Thursday, May 1, 2008

Comradely Greetings On May 1

America is the birthplace of May Day. In 1886, violent labour unrest , culminating in the Haymarket affair resulted in the deaths of several people, including policemen. At that time, it was commonplace to use deadly force against striking workers. The Haymarket square rally was called to protest a demonstration the day before in which four workers were killed.
I was fortunate enough to have relatives and friends who shared with me what life was like in the early days of the labour movement. My uncle of blessed memory got a job at the age of twelve working in the mines. One of his responsibilities was bringing up body parts from underground explosive accidents. My grandfather lived at a time that workers cast their votes under scrutiny of a company watchman who made sure that the company candidate got the worker's votes.
Upton Sinclair's book "The Jungle" described workplace conditions around the turn of the century. The book leaves no doubt that workers need organised advocacy.
May Day was unfortunately hijacked by the communist movement. May Day should have been a holiday to celebrate the sacrifices of our ancestors in securing protection for their descendants in the workplace. For years, it was synonymous in the minds of Americans with communism, which simply dresses up fascism in a new jargon and red drapery. Workers in communist countries feared their employers and the police much as did American workers in Chicago of 1886.
Since communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, it seems that big business in America has done its best to recreate the disenchantment that radicalised hundreds of thousands of Americans in the 1930's.
Wages in many fields have not kept up with inflation. Real estate prices have ballooned to the point that workers are often enslaved to mortgages that keep them running a rapid treadmill to remain stationary. Renters and homeowners alike find themselves in a modern day serfdom.
In 1886, strikebreakers had to be physically brought in to replace ungrateful workers. Now, many positions are filled over fiber optic lines by customer service representatives, programmers and others who need only hit the "SEND" button on their computer screen to deliver a day of cheap labour.
Health Insurance is a chaotic patchwork of private fiefdoms where insurance companies dodge their responsibilities like deadbeat dads. Though America leads the world in pharmaceutical research, the fruits of new drug development strain the wallets of many who have poor insurance or none at all.
With communism out of the way, many big companies act like a suitor who having won his bride's hand in marriage lounges about in a dirty tee shirt crumpling beer cans and tossing them on the carpet.
Some things in life have improved. The loan sharks dress much nicer. Usury has been wiped out by legalising it. Payday loan companies late penalties, interest rate hikes buried in legalese. The head of your bank will get a multi million dollar end of year bonus. The customer care specialist might earn $150.00 a month.
What is a solution for this litany of problems? Marxism has been tried as a medicine for society's ills . It is more like thalidomide than penicillin, with a body count that would put to shame some of history's bloodiest tyrants.
The manner in which America's wage base is being eroded is ultimately degrading our currency and threatening the well being of America's financial elite. Workers need managers and bosses. And business owners can accomplish nothing without workers. A job is a relationship. There are good, rewarding and mutually beneficial relationships . There are also destructive and exploitative relationships. Many Americans are in bad business relationships. There is free choice on both sides of the equation. Thrift on one side and ethical business behaviour could go a long way.
Like bad spouses, some people don't learn. American workers need to organise. Boycott lenders who are harsh with their borrowers. Boycott those who mistreat their workers. Buy from companies that treat their workers well. Try to build a world in which good behaviour is valued and rewarded. There is such a thing as intelligent collective strength as opposed to mob rule.
May First should be America's Labour Day. It should be a day that we honour the struggle of workers and recognise that this struggle continues. It should also be a day that we remember the millions of victims of communism Finally, it should be a day of respect for those who dare to invest in a workplace and dare to treat their workers properly. Business and labour are humanity's chance to build an ideal society, a G-dly society. Its up to us. Happy May First.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe Pictures in Public Domain

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