The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day in Publishers Weekly

The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day

Publishers Weekly
May 2016

In these collected ruminations spanning three decades, historian Linebaugh (Stop, Thief! The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance) celebrates the labor movement and bemoans the corporatization and alienation of modern life that combine to weaken workers’ bonds with their fellow workers and with the rejuvenating spirit of nature. Written to mark May Day, the international workers’ holiday, Linebaugh’s 11 playful and elegiac treatises motivate, enrage, and inform. Many of the pieces circle back to the same themes and events, particularly watershed moments such as Chicago’s Haymarket massacre. In one essay, Linebaugh frames the genesis of America’s early identity in the ideological battle between Thomas Morton’s tolerant, ecumenical colony at Merry Mount and its more famous and famously ascetic Puritan neighbors: “Casting the struggle as mirth vs. gloom, grizzly saints vs. gay sinners, green vs. iron, it was the Puritans who won, and the fate of America was determined in favor of psalm-singing Indian-scalpers whose notion of the Maypole was a whipping post.” The penultimate contribution, “Ypsilanti Vampire May Day,” was something of an intellectual touchstone for the Occupy movement. Parallel strands of socialist activism animate Linebaugh’s lively entreaties: “Green is a relationship to the earth and what grows therefrom. Red is a relationship to other people and the blood spilt there among,” he writes. “May Day is both.”

Back to Peter Linebaugh’s Author Page