Wednesday, May 01, 2013
Why May Day May Be A More Representative Labor Holiday For The White Working Class Than Labor Day
May Day actually has racial and cultural origins. Long before the first labor union was formed, the earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. The day was also a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures. While February 1st was the first day of Spring, May 1st was the first day of summer; hence, the summer solstice on June 25th (now June 21st) was Midsummer. Even the Roman Catholic Church recognized the cultural appeal of May Day; in the Catholic tradition, May is observed as Mary's month, and in these circles May Day is usually a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this connection, in works of art, school skits, and so forth, Mary's head will often be adorned with flowers in a May crowning. Wikipedia contains more information on specific national observances. In Germany, the NSDAP declared May Day a paid holiday and held celebrations on May 1st, 1933.
Labor first entered the equation after the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago. Police were trying to disperse a public assembly during a general strike for the eight-hour workday when an unidentified person threw a bomb at them. The police reacted by firing on the workers, killing four demonstrators. In 1889, the first congress of the Second International, meeting in Paris for the centennial of the French Revolution and the Exposition Universelle, following a proposal by Raymond Lavigne, called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests. May Day was formally recognized as an annual event at the International's second congress in 1891. Subsequently, the May Day Riots of 1894 occurred. In 1904, the International Socialist Conference meeting in Amsterdam called on all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on May First for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace. The congress made it mandatory upon the proletarian organizations of all countries to stop work on May 1, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers. In many countries, the working classes sought to make May Day an official holiday, and their efforts largely succeeded; it also became known as International Workers Day. Because the former Soviet bloc took the lead in celebrating the holiday, marking it with a parade of Communist military prowess in places like Moscow, May Day became typecast as a "Communist" holiday.
Uneasy about the involvement of anarchist and proto-Communist elements in the embryonic labor movement after the Haymarket riots, the American elite, concerned that commemorating Labor Day on May 1st could become an opportunity to celebrate the riots, began to counter it. But even before Haynmarket, two different people, Matthew Maguire, who was the secretary of the CLU (Central Labor Union) of New York, and Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor, are credited with first proposing an alternative day in 1882. The Knights of Labor organized the first Labor Day celebration in New York City on September 5th, 1882, and called for it to be a national holiday. After the Haymarket riots in 1886, the American elite, not wanting May 1st to become a holiday, began to more actively promote the alternative. When US President Grover Cleveland expressed support the Labor Day that the Knights supported, Oregon became the first state to make Labor Day a holiday on February 21st, 1887. By the time it became a federal holiday in 1894, thirty states officially celebrated Labor Day. Prompting its transformation into a federal holiday was the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike; in reaction, Congress unanimously voted to approve fast-tracked legislation that made Labor Day a national holiday, and President Cleveland signed it into law a mere six days after the end of the strike.
So which of the two days best reflects the interests of workers? May 1st tends to be observed unilaterally by workers, while the September holiday is enjoyed by all. The problem with the latter is that it perpetuates the growing myth that labor and management are both working together. It is understandably difficult for labor to identify with management when the average CEO makes 354 times more compensation than the average worker, when corporations cripple the bargaining power of workers by downsizing, outsourcing, and offshoring and further disenfranchise American workers by replacing them with legal and illegal immigrants in massive quantities. Specifically disenfranchising White workers is the practice of affirmative action, which restricts White participation in the labor market to promote a racially-proportionate workforce that "looks like America". Unions aren't particularly helpful to workers, either; many of the unions themselves have been coopted and transformed into ATMs for the Democratic Party. In addition, Labor Day in America is marked by numerous distractions, to include the advent of the NFL season, an opportunity for an end-of-summer orgy of recreation for kids before the beginning of the new school year, and the proliferation of Black Friday-type sales by a retail industry in which only three percent of its workers are members of a labor union. It's no wonder that some believe that Labor Day in the United States is better described as mocking than celebrating the American worker.
I don't propose to make May Day vs. Labor Day a "test of fellowship" within the White racialist community; we already have too many "tests of fellowship", some of them frivolous and illogical. But I believe the evidence presented in this post clearly suggests that May Day is a more representative holiday for the White working class than Labor Day.