Tuesday, 1 May 2012

May Day

posted on 5/1/2012 by the Salt City Sinner

Walking the young master this morning, I was struck by how beautiful this spring has been. Plenty of rain, mild temperatures, and so forth. I was also struck by the dual (but inseparable) nature of May Day, the first of May by the post-Julian calendar.

Back when dinosaurs ruled the Earth and Orrin Hatch was running for his first Senate term, May Day was a complicated springtime celebration of fertility and rebirth, and for good reason. Check out the awesome new growth surrounding a tree stump I encountered on the aforementioned excursion with my little dog:

On the other hand, May Day has also been celebrated as International Worker's Day since the 19th century, in part in memory of the Haymarket Massacre.

On May the fourth, 1886, a dynamite bombing (long the traditional caliber of anarchist radicals) was followed by a full-on, "open fire" retaliation by the police.

The Haymarket Affair led to one prison suicide and four hangings. To this day, it is considered one of the most violent and tragic labor uprisings in history. It also gave fuel to the then-nascent Industrial Workers of the World, the "One Big Union" guys [full disclosure: I am an IWW member]

So: we have May Day, semi-pagan tradition where people run Widdershins, and we have the tradition of labor solidarity, fighting for the working class. How do we connect these dots?

Well, in the year of our Lord 2012, labor has fallen on hard times. The lack of a counterbalance to the big money interests of managers and bosses is almost unprecedented. But the trees are beginning to bud, so to speak, and proud sprouts - #Occupy, the IWW, the Revolutionary Students Union at Utah Valley University - are poking up from the soil.

It's May Day, an ancient time to celebrate fertility. It's May Day, International Workers' Day, a time to celebrate change and regrowth, to imagine proud, green shoots emerging from the rotting tree stump of the current system.

Happy May Day, everyone!


  1. As I was driving up to the capitol, I saw a guy walking away from the protest holding a USSR flag, then I saw the Anarchy/Equality/End Capitolism banner as I hit the top of State Street.

    As an outsider, this protest had the same problem, to me -- to a greater degree, even -- the Occupy movement did to the media: I could tell everyone was pissed about something, and wanted change, but it wasn't clear what that something was or what needed to change.

  2. that's a fair criticism - if there was one unifying theme behind the march (better expressed by the speeches at the capitol than by banners, because, let's be honest, you can only say so much with a banner) it was worker solidarity, and an urge for workplace dignity.

    "workplace dignity" includes everything from maternity leave to an eight hour workday (the RSU was advocating a six hour work day) to lunch breaks...the whole "we are being screwed by the ruling class" thing in essence