Brief History of the International Workers Day [Labour Day]
In 1889, a meeting in Paris was held by the first congress of the ‘Second International’ following a proposal by Raymond Lavigne that called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests. May Day was formally recognized as an annual event at the International’s second congress in 1891. Subsequently, the May Day riots of 1894 occurred. The International Socialist Congress, Amsterdam 1904 called on “all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace. The congress made it mandatory upon the proletarian organisations of all countries to stop work on 1 May, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers. Since then, May Day has been a major focal point for demonstrations by major socialist, communist and anarchist since the 19th century. It is one of the most important holidays in communist countries such as the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Cuba and the former Soviet Union countries.
How Does May Day Look Like in Gambia?
Every year on the 1st of May Gambia joins the rest of the world in commemorating May Day dubbed ‘International Workers Day’ celebration. It is celebrated worldwide with parade by Trade Unions; private sectors, governments and individuals from all walks of life. In the Gambia workers one of the major activities staged in commemoration of the day is sports, where ministries, departments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) compete in tract events, volleyball, football etc.
Unlike countries that recognize the day with match passes and massive protests, it is rather festive in Gambia – and a day of ‘sober reflection’ for workers. Usually, people are gathered at the Independent Stadium or McCarthy Square with parades of Police Band, Army Band and the Scout Band whiles the President, Secretary General, Minister of Trade and Minister of Youths and Sports give remarks, followed by musical displays, cultural jamborees, tug war and symposiums.
Importantly, the day draws attention to the significant role of workers and service men in national development. Notwithstanding, a day for Trade Unions and Government to register amplifying commitments in promoting quality agendas for workers, either through reform initiatives like; raising standard working conditions or increment of wages/salary. As a matter of fact, this is the ultimate rationale behind this day.
Author: Lamin Njie
Photo credit: Jana Snuderl