Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

May Day!

A great international demonstration  shall be organized on a fixed date so that simultaneously in all countries and all towns, on the same day, the workers shall demand that the public authorities legally reduce the work day to eight hours …..The International Socialist Congress in Paris adopted this resolution in 1889. May Day was then designated as a day of demonstrations and meetings. And that was no coincidence. In the US, May 1 was the day on which the employment contracts were renewed. For many workers that meant moving house, which is why May Day is also called Moving Day. That was also the case in Western Europe. Furthermore, many cultures celebrated May Day for centuries as a spring festival, with dancing around the maypole, flowers, music and all kinds of spring symbols.

This dual nature of spring festival and fight for better working conditions, continues to this day to characterize May Day. In the Netherlands the festive nature soon dominated, but for instance in Istanbul May 1, 2014 was a day of wrath and intervention of the army and on May 1, 1977 dozens died in Taksim Square. In many African and Asian countries, the eight-hour working day is still something to fight for.

The IISH collects everything related to labour. Thus there is a huge collection on the theme of May 1 / May Day throughout the world, mainly consisting of posters, buttons, pamphlets, prints and sound recordings. Because neither a celebration nor a protest can do without music. The focus is on the Netherland, with the chapters Cosy May Day Meetings and The Ideal Diluted. View a selection from the May Day collection of the IISH and listen to special sound documents.

Giuseppe Pelliza da Volpedo, Il Quarto Stato (1901), Museo del Novecento, Milan (wikipedia)

* Sozialistenmarsch (composed by Max Kegel), Arbeidersbond voor Cultuur, c 1950 BG GC6/3


20 April 2015