International Workers’ Day is the commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago in 1886, when Chicago police fired on workers during a general strike for the eight hour day, killing a dozen demonstrators. In 1889, the first congress of the Second International, meeting in Paris for the centennial of the French Revolution and the Exposition Universelle, following a proposal by Raymond Lavigne, called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests. These were so successful that May Day was formally recognized as an annual event at the International’s second congress in 1891.
In most places in Norway, like in Oslo, the host for the demonstration parade is LO (The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions); decidedly the largest and most influential workers’ organisation. It all starts with speeches at Youngstorget (The Labour Square) and today it was both Norway’s Minister of Finance (Kristin Halvorsen from Socialist Left Party) and Prime Minister (Jens Stoltenberg from The Labour Party). They are in The Government (called The Red – Green coalition) together with The Centre Party. Here is from the square (click all pics to bigify and enjoy):
Today’s speech at Labours Square
10 thousands of spectators at Youngstorget.
The theme for their speeches was International Solidarity, mentioning the violence (on both sides) and the need to stop the Israel’s occupation of Gaza as well as the Tamil situation in Sri Lanka where people are locked in between the front lines. Of course there where subjects from the internal Norwegian topics as well and here are some of the slogans in the parade demonstration:
Left: Stop Social Dumping. Right: Workers around the world Unite.
Left: Let the children be Children. Right: Don’t fuck with our pensions.
To give you even more details and a taste of the atmosphere from the demonstration, here is a video:
Here is also a closer look:
and some of you might recognise one of them?
A lot could be said about the Day in itself, the labour union, the government, speeches and the demonstration, but after all this is just a blog post. Let me give you a short summery of how it’s going in Norway:
Having the world’s second highest GDP per capita is a good starting point. However, like all industrialised countries, Norway is facing new challenges due to the process of globalisation and of course the financial crises. A country where wage costs are high, it is easier for Norway to compete in business areas where these can be tolerated as opposed to areas where labour-intensive production is required. Norway has a highly competent workforce but efforts within innovation, research and development are comparatively relatively low. In addition, Norway’s substantial income from its petroleum-based economy means that necessary reforms in the public and private sectors to increase efficiency and productivity are less visible and easily postponed.
Since this blog is about Norway, our culture, traditions and history – and not that much about politics, let me end with something that might describe the Norwegian soul:
It was a very peaceful and including demonstration (I think I saw just four policemen the whole day) and we are a small, open-minded, open and transparent society: To shoot some pics, I placed myself in the start of the parade and there was the Prime Minister of course (remember the governing of Norway is based on a parliamentary system so he is the states first man). I did not see any guards other than his fellows from LO and he was interviewed by the TV stations in the middle of the crowd:
I even shook his hand and congratulated him on the day and a good speech. I also told him I am bus buddy (back and forth to work) with his State secretary; Karl Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen.
So how was your 1st of May – any parades or celebrations? Did you have a chat with some of the labour or political leaders? If not; Any issues you would like me to mention next time I meet our Prime Minister? 😆