May 1 - International Day of Workers' Solidarity

May 1 - International Day of Workers' Solidarity

From the first parades and strikes during the partitions, through stormy celebrations in the Second Polish Republic and propaganda parades during communism, to the pilgrimages of working people to Jasna Góra - this is how on May 1 the International Day of Workers' Solidarity was celebrated in Poland over the years.

The celebration of the International Day of Workers 'Solidarity is linked to the development of the labor movement in the last decades of the 19th century. In 1886, the police quelled a workers' strike in Chicago. Interestingly, the reason for the protest of McCormick Harvester Co. there was no breach of workers' rights, but the planned modernization of the factory, which meant the dismissal of a large part of the workforce. Clashes with the police began on May 1. On May 4, one of the workers threw a bomb at the officers. Eleven workers and seven policemen were killed. The court sentenced seven of the riot leaders to the death penalty (executed against four).

Three years later, the Congress of the Second International recognized the anniversary of the beginning of these bloody riots as the Labor Day. Socialists described the condemned as martyrs of the battle for workers' rights. The hymn "For May 1" announced on that occasion used the melody of "Warszawianka" by Wacław Święcicki (later called "Warszawianka 1905").

The socialist movement in Poland was reviving at that time after the defeat of the First Proletariat. The first marches and strikes were organized by the Second Proletariat and the Union of Polish Workers. In 1891, clashes with the army took place in Łódź and Żyrardów, followed by repressions by the tsarist authorities. Of the later demonstrations, the largest demonstrations took place during the revolution of 1905. Special leaflets and one-day papers were also issued on May 1.

From the perspective of Paris, the greatest authority of the Polish independence left, Bolesław Limanowski summed up the hitherto effects of the revolution in his appeal in Warsaw: “This unexpected manifestation of popular will frightened both the invaders and the exploiters. The invaders began to speak to the people in their native language, which they had previously contemptuously called canine. The exploiters realized that it was necessary to make concessions to the workers, to moderate their greed. "

In his message, Limanowski emphasized independence threads: “We must prepare ourselves properly to sweep the garbage out of the country, when they call us: it's time. And when we sweep the garbage out of the country, with weapons in hand, we will not allow anyone to be uninvited in our house, but we ourselves will become hosts in our Republic and we will arrange ourselves in the best way for us. "

May 1 in the Second Polish Republic was celebrated stormily. The hot political atmosphere of disputes between left-wing parties and national democracy was conducive to street demonstrations of the strength of their own groups. Supporters of the independence left and the communist party of Poland also fought in the streets. The Jewish Bund party also organized separate parades. In some regions, peasant circles also had their own celebrations. They were exceptionally impressive due to the participation of folk orchestras. All marches and rallies were protected by party militias armed (sometimes with firearms).

In the largest industrial centers - Warsaw, Łódź and Upper Silesia - workers gathered in factories or neighborhoods and joined the great march in the city center. "In the Lilpop factory at On 9, the gate was opened to allow the public to take part in the celebration as much as possible. .

Sometimes, during the parades from that time, portraits of the theoreticians of socialism - Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels - as well as Ignacy Daszyński and Giacomo Matteotti, the socialist leader murdered by Italian fascists, were carried. From the rallies held in other European countries, those organized by the Polish left-wing independence were also distinguished by sung songs: "The International" was replaced with "Red Banner" and "Warszawianka 1905". The PPS capital gatherings usually ended at pl. Dąbrowski, where the leaders of the formation delivered passionate speeches.

“May 1 this year is a holiday of exceptional importance. The traditional labor day in the conditions of regained independence, at the moment of rebuilding our statehood, at the moment of killing the Nazi monster in its own robber's nest - becomes a national holiday, "Życie Warszawy" stated. The article is a manifesto of the ideological message of the communists in the first years of power. May 1, similarly to the initially tolerated May 3 Constitution Day, was used to promote the ideals of "freedom, democracy and progress." The fight for them was to be a continuation of the fight against the "Sanacja regime" and the German occupier.

Although the capital city was in ruins on May 1, the first parade in Poland ruled by communists passed from pl. Teatralny, through Krakowskie Przedmieście to the intersection with al. Jerozolimskie. In addition to repeated "ritual" speeches emphasizing the importance of friendship with the Soviet Union and "democratic changes", representatives of the new government warned "enemies of the people". What is characteristic of the first period of the existence of "People's Poland", along with the information about the celebrations of May 1, announcements of the celebration on the anniversary of the Constitution of May 3 were published.

In the following years, as the new system strengthened, the celebrations of May 1 became more and more mass and forced. The official announcement of May 1 as a public holiday was only a formal confirmation of this. Communist propaganda during the Stalinist period seems to be an exact reflection of the provisions of the Act of April 1950. During the great march on May 1, 1950, many banners and words were devoted to "cooperation and friendship" with the Soviet Union.

The symbol of "building socialism" were numerous slogans ensuring the implementation of the so-called the six-year plan. Following the example of Moscow parades, leaders were important actors. Some of the rallies were attended by veterans of the 1905 coup d'état. Their then party colors were consistently ignored. Belonging to the independence PPS would be in conflict with the "internationalist traditions" venerated by the communists, opposing the rebuilding of independence of the Social Democrats of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania.

After the turn of 1956, the ideological intensity of propaganda eased somewhat. Many "props" of the Stalinist era have disappeared - portraits of the USSR leaders (except for the "revolutionary leader" Vladimir Lenin) and labor leaders cherished by propaganda. The lack of participation in the parade was not associated with a high risk of losing a job. Władysław Gomułka's speech did not mention the need to intensify the fight against "imperialist countries", but rather to take up competition.

The disappointment with Gomułka's rule and the events of 1968 prompted the student circles to protest against the repressions. The most colorful one happened in Wrocław, where students marched in front of the honorary stand with the slogans: "Truth is telling + Miś +" and "Read + Świerszczyk +, because he does not lie." r., a few months after the massacres on the Coast.

The atmosphere on May 1 in the 1970s was to be free in the intention of the party's authorities. The Polish Film Chronicle presented May 1 as a joyful day gathering representatives of all professions. The Warsaw march on May 1, 1975, at the height of the prosperity period in Gierek, was particularly impressive. The PKF's propaganda narrative almost completely ignored the ideological dimension of the holiday. Only the successes of the last four years were recalled.

In 1981, activists of "Solidarity" joined the official celebrations. The Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers' Party noted many cases of "nationalism and anti-Sovietism". Since 1982, many holidays on May 1 turned into riots. In 1985, the official march in Gdańsk was almost completely smashed not by "Solidarity", which organized a small march led by Lech Wałęsa, but by the anarchist Alternative Society Movement.

In 1986, the opposition managed to reduce the attendance at parades thanks to telephone calls to workplaces - the interlocutors impersonated activists from local party committees and announced that the celebration was canceled due to the Chernobyl disaster. In the 1980s, the burden of genuine labor was taken over by Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, a pilgrimage of working people to Jasna Góra Monastery.

The celebrations of May 1, 1989 had a special dimension. Popieluszko. The following slogans were chanted: "Down with communism" and "Don't stand aside, go to the procession." The rally organized by the authorities on pl. Wins. In 1989, the tradition of marches, which were only a shadow of the old celebrations, was maintained, among others in Bydgoszcz, Poznań and Szczecin. Elsewhere it was limited to rallies and festivities.

The Labor Day Act was in force for over half a century. In 2007, the Sejm adopted its amendment. "In tribute to all those who with their work created the greatness of our homeland, supported its development and built the future for the next generations, to emphasize the value of human work - understood as a moral obligation of man, but also as the improvement of the world around us - taking place through the comprehensive development of the person human, for the sake of preserving the dignity of human work and the freedom and wisdom related to it "- reads the new preamble that justifies the conduct of the holiday.

After 1989, the religious dimension of the celebration of this day also became visible in the public sphere. May 1 is also the Feast of Józef the Craftsman. It was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII on May 1, 1955. In the teaching of the Church, shaped since the pontificate of Leo XIII, the importance of work is one of the most important elements of reflection on society. The most important center of the cult of St. Józef in Poland is the National Sanctuary dedicated to him in Kalisz. On May 1, the National Pilgrimage of Employees and Employers, organized by NSZZ "Solidarity", arrives there. (PAP)

author: Michał Szukała

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