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Day 42 – Labour Day becomes May Day


Happy Labour Day!

 Happy celebration of “labour” against “capital”. 

Happy celebration that one day what is today our sellable “labour” power will, by defeating private capital, again become “work”, meaning our human creative ability. Yes, that uniquely human capacity to act together on nature and on ourselves, after using our unique collective capacity for thinking by means of our ability to use – quite naturally – our human language capacity, our myriad respective mother tongues.

 So, let’s celebrate. Epidemic or no epidemic. Overwork by workers in essential services, especially by health workers. No labour selling for most of the rest of us. Lockdown or no lockdown. Let’s celebrate. 

 Labour Day is associated in Europe with May Day, which is an ancient festival to celebrate the coming of Spring, a time for singing and dancing and making love, and of rebirth after the cold, half-dead winter. 

 And here, in the Southern Hemisphere, some autumn leaves fall – in our garden in Ragoo Lane, two-foot ones from the breadfruit tree, long thin ones from the chameli tree, leafy ones from the atemoya tree – signifying cooler times, and times when we can expect wind to blow away musty times.

But Labour Day is not celebrated everywhere on 1 May. In the USA, the bosses and the state “moved” it to the first Monday in September, that is to say in autumn. This effectively separated it both from its roots in the Chicago police shooting of striking workers in 1886 and also from the international commemoration on 1 May of this strike and shooting in Chicago. Until today, there is this division. While everywhere else in the world we remember the Chicago strike and peaceful protest for the 8-hour day, the provocation of the bomb, the shooting of workers by police, and the trumped up charges against 8 working class leaders. Four were hanged, one committed suicide in prison, three got life sentences but were later pardoned on the grounds the entire case had been trumped up.

And then, by a strange coincidence, “mayday”, also means “SOS, Help! We are in mortal danger!” from the French “m’aidez” (Help!). 

And at this point in history, living as we are in the middle of an epidemic not unlike days of the plague, and living on the cusp of total planetary destruction of human civilization or even of the elimination of humanity, as a result of industrial and agro-industrial pollution reaching some 10 different tipping points – like manmade mass extinctions or total climate disequilibrium or, if it occurs first, through intentional or accidental nuclear destruction – the “mayday” call has all its significance, today 1 May 2020.

We are at the moment when we have to organize against the barbarians of the extreme right, against the capitalists’ stranglehold on social capital, and against the State that works for the capitalist class. It is truly international now, our struggle. It is truly socialism or barbarie. Let’s organize.

And bring back the idea of celebrating May Day meaning re-birth and do it twice a year. Two public holidays, for the rebirth after winter in the North and in the South. So, we are reminded of the natural cycles.

Only the working class can lead this kind of change. The working class as a whole, its most experienced sectors together with a political organization that prepares the programs, based on our human capacity to think through our mother-tongues of what society can be like. Strangely, the Covid-19 epidemic has reminded everyone that we all need to understand everything – so as even to combat a virus. And to change the world, that too is our aim.

 Lindsey Collen

for LALIT, a personal viewpoint.