May Day is a day of celebration and solidarity with the workers of the world. Workers are oppressed and suppressed everywhere! Whether here in the U.S. by the police, the exploitative capitalist class, and the predatory prison system, or around the world by a country’s own capitalist class, occupying imperialist armies, and parasitic multinational corporations. The working people of the world are our allies and friends, it is the ruling classes that are our class enemies. On May 1st we want to express this by joining in solidarity with all the oppressed working peoples of the world, and to celebrate over 100 years of the struggle of Labor.
International Workers’ Day has a long and proud history, starting as a commemoration of those convicted and executed for standing up for the rights of working people at Haymarket right here in the United States, to now being an international holiday for working people all over the world. The U.S. government, always fearful of the power of the working class, has attempted to suppress this holiday over its over one hundred year history, in an effort to break up the power and solidarity of the working and oppressed masses.
The History Of Our Class Struggle
Our story begins over 100 years ago in the late nineteenth century where the conditions on the jobsite were deplorable, where children and adults alike lost limbs in workplace accidents, where workers experienced fatigue from 16 hour shifts that grinded their strength to the bone. Even before the onset of the Civil War the working class was clamoring for a reduction in the working day by half without a loss of pay. During this time period socialist, anarchist and communist ideas were very popular among the working class. Many were enticed at the promises of a equal and just society where the means of production was controlled by the working class and distribution of goods and services in a more equitable manner. The workers saw first hand that they were seen as expendable commodities meant only to enrich the pockets of the capitalist class that exploited them, they saw firsthand thousands of deaths each year in the workplace, saw that life expectancy was as low as the twenties in some places and were enticed at the promise of socialism. They knew another world was not only possible but necessary. In time many of these socialist, communist and anarchist workers began to collectively organize and form labor unions which demanded an end to child labor and the implementation of an 8 hour work day. At a national convention held in Chicago on October 1884, The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions on May 1st adopted in it’s platform the call for the legalization of the 8 hour work day “from and after May 1, 1886”. As the date approached US labor unions prepared and began to mobilize for a general strike in support of the measure. On Saturday, May 1, thousands of workers went on strike and rallies were held throughout the United States, with the cry, “Eight-hour day with no cut in pay.” In the city of Chicago, which was the epicenter of it all, it was estimated that 40,000 workers went on strike, with twice that number participating in different social venues throughout the city.