In 1889 400 delegates gathered in Paris for the International Socialist Congress where they decided that the eight hour day must be their first demand. The French delegate Lavigne from Bordeaux moved that this demand be expressed in all countries through a universal work stoppage. In view of the previous actions in America it was decided that the day of action would be 1st May 1890. They called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests to commemorate the working class struggle and the martyrdom of the Chicago Eight. Initially it was only planned for one year but it was so successful that it was formally recognised as an annual event at the second congress in 1891 and has since become a day for international solidarity. There were several American delegates at this first conference as well as the Australian John Norton.
On hearing of the Chicago deaths, the Paris Conference decided: There shall be organised a great international demonstration so that on the same agreed day, in every country and every town, the workers shall call upon the State for the legal reduction of the working day to eight hours. In view of the fact that a similar demonstration has been planned by the American Federation of Labor for the first of May, this date is adopted for the International Demonstration.
They outlined the intentions for May Day:
1. It was an international show of strength in an emerging class conflict with the aim of recruiting new members;
2. It was to help create the class-consciousness needed for the creation of socialism by promoting a sense of the power of a disciplined organisation; and
3. It was to petition the state for an eight-hour day.
Even after the eight-hour day was achieved May Day was not given up on as there were always struggles against the ruling class.
It is often called the International Workers Day and is celebrated in more than 80 countries. Some of the countries celebrate it as an official holiday and these includes:
- Peoples Republic of China
- Sri Lanka
- United Kingdom
- South Africa
In many countries, such as The USA, Canada and Australia there is a public holiday for Labor Day but not for May Day, which is often an attempt to repress the message behind the true story of May Day.
May Day is celebrated not only for its historical significance but as an opportunity to organise around current issues of importance to the working class.