International Workers Day-Let the focus be on the Unorganized Workers

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By Dr. Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle
Bellevision Media Network

01 May 2011: Every year since 1891, May 1 has been observed as International Workers Day, also known as International Labour Day or May Day. Over the years there has been gradual improvement in the condition of the working class due to labour or trade unions which could organize the workers and agitate for better wages and condition of work. Though to a large extent the condition of the organized workers has improved, there are still millions of unorganized workers and daily wage earners in urban and rural sectors who toil hard for their daily existence. It is important for the governments and organizations to focus on these unorganized sectors and get a better deal for these unfortunate workers.



The emergence of the working class can be traced to the beginning of the Industrial revolution in the mid-eighteenth century and its progress later. As the Industrial revolution in Europe and later in other countries of the world advanced, the workers in the factories and industries had to put in long hours of work for meager wages and their living conditions were quite pathetic. The workers were under the mercy of the factory owners who exploited the workers. Gradually, the workers began to organize themselves in trade or labour unions and initiated a struggle for better wages, lesser working hours per day and decent living conditions. All these efforts of the workers eventually led to the overall improvement and May 1 came to be celebrated as the International Workers Day, a day to celebrate the struggles of the working class and oppressed peoples.


Iternational Workers’ Day is the commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, when Chicago police fired during a general strike of  workers who were demanding the eight hour workday. In this firing several demonstrators were killed and also several police officers, largely from friendly fire. In 1889, the first congress of the Second International, meeting in Paris for the centennial of the French Revolution, 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. Thus, the international workers movement adopted May 1 as a day of struggle and it is widely celebrated around the world.



The twentieth century witnessed the rise of communist ideology  as a result of the philosophy propounded by Karl Marx (Marxism) which highlighted the fact that the workers have been exploited by the capitalists and the workers of the world should unite as they have nothing to lose but their chains. The communist ideology became an instrument of revolution in Russia in 1917that led to the overthrow of the Tsarist regime and establishment of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ (working class). Similar revolutions broke out in China, East Eurropean countries and in Cuba. In these countries May 1 became a symbol of the power of the working class and the International Workers Day came to be celebrated with grandeur and show of military might of these countries. However, the communist regimes could not survive in Russia and east European countries and by 1990s these countries became free from oppressive communist regimes.



Even in India, the labour movement emerged during the national movement. A number of socialist and communist leaders tried to organize the working class in large cities such as Mumbai, Madras (Chennai), Calcutta, Delhi and elsewhere. Even Mahatma Gandhi took up the cause of the textile workers in Ahmedabad.


In Mumbai, the working class movement was led by some eminent leaders such as P. D’Mello, S.A. Dange, George Fernandes and Datta Samant. It was chiefly due to their organizing capacity, powerful oratory and negotiating tactics that workers in many factories and companies began to get better wages and service conditions.



Since recent few years, though the workers in organized sector are in a better position in terms of wages and other facilities, there are many workers in small scale industries and unorganized sector who still languish due to exploitation and lack of better condition of work. Hence, on the International Workers Day, it important to focus the attention on such workers who are still at the mercy of their ‘masters’.


In 1955, the Roman catholic Church dedicated May 1 to ‘Saint Joseph The Worker’. The Catholic Church considers Saint Joseph the patron saint of  workers, craftsmen and immigrants.



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