Första Maj

Illustration: Jonathan Gartmark

Första Maj

By: Maria Fernanda Volponi 

May 2nd 2022

Första Maj or the International Workers’ Day. What does it look like in Sweden, especially in Malmö?

History of the International Workers Day

The protests and claims for the eight-hour workday had been happening long before May 4th. For example, the American Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions requested an eight-hour workday in 1884. As a result, the event nowadays known as the Haymarket affair took place at the Haymarket Square in Chicago on May 4th, 1886 leading to the constitution of the International Workers’ Day.

What was supposed to be a peaceful rally or an air meeting supporting the eight-hour workday, became chaos. The nonviolent action developed into a conflict between the civilians and the police after a bomb exploded, and several people were killed. Seven anarchists were arrested even though some of them were not even there when the bomb exploded, and four of them were executed. The action caused a shock within the community and around the world.

Flier calling people for the protest on May 4th

July 14th of 1889, Paris, France. That was the date the International Socialist Party Congress in Europe proclaimed the “Workers Day of International Unity and Solidarity” every May first. The first celebration was dated May first, 1890.


The events in Chicago spread the message and the anger around the world and workers started fighting for their work rights in order to establish different norms.


Nowadays, May First is celebrated around the globe by multiple parties, organizations, and left-wing institutions. Protests, meetings, and speeches are organized to remember how important it is to remember and recognize social achievements.

Första Maj in Sweden

From the early 1880s, May 1st in Stockholm evolved into a large folk festival in the park Djurgården, complete with cortege and royal visits, and excursions in the green were organized in the country villages. During the 19th century, this leave became a meeting day for industrial workers. Even though some demonstrations, orchestras, and posters have been part of actions in Swedish industrial groups since 1890, Första Maj became a holiday in Sweden only in 1939. It was the first time a public holiday was established without being a church day. 

Sweden, like so many counties around the world, hosts different manifestations and actions during the International Workers Day. Vänsterpartiet Malmö has prepared a big event involving speeches, music, food, and the big traditional parade that has its concentration place at Möllevångstorget, Malmö. Vänsterpartiet Malmö is described as a left-wing party which pleads feminist, anti-racist and also ecological ideologies, they believe in a society capable of change with activists, proposals and policies around the country.

Everyone’s welfare – Up to fight for peace, climate and equality

The march was supposed to start at 12:00 and as soon as my bus arrived in Södervärn I could start hearing the drums, music, and loud and empowered speeches. It was crowded. Multicultural. Diverse. It was possible to see babies, kids, young and really old people. Individuals were screaming for different social causes for different reasons in different places, but a space in common can definitely be identified: peace. The march was peaceful, happy, excited, and emotional. 


The message is clear, it is not really about the cause itself, each one of us has contrasting or similar ideologies, dreams, and purposes. It is about fighting, going to the streets, and letting it be clear that we are the society, we have the right to say what is wrong. 


I will leave here some photographic records in the hope that next time, you will consider joining us. It is crucial to protest!

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