1st May is celebrated as the International Day of workers all over the world. It is a reassertion of workers’ rights. In the wake of capitalist economic policies and the states becoming slaves to the capitalist and corporate forces, it is imperative that a massive organized struggle of workers be launched to safeguard the rights of the workers.
1st May was chosen to be International Workers’ Day to commemorate the 4 May 1886 Haymarket incident in Chicago. The police were trying to disperse a public assembly during a general strike for the right to eight -hour work day. The police responded by firing on the workers, killing four demonstrators. The following day on 5 May in Milwaukee Wisconsin, the state militia fired on a crowd of strikers killing seven, including a schoolboy and a man feeding chickens in his yard.
In 1889, a meeting in Paris held by the first congress of the Second International following a proposal by Raymond Lavigne that 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 1894.
TheInternational Socialist Congress, Amsterdam 1904 called upon all workers organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May 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 1 May, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers.”
India too observes the 1st May as the day for working class particularly the labourers. The first May Day celebration in India was organized in Madras (now Chennai) by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan on May 1, 1923.This was also the time when the red flag was first used in India.The day is tied to labour movements for communist and socialist political parties. Labour Day is known as ‘Kamgar Din’ in Hindi, ‘Kamgar Divas‘ in Marathi and ‘Uzhaipalar Naal‘ in Tamil
The recent changes in Trade Union Laws, creation of Special Economic Zones and anti labour state policies have brought great crisis in the working population of the country. The hire and fire system which was confined to the private sector has now percolated into the state and public sectors. Contractual workers are being employed and there is no permanence of their position. There is a lot of exploitation in the corporate world, IT industry and education. Government is shedding all responsibility and shirking from the role of looking after the interests of the people at large. Even the Child Labour Act of 1986, which prohibited employing people below 14 years, was directed towards achieving better labour standards and to ensure there was no abuse or maltreatment of children by industries, has been amended to dilute it. Therefore the importance of May Day and the related movements increases a lot in the present times.
Contributed by: Dr. H.S. Chandalia