Reports from the Economic Front

a blog by Marty Hart-Landsberg

MAY DAY IS Coming

Make your plans—International Workers’ Day (May Day)  is coming.

SATURDAY, MAY 1st
Portland Oregon May Day March and Rally
Immigrants’ Rights Are Workers’ Rights!

11am: Gather at the SW Park Blocks (SW Park and Salmon)
12pm: Rally
1pm: March

mayday2010compressedflyer.jpg

For more information on the Portland rally and march visit: http://maydaypdx.blogspot.com/

For more information on the history of May Day check out the following sites:

http://www.iww.org/projects/mayday/origins.shtml
http://www.marxists.org/subject/mayday/articles/tracht.html

Sadly, although U.S. workers played a leading role in the origins of International Workers’ Day, little is known in this country about that history.  In brief, in 1866, leftwing and trade union organizations met in London to form the International Workingmen’s Association or First International.  Its aim was to build international solidarity among working people.  The last Congress of the First International was held in 1876.

In 1889,  left and labor activists met in Paris to found the Second International.  At that gathering, delegates heard from workers from the United States about their struggle for the 8 hour day.  In response, the Paris Congress adopted the following resolution:

The Congress decides to organize a great international demonstration, so that in all countries and in all cities on one appointed day the toiling masses shall demand of the state authorities the legal reduction of the working day to eight hours, as well as the carrying out of other decisions of the Paris Congress. Since a similar demonstration has already been decided upon for May 1, 1890, by the American Federation of Labor at its Convention in St. Louis, December, 1888, this day is accepted for the international demonstration. The workers of the various countries must organize this demonstration according to conditions prevailing in each country.

The US government has since done what it can to rewrite the history of May Day.  For example, in 1921 the government declared May 1 to be “Americanization Day”.  In 1958 the government proclaimed it “Loyalty Day”.  Successive US presidents have continued this tradition, offering their own proclamations for the celebration of Loyalty Day.

Happily, despite their best efforts, they have failed to destroy the holiday’s true meaning–which is one of worker solidarity and empowerment rather than obedience to those in power.

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