The History of Austria’s Labour Day

The story of Austria’s Labour Day

Today marks an important historic date, the first of May, Austria’s labour day – or as we call it “Tag der Arbeit”. 

The origins of Labour Day in Austria

The date was originally celebrated as the beginning of the season, the Habsburgs would celebrate this day with “Praterfahrten”, meaning that equipages would drive through the Prater Hauptallee. From 1820 to 1847 first of May concerts were performed on this day in the Augarten. Races through the Prater Hauptallee were also being organised. 

On May 1st 1890 the first May Day demonstration walked through the Prater. They were demonstrating for an 8hour work day. The politician Victor Adler wrote in the “Arbeiter-Zeitung” (workers-paper) that once a year the workers should be able to “see the famous awakening of nature, which all poets praise“.

Until the First World War, the May marches were used to underline the central demands of social democracy through mass rallies. They were demonstrating for a general, direct and secret suffrage. They demanded a 36-hour Sunday rest. Moreover, they asked for the introduction of old-age and disability insurance, an insurance for widows and orphans, and from 1893 also against war.

From 1918 to 1932 the Social Democrats moved along the Ringstrasse to the Rathaus, the symbol of the new (Social Democratic) city administration; The final rally took place on the Rathausplatz.

Under Austrofascism

After the end of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, the new leadership proclaimed May 1st  as a national holiday in the First Republic. During the period of so-called “Austrofascism”, Engelbert Dollfuß banned the May 1st celebrations. Furthermore, with the annexation of Austria by Adolf Hitler in 1938, May 1st became a public holiday once again. Naturally, this time, they named it “German Labour Day”. From the end of the Second World War and to this day, May 1st is again a national holiday.

Nowadays, various parties organise rallies on May 1st. They explain their goals and what they would like to implement for the workers in the future. They usually gather at Rathausplatz where they have stands. You can visit the place on this festive day to meet politicians and discuss their vision for Vienna. Whatever your political beliefs are, it’s definitely an interesting day here in Vienna.

If you want to properly celebrate the day, book a private tour with our guide Wolfgang and explore Rotes Wien. On his tour, Wolfgang will tell you the stories of red Vienna. He will tell you about its fascinating past, from the end of the first World War to our present.

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