June 18, 2021

How was the May 1 International Labor Day born?

In the 1870s, the development of capitalism entered a heyday. The rapid expansion of the economy and the tremendous increase in productivity put the workers in a state of dire straits.

Many workers work more than 15 hours a day, all year round, and even a large number of child laborers are forced to enter the factory. Most of the money converted from productivity has entered the pockets of capitalists, while workers have dedicated their lives and all their energy to the factories generation after generation.

The workers discovered the importance of unity, and the American labor movement started in full swing. The main demand of the labor movement is the eight-hour work system, which puts forward the slogan of “eight hours of work, eight hours of discretion and eight hours of rest”.

Under strong pressure, American capitalists can only be forced to accept the eight-hour work schedule, and Congress has also formed and passed legal documents. However, driven by interests, many capitalists ignore the eight-hour work system, and workers still devote a lot of time and energy to production and work.

In October of 1884, workers’ groups in the United States, Canada and other countries held a rally in Chicago. They discussed that a general strike would be held. In this way, the society was brought to a standstill, thereby forcing the evil capitalists to implement the eight-hour work system.

On May 1, 1886, 350,000 workers across the United States swarmed into the streets to go on strike. Unfortunately, Chicago’s capitalists have long been prepared. They are fighting with the Chicago government and police and demanding that the strike end immediately in the name of maintaining law and order. Therefore, conflicts between workers and police inevitably occurred.

On May 3, 1886, the Chicago police shot and killed two workers in an operation to suppress the strike, which in turn caused the situation to expand. In order to resist police brutality, larger protest marches began. In the protest rally, a bomb was thrown from nowhere, killing 7 policemen and 4 workers on the spot. The police immediately opened fire, killing several workers and injuring many others. Afterwards, several leaders of the Chicago Workers’ Team, 7 were sentenced to hang and 1 was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The labor movement that took place in the United States in 1886 did not achieve a full victory, but its influence quickly spread to the world, and the U.S. government was therefore under great pressure from international public opinion. In the end, American capitalists made some concessions, and nearly 200,000 American workers were granted an eight-hour work schedule.

In July 1889, the leader of the international labor movement, Engels, announced that May 1st would be designated as International Labor Day every year to commemorate this great labor movement. At the same time, he also encouraged the working class to hold demonstrations on May 1 every year to force capitalists to agree to the workers’ demands for the eight-hour work system.

On May 1, 1890, workers from Western countries took to the streets to hold demonstrations and rallies to fight for their legal rights. So this day developed into the later May 1 International Labor Day.

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