S. Jugeshwor Singh
Every year, the 1st May is being celebrated as “The International Worker’s Day “or May Day to commemorate Hay Market Affairs in Chicago throughout the World. The Haymarket affairs (also known as Haymarket massacre, Haymarket riots) was the aftermath of a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on4th May 1886 at Haymarket Square in Chicago.It began as a peaceful rally for an eight hour work day demand by the working class people. The day after police killed eight workers, an unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at the police as they acted to disperse the meeting and the bomb blast ,ensuing gunfire resulted the death of seven police officers and at least four civilians ; dozens of others were wounded. In the late 19th century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hours a day in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were common place at many work place and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle & Jack”, London’s “The Iron Heel”. As early as the 1860s, working people agitated to shorten the working day without cut in pay, but it wasn’t until the late 1880s that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8- hour work day. This proclamation was without the 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 benefited only their bosses, trading workers lives for profit. Thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the work place ,with life expectancy as low as their early twenties in some industries and little hope but death of rising out of their destitution. Socialism offered another option. A variety of Socialist organizations sprung up throughout the latter half of 19thcentury, ranging from political parties to choir groups. In fact, many socialists were elected into governmental office by their constituency. Butagain, many of these socialists were ham-strung by the political process which was so evidently controlled by big business and the bi- partisan political machine. Tens of thousands of socialists broke their ranks from their parties rebuffed the entire political process which was seen nothing more than protection for the wealthy and createdanarchist groups throughout the country. Literally thousands of working people embraced the ideas of anarchism, which sought to put an end to all hierarchal structure ( including government) emphasized worker controlled industry and valued direct action over the bureaucratic political process. It is inaccurate to say that labor unions were taken over by anarchists and socialists but rather anarchists and socialist made up the labor unions.
The International Worker’s day has been observing on every 1st of May every year for the last 128 years. This year is the 128thobservance. In India this was first started in 1923. For the first time Labor Kisan Party of India observed this at Madras (PresentChennai). In Manipur it was first observed under the leadership of Jana NetaIrabot on 1st May 1939 as per AITUC May Day observation committee. In Manipur too, this year, the day is being observed by All Manipur Trade Union Council (AMTUC), JACof All Manipur government Employee Organization (AMGEO),Imphal Municipal Employee Union, Consumers Affairs Food & Public Distribution Labor’s welfare Association, Socialist Students Union of Manipur, All Manipur Progressive Farmers’ Association etc. Still today, indiscriminate treatment to many workers in various part of the world continues. Fundamental rights of labor / workers are continued to forfeit. In many big industries, factories, hotels, labor / workers are still used as 3rd class citizens exploiting all their rights. Wages for the workers are paid at the lowest possible. The minimum wage fixed by government of Manipur for the working class is still in a deplorable state which is not at all conformable with the present day market index. At the same time Union as well as state government classified human being having same qualification&caliber as regular employee & contract or adhoc or master roll employee etc by giving a sea difference salaries. Many of para – government employee are not paid their remuneration timely in spite of delivering their tireless duties. During a media discussion in a local TV channel on May Day 2019, Manipur Building & Other Construction Workers Welfare Federation reported that about 1.3 lakhs workers have been registered to the Manipur Building & construction Workers Welfare Board which is under labor Department Govt. of Manipur, out of which benefit permissible to the workers have been given to few of them for the year ending 2015. What about 2016 to 2018? At the same time, out of 1.3 Lakhs registered workers only 26,106 workers claimed their permissible benefit as per labor Dept. It may be due to the lack of awareness among the workers, but a question arise at this point of time that who is responsible to give awareness to the workers? State government is declaring this day as general and public holiday to enable the labor / worker to observe this day successfully with a meaning. However a big question is-whether government of Manipur has taken up all the possible welfare for its employees or not? It is also pertinent that even labor laws are framed but it’s still not properly enacted. Therefore it’s the voice of the people that government needs to take up the necessary actions to overcome the problems faced by the employees & labors/ workers. By simply observing May Day on every 1st May without taking up serious steps for the welfare & benefit of workers,will not have any meaning & significance of May Day.