May 1st: The Sun of Tomorrow

by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (1941)
“Primo Maggio, il sole dell’ Avvenire” – May First, the sun of tomorrow! as our Italian comrades so beautifully it, is here again. It links ancient traditions, these modem times, and the future. Always a people’s natural holiday, since time immemorial it was the occasion for the gathering of the of the poor and lowly for one gala day of festivity. For the last fifty-five years it has been universally recognized and cherished by workers around the world as an International Labor Holiday. It is actually the only holiday celebrated internationally. It obliterates all differences of race, creed, color, and nationality. It celebrates the brotherhood of all workers everywhere. It crosses all national boundaries, it transcends all language barriers, it ignores all religious differences. It makes sharp and clear, around the world, the impassable chasm between all workers and all exploiters. It is the day when the class struggle in its most militant significance is reaffirmed by every conscious worker.

This day is to the enlightened worker an augury of a new world, a classless world, a peaceful world, a world without poverty or misery. It is the glowing promise of socialism, the real brotherhood of mankind. On this day in 1941 the wise words of Lenin; “Life will assert itself. The Communists must know that the future at any rate is theirs,” will light up the lonely jail cells of Browder and Thaelman and countless others. Lowhummed snatches of revolutionary song will be heard in concentration camps. On the sea, in military barracks, in the forced labor of factory or mill, the hearts of the driven workers will beat to unison with those far away who parade joyously behind gleaming red banners, to stirring music on Moscow’s Red Square. “Do your damnedest to us!” they mutter between clenched teeth, the conscripts in European trenches, the prisoners in Franco’s dungeons, in Hitler’s hell holes, in Mussolini’s prisons; “Your days are numbered. You can’t stop the final victory of the people!"

International? That must be “foreign,” many folks mistakenly infer. But what could be more international in its origin and population than these United States? Proudly we declare May Day is American. It is not a foreign idea. Many good ideas come from abroad, but this is an American idea exported to all other countries from America. May Day as an official labor holiday was born in the fierce struggles of the eighties to establish an eight-hour day. Workers of all nationalities, immigrants, political refugees, exiles, from every foreign land; native born grandsons of the American Revolution and Civil War veterans made a common, determined demand: “Eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s work from and after May First, 1886.” The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor of the United States and Canada (later to become the American Federation of Labor) called upon the workers to down tools. Enthusiastic, they poured out in the first American general strike. It spread from city to city, over 3,000 miles. The whole continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, was astir: 192,000 won the demand. The employing class, appalled at the solidarity of the workers, struck back viciously. Six workers were killed and many wounded at the McCormick Harvester Works in Chicago.

May Day was baptized in the blood of American workers. A protest meeting Haymarket Square May 4, 1886, resulted in another bloody battle and a bomb frameup. It caused the railroading to the gallows of Albert Parsons (whose ancestor had been at Valley Forge) and three of his comrades, Engel, Fischer, and Spies. "Let the voice of the people be heard!" cried Parsons, as the noose tightened around his neck. It has been, it ever Will be on May Day, brave martyred hero of yesterday! This year the newly organized, victorious strikers of the International Harvester Works in Chicago will hallow your names on May first.

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