Monday, May 6, 2013

Labour, The Wealth of Nations

Labour was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labour, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased                                                    -Adam Smith

The first day of the fifth month, May 1, is celebrated as International Labour Day. It is, at its heart, a celebration of man’s ability to produce, his ability to chose, his ability to think. Man is the only animal capable of barter. He can exchange his time, his labour, for the fruit of another’s.

Throughout history, the labour movement has been one of the prime movements in the world. The Peasant Revolt in England during the middle-ages was in demand of better wages. It became prominent during the Industrial Revolution during the 19th century in Europe. Labour rights as part of the human rights slowly evolved as an idea after the formation of labour unions. Karl Marx is one of the more prominent champions of workers’ rights. His economic theory and philosophy was aimed at an economic system of socialism, and a society ruled by the workers.

The International Labour Organisation was formed in 1919 as a part of the League of Nations. It was later incorporated in the United Nations. Labour Rights became a part of Human Rights officially, when it was included in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights :

Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Article 24.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
In recent years, labour rights are aimed at workers' safety, equal pay for equal work and abolishing of child labour. The celebration has become routine, mainly by left and socialist trade unions. It has become symbolic, rather than a reaffirmation of commitment.

History of May Day:

International Workers' Day is the commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago. The police were trying to disperse a public assembly during a general strike for the eight-hour workday, when an unidentified person threw a bomb at them. The police reacted by firing on the workers, killing four demonstrators. Reliable witnesses testified that all the pistol flashes came from the center of the street, where the police were standing, and none from the crowd. Moreover, initial newspaper reports made no mention of firing by civilians. A telegraph pole at the scene was filled with bullet holes, all coming from the direction of the police. In 1889, the first congress of the Second International, meeting in Paris for the centennial of the French Revolution and the Exposition Universelle, following a proposal by Raymond Lavigne, called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests. May Day was formally recognized as an annual event at the International's second congress in 1891.         -Wikipedia

History of May Day in India:

The Labour Kisan party has introduced May Day celebrations in Chennai. Comrade Singaravelar presided over the meeting. A resolution was passed stating that the government should declare May Day as a holiday.The president of the party explained the non-violent principles of the party. There was a request for financial aid. It was emphasized that workers of the world must unite to achieve independence                          -The Hindu, 1923

Some of the detractors of the socialists and labour movements claim that these movements are actually limiting the freedom to work. But the question is, if it weren't for such movements, would you have been that free? Superior intellect has nothing to do with recognizing another person's freedom  Aristotle probably thought slavery was OK, even necessary. It takes a mass movement, a sort of spring cleaning of the mass psyche, to alter the mindset.

May Day is, to quote President Thomas Whitmore from Independence Day: " the day the world declared in one voice: "We will not go quietly into the night!" We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!"

No comments:

Post a Comment