Why is International Workers Day (May 1) officially “Loyalty Day” in the U.S.?

I’ve long known that May 1 is recognized throughout the world as International Workers Day. May Day is at least an acknowledgement, if not everywhere a celebration, of a simple truth, i.e., that workers at every level of society, not owners or their financiers, are the real driving force that makes the world go round. In many countries May 1 enjoys an official designation as such, if not so in the U.S. – even though, ironically, May Day’s origin is tied to the 1886 Chicago Haymarket Square rally for an 8-hour workday, when police killed and wounded hundreds of protesters and arrested rally organizers, several of whom were subsequently executed.

What I did not know until recently, however, is that May 1 is officially designated in the U.S. as “Loyalty Day.” And the purpose of Loyalty Day? “The reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American Freedom.” Seriously? What? We – human history’s only “exceptional” nation, the beacon of freedom and opportunity and justice that all the lesser nations and peoples of the world supposedly hanker after – we need an official holiday to remind ourselves of how great we are and how much we love that greatness?

Of course not. “Loyalty Day” is a phony, throwaway holiday, at best a disheartening substitute for acknowledging the legitimate concerns of working people in this country and worldwide, at worst a chilling reminder to American workers that any serious challenge to the current system of largely unchecked economic exploitation – including expressions of international worker solidarity – will be suppressed, if need be violently, by the state. In the process, the history of the labor movement will be disfigured, if not erased altogether.

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