WSJ: Will May Day Change Now that the EU Is Expanding?





Editorial in the WSJ (April 27, 2004):

... As a matter of fact, violence has been part of May Day protests from the start. It may come as a surprise to some that May Day had its origins in the United States, where in 1886, during the first ever May protests for the eight-hour work day, a bomb killed eight policemen in Chicago.

May Day was then adopted by the International Labor Congress in Paris 1889 and was later usurped not only by the Soviet Union but also Nazi Germany, where Adolf Hitler made the first of May a public holiday. It is still an official holiday in Germany and much of Europe, and in recent years has become an important day in the busy calendar of the diffuse antiglobalization movement. This means that, apart from calling for more workers' rights, protesters usually use this day to trash McDonald's restaurants, bash American"imperialism," the war in Iraq and express solidarity with Yasser Arafat and suicide bombers.

Unions in Germany, France, Italy and elsewhere in Europe will mark the day by calls to hang on to privileges gained during economic boom years --"rights" that have now become the biggest obstacles to job creation, as Gabor Steingart notes nearby. This is where the arrival of the East European countries could help lead the rest of continental Europe out of its current stagnation.

With their real-life experience of communism's harsh reality and the impoverishing effects of a planned economy, the new members have little patience for the kind of socialist nostalgia many May protesters indulge in. Instead, East Europeans are pioneering the kind of wealth-stimulating reforms much of continental Europe is so reluctant to emulate. Thanks to such innovations as the flat tax, flexible labor laws and less bureaucracy combined with a highly skilled work force, the region has turned into a giant magnet for foreign investment.


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