Below May Day 1892
Origins of May Day
The first modern May Day was in 1890. At that time the main immediate aim of the Labour movement was to establish the legal eight-hour day. In 1889, delegates to the Paris foundation congress of the Second International decided to launch an international campaign for the eight-hour day:
May Day was chosen as " the one appointed day " because already since 1886 the Amer-'can unions had organised strikes for the eight-hour day on that day.
Demand for SocialismThe next two congresses of the International strengthened and widened the May Day demonstration by adding to its objects improved working conditions, the preservation of peace between nations, and the achievement of the classless society. The 1893 Congress resolved :
" The demonstration on May the First for the Eight-Hour Day must serve at the same time as a demonstration of the determined will of the working class to destroy class distinctions through social change and thus to enter on the road, the only road, leading to peace for all peoples, to international peace."
The May Day demonstration became a symbol of the strength of the working-class forces and a rallying-point for working-class struggles in all countries.
The First May Day in Britain
The demonstration was organised by the Central Committse for the Eight Hours Legal Working Day Demonstration, created by Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling.
On that May Day for the first time the dockers, till recently the despised outcasts, marched in their rough working clothes next to the aristocracy of labour, the " gentlemen comps " in kid gloves and top hats. British workers proclaimed their organisation as a class, skilled and unskilled united for an immediate demand; and despite the distrust of " wild " Continental Socialists felt by the old T.U.C. leaders, the masses demonstrated for international solidarity.
Engels wrote of this demonstration as "the grandest and most important part of the whole May Day festival" in Europe.
[For a vivid summary of this demonstration, see " Fifty Years of May Day ", by Dona Torr, Labour Monthly, May 1940.]
May Days of Struggle in Britain
Some of the high points in the history of May Day in Britain.
1921. Building trade unions held " national holiday " (one-day strike) on May Day in support of their demands.
1926. At the greatest-ever May Day demonstration (three-quarters of a million out in London) it was announced that a General Strike had been decided on by the General Council of the T.U.C.
The Right-Wing Leaders and May Day
The Ban on May Day in London, 1949
The excuse was that the Fascist attempt to march through Hackney and Tottenham on March 20, with the protect on of 400 police, had resulted in disorder.
The Home Secretary immediately banned all " public processions of a political character " in London for three months.