International Workers Day

Today is International Workers Day, and I wanted to share a bit about the history of Worker’s Day in France as a way to wish a very good Worker’s Day to all of you!

It’s also for me a way to get more political. Because even though I want to keep my content about art, sometimes I feel the need to share social and political things to, hopefully, raise awareness.

a wild rose and a lily of the valley bouquet with banners with "international workers day" written on them. It's a digital artwork, made in a colorful kidlit artstyle.

The “premier mai” (may 1st), is a big event in France. People demonstrate side by side with unions, celebrating workers, the rights we have been fighting for. It also shows to the politicians and to the employers (especially the big, big ones) that we’re still very much active to counter their powers and to keep fighting for our rights, for our work conditions and living conditions.

It has been a demonstrating day for worker’s rights since the late
19th century. Demonstrators were wearing wild roses, until the early 20th century, when wild roses were replaced by lilies of the valley. Today we still can buy and sell small lily of the valley bouquets in the streets
on may first to gift it to your fellow workers or to your loves ones.

Marshal Pétain, who was in power during WW2 and cooperated with Hitler and took part in deportation of Jews, turned this day into a fascist view of labor. His motto was “travail, famille, patrie”, which translates to “work, family, motherland”. It was not longer workers day but work day.
Wild roses were still worn until then, and got totally replaced by lilies of the valley because wild flowers were linked to the left and to the class war – which Pétain of course hated.

The celebration died out in the 1950s and 1960s – until may of 1968. May 1968 was a huge social movement in France. Even though the offical name of the day is “Work/Labor Day” (“fête du Travail), the left and activists still call it Workers Day, showing their disagreement with Pétain and this part of the french history.

Unfortunately, the right and far-right still make it about work and the motherland, glorifying them. They have been trying to get this day back kind of as it was under Pétain. For instance, the former president Sarkozy used it to celebrate the “true work” – whatever that means in the right ideology. The biggest alt-right party, which has been rooted since its creation in nazism and neo-nazism, uses this day to celebrate the “motherland” and the so called”true French people”, using the figure of Joan of Arc as their mascot and symbol of the “real” french being, if I may say it that way.

By Mibyle

Freelance disabled 2D artist and illustrator living in the North of France

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