May Labour Day: What is International Workers’ Day?

International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day in some countries, is a celebration of labourers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labour movement, socialists, communists, and anarchists which occurs every year on May Day (1 May), an ancient European spring festival. The date was chosen for International Workers’ Day by the Second International, a pan-national organization of socialist and communist political parties, to commemorate the Haymarket affair, which occurred in Chicago on 4 May 1886. The 1904 International Socialist Conference in Amsterdam, the Sixth Conference of the Second International, called on “all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.”

Being a traditional European spring celebration, May Day is a national public holiday in several European countries. The date is currently celebrated specifically as “Labour Day” or “International Workers’ Day” in the majority of countries, including those that didn’t traditionally celebrate May Day. Some countries celebrate a Labour Day on other dates significant to them, such as the United States, which celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September. It should be noted that workers get only one day to celebrate – capitalist get all the rest.

1st of May

United States

In the United States, efforts to switch Labor Day from September to 1 May have not been successful. In 1921, following the Russian Revolution of 1917, 1 May was promoted as “Americanization Day” by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and other groups in opposition to communism. It became an annual event, sometimes featuring large rallies. In 1949, Americanization Day was renamed to Loyalty Day. In 1958, the U.S. Congress declared Loyalty Day, the U.S. recognition of 1 May, a national holiday; that same year, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed 1 May Law Day as well.

United Kingdom

May Day activities (from 1978) are on the first Monday of the month. In the United Kingdom in recent years, the anti-capitalist movement has organised a number of large protests in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Doncaster. In London, these have resulted in clashes with the police. In 2000, the clashes ended with a branch of McDonald’s being smashed, and a statue of Winston Churchill being given a grass Mohawk hairstyle. The Cenotaph was also defaced with graffiti. In the last few years, demonstrations have been more peaceful, with marches and gatherings, particularly in central London. The Conservative-led coalition government in March 2011 announced plans to move the May Day bank holiday to October to lengthen the tourist season, although as of 2017 nothing had come of this. A London rally on May Day is organised by the London May Day Organising Committee (LMDOC).



In April 1933, the recently installed Nazi government declared 1 May the “Day of National Work,” an official state holiday, and announced that all celebrations were to be organised by the government. Any separate celebrations by communists, social democrats or labour unions were banned. After World War II, 1 May remained a state holiday in both East and West Germany. In communist East Germany, workers were de facto required to participate in large state-organised parades on May Day. Today in Germany it is simply called “Labour Day” (Tag der Arbeit), and there are numerous demonstrations and celebrations by independent workers’ organisations. Today, Berlin witnesses yearly demonstrations on May Day, the largest organised by labour unions, political parties and others by the far left and Autonomen


In Macedonia, 1 May (Macedonian: Ден на Трудот) is an official public holiday. People celebrate with friends and family at traditional picnics across the country, accompanied by the usual outdoor games, various grilled meats and beverages.