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Essay on “International Labour Day-May 1” Complete Essay for Class 10, Class 12 and Graduation and other classes.

International Labour Day-May 1

International Labour Day also known as May Day is being observed the world over. The working classes in many countries have found new ways of expressing their anguish and joys. May Day commonly sees organized street demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of working people and their labour unions throughout the world.

Though May Day is celebrated in various countries on may dates and in many contexts, the most popular May Day celebration is International Workers’ Day, and is called Labour Day. It was especially significant in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries when the May Day parade of armoured tanks, rockets, and military personnel saluting the nations’ leaders, has been much – publicized feature.

It is the commemoration of the social and economic achievements of the labour movement. The date May 1st is used because in 1884 the Federation of Organized Trades and Labour Union demanded an eight – hour workday in the United States, to come in effect as of May 1 1886. This resulted in the general strike and the U.S. Haymarket Riot of 1886, and eventually the official sanction of the eight – hour workday was accepted.    

Though the International Worker’s Day is an international holiday in many countries around the world, the English- speaking countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom are not   celebrating it as others do.

History of Labour Day

In the lat nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8 – hour work day. Working conditions were server and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour a day in unsafe conditions. As early as the 1860’s working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn’t until the late 1880’s that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8 hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class.

At this time, socialism was a new and attractive idea to working people , many of whom were drawn to its ideology of working class control over the production and distribution of all goods and services. Workers had seen first- hand that Capitalism benefitted only their bosses, trading workers’ lives, for profit. Thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the workplace, with life expectancy as low as their early twenties in some industries, and little hope but death of rising out of their destitution.       

At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labour Unions (FOTLU – which later became the American Federation of Labor ) , proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labour locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. A first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike “at the root of the evil.” A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel fielded pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that “ whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a salve.”

Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers of the Trades and labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor party and local Knights of Labor in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8 hour day, realizing that “ the tide of opinion and determination of most wage- workers was set in this direction.” With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8 hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic    structure of capitalism.

In a proclamation printed just before May 1,  1886, one publisher appealed to working people with this plea:

Working men to arms.

War to the Palace, peace to the Cottage, and Death to LUXURIOS IDLENESS.

The wage system is the only cause of the world’s misery. It is supported by the rich classes, and to destroy it, they must be either made to work or DIE.

One pound of DYNAMITE is better than a bushel of BALLOTS!

MAKE YOUR DEMAND FOR EIGHT HOURS with weapons in your hands to meet the capitalistic   bloodhounds, police, and militia in proper manner.

Not surprisingly the entire city was prepared for mass bloodshed, reminiscent of the railroad  strike a decade earlier when police and soldiers gunned down hundreds of striking workers. On May 1,1886, more than three lakh workers in thirteen thousands  businesses across the United states walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history.

The name of many – Albert Parsons, Johann Most, August Spies and Louis Lingg- became household words in Chicago and throughout the country. parades, bands and tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets exemplified the workers’ strength and unity, yet didn’t become violent as the newspapers and authorities predicated.

More and more workers continued to walk off their jobs until the numbers swelled to nearly one lakh, yet peace prevailed. It was not until two days later, May 3, 1886, that violence broke out at the McCormick Reaper Works between police and strikers.

For six months, armed Pinkerton agents and the police harassed and beat locked-out steelworkers as they picketed. Most of these workers belonged to the “anarchist- dominated” Metal Workers’ Union. During a speech near the McCormick plant , some two hundred demonstrators joined the steelworkers on the picket line, beatings with police clubs escalated into rock throwing by the strikers and the police responded with  gunfire. At least two strikers were killed and an unknown number were wounded.        

Full of range, a public meeting was called by some of the anarchists for the following day in Haymarket Square to discuss the police brutality. Due to bad weather and short notice, only about 3000 of the tens of thousands of people showed up from the day before. This affair included families with children and the mayor of Chicago himself. Later, the mayor would testify that the crowd  remained calm, and orderly and that speaker August Spies made “no suggestion…. For immediate use of force or violence toward any person…”

As the speech wound down, two detectives rushed to the main body of police, reporting that a speaker was using inflammatory language, inciting the police to march on the speakers’ wagon. As the police began to disperse the already thinning crows, a bomb was thrown into the police ranks. No one knows who threw the bomb, but speculations varied form blaming any one of the anarchists, to an agent provocateur working for the police.

Enraged, the police fired into the crowd. The exact number of civilians killed or wounded was never determined, but an estimated seven or eight civilians died, and up to forty were wounded. One officer died immediately and another seven died in the following weeks. Later evidence indicated that only one of the police deaths could be attributed to the bomb and that all the other police fatalities had or could have had been due to their own indiscriminate gun fire. Aside from the bomb thrower, who was never identified, it was the police, not the  anarchists, who perpetrated the violence.  

Eight anarchists- Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Adolph  Fischer and Louis Lingg- were arrested and convicted of murder, though only three were even present at Haymarket and those three were in full view of all when the bombing  occurred. The jury in their trial was comprised of business leaders in a gross mockery of justice similar to the Sacco- Vanzetti case thirty years later, or the trials of AIM and Black Panther members in the seventies. The entire world watched as these eight organizers were convicted , not for their actions, of which all were innocent, but for their political and social beliefs. On November 11, 1887, after many failed appeals, Parsons, Spies, Engel and Fisher were hung to death, Louis Lingg, in his final protest of the state’s claim of authority and punishment , took his own life ht night before with an explosive device in  his mouth.

The remaining organizers, Fielden, Neebe and Schwab, were pardoned six ye4ars later by Governor Altgeld, who publicity lambasted the judge on a travesty of justice. Immediately after Haymarket Massacre, big business and government conducted what some say was the very first “Red Scare” in this country. spun by mainstream media, anarchism became synonymous with bomb throwing and socialism became un – American. The common image of an anarchist became a bearded, eastern European immigrant with bomb in one hand and a dagger in the other.

Today we see tens of thousands of activists embracing the ideals of the Haymarket Martyrs and those who established May Day as an International Workers’ Day. Ironically, May Day is an official holiday in 66 countries and unofficially celebrated in many more, but rarely is it recognized in the country where it began.

Haymarket Monument

Words stronger than any I could write are engraved on the Haymarket Monument: 

THE DAY WILL COME WHEN OUR SILENCE WILL BE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE VOICES YOU ARE THROTTLING TODAY.

Truly, history has a lot to teach us about the roots of our radicalism. When we remember that people were shot so we could have the 8-hour day; if we acknowledge that homes with families in  them were burned to the ground so we could have Saturday as part  of the weekend; when we recall 8-year old victims of industrial accidents who marched in the streets protesting working conditions and child labor only to be beaten down by the police an company thugs, we understand that our current condition cannot be taken for granted – people fought for the right and dignities we enjoy today. And there is still a lot more to fight for. The scarifies of so many people cannot be forgotten or we’ll end up fighting for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day.

V.V. Giri National Labour Institute

In India V.V.GIRI National Labour Institute is a premier national institution involved with research, training, education, publication and consultancy on labour related issues. The Institute, established in 1974, is an autonomous body of the Ministry of Labour, Government of India. The Institute was renamed in 1995 in honour of the late President of India, Shri V.V. Giri who was a staunch supporter of labour movement.

The Institute is dedicated through its core activities:

  • To address the issues of transformation of the world of work in a global economy
  • To project labour issues as a core concern of policy making
  • To empower the social actors with capacities to meet the challenge of change
  • To highlight the role of labour in shaping of modern India
  • To preserve and disseminate information on labour matters
  • To preserve and disseminate information on labour matters

India and the ILO

India is a fonder member of the International Labour Organization, which   came into existence in 1919. At present the ILO has 175 Members. A Unique feature of the ILO is its tripartite character. The membership of the ILO ensures the growth of tripartite system in the Member countries. At every level in the Organization, Governments are associated with the two other social partners, namely the workers and employers. All the three groups are represented on almost all the deliberative organs of the ILO and share responsibility in conducting its work. The three organs of the ILO are.  

  • International Labour Conferences : – General Assembly of the ILO- Meets every year in the month of June.
  • Governing Body: – Executive Council of the ILO. Meets three times in a year in the months of March, June and November.
  • International Labour Office : – A permanent secretariat.

The work of the Conference and the Governing Body is supplemented by Regional Conferences, Regional Advisory Committees, Industrial and Analogous Committees, Committee of Experts, Panels of Consultants, Special Conference and meetings , etc.

The approach of India with regard to International Labour Standards has always been positive. The ILO instruments have  Provided guidelines and useful framework for the evolution of legislative and administrative measures for the protection and advancement of the interest of labour. To that extent the influence of ILO Conventions as a standard for reference for Labour legislation and practices in India, rather than as a legally binding norm, has been significant.   

ILO Area Office, New Delhi

An ILO Branch Office was set up in New Delhi in 1929. The work of the Branch Office consisted of collecting and disseminating information and maintaining links with the government of India and the Organizations of Employers and  Workers and Generally publicize  the work of ILO among the India audience. With planned programme of decentralization, the Branch Office became an Area Office of ILO in 1970. The Area Office at New Delhi has been changing in its jurisdiction over the years. It now coordinates technical assistance activities  in diverse focus as such as rural Labour , women workers, employment generation, occupational safety and health, population control family welfare, etc. in India and Bhutan.

 

 

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