Labour Day

Labour Day, synonymous with International Workers’ Day is celebrated the world over on 1st May to commemorate the contribution of the Labour union movement, especially their stand on 8 hrs day movement which advocated eight hours every day for work, eight hours every day for recreation and daily life and eight hours for sleep which started on this day in the year 1886. This demand was met with stiff opposition and, general strike and riot ensued in Haymarket but eventually after a long-standing struggle and innumerable loss of lives, the eight hour work day was officially sanctioned. The spot in Haymarket where the massacre occurred has been designated as a Chicago landmark in 1992.

It took years of further struggle, imprisonments, death sentences that in 1916, U.S finally had to succumb to recognize the eight hour work timings amidst much uproar and uprising. The Second International had decreed in 1889 that hence onwards 1st May shall be commemorated as International Workers’ Day. In some countries, like U.S (first Monday of September) and Ireland (where it is celebrated on the first Monday of May), it may be celebrated on another date having special significance, rooted in the culture of that particular country for the labour class.

Labour Day is basically celebrated to recognise and acknowledge the concerted efforts of the labour and trade union movement to improve the economic and social status of the working class.

In India, as in most other countries on the world map, the 1st May date is used to celebrate this day with a public holiday. It is also referred to as the ‘Antarrashtriya Shramik Diwas’ or ‘Kamgar Din’. The Labour Day upholds the triumph of the trade unions over the exploitation by the capitalist class who made the workers work up to 15 hrs a day in the 19th century, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. However, the long drawn struggle of the trade union ultimately yielded positive result and the eight hour labour movement came into existence along with paid leaves, proper wages and breaks for the workforce.

The first Labour Day in India was held in the year 1923, organised by the then Labour Kisan Party and helmed by Comrade Singaravelar in Chennai (then Madras) at two different spots in Triplicane Beach and at the Beach opposite Madras High Court. The Comrade who was much respected and revered for his fight for the backward classes passed a resolution stating that Labour Day must be recognized as a public holiday by the State in memory of the struggle of the working class to secure their rightful status

In Communist countries, this day holds an even larger significance especially in countries like erstwhile U.S.S.R, China, North Korea and Cuba where the day is used to take a stand by the various Socialist and Communist groups. This is a cause close to the heart of socialists and communists all across the globe and a public holiday of much relevance to the labour rights’ activists. 1st May, holds the key to the empowerment of the workers’ struggle and their ultimate acknowledgement and triumph.

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