Jon Wiener in The Nation:
For more than a century, May 1 has been celebrated as International Workers’ Day. It’s a national holiday in more than eighty countries. But here in the land of the free, May 1 has been officially declared “Loyalty Day” by President Obama. It’s a day “for the reaffirmation of loyalty”—not to the international working class, but to the United States of America.
Obama isn’t the first president to declare May 1 Loyalty Day—that was President Eisenhower, in 1959, after Congress made it an official holiday in the fall of 1958. Loyalty Day, the history books explain, was “intended to replace” May Day. Every president since Ike has issued an official Loyalty Day proclamation for May 1.
The presidential proclamation always calls on people to “display the flag.” In case you were wondering, that’s the stars and stripes, not the red flag. Especially in the fifties, if you didn’t display the stars and stripes on Loyalty Day, your neighbors might conclude that you were some kind of red.
During the 1930s and 1940s, May Day parades in New York City involved hundreds of thousands of people. Labor unions, Communist and Socialist parties, and left-wing fraternal and youth groups would march down Fifth Avenue and end up at Union Square for stirring speeches on class solidarity.