On 1 May, millions of workers around the world will celebrate International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day or May Day, to commemorate the historical struggles and gains made by the labor movement and to promote their rights and interests. The day originates in the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago, where workers staged a general strike for the eight-hour workday and faced violent repression from the police. Since then, the day has been adopted by various socialist and communist groups, trade unions, and progressive movements to symbolize workers’ solidarity and resistance.
In many countries, International Workers’ Day is a public holiday that features parades, marches, rallies, speeches, cultural events, and picnics. Some of the common themes and demands raised by workers on this day include decent wages, safe working conditions, social security, collective bargaining, democracy, peace, and environmental justice. The day also serves as an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and contributions of workers in various fields and sectors of society.
However, International Workers’ Day is not without its challenges and controversies. In some countries, such as the United States and Canada, the day is not officially recognized or celebrated, and a different date (the first Monday of September) is designated as Labor Day. This was partly due to the fear of the socialist origins and influence of May Day among the political and economic elites. In other countries, such as Germany and Russia, the day has been co-opted or manipulated by authoritarian regimes for their own propaganda purposes. Moreover, in many parts of the world, workers still face exploitation, oppression, discrimination, and violence from their employers, governments, and other forces.
Despite these difficulties, International Workers’ Day remains a powerful and inspiring occasion for workers to express their solidarity and aspirations for a better world. As the famous slogan goes: “Workers of the world, unite!”