A Labor Day Parade in Muskegon.

The Labor Day Festival of Lights in Ypsilanti.

Labor Fest in Grand Rapids.

Labor Day cookouts and BBQs all over the state, as Michiganders mark the unofficial end of summer.

People all over Michigan will be commemorating Labor Day in a variety of ways this weekend... but are we celebrating a communist holiday?

The Origins of Labor Day in Michigan and the rest of the United States

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (they should be the authority on Labor Day, right?), Labor Day in the United States traces its history to the late 1800s, when "labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being." Several states including Michigan began to recognize the holiday before it officially became a federal one in 1894, traditionally celebrated in the U.S. on the first Monday of each September.

But that's not the whole story.

International Labor Day

Across the globe, Labor Day (or Labour Day, or International Workers' Day) is generally recognized on May 1 -- May Day. Oddly enough, it's because of something that happened in the United States.

On May 1, 1886, workers advocating for an 8-hour workday began a mass strike in Chicago. On Day 4 of the strike, police tried to disperse a crowd that had gathered to support the striking workers. Someone threw a bomb, and the scene quickly became very violent. Several officers and civilians were killed. Four labor leaders considered to be radicals were hung. International demonstrations to commemorate this event would soon follow annually, and the version of Labor Day that's recognized overseas came to be.

The Communist Connection to Labor Day

Some organized labor leaders in the United States and many in other parts of the globe revered those who were executed as martyrs. They chose to set May 1 as a day to protest.

This delighted Frederick Engels, co-author of The Communist Manifesto. He wrote:

"As I write these lines, the proletariat of Europe and America is holding a review of its forces; it is organized for the first time as one army. The spectacle we are now witnessing will make the capitalists and landowners of all lands realize that today the proletarians of all lands are, in very truth, united. If only Marx were with me to see it with his own eyes!"

It wasn't quite the death knell to capitalism that Engels and his contemporaries in communism and socialism had hoped. However, to this day, the May 1 Labor Day (or May Day) is celebrated in many communist and/or socialist countries including China, Vietnam, Cuba, Laos, and North Korea, among others. They typically use the occasion to stage grand workforce parades, including marching soldiers and displays of military hardware.

While Michiganders and the rest of America tend to celebrate America's version of "Labor Day" less violently, our holiday's foreign-born cousin indeed has its connections to communism.

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