A few words on May 1st… International Workers’ Day
International Workers’ Day, also known as Labour Day in some places, is a celebration of laborers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labor movement, anarchists, socialists, and communists and occurs every year on May Day, 1 May, an ancient European spring holiday. The date was chosen for International Workers’ Day by the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair, which occurred in Chicago on 4 May 1886. This Day has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.
Being a traditional European spring celebration, May Day is a national public holiday in many countries, but in only some of those countries is it celebrated specifically as “Labour Day” or “International Workers’ 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.
In Greece 1 May is an optional public holiday. The Ministry of Labour retains the right to classify it as an official public holiday on an annual basis, and it customarily does so. The day is called “Εργατική Πρωτομαγιά” (lit: Workers’ 1 May) and celebrations are marked by demonstrations to which left-wing political parties, anti-authority groups and workers’ unions participate. On May Day 2010 there were major protests all over Greece, most notably Athens and Thessaloniki, by many left, anarchist and communist supporters and some violent clashes by riot police who were sent out to contain the protesters. They opposed economic reforms, an end to job losses and wage cuts in the face of the government’s proposals of massive public spending cuts. These reforms are to fall in line with the IMF-EU-ECB loan proposals which demand that Greece liberalize its economy and cut its public spending and private sector wages, which many believe will decrease living standards.