Summary: This is a flyer produced by a rank-and-file worker in India in response to the commemoration of May Day.
The struggle to reduce working hours is going on in many countries, including Norway, Finland and other countries in Europe, while working hours have been reduced in Chile and Iceland. But in India many laborers are being forced to work twelve hours a day instead of eight.
We must never compromise our principles or forget our ultimate goals. Today unemployment is increasing, yet many employers are forcing laborers to work much more than eight hours a day. Companies are imposing a new method of enslavement, in which laborers live, eat and work for twelve hours a day for the company, virtually cutting them off from contact with the outside world. They are allowed to leave the workplace only to obtain essential needs like rations, vegetables etc.
Despite this situation, May Day is presented today with great fanfare, in the form of a festival. Nowhere do we see the purpose for which the workers of Chicago fought to create May Day in 1886. It seems clear that while celebrating May Day in a festive manner, labor organizations [in India] have forgotten its goals, compromised with their principles, and neglected the ultimate destination of workers’ struggles.
Admittedly, May Day was not a completely socialist event, but it definitely laid the foundation for socialist movements. So how did mistakes occur in the movement that led May Day to lose its way? To discover what this mistake is, we must enter into the bowels of the workers’ movement.
When we do so the politicization and commercialization of unions becomes evident. Unions have become part of the system instead of being grounded in the workers. One recent example was the strike of the defense workers at the S.T. Corporation, in which the interests of the workers was betrayed by the union that claimed to lead them.
The Marxist perspective, which insists on never compromising the interests of the working class, has been compromised by false consciousness. This false consciousness has taken the form of cults that are not grounded in a body of ideas. The movement has found itself transformed into many sects, with each one trying to prove itself right. They are lacking any kind of ideology. These separate sects, created by other sects, have moved away from the main objective of May Day—the unity of the working class!
There is a rule in Brahminism—do what I say, but don’t look at what I do. The same disease has engulfed the leaders and organizations of the workers. This is where thought and practice diverge. When any leader fights for reducing working hours, many workers are very happy, but when the same leader allows for more overtime, he works against them; as a result, workers stay away from such leaders and their organizations. Separating action and thought is the capitalist way, whereas working for a unity of thought and action is the Marxist way. This is the lesson we learned from the workers of Chicago who in the nineteenth century helped give birth to May Day.
The perspective laid down by Marx in his work in the First International was to unite the workers because he understood that only through such organized unity of workers around the world is it possible to combat all-powerful capitalism.
Let’s stick to our principles and keep our ultimate destination front and center. This is the message May Day. The Workers of the world should unite!