The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46893   Message #697483
Posted By: Bennet Zurofsky
24-Apr-02 - 11:14 AM
Thread Name: Celebrate Mayday!
Subject: RE: Celebrate Mayday!
I am enjoying these postings and hope we get some more. I also hope that some of you can join us in Haledon, N.J., for our little festival on Mayday.

A couple of comments on the above: It is certainly arguable that the left co-opted the traditional pagan Mayday observed in England, but if I remember my history right, the Haymarket Massacre occured at a Mayday demonstration for the 8-hour day and the resulting desire to commemorate the Haymarket martyrs gave a lot of impetus to the observance.

Mark Ross is certainly right that Mayday is the real Labor Day. As I understand that bit of history, the originators of the September Labor Day were relatively conservative union leaders who wanted to disassociate the American Labor Movement from the Socialist International connotation of Mayday events. In other words, they wanted to separate the United States from labor around the rest of the world.

While when I was growing up in the fifties and sixties Mayday was generally associated with the militaristic (Stalinist) parades of the Soviet Empire, traditionally Mayday was more closely alligned to a broader view of Socialism than that which became Soviet-style Communism. The democratic-socialist sentiments voiced by Art Thieme are entirely in keeping with the tradition of the day, and are the ones that I personally favor.

In this regard it should be particularly noted by Mudcatters that the "Internationale," which is the song most closely associated with Mayday (and which we will be singing among others in Haledon), was composed and was popular in many countries and languages long before Mr. Lenin ever got off his train at the Finland Station.

As to the U.S. Labor Movement's current strength and militance, or lack thereof, while it is far from what it should be, I believe it is greater than is often thought. The AFL-CIO has become considerably more militant under President Sweeney's leadership and a younger generation of leaders with more militant views is taking over many international unions. The Seattle demonstrations against the WTO, which were very effective in a lot of ways, were largely built by Labor support. When it comes to the movement against Corporate Globalization, which I believe to be the most important movement today, Labor is the only ongoing institution providing ongoing support and direction, despite the media focus on the anarchists.

Of course, it is true that US Law is terrible and has been since Taft-Hartley was passed by the Republicans over Truman's veto in 1948. Human Rights Watch published an extensive study about two years ago which concluded that our labor laws amount to a Human Rights violation. We all need to work to change them, and so far labor has been unable to do so (which is another story).

In the meantime, we need to do the best we can with what we've got in the hope of having greater strength in the future. Celebrating Mayday as an International Workers Day can be helpful in this regard.