The Weekly Stripe – 01.05.20
As we have been spending the past weeks at home, the distinction between workdays and days off - and frankly between one day and the next, has become increasingly blurry. It feels, then, particularly important to highlight the uniqueness of today: International Workers' day.
International Workers’ Day is celebrated in most of the World on the 1st of May. In the United States and Canada, however, it is held on the first Monday of September. In this podcast, Donna Haverty-Stacke explains the historical (and ideological) reasons behind this anomaly, and recalls the forgotten U.S. origin of May Day.
“The villainous teachings of the anarchists bore bloody fruits in Chicago tonight” – so begins a May 5th, 1886, New York Times article depicting the Haymarket Square events, which International Workers’ Day originally commemorates.
Foremost, Workers’ Day is a tribute to the workers in all their diversity. As we are locked at home, documentaries play a fundamental role in helping us get a sense of realities far removed from our own. The Verzio Film Festival selected 7 documentaries grounding the abstract discussions on “the future or work” in concrete, human, stories.
Workers’ Day is also a prompt to remember the constant efforts it took to enforce laws and regulations guaranteeing minimal rights for workers (primarily the 8 hours workday). Sadly, the ITUC workers’ right index is a stark reminder that those rights still only concern a minority of the World population.
Yet International Worker’s Day is more than retrospective: it’s a collective celebration, a community-building ritual. An instance of what Durkheim called collective effervescence – “a moment when a community ties together to simultaneously communicate the same thought and participate in the same action”. Durkheim saw these repeated performative rituals as the glue holding societies together over time. Something, one might argue, needed now more than ever.