May Day may become an SOS call for the working class

From being a vibrant day that used to infuse new vitality into the working class, May Day, International Labour Day, has now become an SOS for the left.

May Day

Photo: satheeshsankaran/Pixabay

May Day, or May 1st, is celebrated as the International Labour Day globally to commemorate the striking workers of Hay Market, located in Chicago of the US’s Illinois state, who were killed on this day in 1886 during their peaceful struggle for eight hours workday.

Although May Day is the official Labour Day in many countries of the world, the US, where the striking workers were killed, doesn’t recognise the day as its labour day, and has designated another day for the occasion to distance itself and its working class from the spectre of left-wing politics. For the average American worker, May Day remains an SOS sign.

While May Day is a reminiscence—or one of the last vestiges—of the vibrant socialist labour movement of the 19th and the 20th centuries, in a world dominated by an aggressive neoliberal economic model, which has been shaped by the West to suit its interests, labour rights are pushed into the oblivion under the guise of promoting a conducive environment for business.

The socialist camp that once thrived in East Europe took refuge in history books long back. The relics of its existence have been demolished brutally by the West and its flagbearers in those former socialist societies. Hence, the International Labour Day is now a pariah for the governments there.

The neoliberal economy, shaped by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) troika, supported by the European Union and its financial bodies, doesn’t want the modern working class to remember that they even had won some rights fighting brutalities and violence unleashed by those in power.

Even though Russia’s present dispensation has a tryst with its Soviet past to use the optics and stoke ‘patriotism’ among modern Russians, Kremlin doesn’t endorse the May Day celebration for what it epitomises.

China celebrates International Labour Day on May Day with grand events. It’s a time for long public holidays in the country. However, when it comes to the labour front, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CPC) record in protecting the working class’s rights in a highly corporate-controlled economy is extremely dubious.

In India, the ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) rule has stripped the working class of its last remnant rights with the enactment of the four contentious labour codes. Although May Day is still a government holiday, it may be changed anytime if one goes by the fervour of the dispensation.

Moreover, in India, the gradual decline in the ranks of organised workers due to the rapid transformation of technology and industries has rendered the working class and its organisations weaker than ever. Not only did the clout of the trade unions shrink, but there has been a dip in the number of left parliamentarians also, especially in former labour citadels like West Bengal, Tripura, etc.

Due to this loss of steam, the working class couldn’t build a pan-India movement against the four labour codes that the BJP government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi introduced in 2020.

Unlike the farmers’ movement, which forced the Modi government to retreat and repeal four contentious farm laws, the working class’s movement has remained confined to rhetoric-mongering. The trade unions have merely paid lip service in opposing the assaults on the working class.

Because of this situation, and the worsening condition of the labour force in India and South Asia, the significance of May Day poses a question in this era. Can May Day revive its glory? Can the working class reclaim what it has lost over the years? Can those who claim to represent the labour force regain their entry into the Parliament and represent the working class’s views?

Only time can tell if the tide can be reversed by the working class. Moreover, it can be reversed if only the working class’s political representatives mean what they say at May Day rallies. Even there, the number of participants is falling, year upon year, due to the monotonous and mechanical approach of the Indian left. May the left use May Day as a final SOS call to revive its spirit.

The editorial board of East Post is responsible for the columns published in the Editorial section. This column expresses the organisation's views.

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