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Why Mayday? - background, history and issues

The information below has been gathered from a selection of Mayday2000 leaflets, articles and websites:

Mayday is a traditional day of celebration and rebellion.

Many of the groups involved in Mayday2000 are talking of positivity, celebration, and of something different.

Mayday2000 differs from recent global days of action in that it does not directly oppose any date specific meeting or body (like previous demonstrations against the G8, WTO or IMF / World Bank).

Instead the focus is on alternative visions and the future. In line with this a two day conference is being held to bring together diverse movements and link issues.

In the UK May Day is commonly known as a 'Bank Holiday', branding it as a capitalist concession. This couldn't be further from the truth as a quick look at it's origins will tell:

Mayday is:

GREEN - because it is the arrival of spring, encompassing ancient festivals of renewal, hope and transformation, celebrated for thousands of years.

BLACK - because the struggle for the 8 hour day came to a head with an enormous strike across the US on May 1st 1886, after which several of the anarchist organisers were executed representing a turning point in late 19th century radical politics.

RED - because soon after 1886 MayDay was adopted as Workers’ Day by the International Labour Congress and has been celebrated across the world ever since.

May Day has always been the people's day, whether it be green, black or red. Throughout history religions and governments have repeatedly sought to subvert and usurp the meaning of Mayday.


In 1644 the Puritans outlawed the celebration of May Day in England (and in 1717 Sir Isaac Newton purchased London's now defunct 100 foot Maypole!).

In 1947 the US congress renamed May Day 'Loyalty Day'.

In 1958 it was again renamed as 'Law Day', while throughout the world it became a day of military showmanship with weapons of destruction paraded through the streets.

But however hard they try the same elements of May Day keep coming back. It appears the People do not easily forget a day that has always been theirs.

May 1st follows other Global Days of Action against Capitalism and Globalisation such as June 18 and November 30 last year, as well as more recently April 16/17. Many groups around the world have been preparing for this event, in recognition that the capitalist system, based on the exploitation of people, societies and the environment for the profit of the few, is the prime cause of many social and ecological troubles. May 1st with its inherent meaning is a perfect symbolic and real opportunity to link campaigns, struggles and issues in a celebration of renewal and positivity for the future.

The future depends on the fertility of grass roots movements building a strong, bold, and creative resistance against the exploitation and oppression of people, communities, and the environment - based on positivity, solidarity, co-operation, democracy, and ecological sustainability.

In London there will be four days of events with various groups co-operating to create an atmosphere of carnival and festivity as a backdrop for their various actions. Reclaim the Streets will be 'going to work'! for a 'Guerrilla Gardening' action.

Why Guerrilla Gardening?

Guerrilla Gardening 'is a way to reclaim open space, protect biodiversity, enhance food security and challenge capatalist structures in a positive pro-active manner'.

Guerrilla Gardening provides the opportunity to break free from the corporate cycle of supply and demand, and is an implicit threat to the stability of capitalism. Geurrilla Gardening can liberate people from the role of passive consumers all too often alienated from a real understanding of the true nature of the world around them.

Guerrilla Gardening will involve the positive transformation of the urban jungle into a ‘real’ green space. Symbols of consumer culture can be subverted, creating plant pots out of soapboxes, televisions, and designer trainers, vegetables can be planted outside supermarkets and lilies can be grown in fountains.

Those involved in the Geurrilla Gardening action in London stress 'this is not a street party'. They say it is an event that 'demands participation and preparation'. While the event itself is confrontational by its very nature - the unlicenced reclamation of space - it is insisted that 'to work successfully it needs to be carried out with minimum confrontation with the police'.

Guerrilla Gardening includes all the elements of Mayday, celebrating the Green, whilst incorporating the Red in the voluntary, non-hierarchical labour of transforming space, and the Black in the resistance against capitalist consumerism.

Selected Links: RTS | Guerrilla Gardening | Mayday Conference | London Mayday | Primal Seeds | PGA | IndyMedia USA