In America, the powers that be neutralized the symbolic importance of May Day, by substituting Labor Day in September, an occasion for barbecues, not barricades.
This happened perhaps because anarchists, workers groups and socialist movements had been rallying on May Day since Mayday 1886. Back then "more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history.
The IWW noted: " In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and Jack London's The Iron Heel.
As early as the 1860's, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn't until the late 1880's that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class."
So it has been a long struggle with Occupy stepping into the breach and reviving May Day as a day of solidarity and momentum against rule by the 1%
Let us remember Eleanor Marx's final words on that exciting May Day so long ago:
"Rise like Lions after slumber
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you--
Ye are many--they are few."
News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at NewsDissector.net His forthcoming new book of his essays is Blogothon from Cosimo Books. He hosts a radio show on Progressive RadioNetwork.com (PRN.fm) He edits Mediachannel1.org