Everywhere Else, May Day Honors Workers; Here, It Salutes 'Loyalty'

May Day protest on May 1, 2013 in New York City.
Getty Images
Today is May Day, the international celebration of workers' rights and labor solidarity that originated right here in the United States, as a commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket incident in Chicago.

International Workers' Day is a big deal around the world, marked by demonstrations and officially recognized in more than 80 countries.

In the U.S., however, the holiday has been subverted by official decree. In 1921, during the Red Scare, an alternative designation for May 1 was created: "Americanization Day." According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars' database of Patriotic Days, "On May 1, 1930, 10,000 VFW members staged a rally at New York's Union Square to promote patriotism." In 1949, Americanization Day morphed into Loyalty Day, and in 1958 –- during the waning days of McCarthyism -- Congress made Loyalty Day official.

As if that weren't enough, the government also made May 1 "Law Day, U.S.A." -- a special moment for the reaffirmation of Americans' loyalty to the United States, and the cultivation of respect for the law. To be fair, the language of the relevant act does mention in particular "the ideals of equality and justice under the law" that should guide relations between citizens and countries, and President Eisenhower in his proclamation spoke of law's importance "in the settlement of international disputes."

The president is requested to issue a proclamation on May 1 "calling on all public officials to display the flag" and "inviting the people of the United States to observe Law Day, U.S.A., with appropriate ceremonies". President Obama has complied, releasing a statement that emphasizes "our long journey toward equality for all," from the Emancipation Proclamation through the Civil Rights movement and up to Title IX and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That's about as progressive a spin as one can put on such a holiday, with its authoritarian name and origins in the darkest periods of domestic anticommunism. And in a post-War on Terror world, with at least 100 men hunger striking at Guantánamo Bay -- where half the remaining prisoners have been cleared for release by the president's task force -- the rule of law could sure use a shot in the arm.

But a lack of accountability for crimes like torture and warrantless wiretapping, to say nothing of improper foreclosure and securities fraud, isn't the primary problem our society faces. Economic inequality is out of control: Income and profits are growing for businesses, while workers' wages have remained essentially stagnant. People perceive this injustice, which is why you may well see Americans outside today marking May Day. Loyalty Day/Law Day U.S.A. observances will likely be harder to spot.

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Kevin Fitzgerald

A lot of pissed off people for a practically meaningless holiday... Congress probably just wanted another day off.

May 02 2013 at 1:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why celebrate the slavery May Day represents where people have to be fenced in while real freedom needs to fence people out?

May 01 2013 at 9:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Curous. The tone and tenor of the article is clearly "progressive," with its mantra about corporations and people, blah, blah, blah... Throw in the routine complaint about Gitmo and "warrantless wiretapping," you have the tradtional recipe for leftist gibberish. What is surprising is that this nonsense appears in a daily FINANCE (!??) article. Will someone ship this so called "writer" (more likely a frustrated socialist blogger) to Mother Russia, where such silliness is commonplace?

May 01 2013 at 9:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to phd's comment

c'mon phd--WHO WRITES for huffing and puffingho ? conservatives ?
whose COMMENTS GET POSTED over there as well ?
only the good comrads and juniour reds in training.
what else would you expect ?

May 02 2013 at 12:00 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Here is a History Lesson; When the Massachusetts Bay Colony of Ezekiel Rodgers took a survey of lot owners who lived on the plantation renamed Rowely my relative was there but not the Walton family.

May 01 2013 at 8:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hear the reason so many people pick up junk from the curb to take to the scrap yard is because they all lost their jobs. On special trash day endless pickups and vans drove by to collect scrap metal. The economy is really bad an these people were the proof.

May 01 2013 at 8:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Iselin007's comment

people been doing that for decades in my zipcode.
and not all are impoversished either.

May 02 2013 at 12:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

the versions of the may day holiday the writer details were co-opted from ancient culture fertility celebrations. so spin and redefinition are generational and not necessarily beneficial or progress. as for 'solidarity' and 'labor rights', american workers are more concerned for themselves--their global counterparts are and should be on their own. contrary to the ideological sniping of the writer, america sure beats the alternative. are there any holidays that celebrate america anymore?

May 01 2013 at 4:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to cj's comment

The 4 rth of July Celebrates America.

May 01 2013 at 8:34 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Great article - solidarity, mate!

May 01 2013 at 4:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The US has a holiday to celebrate workers--it is called Labor Day and is a nationally recognized holiday. Communists co-opted May Day many years ago and the fact that the US chose a different day to celebrate workers is not a big deal.

May 01 2013 at 3:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to suec8's comment