By Jerry Mazza
crossposted at Online Journal
August 21, 2009
Oh my god, can it really be, a socialist holiday looking to dim our barbecues, to cast the shadow of wild-eyed bomb-throwers over our endless good times, the end of our endless summer and future? Well, perhaps it all has to do more with our real past!
As Wikipedia tells us, Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September (on September 7 in 2009). The holiday originated in 1882 as the Central Labor Union of New York City sought to create “a day off for the working citizens.” Congress made Labor Day a federal holiday on June 28, 1894, two months after the May Day Riots of 1894. May 4 was chosen to remember the Haymarket Affair. All 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state holiday. Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer.”
“The May Day Riots of May 1894,” if you must know, “were a series of violent demonstrations that occurred throughout Cleveland, Ohio on May 1, 1894. May Day, in many countries is synonymous with International Workers’ Day, or Labor Day, a day of political demonstrations and celebrations organised by the unions and socialist groups. Cleveland’s unemployment rate increased dramatically during the Panic of 1893. Finally, riots broke out among the unemployed who condemned city leaders for their ineffective relief measures.” So, Labor Day is not just about the symbolic end of the summer. It’s about the trials and tribulations of American Labor.
Labor Day was born in the heart of US labor unrest, mostly in the heartland states, of Ohio and Illinois, far from the so-called liberal bastions of New York and Boston. This is just to remind you that the next time somebody uses “socialism” as a bad, anti-American word to describe single-payer healthcare, they’re full of misinformation, not to mention some Blue Dog bile and Repuglican vileness. As I pointed out in Defining socialism and single-payer health care, these are very important pieces of American history to keep in mind.
Unfortunately, like the merry boozing that occurs on Labor Day in celebration of reasons everyone has forgotten in the larger narcolepsy of American history, the May Day Riots were not exactly a start-of-summer get together. Wiki describes them as “The Haymarket affair (also known as the Haymarket riot or Haymarket massacre) was a disturbance that took place on Tuesday May 4, 1886, at the Haymarket Square in Chicago, and began as a rally in support of striking workers. An unknown person threw a bomb at police as they dispersed the public meeting. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of eight police officers and an unknown number of civilians. In the internationally publicized legal proceedings that followed, eight anarchists were tried for murder. Four were put to death, and one committed suicide in prison.
“The Haymarket affair is generally considered to have been an important influence on the origin of international May Day observances for workers. In popular literature, this event inspired the caricature of ‘a bomb-throwing anarchist.’ The causes of the incident are still controversial, although deeply polarized attitudes separating business and working class people in late 19th century Chicago are generally acknowledged as having precipitated the tragedy and its aftermath. The site of the incident was designated as a Chicago Landmark on March 25, 1992. The Haymarket Martyrs’ Monument in nearby Forest Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark on February 18, 1997.”
So, it wasn’t just a group of slavering “socialists” out there on May Day or on Labor’s Celebratory Day, the highlight of one of summer’s biggest holidays. It was about Labor fighting for its rights to decent wages, fair treatment, decent working conditions and not being treated as so many felons by the Chicago or Cleveland aristocracy and their bought politicos and cops. It was about bloody fighting over the rights of working people against the rich. Am I preaching “class conflict?” My dears I don’t have to preach “class conflict.” To this day, we as Americans live with its worst effects every day.
Those include those outsourcing of millions of American jobs by multi-national corporations who would care less about the American workers and consumers who built and fed their companies growth, like GM or Chrysler or Ford. In fact, Chairman Henry Ford laid down his cardinal rule, “I want to build cars that people working on my assembly line can afford.” He must be rolling over in his grave now at what one of his or any of Detroit’s fleet cost the working man. But the offenses against labor are far more egregious than that. Labor is blamed for adding thousands of dollars to each car because the corporations have had to pay for health care and even, my god, retirement pensions.
Those families that worked for generations for the Big Three, donating their sweat and blood during the good times, building an incredible war machine to fight the Nazis on the turn of a dime in the 1940s, aided and abetted by all the Rosy the Riveters of the US, who supplanted their husbands gone off to war, some to return, some not, some practically unrecognizably. Those are people who have been forgotten by the numbers boys, and I use the term “boys” decidedly. They are the starch-shirted, flashy-tie, white collar boys, what with their computers, spread sheets, who know the price of everything and the value of nothing, especially not of American Labor.
They would like to re-enslave labor, push it back to the 19th century, to the wage-earning levels of the slave-labor nations of the world. That is their free market’s goal, make no mistake about it. And so not only do they heckle about the cost of labor care, which is not what makes them uncompetitive but the lack of understanding what the basic consumer wants in a car, mileage, durability, green technology. Instead they will throw out one fantasy car after another into the market place, from Hummers to Escalades, looking for the fat fast buck. And they get back a pie in the face, as the Japanese, Koreans, even Europeans get another share of their dwindling market.
And not only have these same geniuses taken down the American auto industry, but the cities in which they were built, from Flint and Detroit, Michigan, to Tarrytown, New York, onwards. Nor is it just the auto industry. More and more, we have allowed these multi-national corporations to toss aside American labor and its products, for slave labor products. We have allowed our manufacturing infrastructure to be raped and pillaged by Wall Street’s bottom line boys, who neither know nor care about its necessity. They are too young to remember the sacrifices, the bloodshed and the fights for workers’ rights. They think Labor Day is celebrated for being the last day of summer.
Well, if we let it pass just one more time without reversing these effects, without providing Americans with a single-payer health care plan, we will once more squander the “double the money-per-capita” that we spend for the very worst healthcare among the industrial countries. Fortunately, the greed and avarice of those countries don’t extend into the very heart of their existence. They maintain the wellness of their citizens, their workers, the flesh and blood of their fellow men. These Wall Street boys, snot-noses with million dollar bonuses and more coming, don’t know tough times, or shit from a hole in the wall for that matter. And there is a huge hole in our Treasury, a vortex through which billions, trillions, of our dollars, our resources have been recently siphoned to build another market bubble in order to declare the “recession over.” Well, it ain’t over, darlings. Nor will it be until we set things straight.
That would include eliminating the Fed, which for all practical purposes operates on its own, spending, printing our taxpayer money to finance this bubble, just to make their sorry asses look good. Bernanke is the pits. Geithner is the pits. Larry Summers is the pits. Obama is in wonderland, lacking a clue. In fact, maybe we need to remind these boys what exactly Americans think of them, and their Wall Street, their casino market, their derivatives, their subprime paper, their continuing issuance of outrageous bonuses, their bought Congress. Let’s tell them emphatically to keep their hands off of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Benefits, all single-payer health plans. And mainly to keep for-profit insurance companies’ hands off of our American healthcare or else. Go insure some more Silverstein terrorists.
The “or else” would be to face those same kinds of spontaneous riots that wracked the Mid-West of industrial America in the 19th century, only on a much larger scale, adjusted for population. They just kind of happened when people realized they were being screwed over. They can and should just happen again to sound a wake-up call to the five and 10 and 20 percenters currently running our country today. I would suggest you all do a little bit of educating. Tell your kids what Labor Day is all about, and why it’s called Labor Day. Tell them there’s no such disgusting thing as Corporate Day, or Multi-National Day, or Blood-Sucking Bottom-Liners’ Day, because we have those everyday and have come to abhor them.
And when it comes to fireworks time, tell the kids the fireworks go back to the revolution, and are symbolic of our forefathers battling elitist King George’s fleets in our harbors, trying to impose a way of life that just didn’t sit right with us. Today the elites call it A New World Order. Back then it was the good old freewheeling, take-what-you-want British Empire. Well, we don’t want it again, so take it back, whoever you are, 2009’s elites, because we are not going to take it any more.
Now, you may say to this, that so many jobs have been lost, and people are so down, they don’t have the heart or stomach for rioting like our forefathers did, or rejecting that band of brigands called Congress or a political system that can’t deliver anything but the same old crap. And I would add that political power, as you know, does not come out of a mouth blowing wind. Fighting back worked in the 19th century. It will work in the 21st to bring a more equitable distribution of wealth for the working and middle classes. As my college motto stated, “Nile Sine Magno Labore,” translated: “Nothing without great labor,” which includes a country.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at email@example.com. read his new book, “State Of Shock: Poems from 9/11 on” at www.jerrymazza.com, Amazon or Barnesandnoble.com.
Dennis Kucinich: Audit the Federal Reserve (H.R. 2424)
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