Usually, May 1 is linked with the political left and the struggle of workers to achieve the eight-hour day. In Germany, however, this date has an ambivalent character: It also has a historical connection to the Nazi past.
In 1933, when Hitler took power, May 1 first became a bank holiday. Back then, it was called “National Labour Day” – instead of “Labour Day”, as it is called today – and it was filled with propaganda and fascist slogans. Due to these associations, both the political left and the political right claim the day for themselves and traditionally hold demonstrations at this date. This often leads to confrontations, especially in cities where right wing organisations have some support in the population and even have a political mandate.
Dortmund and the far right
In Dortmund, the far right party Die Rechte has one seat in the city council. The party – which has prominent Neo-Nazis among its members – has been organizing May Day demonstrations in the city since 2012. Against this, a broad alliance of workers’ unions, politicians and anti-fascist groups called BlockaDo has been formed.
On May Day, the police forces are very busy because they have to monitor two separate demonstrations very closely. This has caused staff shortages as police are stretched too thin. Thus, Dortmund’s Police Constable has made the attempt to ban marches of Die Rechte. Since the judges did not regard the arguments as sufficient, the effort failed.
Struggling: Past, present, future
Dortmund as well as all of Germany still struggle with their past and with the extremists who want to revisit the (not so) „good old times“. It is important to remember May Day as a day where workers are fighting and hoping for a better future. In the words of the old Labour song “Solidarity forever“:
In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold
Greater than the might of armies magnified a thousandfold
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.
:Gastautor Jan Freytag