Marxists Internet Archive: Subjects: May Day

May Day

List of May Day Events Around the World

...Let the winds lift your banners from far lands
     With a message of strife and of hope:
Raise the Maypole aloft with its garlands
     That gathers your cause in its scope....

...Stand fast, then, Oh Workers, your ground,
     Together pull, strong and united:
Link your hands like a chain the world round,
     If you will that your hopes be requited.

When the World's Workers, sisters and brothers,
      Shall build, in the new coming years,
A lair house of life—not for others,
      For the earth and its fulness is theirs.

 Walter Crane, The Workers' Maypole, 1894

May Day Origins: Overviews

Eleanor Marx's Speech at the First May Day Hyde Park, 1890
Rosa Luxemburg, What Are the Origins of May Day? 1894
Rosa Luxemburg, The Idea of May Day on the March, 1913
Wilhelm Liebknecht, The First of May in Germany 1897
Guido Baracchi, May Day, 1921
Nestor Makhno, The First of May: Symbol of a New Era, 1928
Alexander Trachtenberg, The History of May Day, 1932
Joseph North, May Day: Made in America, 1943



Origins: Eight-Hour Day

The happy idea of using a proletarian holiday celebration as a means to attain the eight-hour day was first born in Australia. The workers there decided in 1856 to organize a day of complete stoppage together with meetings and entertainment as a demonstration in favor of the eight-hour day...At first, the Australian workers intended this only for the year 1856. But this first celebration had such a strong effect on the proletarian masses of Australia, enlivening them and leading to new agitation, that it was decided to repeat the celebration every year.
Rosa Luxemburg, What Are the Origins of May Day?, 1894

Karl Marx, The Working-Day
New York Times, Western Labor Parades: The Eight-Hour Movement in Chicago, 1886
John Most, The Beast of Property, 1884
T.V. Powderly, Anarchy and the Knights, 1890
Hubert Langerock, Twenty-five Years of Eight-Hour Propaganda, 1914
James Connolly, Changes, 1914
Second Congress of AFL, 1st session, 2nd session, 3rd session, 1882
See also a selection of the many Songs and Poems the Eight-Hour movement inspired.



Origins: Haymarket

The eight hours working day movement lies at the bottom of the whole affair. Early in 1886, the Chicago employers were filching away from their employed the priviledge recently unreasonable length than ten or eleven hours. Against this familiar device of the masters, many meetings of the men were held in Chicago in the earlier months of 1886. One of these meetings was called in the Haymarket, for the evening of May 4th. It was called by the Anarchists. A special protest was to be made against the killing of seven unarmed people a few days earlier, outside McCormick's premises, by Pinkerton detectives.
Eleanor Marx Aveling and Edward Aveling, The Chicago Anarchists.

Eleanor Marx Aveling and Edward Aveling, The Chicago Anarchists.
Eugene Debs, The Martyred Apostles of Labor.
Art Young, Haymarket Square, Chicago, May 4, 1886.
Haymarket Defendants, The Accused, the accusers: the famous speeches of the eight Chicago anarchists in court when asked if they had anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon them. On October 7th, 8th and 9th, 1886, Chicago.
Mother Jones, from her Autobiography: The Haymarket Tragedy, 1925.
See also Songs and Poems about the Haymarket Affair.


International May Day

A great international demonstration shall be organized for a fixed date in such a manner that the workers in all countries and in all cities shall on a specified day simultaneously address to the public authorities a demand to fix the workday at eight hours and to put into effect the other resolutions of the International Congress of Paris.

In view of the fact that such a demonstration has already been resolved upon by the American Federation of Labor at its convention of December 1888 in St. Louis for May 1, 1890, that day is accepted as the day for the international demonstration.

The workers of the various nations shall organize the demonstration in a manner suited to conditions in their country.
—Resolution introduced by Raymond Lavigne, International Socialist Congress, Paris, July 20, 1889

Resolution, International Socialist Conference, 1904

May Day in Russia. Manifesto of the “Bund.”, 1908


Soviet May Day

Yes, the celebration of May Day has truly been made official. It has been celebrated by the state. The might of the state was evident in many ways. But is it not intoxicating to think that the state, until recently our worst enemy, now belongs to us and has celebrated 1 May as its greatest festival?
And yet, take my word, if this festival had only been official, it would have produced nothing but coldness and emptiness.
But no, the popular masses, the navy, the Red Army all true working people put their efforts towards it. And we can therefore say that this festival of labour has never been so beautiful.
Extract from A. V. Lunacharsky's diary for 1 May 1918, describing the May Day festivities in Petrograd

Vladimir Lenin, May Days in Kharkov 1900
Vladimir Lenin, Materials Relating to the Revision of the Party Programme, 1917.
Soviet of People's Commissars, Decree on Monuments of the Republic, 1918.
P.P. Malinovsky, On the Organization of the 1918 May Day Celebrations in Moscow, Moscow Soviet, 1918.
Izvestiya, On the 1918 May Day celebrations on the streets of Moscow
Leon Trotsky, May Day in the West and the East: On the 35th Anniversary of the May Day Holiday, 1924
Joseph Stalin, Talk With Colonel Robins, 1933


Articles: May Day Events and Recollections

Frederick Engels, May 4 in London, 1890
Libertad, May Day, 1905.
Ellen Wetherell, Washington's May Day, 1914.
Martha Foley, Red May Day in Prison, 1919.
Samuel Gompers, Eight Hours, 1925
Will Thorne, Friendship and Fights, 1925
Vera Buch, May Day 1931.
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, 1939.
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, May 1st: The Sun of Tomorrow, 1941
Howard Fast, May Day - 1951.


Songs and Music

Jim Connell, The Red Flag—lyrics, 1889.
Bob Hart, The Eight-Hour System—lyrics, midi file.
Rev. Jesse H. Jones and I.G. Blanchard Eight-Hours—lyrics.
Russian Revolutionary song: Rise brothers sunward to freedom.
Aaron Copland, Into the Streets May First—sheet music page 1.
Copland, Into the Streets May First—sheet music page 2.
Copland, Into the Streets May First—midi file.
Ashlet Pettis, Marching With a Song, on Copland's Into the Streets May First.
Harold Rome, Round for May Day—sheet music.
Rome, Round for May Day—midi file.
Earl Robinson, May Day Song—sheet music.
Robinson, May Day Song—midi file.


Poetry and Literature

William Blake, The Chimney Sweeper.
Walter Crane, The Worker's Maypole.
Burton Jerome Barnett, Haymarket: May Day, 1939.
Alfred Hayes, Into the Streets May First.
Louis Zukofsky, March Comrades.
Lola Ridge, Histrionics.
Walter Crane, The Donkey and the Common: A Fable.
F. Scott Fizgerald, May Day.


Drawings and Cartoons