Peter Staudenmaier reminds us of the varied meanings of May Day, and shares his experience in New York, working with Occupy Wall Street organizers, doing the work of a public intellectual.
Today is May Day, a traditional springtime holiday that is also celebrated in much of the world as International Workers’ Day. Its modern historical roots lie here in the Midwest, among immigrant labor activists in the Chicago of the 1880s, and are as much anarchist as socialist. May Day also occupies an important place in the history of the Catholic Worker movement of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. This year it will be marked by a series of demonstrations across the US coordinated through the Occupy Wall Street movement.
During the semester break in January and once again during Marquette’s spring break in March, I had the privilege of participating in a series of week-long courses in New York City with Occupy Wall Street organizers from around the country. They asked me to come to New York to join a variety of other instructors, some academics and some independent scholars, in providing historical context and intellectual perspective on current struggles around fundamental economic and political issues. Many of those most intimately involved in last fall’s upsurge of attention to such issues, and many of those who have remained engaged in Occupy Wall Street activities since its fading from public awareness, came to these unorthodox courses and workshops eager to learn about the history of alternative movements like theirs and the challenges these movements have faced.
From a pedagogical viewpoint, the classes were an ideal teaching situation; the students combined extensive practical experience and earnest enthusiasm with passionate commitment to expanding their Continue reading ‘May Day–International Worker’s Day’