Why May Day? Vijay Prashad talks of the history of May Day
May Day is what Lenin called 'The Holiday of the Workers'. It harkens back to the 19th century when workers fought for an 8 hour day for a full day's wage. The slogan of the workers was "8 hours for work, 8 hours of sleep and 8 hours for what you will." Across the United States, on Sunday 1st May 1886, workers demonstrated for the 8 hour day. Chicago and Milwaukee were the epicenters. All went well as the struggle continued till May 4th, then, a confrontation with the police left four dead in Chicago's Haymarket Square and seven dead in Milwaukee. Three years later in 1889, at a Socialist Second International meeting, there was a call for commemoration of the Haymarket martyrs.
Friedrich Engels wrote the preface for the 4th edition of Communist Manifesto on the evening of 1st May 1890.
- As I write these lines, the proletariat of Europe and America is holding a review of its forces; it is mobilized for the first time as One army, under One flag, and fighting for One immediate aim: an eight-hour working day, established by legal enactment. The spectacle we are witnessing will make the capitalists and landowners of all lands realize that today the proletariat of all lands, in very truth, are united. If only Marx were with me to see it with his own eyes!
It was not till 1904 that May Day was enthusiastically adopted by the workers' movements across the world. In India, the very first May Day celebration was held in 1923 in Chennai led by the communist leader Singaravelu.
At Haymarket Square in Chicago, the monument says,
- The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today.
This is the spirit of May Day. This spirit of May Day of international worker and peasant solidarity remains with us in the present struggles against neo-liberal economic policies and the culture of suffocation that is the coin of commodity and religious fundamentalisms.
It is this spirit that will be incubated at May Day Cafe, a resting point and staging ground for the many struggles that lie before us.
If you're in Delhi, you know where to come ? May Day Bookstore!