Friday, May 2, 2014
#MayDay2014 picks: @nathanairplane's What's Left of Mayday + a gem of an #adjunct blog
On May 1, 1933, the Catholic journalist and activist Dorothy Day went to New York's Union Square to distribute copies of the first issue of her newspaper The Catholic Worker. As she made her way through the crowd, she had a ready audience of thousands: men in coats, ties, and hats - as low-wage workers and radicals apparently used to dress - gathered around a maze of signs for labor unions, fraternal societies, and parties representing the various varieties of socialism then on offer. These groups disagreed in every way they could think to, but they shared the square regardless. For decades, in the U.S. and around the world, May Day was International Workers' Day, commemorating protesters killed in Haymarket Square, Chicago, during the 1886 strike for an eight-hour workday. It also had earlier roots as a spring holiday of maypoles and flower baskets....
May Day to Law Day
Since the presidency of Grover Cleveland, authorities have made a point of replacing May Day with the more innocuous observance of Labor Day in September - a time for barbecues, sales and last-ditch beach trips.... In 2006, millions took part in the "day without an immigrant" strikes, and it is immigrants - impatient for meaningful reform from Washington - who will rally at Union Square today. But as May Day comes and goes each year, many in the United States don't even notice....
Replacing May Day with Labor Day was part of a decades-long effort to stifle the vibrancy of populist movements. And Labor Day is not enough. As inequality widens and our democracy weakens, we are losing the spirit of May Day, and suffering the consequences. Occupy's May Day didn't catch on as some hoped, but what it aspired to was right: an organized population powerful enough to confront an entrenched elite, and hopeful enough to celebrate democracy in the streets.
Nathan Schneider is the author of Thank You, Anarchy: Notes From the Occupy Apocalypse and God in Proof: The Story of a Search From the Ancients to the Internet. He has written about religion and resistance for Harper's, The Nation, The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education and elsewhere, makes his online home to blog and such at The Rowboat and is an editor of two online publications, Killing the Buddha and Waging Nonviolence.