Week for week, comedian John Oliver asks: “How is this still a thing?” He’s attacked lots of different anachronisms: Daylight Savings Time, Ayn Rand, Columbus Day. Shouldn’t we just get rid of these useless and destructive traditions?
This Friday is May 1. The weather forecast says there’s a 30 percent chance of flying cobblestones and broken windows, with a percent chance of burning cars. Lots of Berliners are going to be asking themselves: How is this still a thing?
Der Kampftag der Arbeiterbewegung goes all the way back to 1890 and the workers’ struggle for the eight hour day. But Kreuzberg’s particular tradition started in 1987 when there was a small riot in a poor West Berlin neighbourhood. Now Kreuzberg is one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in the city – has this tradition overstayed its welcome?
When you think of Revolutionärer Erster Mai, you might picture middle-class kids from Pisshausen looking for a cheap form of adventure tourism – some people might go to Pamplona to run with the bulls, but they go to Nordneukölln to run with the Bullen. And definitely, these kids exist.
But the revolutionary demonstration in 2014 had 25,000 participants. There aren’t that many middle-class kids in Pisshausen. The march consists of Berliners from all walks of life. A Berlin tabloid once asked the question: “Where does all this hate come from?”
For an answer, just look around our “poor but sexy” metropolis. Families are evicted from their homes to make room for realty speculators; Refugees are thrown out onto the street when they protest for their rights; Workers are exploited with low wages and temporary contracts.
Welcome to today’s Berlin. Many of the people who are unhappy voice just that together on May 1.
But, critics will ask, what about the senseless violence? Well, one study shows that violence depends largely on the tactics of the police. If you want to stop the violence, just keep those heavily armed men in black masks out of the Kiez!
So even after 125 years, May Day is as relevant as ever. Check it out yourself. Just don’t forget Exberliner‘s May Day Survival Tips.
Read Seymour Gris’ anti-May Day blog here.