Friday, 2 May 2008

May day

May Day has a long history. I remember, 100 years ago when I was young, reading about girls dancing around poles adorned with long, colourful ribbons. May Day was a pagan celebration which, like many, was picked up and adapted to a Christian ritual. In my lifetime though May Day was always workers' day. There were marches through the city of Melbourne celebrating workers' rights.

The workers' marches began in the US in 1986 and soon turned into bloody clashes between workers and police. The actual catalyst for the marches though was an event in Melbourne in April of 1856 when stonemasons downed tools and went on strike for an eight hour day. They achieved their goal and battles ensued in other industries and workplaces around the globe. A speaker at the 1901 May Day celebration in Melbourne talked about 'the worker being an abject slave who was downtrodden and oppressed both by capital and the government.' Nothing new here! Another speaker talked about the 'abominable deluge of infernal rubbish' produced by the press. At uni, also a hundred years ago, I had cause to look at many old newspapers. The standard of writing was quite different, but in many ways it had an air of innocence. The 'infernal rubbish' produced back then had nothing on the 'infernal rubbish' we get these days. (How is Madonna these days? And Kylie?)

The 1901 meeting in Melbourne expressed solidarity in the aim of having industry owned and run by the people, to have fair wages for all and to bring an end to militarism. More than a hundred years later none of these things has happened.

I can't see it being in place a hundred years hence either!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Are you sure about your dates?