International Labour Day is marked on 1 May annually. Also known as International Workers’ Day or May Day, the occasion celebrates the contribution of workers to society. It also commemorates the achievements of the historic labour movement.
Why is 1 May marked as International Workers’ Day?
While 1 May was observed as an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival in many regions, the day become associated with the labour movement in the late 19th century.
In 1889, trade unions and socialist groups declared that 1 May would be observed as International Workers’ Day. The day would commemorate people who had lost their lives in the 1886 Haymarket affair of Chicago.
In 1886, a peaceful rally in support of workers’ rights in Chicago led to a clash with police officials. According to reports, 7 police officers and 4 civilians died in the violence. Many protestors were arrested and given harsh sentences such as life imprisonment. The people who died in the violence were hailed by workers as the ‘Haymarket martyrs’.
The Haymarket affair gave a big boost people who were campaigning for eight-hour work shifts and better wages and working conditions.
The first Labour Day was marked in 1890 in Europe, after the International Congress of Socialist Parties declared that 1 May would be associated with labour rights. The day continues to celebrate the achievements of the workers’ movement like the eight-hour working policy. In countries like China and Cuba, May Day is celebrated as a holiday.
When was May Day first marked in India?
In India, the first International Workers’ Day celebrations were held in 1923 by the Labour Kisan Party in Madras. The country celebrates International Labour Day as Antarrashtriya Sharmik Diwas, Kamgar Diwas or Kamgar Din.
In the USA and Canada, however, Labour Day is actually marked on 1 September.