Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day indeed

Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration
--- (Who said this?  Answer here.)
The call to solidarity and common action addressed to the workers-especially to those engaged in narrowly specialized, monotonous and depersonalized work in industrial plants, when the machine tends to dominate man - was important and eloquent from the point of view of social ethics. It was the reaction against the degradation of man as the subject of work, and against the unheard-of accompanying exploitation in the field of wages, working conditions and social security for the worker. This reaction united the working world in a community marked by great solidarity.
-- (Which commie said this?  Answer here.)

You grow up with various historical myths.  In primary school, we were taught that Adolf Hitler had been a (mere) house-painter  before ruling an empire and nearly destroying the world.  Our teacher presented this factoid with a sniff, as though she thought it bumptious that someone from so mean a background should have presumed to such eminence as that;  but really this hardy perennial throve less to put him down, I suspect (he has rather more to answer for than that), than because our tiny minds simply could not conjoin the concepts artist and dictator.
(Whereas in fact, I fear there may be a significant subterranean connection.)
Another thing I grew up believing -- a notion absorbed, I know not whence (my parents, who, ringed with Republicans, voted for Stevenson? the companions I fell in with in the People’s Republic of Berkeley?) -- was that Labor Day was originally May 1, and was so observed by all the peoples of the world, since time immemorial;  but that then, in a targeted attempt to break up international proletarian solidarity, someone -- probably the Chamber of Commerce, and possibly by the same business interests who dreamed up “Father’s Day” [another myth] -- most likely sometime during the second or third season of “Leave it to Beaver” --  the September date, a changeling, was switched out with May 1 in the cradle, leaving a thewless simulacrum that might at best be designated “National Employees Day”, a sort of wider version of “Secretary Appreciation Day”.
And I was just about to post to this effect, when it occurred to me, perhaps best to check the facts, just for once.   The real story turns out to be much more complex, and more inspiring, and Wiki tells it well:
Furthermore, American labor was the spearhead of both the September and the May 1 date, a surprising fact that emerges most clearly in the French  account:
So -- happy Labor Day, to America and the world. 

In the meantime, don’t let the plutocrats  hand you any wooden nickels.
And check out some excellent op-eds here:
            The last Labor Day?

Sentimental, but what the heck:
            An author's message to her grandson 
.* [For a list of our posts on labor issues, click here.] * JOBS !  NOW.  Go for it, big guy. Gloves effing off.  -- But workers -- we can't stand (or sit) aside, to let a politician fight our fights for us. The plutocrats need to see disciplined labor muscle out there.

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