A Brief History
Some information on Mayday from three different sources:
1. The First Mayday
On May 1, 1886, 800,000 workers from all trades and factories throughout the US went on strike in support of the eight-hour workday. In Chicago, a stronghold of immigrant labor and anarchists, 300,000 workers struck and marched through the city streets in a huge display of proletarian power. Before the Chicago May Day strike action began, the management at McCormick Machine Co. (now International Harvester) had locked out 1500 workers over a wage dispute. On 3 May, when pickets attempted to prevent blackleg labor entering the plant, the Chicago police opened fire on the workers, killing four and wounding many more. Outraged at this act of naked aggression, radical newspapers called for armed resistance against the bloodthirsty Chicago police, and a protest rally was called for the following day (4 May) at Haymarket Square. Speeches condemning police violence and capitalist oppression were given by three leading anarchists: Parsons, Spies and Fielden. As the meeting came to an end, 200 police moved in on the crowd. Suddenly, a bomb was thrown and exploded in the midst of the police, who immediately opened fire on the assembled workers. Several police and many workers were killed.
In the hysterical aftermath of the Haymarket tragedy five anarchists were convicted and sentenced to hang by a specially constituted tribunal. On 11 November, Black Friday, it murdered Parsons, Spies, Fischer and Engels. Ling had committed suicide the previous day. They were later shown to have had nothing to do with the bombings.
On 14 July 1889, on the hundredth anniversary of Bastille Day, an American AFL delegate attending the International Labor Congress in Paris proposed that 1 May be officially adopted as a workers' holiday. This motion was unanimously approved and since then May Day has served as a date for international working class solidarity.
By Eugene W. Plawiuk