Prague Twin

Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day

Today is International Workers' day, so logically, I'm not working. May Day, as most people call it, has it's roots in the United States, but ironically, the United States has done more to obfuscate this holiday more than anyone else.

I'll get to that in a minute, but let's just look at what a rare holiday this is. First of all, it is an international holiday which is rare in and of itself. The other international holidays are usually religious in nature. Then, of course there is New Years, but this is the most obvious all annual events.

May Day is neither religious, nor nationalistic in nature. It does not celebrate a birth of a person. Instead, it celebrates the May 1st, 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago which is considered to have led to the the eight-hour work day in the United States. There were subsequent riots in 1894 and in 1919 in Cleveland, Ohio which probably helped the day to gain more significance.

The communists used it to signify the revolution of the working class, and used it as a time to celebrate the honor of work. People sometimes greeted each other by saying, "pride in work" instead of the traditional, "good day". (Young people say it now as a joke). Work is obviously the center of any socialist ideology. So it isn't really surprising that the US has worked to distract people from this observance. The most obvious tactic is the completely random "Labor Day" celebrated on the first Monday in September, because, well, just because.

Growing up I vaguely remember hearing about "May Day", but I never knew what it actually was. Now that is my fault, but it wasnt' ever made clear. Conversely, you can't find someone in this country who doesn't know what it is. It is one of those times when I fall into the ignorant American stereotype.

Anyway, I'm watching the early morning preperations for today's planned protest. The protesters are dressed in red. I never thought I would see the day in America where they would take back what has been of late a socialist holiday and march it down the streets. Dressed in red. If this thing is as big as they are hyping it to be... well we will see.

There are significant demonstrations taking place in several countries in Asia including Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Cambodia.

Workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, summed it up...

"No more death in factories," they chanted. And "we want duty-free access."

I've just seen protesters in Cambodia and Bangladesh on CNN. It looks pretty tame so far, but it's a significant effort indeed.

So as the protesters in the United States get ready to take back May Day, and turn it back into what it once was, I just want to remember one last attempted assault on this holiday, which happened exactly three years ago today. That was when George Bush stood behind that fateful banner declaring "mission accomplished" in an absolutely awe-inspiring (or gut-wrenching depending on your perspective) use of political pageantry. The president wanted to make it his day. Part of what "Mission Accomplished" meant was that at least on May 1st, 2003, no one in America would be talking about some socialist revolutionary non-sense.

It looks like, as in Iraq, the mission was only temporarily accomplished. The greater battle continues.

May Day has come home, and it's mad as hell.


  • MayDay is completely not a holday in the US. It was embraced by the communists in the depression and the was killed off in the red baiting McCarthy era.

    This cannot be separated from the far larger movement in the US to break unions and labor laws.

    One of the great unwritten histories in the US was the labor movement from Child Labor Laws to the 40 hour work week to health and safety laws. There has been a great pushback ever since.

    One of the characteristics which has been marketed to Americans since the 1800's in the evolutionary model of capitalism. Each man should "get his own." This has been remarkably successful in shaping opinions towards labor.


    (There was a brief moment when I thought you might be my cousin, an American woman married with kids and living in Bratislava. But reading your bio, I see that's not true. I know Prague and Bratislava are big separate cities, but you appeared on my blog just after my Aunt went to visit her, so that made me think there was a connection.

    No real reason I'm mentioning this, I guess, just odd.)


    By Blogger mikevotes, at 1:07 AM  

  • I miss the parade of tanks et al, rumbling past the Kremlin. In retrospect, when the parade changed to schoolchildren (pioneers?) the Soviets were doomed. Thanks for increasing my historical knowledge. Haymarket riots. Check.

    By Blogger Roger Fraley, at 1:42 AM  

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