AN ANNOUNCEMENT OF SPRING, dancing around a pole, crowning a queen, fertility rituals, assorted festivities—joyful community celebrations of the month of May can be traced back through the ages.
May Day or International Workers’ Day—another way of observing the ﬁrst day of May throughout the world—is not quite as old, and has been much more contentious. May Day has symbolized the common struggles of workers around the globe. The day, with its own themes of renewal and change, represents a history of protest.
Claiming May 1st as a day for political protest grew out of the particular nature of working-class activism of Europe and North America in the late nineteenth century. In May 1872, Canadian workers joined the movement to fight for the nine-hour work day and, through strikes and demonstrations, pressured John A. Macdonald to pass the Trade Unions Act. On May 1, 1886, across North America, hundreds of thousands of workers mobilized for a one-day strike to demand the eight-hour working day. In 1889, the founding congress of the Second Labour and Socialist International declared May 1 as a day in which workers around the world would take to the streets to honour the lives of the Haymarket Martyrs, fight for better working conditions, and demonstrate solidarity amongst working people of the world.
Understanding the history of this important day is the key to keeping its fiery tradition alive.
Through the creative and accessible medium of graphic novel-style comic books, Between the Lines has published a growing volume of graphic histories of labour and social movements and radical thinkers in Canada and around the world.
In celebration of May Day we're giving our readers 40% off our graphic histories of labour struggle until May 6th.