The Sociological Analysis of Universal Celebration of International Workers' Day

Timothy Ojewuyi Blessing

Timothy Ojewuyi Blessing

May 2021 | Nigeria

The Sociological Analysis of Universal Celebration of International Workers' Day

Sociologically, the purposes of holidays are to cease the everyday activities, to stop work and have a break that is recognised and endorsed by others. Holiday is an inseparable part of building a strong bond between family, and our community. It gives us a sense of being as an important part of the community and a way to express what is important to us. Holiday is an invaluable tool for a macro-sociological analysis because it reflects a society's attributes and also serve to modify these attributes. Holidays are intended to allow individuals to celebrate or commemorate an event or tradition of cultural or religious significance. This means that, with every holiday, there must be an historical events behind it.

The historical event behind International Workers' Day was an ancient European spring festival and it became manifested with the conscious efforts of socialist and communist groups that demanded a time for honouring workers and the working class. The holiday became universally promoted with the efforts of International Workers Association in 1904 to commemorate the socio-historic man slaughter of protesting labourers in Haymarket Square in Chicago, USA in 1886 by calling on "all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the eight-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace."

Therefore, the first of May is a widely recognised as a public  and national holiday in many sovereign countries across the globe.  In fact, over 90 countries out  of 195 countries in the world recognised May 1st as a public holiday.  Though, some countries regarded it as a labour day while some called it International Workers' Day.

From my sociologist perspective, the celebration of International Workers' Day is a conscious effort of integrating labourers and workers into the community since they are vital part of the bigger society. Durkheim is of the opinion that collective consciousness is crucial in explaining the existence of the society because it does not only produces society but it also holds it together. With holiday like this, labourers and workers feel delighted as being part of the wider community of the world and it will definitely abolish what Durkheim called Egoistic suicide and Fatalistic Suicide.

According to Durkheim egoistic suicide is when a man becomes socially isolated or feels that he has no place in the society and he destroys or kills himself. This is the kind of suicide committed by self-centred person who lacks altruistic feelings and he/she is usually cut off from main stream of the society. While Fatalistic suicide is the type of suicide that is due to overregulation in society. The examples of fatalistic suicide are under the overregulation of a society, when a servant or slave commits suicide, when a barren woman commits suicide. Perhaps, that is why Durkheim argued that  human beings become aware of one another as social beings, not just animals  through their collective consciousness.

Also, the activities on the day, that is 1st of May, bring about unity, peace and sense of belonging. On the day, most citizens in different countries do engage in different public and group activities like parade, marches, public lectures and family shopping. Parade is a procession of people, usually organized along a street, often in costume, and sometimes accompanied by bands, floats or a large of balloons basking in the celebration of the day while in some other countries like Nigeria public lecture is staged where the president in the spirit of National May Day Celebration will address the nation in Abuja, the capital city at the Eagle Square. The president himself will be there to give a speech, and thousands of people will crowd the square to hear him,  also,  there are numerous events across Nigeria on this day, organized by schools, labour unions, hospitals, and various other institutions in Nigeria to make the day a memorable one.

As a reflection of holiday, most people also use the opportunity of "no work routine"  to spend qualitative and quantitative time with their families. Families can decide to visit amusement parks,  zoological garden, cinema, shopping mall, dam, Lake, beach, game reserve or any other places of interest that can unite the family and also bring peace of mind.

In conclusion, one will agree that International Workers Day celebration is a part of social inclusion that will give workers and labourers sense of  belonging to the community. It will remove sense of inferiority,  promotes contempment, satisfaction and brings about social recognition. Inwood (1992: 245-47) and Margalit (2001: 128-129) discuss the meaning of recognition as the act of acknowledging or respecting another being, such as when we ‘recognise’ someone’s status, achievements or rights. Definitely,  international Workers Day celebration gives labourers and workers the recognition and sense of belonging that they deserve because they are people that their activities can either make or mar the progress of any nation.


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