Property. In the interest of the rich we must get rid of it. The wild days of May. Is today’s May Day violence a simple mimicry of revolution, colorful pageants of class warfare, or are they forces lurking that question Western liberal rationalism?….
There was a time, less than a hundred years ago, when May day was viewed as a dress rehearsal for an imminent Red revolution. The hyperbole and anti-socialist rhetoric led to exaggerated calls to curb Bolshevism and greater law and order. Indeed stirred and almost hypnotized by the red threat which May day portended to reveal, most public opinion through the press expressed belief that the time for tolerance was past, yet evidenced by their own narrow and short-sighted attitude, tolerance in fact, was an illusion. In any event, Socialism was seen as opportune pretext to regard free-speech and individual rights as an unrestricted menace to be curbed, hopefully by violence as the safety valve for masses. But that was America. But earlier in Europe….
V.I. Lenin:The Paris proletariat was still immersed in the deep-rooted traditions of Petty-bourgeois–democratic to Utopianism–which corresponded Utopianism added to the predominance of small artisan industry–and in the patriotic illusions inherited from the great bourgeois revolution of the Jacobin dictatorship. The experiences of the( Paris ) Commune and of the bloody “witches’ sabbath” of the May days were necessary in order to clear the minds of the French working class of these obsolete ideas. Thus, the Commune stopped half-way in its course and fell victim to its unavoidable fate. On May 28 the last Barricades went down under the fire of the Versailles cannon and the first revolutionary workers’ government was drowned in the blood of more than twenty-five thousand men, women and children, the boldest and the most heroic fighters of the Paris proletariat. Read More:http://www.newyouth.com/archives/classics/lenin/paris_commune.html a
By the end of the nineteenth-century, May 1, had regularly filled a part of the European bourgeoisie with dread. Naturally what was a day of dread and loathing for the privileged classes had quite a different meaning for the exploited masses. For them it was a day not merely for hoping but for forcing hope. It was a day for demanding instead of humbly asking; a day of just and brotherly wrath; a day of risk and sacrifice and struggle. In certain countries like France, striking on May 1 was likely to cost the striker his job, and singing the Internationale as he marched behind a red flag was even likelier to cost him a cracked head.
Thus, May Day was above all the worker’s celebration of his recovered manhood: a day for throwing back his shoulders and looking his own fear; of the police, of his bosses, of hunger- in the eye.
But May Day was traditionally and Indo-European festival of spring whose basic character seems to have changed little in the past few thousand years. At the conscious level it is true, folklore played no part in establishing the modern revolutionary May Day. The idea of promoting national campaigns for an eight-hour working day by concerted international action on a fixed date seems to have originated in France. The date was agreed on at a congress of socialists held in Paris in 1889. As far as is known, the choice was inspired by a message from Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, who announced strikes, parades, and other demonstrations by American workers in support of the eight-hour day for May 1,1890.
There may have been practical reasons for May 1, but a history of struggle, heroism and tragedy already underscored the date. A similar day of national agitation on May,1, 1886, had won important victories in the fight for shorter working hours. But in Chicago it also helped detonate an explosion of mob violence, police vs. worker, th
ulminated in the Haymarket riot on May 4: six policemen killed outright by a bomb, allegedly thrown by an anarchist. A number of men and women were also shot down by police fire; four necks later broken by the hangman’s noose. The worldwide horror and indignation aroused by the affair further influenced the Paris congress to pattern the proposed international program of agitation upon that of the AFL.