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International Worker’s Day: The celebration of labour power

Sivasagar, Prangan Duarah: 1st May a day dedicated for worker or labors, is known as International Worker’s Day and also known as Labour’s day in many places. For many of us, International Worker day is a normal spring holiday dedicated to the workers. But this day is a way more than a spring holiday. In the late 19th century, it was quite common for working class people to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions, where death and injury were commonplace. The working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. The working people started their agitation against this inhuman activity in 1860. They claimed 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. At that time worker were attracted toward the socialism, as they experienced that capitalism benefited only their bosses, who trading their life for their profit. They believed that Socialism would offer another opportunity to live their life and help to understand the value of their life to their bosses. Ranging from political parties to small groups of Socialist party strung up throughout the later half of 19th century. But the political process which was controlled by big business men and women hamstrung the socialist. Many of socialists broke ranks from their parties. And after rebuffing the entire political system they created anarchist groups throughout the country. Anarchist and socialist made up the labor unions to struggle against these inhuman activities of business persons.

“Eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.”- This demand was proclaimed by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, which later became the American Federation of Labor, at its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884. This revolution reached its high point on 1st may 1886. On that particular day, the first May day was celebrated. More than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. More than 40000 workers went on strike in Chicago. On 4th may 1886 a public meeting was called by some of the anarchists in Haymarket Square to discuss the police brutality. When the police were trying to break up that public assembly, a bomb was thrown when at the police. No one knows who threw that bomb. The police responded by firing on the workers, killing four demonstrators. Over one hundred years have passed since that first May Day. Although this protests in the U.S. didn’t lead to any immediate result, yet it helped establish the 8-hour work day norm in India and other countries in the world.

On May 1, 1923, the first Labour Day in India celebrated in Chennai. The initiative was taken by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan. No doubt the Labour Day is a special day on which workers celebrate their power and it gives an example of positive reformation but in India, we have still looked out workers of many industries struggling for their justice. Still we are fighting with major issues like child labour and inhuman activities by some major industries like Shivakashi fireworks. They are still struggling every day.

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