Trecker’s Travels, Day Three: May Day

May 4th, 2013

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Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer

By Jamie Trecker

SALFORD, MANCHESTER, ENGLAND

The drums began around 11 this morning. I walked out of the flat I am renting and turned right into a group of policemen. They were keeping one eye on a rag-tag group that had gathered in the courtyard of the Salford Cathedral, next to one of Chapel Street’s better-known pubs.

This is May bank holiday weekend in England, and here in Manchester it is the weekend for May Day protests. May 1 saw protests around the globe – crowds rallied in Athens and Madrid to protest austerity measures and Seattle made news as 18 marchers were arrested after eight policemen were injured. Here, May Day was delayed, but not deferred.

May Day goes unremarked upon in the United States. The traditional start of spring in Europe doesn’t have the same visceral connection to workers in the States as it does here, and, to my chagrin, most European news of late in our press has started and stopped with Amanda Knox. But Manchester has a long history of worker activism and the city has never lost their emotional tie to this holiday.

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Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer

This is because Manchester can credibly lay claim to being the birthplace of modern socialism. Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx met here at Chetham’s library in the city center. Engels was appalled by the treatment of workers in textile mills during the Industrial Revolution, and published what is considered a landmark study on the subject in 1844. He and Marx would subsequently expand those theories into the political movement known as Communism over pints in Salford at the Crescent Pub. That pub still stands; it’s not far down this same street in the other direction.

The textile mills that enraged Engels are long gone, but the working-class consciousness he promoted never left. Salford, in particular, is dotted with reminders. The Working Class Movement Library and museum sits across the street from the Crescent, overlooking the city’s Meadow and Peel Park. The bulletin boards in the local pubs are filled with notices from union shop stewards, reminding patrons of demonstrations yet to come. There is even a tangible socialist undercurrent in the soccer in this city: think of the protests against Manchester United’s American ownership. What is more socialist than fan control and ownership of a club?

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Photo: Jamie Trecker / FOX Soccer

On the evidence of today’s march, the “movement”, as socialists worldwide would like to be known, is graying. The National Pensioners skewed the curve as they marched alongside the shop stewards and nurses, but the average age looked to be well above 50. There was only a smattering of folks in the Occupy age bracket, and there was a bigger crowd of young people sitting at the tables of the nearby coffee shop.

The demonstration was noisy enough, but it was small. The cops, looking bored, soon hopped on their bikes and headed toward the center of the city. I paid my pound for a copy of The Socialist. Then, I headed off to watch the football.

This piece is the third in a series of pieces sponsored by the new Samsung Galaxy S4 phone. The pictures that accompany this blog post were taken with it. I’m traveling across Europe this month and you can tell me where you’d like me to go and what you’d like to hear about. Tweet me at @JamieTreckerFOX or use the #heytrecker hashtag @FOXSoccer.

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