Protests by workers and activists and, in some cases, violence by anarchists marked the far-left holiday May Day this year.
But most American news consumers would not have known that some London demonstrators carried communist flags and banners of brutal Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. They weren’t told that communists marched in Athens, Greece, or that anti-capitalist anarchists destroyed windows and threw Molotov cocktails in Paris.
Overall, the broadcast networks and biggest national newspapers said very little about May Day. What little they did say failed to expose the far-left leanings of the holiday. The network news shows said nothing on May 1, although ABC’s website had an informational video that minimized the left-wing ideologies celebrated on May Day. CNBC’s Squawk on the Street aired a brief mention noting that thousands of Greeks marched during the “labor day protest.” The brief didn’t include anything about the socialist or communist leanings of protesters.
The video on the ABC News website described May Day as an “International labor day commemorated by political action by labor unions and pro-labor organizations.” The video also said, “celebrations typically entail protests, strikes and social events.” There was no mention of communism, socialism or Marxism — or about any violence with the exception of saying a bomb was thrown into a crowd in 1886.
The Los Angeles Times provided readers with a local story about “what to expect during Tuesday’s May Day marches.” The Times said activists for a range of liberal issues (immigration rights, labor unions as well as LGBTQ) would protest on May 1. The article noted that the day was traditionally a “day of protest for the labor movement,” but “more recently has become a day of protest for immigrant rights.”
There was no hint of past violence or the common socialist and Marxist attitudes of May Day protesters. The paper also ran a positive story midday on May 1, that was positive toward the protests and interviewed several protesters.
But the use of May 1, as a labor holiday since the 1880s has socialist connections.
Time.com reported in a 2017 explainer on the history of May Day that the International Socialist Conference declared May 1, an “international holiday for labor” in 1889, three years after the Haymarket Affair of May 1886 in Chicago. In that event, Haymarket Square labor protests turned to riots after someone threw a bomb at police, according to History. At least seven police and one civilian was killed. May Day also later became known as International Workers Day.
Like the Los Angeles Times, NBC News’s website included an AP story for May Day about anti-Trump immigration protests across the U.S. CBS and USA Today also ran other AP stories on their respective websites, which also said precious little about the political ideals of marchers around the world.
According to a Nexis search, Late on May 1, after 9 p.m., The New York Times included two sentences “in the news” referring to May Day. The first noted that there had been demonstrations throughout Asia, including anti-sourcing protests in Indonesia and minimum wage protests in South Korea.
The second, posted after 11 p.m. read “The Paris police arrested nearly 200 masked demonstrators who smashed shop windows and burned cars during annual May Day protests.”
Neither fully conveyed the ideology or extremism of the protesters.
The Washington Post published an article, “May Day used to be a big deal in Washington. Could it ever be again?” Post local columnist John Kelly wasn’t just referring to May 1, as a day of labor protests. He referenced the earlier pagan “fertility rituals,” the 1886 labor protests calling for an eight-hour workday on May 1, as well as other customs adopted around May Day.
He closed the piece cheekily saying, “However you choose to mark May Day — by wrapping a ribbon around a pole or calling for the overthrow of capitalism — please celebrate responsibility.” Still, that tiny admission of the anti-capitalism leanings of May Day protests was more than other media were including.
CNN actually reported the violence in France as they looked at rallies around the world, although it took a decidedly left-wing tone as it described a rally in Cuba. CNN reported that in Cuba, People carried posters of “revolutionary hero Che Guevara.” Many dispute the notion that he was a hero, and criticize the Marxist Guevara as a homophobic murderer.
Wire services and international media did a better job. Reuters reported that French police arrested more than 200 people after masked protesters smashed windows and hurled Molotov cocktails at the planned labor union May Day rally.
But Reuters described the anarchists as “hijacking” the event, even though it acknowledged they were also carrying Soviet flags and committing anti-capitalist vandalism, arson and looting.
“The protesters chanted anti-fascist slogans, waved old Soviet flags and anti-government banners and threw firecrackers,” Reuters reported.
Although no violence was reported there, the Greek Communist Labour Union organized a 7,000-person march in Athens, according to Associated Press. They carried red and yellow banners — the same colors as the old Soviet flag. However, that was the only mention of communism in the entire story reporting on protests from nine major countries. Socialism and Marxism were not mentioned at all.
The BBC was much more direct. It admitted the event was “originally chosen by socialist, labour and communist” groups and published photographs of rallies which included the Iraqi Communist party marching with hammers and sickles and red flags with yellow hammers and sickles at a Moscow rally. The Daily Mail found London demonstrators waving Stalin banners in addition to Communist flags.