Labour Day 2013

September 2, 2013 at 1:05 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

May Day, the international workers’ holiday, remembers the Haymarket Martyrs and the struggle for the eight-hour day. Labour Day (OK, Labor Day in the U.S.) remembers…er….what exactly?

True, the Knights of Labor sought that day as a holiday, and in Toronto as early as the 1870s, there had been labour celebrations in September, but it has a somewhat anemic feel to it. Ask most people, and you’ll hear it’s the last long weekend of summer; the saddest day of the year (my kids and no doubt their teachers), the final day of the Ex (Toronto and surrounding area only), a good day to shop in the U.S.

As I write these words, trade unionists are gathering downtown for the parade.  It’s likely that this year the parade will be a little larger as it comes as the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers  unions have merged to form Unifor (possibly the worst union name ever – did someone leave the last letter off of the stationary and they decided to go with it?).  But it will be more of the same.

Once upon a time, the cry was “organize the Unorganized.”  Now it’s “protect the dues base.” After his election as Unifor’s first leader Jerry Dias took an apparently hard-line where he stated that if management didn’t listen, the unions would stop playing defensive. It’s hard to know what to make of that if you take the unions as defence organizations of the working class rhetoric seriously. Although if, as say former CAW Buzz Hargrove did, see the unions as being a part of the machinery that makes the economy run smoothly, it makes a little more sense.

Not a reform. Not a fair day’s wage. A fundamental change is necessary.

Almost a half century ago, the Situationist International asked, “How do people make history  under conditions pre-established to dissuade them from intervening in it?” (“The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy”)

Over a century earlier, Marx noted the revolutionary daring,

I am nothing and I should be everything.

(Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right)

Not a bad place to begin.


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