Where the International Worker’s Day takes its roots may surprise many as it was in the very anti-socialist United States. For some it may be difficult to imagine that the eight-hour working day did not exist. Workers had to endure whatever the factory owners have decided was profitable. In some countries workers began to stop production for one or few days in hope that their governments would approve better working conditions.
On May 1st 1886 some 200 000 people across the United States have organised a strike that was supposed to take few days. On the 3rd May the demonstrations in some cities turned violent with culminations in Chicago’s Haymarket Square on May the 4th and in Milwaukee the following day, with fatalities among workers, policemen and innocent bystanders. Those days’ events have since been known as the Haymarket affair. In 1889 a resolution was adopted by the American Federation of Labour that the 1st May should commemorate that general strike and its victims.
Subsequently, in many countries around the world, the 1st of May has become a symbol of the fight against the cruelty of capitalism and an opportunity to march in support of the workers’ and women’s rights everywhere. Without those first laborers organising strikes, we probably wouldn’t have weekends or unions.
In Sweden May the 1st has been a public holiday since 1938. Some people choose to join many demonstrations that happen across the country, usually have to do with working conditions and are accompanied by speeches from left-wing politicians. For us, at Svadia, it is an important day as we do try to support craftsmen and -women of small and local business, especially in India.