International Labor Day – 1 May is celebrated in many parts of the world in memory of the big labor demonstrations that were held in Chicago (USA) in 1886. The demonstration was organized to protest the failure to fulfill the demands of workers for improved working conditions.
May 1 has much greater significance for the labor movement than just memories and honoring these brave men – It is also the world day of workers’ solidarity. It is a moment to remember the battles of the past and show our hope for a better future.
How did it all begin?
At that time people were experiencing very poor working conditions, working hours from 10, 12 or more hours a day, working on the Sabbath, and partly on Sundays, low wages, no insurance – just some of the reasons that workers around the world forced to begin to fight for their rights and to oppose capitalist oppression. People with families didn’t have enough time to spend at home, time for children and anything else outside of work. It was too close to slavery.
In the second half of the 19th century the situation, especially in the US, was more and more intensified, because the workers, recognizing that the individual cannot achieve anything started to organize – they founded several workers organizations. Workers Union was based on direct control by ordinary people, from the bottom to the top, thus mirroring the kind of society which they aspire.
Through its representative workers the Employers Association demanded the eight hour work time – and the problem has actually devoted a lot of attention.
Then arose the popular division of the working day divided in 3 x 8 hours – 8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest and 8 hours of cultural enlightenment!
Then it was set is a kind of ultimatum – these requests that were forwarded to capitalist employers and the rulers were scheduled be fulfilled by 01 May 1886. However, since there was no fulfillment – employers refused any thought of any concessions. At that time the ruling class in the United States realized that its profits and power undermine the direct action of a united working class. Answer workers’ demand was no deal, but pure violence.
The reign of terror was taking all over Chicago. Meetinghouses, union offices, printing houses and private apartments were (often without warning) subject to frequent police raids. Many suspects were beaten, and some were bribed with the intention of working against their colleagues as so-called. Strikebreakers. Unfortunately some, in fear, accepted these bribes.
Outraged by such decisions employers’ workers organized and spontaneously came out onto the streets. The strikes have engulfed many large US cities, and the largest demonstration, which was attended by more than 70,000 workers affected by Chicago. Production was paralyzed.
A big rebel riot came out. At some moment, an unknown person, whose identity has never been established, (according to some participant it was concerned police agent – provocateur) threw a bomb that killed seven and wounded 67 members of the police force. For the police, it was a good reason for the expected attack. They immediately opened fire on protesters –many workers were injured and many workers were killed.
In a fit of hysteria city and state authorities have arrested eight alleged leaders of the strikes, accusing them of murder and sentenced to death on 11 November 1887, despite protests from around the world.
These people gave their lives for their words and beliefs, not because of their actions or anything bad.
They gave their lives so future people could live calmer and fulfilling lives and their work could be validated.
Not until 1893 – the new Governor of Illinois made official what the working class in Chicago and across the world knew from the start – he apologized for the death of eight people and their obvious innocence and because “the trial was not fair.” In 1889, the American delegation, who attended the Congress of the Socialist International in Paris, proposed that May 1st is supposed to be marked as worker’s holiday. This would be marked by the memory of the struggle of the working class and the “Chicago Eight”.
From then on May 1st is the day of international worker’s solidarity.
International Labor Day in the Balkan
After 50 years of communist rule, during which May 1 was celebrated as a great national holiday (in the former Yugoslavia), the part of population on the Balkans is still not fully aware of what the holiday represents.
In the Balkans May the 1st is representing a holiday of fun. It Is a day off and many people start the holiday one day before the calendar -1st of May. The famous ‘Uranak’ – May Reveille- is usually celebrated by camping in the nature. People, friends gather and move to the nature to camp for few days. Everything gets prepared for the next day’s barbeque.
So May Reveille is a folk custom and a feast consisting of raising up early in the nature or even to going the nature one day before and the night spent by the campfire. The most visited Serbian places for May the 1st are: Avala mountain near Belgrade, Kosutnjak in Belgrade, Čačak city, Subotica, Vrsac… and all other of course do celebrate.
Barbeque is the most interesting part of the holyday for all. Most people make this holiday a friendly, close people gathering and daily fun. If the weather is warm everyone likes to go near the rivers or lakes so they could enjoy swimming, and water games.
In Belgrade the favorite place for May the 1st is Kosutnjak- the wood in the city. Many young people camp there and they all celebrate together. Lots of music, volleyball, and of course barbeque everywhere.
But also some cities make a really big city celebration on May the 1st.
Cities organize BBQ festivals- where the visitors can enjoy in many stalls, along the streets and there are able to taste delicious grilled specialties. Read how to make a a perfect marinade for bbq.
One of the most famous places on the Balkans when it comes to barbeque is Leskovac. The famous Leskovac barbeque is known all over the Europe and people in this city take this holiday very seriously.
They often go for the record in making the biggest burger so called ’pljeskavica’.
For all the gourmands – this is a good place to be at that time of the year.
The other citizens who do not celebrate International Labor Day by the grill will probably spend the holiday in the countryside, on a trip through Balkan or the short tourist tours of the Europe, because, judging by the statements of tour operators, holiday arrangements burst into flames on May the 1st.
Rural households visiting is becoming very popular on International Labor Day.
Agencies which are providing rural tourism arrangements state that they are completely full, and that the influx is so big – they have three times more interested people than they have places available.
This is also a good way to celebrate International Labor Day. In calm, with good food, loving people and peaceful natural environment away from the city crowd, before getting back to work – work which is now in much better conditions than our ancestors had what they fought for.