9/04/2011

Where is Labor in Labor Day?

Labor Day gets celebrated here in the US on the first Monday in September. It was born as a campaign year bone for labor in 1894. An accounting of the birth of Labor Day can be found HERE.

Because there is the constant fear in the country of capitalism of anything that might smack of the rights of workers, particularly rights that might limit the acquisition of capital by the big boys, the September date was considered preferable to May 1st., the international worker's day and a northern European day of romp and circumstances beyond control. Puritan Capitalist America was not interested in uppity workers or end of winter romps in the hay, so Haymarket and Haystacks were out, end of summer and return of serious working weather was in.

We Americans, of course, turned the whole affair into a long weekend with a bit of a patriotic flair. We get to have speeches (although very tame) on labor and the worker's contribution to society. There might be a real union speech every once and awhile. There might even be some minor connection in the ever widening election cycle of a relation between worker's rights and the strength of America, etc.

As far as I can tell, however, the worker's right to protest is not an item on the agenda any more, nor are the conditions of the working poor who are essentially indentured servants of the upper classes.  We Americans don't talk about this particular elephant (since elephants have become a symbol of a party)...but here it is: The elephant in the room is that the working poor will be working forever without escape from servitude. Of course there are exceptions. Of course hard work can lead to bettering one's own condition. But hard work and exception also requires the hard press for rights - the rights to organize, to protest poor working conditions, lack of basic necessities, and so on. 

We sing patriotic songs on Labor Day, and good for us. American, under the best of circumstances, is a great land of opportunity. But we also might want to sing  "Arise, you prisoners of starvation!  Arise, you wretched of the earth!" and if we get nervous because it is, well, a communist song, then change the words a bit.  But keep the fire in it. 

There is no fire in our Labor Day. The laborers are working, they are praised, but they stay and are kept in their place.  It will be a better Labor Day when the speeches are about the rights of workers, of the poor and of all humanity are at the front of the news and the scrimmage of politicos yearning for high office and worrying about the middle class needs -as if all Americans were middle class - get back page yawns.




3 comments:

  1. The "takers" actually get a holiday?

    Thanks Mark for a fine post, especially now that the rentier class persuades itself that it alone is responsible for the nation's greatness. And yet, the people who actually make things and provide services, from busboys to brain surgeons, are the ones who really make all the wealth and power. Without them, all the John Galt wannabees would be naked and up a tree.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Perhaps because the country is in a mess the like of which I have never seen, I found myself thinking more deeply about Labor Day than I ever have. In the process, I wrote the poem “A Labor Day Lament,” which may be a good companion piece to your excellent essay.

    ReplyDelete
  3. So good post
    and I hope to visit my Blog Articles2day.Org and see Industrial Marketing Research
    thanks again Admin

    ReplyDelete

OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.