On May 1st, 1887, the National Labour Union of the United States of America called for a day of action to win an eight hour working day. It mobilized hundreds of thousands of workers who demonstrated and struck across the country.
In Chicago, the strong, progressive and militant labour movement carried out strikes and demonstrations and were met with lockouts, brutal police attacks and intimidations. These events lasted three days and culminated in a protest rally in Haymarket Square. The rally was attacked by the police and the ensuing fight
claimed the lives of several police and strikers and led to the arrest of many labour leaders. Four of the leaders,
Parsons, Spies, Fischer and Engel, were convicted of trumped up charges and hanged, many others were imprisoned.
It is in these militant struggles of the working class that May Day (International Workers Day) has its roots. In 1889, on the 100th Anniversary of the fall of the Bastille in Paris, the Second International called for a world-wide day demonstraton on May 1st 1890 to coincide with the one already called in the United Stated by the American Federation of Labour. Since that time, May Day has been a day of resistance, struggle and protest for the working class internationally.
Over the years, May Day has become a time to remember the sacrifices and struggles of those before us, to reflect on the past and to organize for the future. To communists, it is a symbol of revolutionary struggle, of the goal of a new society, free from exploitation, poverty and war. It signifies internationalism and solidarity. It raises the consciousness of the working class globally, it points to the fact that we are all part of the same class, that we have the same interests, to build a new, socialist world. It is for these reasons that it is loathed and feared by the capitalist class while at the same time being loved and celebrated by the working class.
Today, we find ourselves over 100 years down the road from the first May Day. Today, thanks to the struggles of the past, the eight hour day is a fact (at least legally) in Canada. But we still face the onslaught of capital which threatens to reverse the victories of the past, to roll back our living conditions, wages and purchasing power, to eliminate or privatize our social services. As in 1887, today we live in a society divided on class lines, in which we must fight for what is ours against a clique of parasites who concentrate societies wealth ever more in fewer hands while the majority of society falls deeper into poverty.
They send us to die in their wars, they ruin the environment that we and our families must live in and they seek to divide us along national, ethnic, gender, sexual and political lines in order to perpetuate our inability to effectively struggle against their rule.
The Harper Conservative government is rapidly moving to reverse progressive social reforms and to integrate us more deeply with U.S. imperialism. This means dragging us into imperialist wars, erasing our culture annihilating our sovereignty.
But not all is doom and gloom. There is an alternative, socialism, which already exists in some countries which are heroically repelling imperialist attacks and building their socialist systems. The idea of socialism is spreading rapidly throughout South America. Here in North America we can also see a slow but sure resurgence of these ideas, as the refoundation of the YCL proves.
This May Day, the YCL calls for youth; young workers, students and the young unemployed, to unite with the working class as a whole around issues that effect us all, education, jobs, peace and so forth in order to defeat and reverse the offensive of capital, and its Conservative government. We should work to unite progressive and working class forces to defend our interests as a class, to work towards building the Peoples Alternative and struggle for socialism.
Long live May Day!