A reminder that May 1 is the International Worker’s Day and early American labor rights protesters initiated it. It’s an American tradition – not a Communist tradition. And it’s a pagan tradition from the dawn of time.
I hope you all had a great May Day. As I post this it’s still May 1 from the CDT zone westward. For those who saw the original post, you can just skip it or get refreshed. For those who haven’t seen it, it has some interesting background on the history of the day.
Herewith, a recycled essay:
A lot of Americans have apparently been brainwashed during their formative years. Especially the crowd over at the site that shall not be named. The vast majority associate the first day of the month of May as a Soviet Communist celebration day. Then again a sizable number of Uhmericans think Saddam Hussein was complicit in the 9/11 atrocities. Oh, and the wiretapping started after 9/11 and not like late February or early March of 2001.
May first was a holiday before there was a May. It’s a cross-quarter day. That means it falls about halfway between a solstice and an equinox. Back before keyboards, laser mice and high-speed internet connections people used to notice these things. The only thing that emitted light, besides fire, was in the sky. You can check out the sky anytime. Just click here. Cool, huh? And you didn’t have to let go of your mouse to do it.
So back in the days of stone knives and bearskins, and I’m not talking about the Star Trek episode where Spock and McCoy have to build a time-machine thingie with 1930s tech, or even the dark ages of eight bit processors, RAM limits of 65536 bytes and machine code, I’m talking real stone and real bear. Hell, sabre-tooth tiger and wooly mammoth times. Back when chipped flint was high-tech. In the time of neo-pagans (not to be confused with the neopaganists of today).
Together with the solstices and equinoxes (Yule, Ostara, Midsummer, and Mabon), these form the eight solar holidays in the neopagan wheel of the year. They are often celebrated on the evening before the listed date, since traditionally the new day was considered to begin at sunset rather than at midnight.
Festival name Date Sun’s Position
Samhain 1 Nov (alt. 5-10 Nov)
Imbolc 2 Feb (alt. 2-7 Feb)
Beltane 1 May (alt. 4-10 May)
Lughnasadh 1 Aug (alt. 3-10 Aug)
There are Christian and secular holidays that correspond roughly with each of these four, and some argue that historically they originated as adaptations of the pagan holidays, although the matter is not agreed upon. The corresponding holidays are:
* St.Brigids Day (1 Feb), Groundhog Day (2 Feb), and Candlemas (2 or 15 Feb)
* Walpurgis Night (30 Apr) and May Day (1 May)
* Lammas (1 Aug)
* Halloween (31 Oct), All Saints (1 Nov), and All Souls’ Day (2 Nov)
Groundhog Day is celebrated in North America. It is said that if a groundhog comes out of his hole on 2 February and sees his shadow (that is, if the weather is good), there will be six more weeks of winter. February 2nd marks the end of the short days of winter. Because average temperatures lag behind day length by several weeks, it is (hopefully) the beginning of the end of winter cold.
It’s been Groundhog Day in Iraq for
five seven years now. But who’s counting?
UPDATE: we’ve been lobbing explosives into Afghanistan since Clinton’s time. The definition of insanity is repeating the same act and expecting a different result. Our MIC PWOT is insane – but it keeps their funding flowing while we lose our jobs and homes.
It’s 2010 now and nothing has really changed that much, has it? I hope you enjoyed this May Day. It’s a day for Working Class Heroes.
The wheel of the year. that has a nice ring to it. Like Hunter’s song-poem The Wheel:
Round, round robin run round, got to get back to where you belong,
Little bit harder, just a little bit more,
A little bit further than you gone before.
The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down,
You can’t let go and you can’t hold on,
You can’t go back and you can’t stand still,
If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will.
Small wheel turn by the fire and rod,
Big wheel turn by the grace of God,
Every time that wheel turn ’round,
Bound to cover just a little more ground.
It’s in our DNA to celebrate these eight solar nodes. Widespread availability of electricity changed the human race in a lot of ways but some old ways still cling to us and we don’t know our past.
This is what we lost when the Romans paved paradise and our neo-pagan consciousness.
May Day marks the end of the uncomfortable winter half of the year in the Northern hemisphere, and it has traditionally been an occasion for popular and often raucous celebrations, regardless of the locally prevalent political or religious establishment.
As Europe became Christianized, the pagan holidays lost their religious character and either morphed into popular secular celebrations, as with May Day, or were replaced by new Christian holidays, as with Christmas, Easter, and All Saint’s Day. Beginning in the 20th century, many neopagans began reconstructing the old traditions and celebrating May Day as a pagan religious festival once more.
My bold. I love the song by Ziggy Marley, Tomorrow’s People:
How many nations
How many people did that one catch
How many nations did that one catch
Don’t know past, don’t know your future
Don’t know past, don’t know your future
Closer to our time in the rise of rapine capitalism there came the Haymarket Massacre. This is where the Eight-Spoked Wheel of the Year maps onto the Eight-Hour Work Day. This day has a past and this day has a future. We have one coming up real soon now.
In October 1884, a convention held by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (FOTLU) of the United States and Canada unanimously set May 1, 1886, as the date by which the eight-hour work day would become standard. When May 1, 1886 approached, American labor unions prepared for a general strike in support of the eight-hour day.
On Saturday, May 1, rallies were held throughout the United States. There were an estimated 10,000 demonstrators in New York and 11,000 in Detroit. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin some 10,000 workers turned out. The movement’s center was in Chicago, where an estimated 40,000 workers went on strike. Albert Parsons was an anarchist and founder of the International Working People’s Association (IWPA). Parsons, with his wife Lucy and their children, led a march of 80,000 people down Michigan Avenue. Another 10,000 men employed in the lumber yards held a separate march in Chicago. Estimates of the total number of striking American workers range from 300,000 to half a million.
On May 3, striking workers in Chicago met near the McCormick Harvesting Machine Co. plant. A fight broke out when replacement workers attempted to cross the picket lines. Chicago police intervened and attacked the strikers, killed four and wounded several others, sparking outrage in the city’s working community.
Local anarchists quickly printed and distributed fliers calling for a rally the following day at Haymarket Square (also called the Haymarket), which at the time was a bustling commercial center near the corner of Randolph Street and Des Plaines Street in what was later called Chicago’s West Loop. These fliers alleged police had murdered the strikers on behalf of business interests and urged workers to seek justice. One surviving flyer printed in both German and English contains the words Workingmen Arm Yourselves and Appear in Full Force!
The rally began peacefully under a light rain on the evening of May 4. August Spies spoke to the large crowd while standing in an open wagon on Des Plaines Street while a large number of on-duty police officers watched from nearby According to witnesses, Spies began by saying the rally was not meant to incite violence. Historian Paul Avrich records Spies as saying “[t]here seems to prevail the opinion in some quarters that this meeting has been called for the purpose of inaugurating a riot, hence these warlike preparations on the part of so-called ‘law and order.’ However, let me tell you at the beginning that this meeting has not been called for any such purpose. The object of this meeting is to explain the general situation of the eight-hour movement and to throw light upon various incidents in connection with it.”
The crowd was so calm that Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr., who had stopped by to watch, walked home early. Samuel Fielden, the last speaker, was finishing his speech at about 10:30 when police ordered the rally to disperse and began marching in formation towards the speakers’ wagon. A bomb was thrown at the police line and exploded, killing policeman Mathias J. Degan. The police immediately opened fire. Some workers were armed, but accounts vary widely as to how many shot back. The incident lasted less than five minutes.
Several police officers, aside from Degan, appear to have been injured by the bomb, but most of the police casualties were caused by bullets, largely from friendly fire. In his report on the incident, John Bonfield wrote he “gave the order to cease firing, fearing that some of our men, in the darkness might fire into each other”. An anonymous police official told the Chicago Tribune “a very large number of the police were wounded by each other’s revolvers. … It was every man for himself, and while some got two or three squares away, the rest emptied their revolvers, mainly into each other.”
About sixty officers were wounded in the incident along with an unknown number of civilians. In all, seven policemen and at least four workers were killed. It is unclear how many civilians were wounded since many were afraid to seek medical attention, fearing arrest. Police captain Michael Schaack wrote the number of wounded workers was “largely in excess of that on the side of the police”. The Chicago Herald described a scene of “wild carnage” and estimated at least fifty dead or wounded civilians lay in the streets.
Did you ever wonder why we work eight hours a day and not ten or twelve? Or fourteen or sixteen? It wasn’t this way forever. People got together and made it happen. If those people hadn’t made a stand where would we be now?
The Haymarket affair was a setback for American labor and its fight for the eight-hour day. At the convention of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1888 the union decided to campaign for it once again. May 1, 1890 was agreed upon as the date on which workers would strike for an eight-hour work day.
In 1889 AFL president Samuel Gompers wrote to the first congress of the Second International, which was meeting in Paris. He informed the world’s socialists of the AFL’s plans and proposed an international fight for a universal eight-hour work day. In response to Gompers’s letter the Second International adopted a resolution calling for “a great international demonstration” on a single date so workers everywhere could demand the eight-hour work day. In light of the Americans’ plan, the International adopted May 1, 1890 as the date for this demonstration.
A secondary purpose behind the adoption of the resolution by the Second International was to honor the memory of the Haymarket martyrs and other workers who had been killed in association with the strikes on May 1, 1886. Historian Philip Foner writes “[t]here is little doubt that everyone associated with the resolution passed by the Paris Congress knew of the May 1st demonstrations and strikes for the eight-hour day in 1886 in the United States … and the events associated with the Haymarket tragedy.
We, American workers, created the modern secular May Day. It’s our day. It doesn’t belong to the masters. It doesn’t belong to the Communists. It doesn’t belong to the defunct Soviet Empire. It belongs to us.
As human beings we have been celebrating this day since the passage of time and season was marked by the Eight Spokes of the Wheel of the Year. As Americans we’ve been marking it since the Haymarket Massacre. Well, except for a little propaganda detour brought to you by everyone’s favorite political party, the Republicans.
Although May Day observance began in the United States, it is not officially nor popularly recognized as a holiday there; instead May 1 was officially designated by the U.S. Congress as Loyalty Day in 1958, because of the association of May Day with communism. The Paris Workers Congress held in Paris on the 14-20 July 1889 most notable decision was to call on all workers to celebrate May 1st each year as the international festival of the working class.
I’m asking you to take this May Day, May One,
2008, 2009, 2010 back from those who took it from us. On this Loyalty Day I ask that you just be loyal to yourself and what you feel is right. Make the day a special one. There are so many reasons on this May 1 to make a stand. Whatever it is you want to make it stand for, do it. However you want to express yourself, do it. Don’t just spend it like any other day, just letting it ride. Make it special.