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May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day and as Labour Day in some parts of the world, is an occasion that pays tribute and respect to workers and their contribution towards making our lives easier.

A cause close to the heart of many socialists, Communists and the labour movement, May Day celebrates and honours workers. A public holiday of much importance to labour rights’ activists, it is also an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival.
The day’s importance lies in the dreadful times that workers in the United States saw when they protested workers’ rights violations, straining work hours, poor working conditions and wages and child labour. May 1 was chosen to be the International Workers’ Day that symbolises the workers’ struggles and their empowerment in the late 19th century by trade unionists, socialists and Communists.
This date commemorated the Haymarket affair in 1886 in the US. Years’-long protest of the working class challenging their 16-hour work-timings in unsafe and fatal conditions resulted in the Federation of Organised Trades and Labour Unions of the United States and Canada deciding that from May 1, 1886, an eight-hour workday would go into effect for the labour.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
But when the a police contingent opened fire and killed at least two of the striking workers who were holding a largely peaceful and well-organised protest movement, and subsequently arrested and served terms of life imprisonment, death sentences, etc., the riot went down in history as the Haymarket affair and those who died were called “Haymarket Martyrs”. With the incident, the fight for workers’ rights reached a new high. The Second International, in 1889, declared that May would be commemorated as International Workers’ Day from then on, it was only from 1916 that the US began to recognise the eight-hour work timings after years of protests and uprisings.
In India, May Day was first celebrated on May 1, 1923, after the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan initiated and Comrade Singaravelar helmed the celebrations. In two meetings— one at Triplicane beach and the second at the beach opposite Madras High Court— the Comrade known for being one of the leaders of Self Respect movement in the Madras Presidency and his fight for the rights of backward classes, passed a resolution stating the government should allow everybody a national holiday on Labour Day.

Courtesy: Indian Express

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