haymarket Square riot in May, 1886, US President Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the riots. Thus he moved in 1887 to support the Labor Day that the Knights supported.
In 1955, the Catholic Church dedicated May 1 to "Saint Joseph The Worker". The Catholic Church considers Saint Joseph the patron saint of (among others) workers, craftsmen, and "people fighting communism".
Right-wing governments have traditionally sought to repress the message behind International Workers' Day, with fascist governments in Portugal, Italy, Germany and Spain abolishing the workers' holiday, and the Conservative party in the UK currently attempting to abolish the UK's annual May Day Bank Holiday.




Asia


Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, it is observed on May 1 and is a Government holiday.


China

In the People's Republic of China, May 1 marked the start of one of the country's three "Golden Weeks". Three days off work were given, and one of the surrounding weekends was, for no more than 3 days. From 2008, only one day would still be given, with the other two days being rescheduled on Qingming in early April and Duanwu in early June, respectively.


Pakistan

International Labor Day is a day observed as all over the world in Pakistan on May 1 to commemorate the social and economic achievements of workers. Notable events are organized in various cities under the banner of 'Pakistani Trade Union Defense Campaign', a popular front of Marxist revolutionary organization The Struggle.


India

The first May Day celebration in India was organised in Madras by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan on May 1, 1923. This was also the first time the red flag was used in India.The party leader Singaravelu Chettiar made arrangements to celebrate May Day in two places in 1923. One meeting was held at the beach opposite to the Madras High Court; the other meeting was held at theTriplicane beach. The Hindu newspaper, published from Madras reported,
The Labour Kisan party has introduced May Day celebrations in Chennai. Comrade Singaravelar presided over the meeting. A resolution was passed stating that the government should declare May Day as a holiday. The president of the party explained the non-violent principles of the party. There was a request for financial aid. It was emphasized that workers of the world must unite to achieve independence.
May Day is a nationwide bank holiday in India. The holiday is tied to labour movements for communist and socialist political parties. In Maharashtra and Gujarat, it is officially called Maharashtra Dayand Gujarat Day respectively, since on this day in 1960 each attained statehood, after the old Bombay State became divided on linguistic lines.


Japan

May Day is not officially designated by the Japanese government as a national holiday. But because it lies between other national holidays, it is a day off work for the vast majority of Japanese workers. Many employers give it as a day off by, and otherwise workers take it as "paid leave". May 1 is occurs in the "Golden Week" of holidays, together with April 29 ("Shōwa Day", birthday of former Emperor Hirohito), May 3 ("Constitution Memorial Day"), May 4 ("Greenery Day") and May 5 ("Children's Day"). Workers generally take May 1 off work not so much to join street rallies or labor union gatherings, but rather to take a few days of vacation in an uninterrupted string. In the Japanese corporate culture, taking weekdays off for personal pleasure is widely frowned upon.
Usually on this day, some of the major labor unions organize rallies and demonstrations in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. In 2008, the National Confederation of Trade Unions, known also as Zenrōren held a rally in Yoyogi Park attended by 44,000 participants, while the National Trade Unions Council, also known as Zenrōkyō held its May Day rally at Hibiya Park. However the largest Japanese trade union, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, better known as Rengō, held its May Day rally on the following Saturday (May 3), allegedly to distance itself from the more radical labor unions.


Jordan

The 1st of May is known as Labor Day and is considered a public holiday.


Lebanon

The 1st of May is known as the Workers Day and is considered a public holiday. From the 1960s through the 1990s, left wing parties and worker's unions organized major marches on this day. Recently only symbolic marches take place on this day.


Malaysia

Malaysia began observing the holiday in 1972 following an announcement by the late Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Ismail Abdul Rahman.


Maldives

Maldives first started observing the holiday in 2011, after a declaration by the president, Mohamed Nasheed. He noted that this move highlighted the government’s commitment as well as efforts of private parties to protect and promote workers’ rights in the Maldives.


Nepal

May Day has been celebrated in Nepal since 1963. The day became a public holiday in 2007.


Singapore

In Singapore, it is known as Labour day and it is a public holiday


Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, it is observed on May 1 and is a Government and public holiday. The government held official May Day celebrations in major town and city, during which party leaders greeted the crowds. Workers carried banners with political slogans and many parties decorated their vehicles. The biggest celebration of May 1 usually occurred in the capital.


Vietnam

In Vietnam, it is known as International Labor Day and is a public holiday.


Thailand

In Thailand, the day is known in English as National Labour Day, and is one of 16 official public holidays in Thailand.


Philippines

The 1st of May is known as Labor Day and is considered a public holiday.


Bahrain

In Bahrain, the 1st of May is known as Labor Day and is considered a public holiday.


Turkey

May 1 is an official holiday celebrated in Turkey. It was a holiday until 1981 when it was cancelled after the 1980 coup-d'état. In 2010, Turkish government restored the holiday. Taksim Square is the center of the celebrations due to Bloody May 1st happened in Taksim in 1977.


Americas


Argentina

In Argentina, Workers' Day is an official holiday. Even when it is associated with labor unions, almost all workers tend to respect it.


Brazil

In Brazil, Workers' Day is an official holiday, and unions commemorate it with day-long public events. It is also when salaries for most professional categories and the minimum wage are traditionally readjusted.


Canada


Although celebrations by socialist, anarchist and anti-globalization activists occur on May 1 in Canada, the government of Prime Minister John Sparrow David Thompson declared in 1894 the first Monday in September as Canada's official Labour Day. May Day, however, remains an important day of trade-union and community group protest in the province of Quebec. Celebration of the International Labour Day (or Workers' Dayfête des travailleurs) in Montreal goes back to 1906, organised by the Mutual Aid circle. The tradition had a renaissance at the time of a mass strike of 1972. On the 1973 May Day, the first contemporary demonstration was organised by the major trade union confederations. Over 30,000 trade unionists took part in this demonstration.


Chile


President Carlos Ibáñez del Campo decreed May 1 a national holiday in 1931, in honor of the dignity of workers. The great majority of stores and public services close for the entire day, and the major trade unions of Chile, represented in the national organization Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, organize rallies during the morning hours, with festivities and cookouts in the later part of the day, in all the major cities of Chile. During these rallies, representatives of the major left-wing political parties speak to the assemblies on the issues of the day concerning workers’ rights.


United States


In the United States, efforts to officially switch Labor Day to the international date of May 1 have failed. In 1921, following the Russian Revolution of 1917, May 1 was promoted as "Americanization Day" by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other groups as a counter to communists. It became an annual event, sometimes featuring large rallies. In 1949, Americanization Day was renamed to Loyalty Day. In 1958, Congress declared Loyalty Day a national holiday; that same year, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed May 1 Law Day as well.

Some unions and union locals in the United States — especially in urban areas with strong support for organized labor — have attempted to maintain a connection with more left-wing labor traditions through their own unofficial observances on May 1. Some of the largest examples of this occurred during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when thousands of workers marched in May Day parades inNew York's Union Square. Smaller far left groups have also tried to keep the May Day tradition alive with more radical demonstrations in such cities as New York and Seattle, without major union backing.
In 2006, May 1 was chosen by mostly Latino immigrant groups in the United States as the day for the Great American Boycott, a general strike of illegal immigrant workers and supporters to protestH.R. 4437, immigration reform legislation which they felt was draconian. From April 10 to May 1 of that year, millions of immigrant families in the U.S. called for immigrant rights, workers rights and amnesty for undocumented workers. They were joined by socialist and other leftist organizations on May 1. On May 1, 2007, a mostly peaceful demonstration in Los Angeles in support of illegal immigrant workers ended with a widely televised dispersal by police officers. In March 2008, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced that dockworkers will move no cargo at anyWest Coast ports on May 1, 2008, as a protest against the continuation of the Iraq War and the diversion of resources from domestic needs. For May Day 2010, marches were being planned in many cities uniting immigrant and native workers including New York, San Francisco, Boston, Albany  Chicago and Los Angeles most of whom protested against the Arizona Senate Bill 1070
Members of Occupy Wall Street plan to hold a General Strike in 2012.


Uruguay

In Uruguay, Workers' Day is an official holiday. Even when it is associated with labor unions, almost all workers tend to respect it.



Europe


Eastern bloc under Communist governments

Eastern Bloc countries such as the Soviet Union and most countries of central and eastern Europe that were under the rule of Communist governments held official May Day celebrations in every town and city, during which party leaders greeted the crowds. Workers carried banners with political slogans and many companies decorated their company cars. The biggest celebration of May 1 usually occurred in the capital of a particular communist country and usually included a military display and the presence of the president and the secretary general of the Party. In Poland, since 1982, party leaders led the official parades, and in 1990, May 1 was renamed "State Holiday." In Hungary, May Day was officially celebrated under the Communist regime, and remains a public holiday. Traditionally, the day was marked by dancing around designated "May trees."


Germany


In April 1933, the recently installed Nazi government declared May 1 the "Day of National Work," an official state holiday, and announced that all celebrations were to be organized by the government. Any separate celebrations by communists, social democrats or labour unions were banned. After the World War II, May 1 remained a state holiday in both East and West Germany. In communist East Germany, workers were de facto required to participate in large state-organized parades on Mayday. Today in Germany it is simply called the "Day of Labour" ("Tag der Arbeit"), and there are numerous demonstrations and celebrations by independent workers' organizations. Today, Berlin witnesses yearly demonstrations on May Day, the largest organized by labour unions, political parties and others by the far left and Autonomen.

Since 1987, Mayday has also become known for riots in some districts of Berlin. After police actions against radical leftists in that year's annual demonstrations, the Autonome scattered and sought cover at the ongoing annual street fair in Kreuzberg. Three years prior to the reunification of Germany, violent protests would only take place in the former West Berlin. The protesters began tipping over police cars, violently resisting arrest, and began buildingbarricades after the police withdrew due to the unforeseen resistance. Cars were set on fire, shops plundered and burned to the ground. The police eventually ended the riots the following night. These violent forms of protests by the radical left, later increasingly involved participants without political motivation.

Annual street fairs have proven an effective way to prevent riots, and May Day in 2005 and 2006 have been among the most peaceful known to Berlin in nearly 25 years. In recent years, neo-Nazis and other groups on the far right, such as the National Democratic Party of Germany, have used the day to schedule public demonstrations, often leading to clashes with left-wing protesters, which turned especially violent in Leipzig in 1998 and 2005.

May Day violence flared again in 2010. After an approved far right demonstration was blocked by leftists, a parade by an estimated 10,000 leftists and anarchists turned violent and required an active response by Berlin police.


Croatia


In Croatia, the 1st of May is a day off work and a day out of school. People celebrate all over the country, usually having barbecues outside. In Zagreb, the capital, most people go to Ban Jelačić Square, which is located below Zagreb's old city cores Gradec and Kaptol. Many manifestations are organized and held all over town.


Sweden

May 1 has been an important part of Swedish history since the late 19th century. The day was made a public holiday in 1938 but had been celebrated by the Swedish Social Democratic Party and the left since 1890. The first May Day celebration gathered more than 50.000 people in central Stockholm. The crowd went to hear speeches by the leading figures in the Swedish labour movement such asHjalmar Branting (later prime minister), August Palm and Hinke Bergegren. During World War I the demonstrations mainly had a peace message and the Liberal Party also joined the demonstrations. The 8-hour working day and women's suffrage were the principal themes during the troubled times after World War I. When the Social Democratic Party won the election in 1932 they started an era of social democratic rule that wasn't broken until the election in 1976, when a centre-right coalition came to power after nearly 50 years in opposition.
The May Day demonstrations are still an important part of Swedish politics and the leaders of the social democratic and left-wing parties use May Day to discuss their politics. In Stockholm the Social Democratic Party always marches towards Norra Bantorget, the centre of the Swedish labour movement, to hold speeches in front of the headquarters of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation.


Portugal

In Portugal, the 1 May celebration was harshly repressed during the fascist dictatorship regime of António de Oliveira Salazar. Since the Carnation Revolution on 25 April 1974, the Worker's Day is now celebrated by the several leftist political parties with parades and demonstrations. It was an opportunity for the several precarious workers groups to show their discontent for existing working conditions, in a parade called Primeiro de Maio (1 May), although in the present the Worker's Day in Portugal is a holiday for parents to spend some time with their children. Worker's Day also represents the unionized workers that try to improve the working conditions of emmigrant workers abroad.


Spain

In Spain, the 1st of May celebration was established after the end of Franco's dictatorship in 1975; before that, it had been celebrated during the Spanish Second Republic period (1931–1939), but it was banned afterwards by the fascist Franco regime. The first time it was celebrated was in 1977, when the Communist Party of Spain was legalized. Since then, it has become an official holiday that has been traditionally used by trade unions and leftist parties for social and labour vindications. Commonly, pacific demonstrations and parades are made in most big cities.


Serbia

In Serbia, the 1st of May is a day off work and a day out of school. People celebrate all over the country, usually having barbecues outside. In Belgrade, the capital, most people go to Avala orKošutnjak, which is a park located in Rakovica and Čukarica.


Greece

In Greece, May 1 celebrations are characterized by demonstrations. All major political parties participate. On May Day 2010 there were major protests all over Greece, most notably Athens and Thessaloniki, by many left, anarchist and communist supporters and some violent clashes by riot police who were sent out to contain the protesters. They demanded economic reform, an end to job losses and wage cuts in the face of the government's proposals of massive public spending cuts. These cuts are to fall in line with the EU-IMF loan proposals which demand that Greece liberalize its economy, cut its public spending and open it up further to the EU and world markets, which many believe will decrease living standards.

Turkey

May 1 is an official holiday celebrated in Turkey. It was a holiday until 1981 when it was cancelled after the 1980 coup-d'état. In 2010, Turkish government restored the holiday. Taksim Square is the center of the celebrations due to Bloody May 1st happened in Taksim in 1977.


Italy

The first May day celebration in Italy took place in 1890. It started initially as an attempt to celebrate workers' achievements in their struggle for their rights and for better social and economic conditions. It was abolished under the Fascist Regime and immediately restored after the Second World War. (During the fascist period, a "Holiday of the Italian labour" (Festa del lavoro italiano) was celebrated on the 21st of April, the date of Natale di Roma, when ancient Rome was allegedly founded.) Now, May Day is an important celebration in Italy. Very popular is the Concerto del Primo Maggio ("1 May's Concert"), organized by Italian Labour Unions in Rome in Piazza San Giovanni. It is attended by more than 300,000 people every year, and involves participation of many famous bands and songwriters. The concert is usually broadcasted live by Rai Tre.


Russia

May Day was celebrated illegally in Russia until the February Revolution enabled the first legal celebration in 1917. The following year, after the Bolshevik seizure of power, the May Day celebrations were boycotted by Mensheviks, Left Socialist Revolutionaries and anarchists. It became an important official holiday of the Soviet Union, celebrated with elaborate popular parade in the centre of the major cities. The biggest celebration was traditionally organized on the Red Square, where the General Secretary of the CPSU and other party and government leaders stood atop Lenin's Mausoleumand waved to the crowds. Since 1992, May Day is officially called "The Day of Spring and Labour", and remains a major holiday in the present-day Russia.


United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom in recent years, the anti-capitalist movement has organised a number of large protests in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Doncaster. In London, these have resulted in clashes with the police. In 2000, the clashes ended with a branch of McDonalds being smashed and a statue of Winston Churchill being given a grass Mohawk hairstyle. The Cenotaph was also defaced withgraffiti. In the last few years, demonstrations have been more peaceful, with marches and gatherings, particularly in central London. The current Conservative-led coalition government in March 2011 announced plans to move the May Day bank holiday to October in order to lengthen the tourist season. A London rally on May Day is organised by the London May Day Organising Committee (LMDOC).


Belgium

In Belgium, Labour Day (Dutch: "Dag van de Arbeid", "Feest van de Arbeid", French: "Journée des Travailleurs", "Fête du Travail"), is observed on May 1 and is an official holiday.

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