may day loyalty day

It’s Called May Day, Not Loyalty Day: The Continued Subversion Of A Day For Worker Solidarity

Donald Trump on Friday released a written statement in anticipation of “Loyalty Day,” to be observed on May 1, 2017, a date which many people all over the world recognize as May Day, a day to celebrate the working class, commemorate the historical fight for labor rights, and raise awareness of the current struggle of the working class. Trump is not the first President to subvert May Day in favor of a more “patriotic” re-branding. According to official Government Publishing Office documents, Loyalty Day was established in 1955 via a joint resolution of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the 1st day of May 1955 is hereby designated as Loyalty Day and is set aside as a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States of America and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom,” the document says. “The President of the United States is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation calling upon officials of the Government to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on such day and inviting the people of the United States to observe such day, in schools and other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies.”

Donald Trump’s Loyalty Day proclamation stays true to this request, according to RT.

“The United States stands as the world’s leader in upholding the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice,” Trump’s proclamation reads. “Together, and with these fundamental concepts enshrined in our Constitution, our nation perseveres in the face of those who would seek to harm it.”

It is no coincidence that the United States government chose to replace May Day with Loyalty Day. In examining the origin and purpose of May Day, the underlying motives for the subversion of a day set aside for worker solidarity in favor of a day set aside for “loyalty” to the United States become extremely clear.

According to the History Channel, the first day of May is commonly referred to as May Day in commemoration of the 1886 Chicago Haymarket riots. The Haymarket riots were labor rights rallies that became violent due to police provocation in support of the business owners. A homemade bomb was thrown into the crowd at one point and several people died. Despite not being able to determine who threw the bomb, eight labor leaders were charged for murder, some of whom were not even at the riots, and none of whom could be linked to the bombing. A complete lack of evidence linking the accused to the crime did not hurt the prosecution and media propaganda painted a grim picture of the accused, casting them as “long-haired, wild-eyed, bad smelling, atheistic, reckless foreign wretches.” Seven of the eight were sentenced to death and one was sentenced to fifteen years hard labor.

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An artist rendering of the Haymarket protest. [Image By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons]

According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, an international organization of labor and socialist parties met in Paris in July, 1889, calling themselves the Second International. The Second International decided to recognize the first day of May each year as a day to commemorate the anniversary of the Haymarket protests and to recognize the great strides made by labor rights organizers in the ensuing years.

The idea caught on, but in the United States official moves were made to prevent the recognition of May Day. In 1894, following another protest in Chicago, the Pullman strike, President Grover Cleveland declared the first Monday in September as Labor Day, according to Huffington Post. The move was designed because the government feared commemoration of the Haymarket protests would draw people to communism, anarchism, or other radical ideas tied to labor movements worldwide. By 1921, the first red scare was in full swing in the United States and authorities began re-branding the first day of May as Americanization Day, a day to celebrate patriotic loyalty to the United States. By the 1950’s, Americanization Day gave way to Loyalty Day, which was officially recognized in 1955 and made an official holiday in 1958. Subversion completed.

Every United States President since the 1950s has followed in proclaiming the first of May as Loyalty Day, despite murmurs of protests from labor activists and others who recognize the day as May Day rather than its jingoist replacement. Growing discontent with the political system and recognition of the way it works in favor of the wealthy corporations and against the working class is raising the decibel level of those who choose to celebrate May Day rather than Loyalty Day in the United States. According to Patch, major May Day protests are planned in Seattle and other cities across the country. It’s safe to say that Loyalty Day may not succeed in drowning out May Day in 2017.

[Featured Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]

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