May Day greetings to one and all!
We’ve been out and about at various things today, and its good to see a healthy number of May Day events going on around the country over the weekend, as people rememnber the origins of international workers day.
Below is a repost of an article we put up back in early March, still relevant today. Also a reminder of the joint Bookfair & Bristol Indymedia event at the Cube Cinema on Monday 2 May, at 7.30 for an 8pm start:
The Road to Haymarket, May Day, and its Relevance Today.
Here is the introductory text to that event: “With workers and communities across the country starting to take action against the attacks upon them by the ruling class of bosses and politicians, the police and state in Bristol and elsewhere respond by cracking down on dissent and showing whose side they are really on. Now is not the time to bury one’s head in the sand and wish for a peaceful life, as the cuts and crisis of capitalism are impacting negatively on the majority of us. Now is the time to organise, agitate, discuss how we can respond, act, and win.
As the historic ongoing class struggle between the rich minority and the rest of us escalates, Bristol Indymedia and the Anarchist Bookfair Collective present on the 125th anniversary of the Haymarket Affair an evening of films and discussion looking at the origins of International Workers Day and the relevance of labour movement struggles and trade unions today.” Full details here.
Original article from 6 March: A mayday for May Day?
So the expected plans of the ConDem Coalition to get rid of the May Day bank holiday have been announced, albeit with the myth of consultation. At least the bastards are being honest, they are doing it purely to boost tourism, business, and profits. Into the mix they introduce an unhealthy dose of nationalism with the suggestion it move to St George’s day in April. or a new Trafalgar day in October. But we know nationalism is always a fallback option for politicians in a time of crisis. And of course, removing the bank holiday from early May does mean the historic international workers day continues to be airbrushed from history, along with so many of our other radical histories.
But does the loss of the May Day bank holiday really matter? International workers day on 1 May has been with us for over a century, since it was adopted by the Second International a few years after the murders and mayhem in Chicago in 1886. However the May Day bank holiday was only introduced in the UK in the late 1970’s, at the end of decade of enhanced class warfare, and more often than not the holiday does not even occur on 1 May. It has in fact been a distraction from the reality of May Day, an attempt perhaps by the ruling class to remove the focus from the 1 May international celebration of working class struggle, to just another paid day off granted us by the charity of our masters. Well bollocks to that, celebrating May Day on any day other than 1 May is frankly absurd. We are all for as many paid days off as possible, but what we really want goes much further and deeper than that, and means making every day like a May Day. so by all means defend the May Day bank holiday, but more importantly celebrate May Day on 1 May.
The 1 May has been a pain in the arse for the ruling class for many centuries, from well before it became a workers day. Prior to that it was a pagan festival, named Beltane, that celebrated the start of the summer season, and was a cause for much merry making, good food and wine, along with an understanding of the importance of communing with nature. That pagan festival has itself been attacked by the various authorities for centuries, with repression from the organised churches and the state, and outright bans, yet it continues today across the UK. Formal events in Bristol such as morris dancing, maypoles, the Jack in the Green procession (1st Saturday after May Day), and even the large folk festival at Colston Hall, are sanitised versions of the tradition of Beltane.
May Day will continue to be celebrated around the world on 1 May, be it for its original pagan roots or more recently for its celebration of workers struggles, and preferably for both. We dont need permission from the bosses or the state to celebrate our histories and traditions, and we shouldn’t bother asking. Just do it.
Further background info on May Day:
Origins of Beltane
History of May Day (UK perspective)
History of May Day (US perspective)
London May Days 2000-2005
May Day 2000 organising bulletin dated 26 April 2000
More May Day articles and reports of worldwide events.