It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
"Workers of the world, awaken!
Rise in all your splendid might
Take the wealth that you are making,
It belongs to you by right.
No one will for bread be crying
We'll have freedom, love and health,
When the grand red flag is flying
In the Workers' Commonwealth."
- Joe Hill.
International Workers' Day, also known as May Day, is celebrated every year on May 1st and is a fitting commemoration of the historic struggle of the world's working class. Today, it is recognized as a major holiday in every country in the world barring the United States (despite the fact that it was conceptualized there) Canada and South Africa.
Though its origins are still a matter of vague dispute, two theories have emerged. One theory attributes the idea and execution to Australia (in 1856), when the workers got together to bring about a day of complete stoppage of work coupled with celebrations and entertainment in support of the 8-hour work day. It was originally intended only for that particular year but it had such a strong effect on the proletarian masses that it was never discontinued.
Despite this theory, most agree that it was the '8-hour day working movement in the Americas' that was at the heart of this entire holiday. In 1886, the Anarchists of Chicago called for a meeting against long work hours. When an unidentified person threw a bomb at the police, they opened fire on the general public and injured several, besides killing a few! The massacre was known as the Haymarket Massacre and this day is considered a commemoration of the same. At the time, socialism had become an extremely attractive option to the working class who found the ideology of their own control over production and distribution appealing.
There is a widespread assumption in countries like the USA that this is an extremely socialist holiday celebrated in countries like Cuba or in Moscow's Red Square. However, the truth is that the governments attempted to cover it up due to fears that workers' movements might gain far too much power and threaten the hierarchy of a state. Various authorities have tried banning or undermining this day, most particularly the communist parties during the Cold War. Many of them attempted to replace the communist holiday with a religious one too!
Still, it seems this is one seed no one could quash because it has gone on to be an international workers' movement and a day dedicated to their rights. In India, the first May Day celebration was organized in Madras by the Labour Kisan Party, while May 1st still remains Maharashtra as well as Gujarat Day. The day is strongly affiliated with communist and socialist factions too. So now that you know why you have a day off, enjoy it!
-Pictures courtesy Thinkstock-
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