Labor Day

Scott Marshall Scott at rednet.org
Mon Sep 4 12:12:00 MDT 1995


Labor day has certainly been used by the ruling class to try and erase the
(made in the usa)international workers holiday - Mayday, *But*...... We
shouldn't let them have the last word. There is certainly room for more than
one day to celebrate Labor and the working class. In fact today millions of
US workers are participating in union organized activities all over the US,
including - strike support - Illinois war zone activities, Detroit newspaper
strike support activities - they shut the suckers (detroit newspaper
delivery trucks and printing plant) down for over twelve hours and it took
tons of cops to reopen them - rallies in defence of immigrants rights,
rallies for the reform slate in the AFL-CIO, etc etc etc.

Not to praticipate or to turn a haughty rrrevolutionary nose up at these
activities is wrong. That's why me and my ilk (or is that elk) have been out
getting out tens of thousands of PWW's and other Communist literature to
tens of thousands of labor activists around the country.

Follows an article on the *real* origins of Labor Day in the US:

**Whose Labor Day is it really? **

(This article is reprinted from the September 2. 1995 issue of
the **People's Weekly World**. For subscription information see
below. All rights reserved - may be used with PWW credits.)

"The dignity of labor will be realized when those who perform
honest toil stand  by one another." -- Matthew Maguire

By Fred Gaboury

Who founded Labor Day -- and what difference does it make?

Probably not much -- or does it? It's been 113 years since 25,000
workers from  53 unions marched through New York City's Union
Square in the nation's first  Labor Day parade on September 5,
1882. And it's been 101 years since President  Grover Cleveland
signed legislation making Labor Day an official holiday.

Most of us were taught -- to the extent that we were taught
anything about labor history -- that Peter J. McGuire was the
founder of Labor Day. But in 1968 the  International Association
of Machinists (IAM) challenged that version of  history.

The headline article of the Sept. 5, 1968 Machinist said, "It's
time to toast  the real Maguire," and went on to document the
claim that Matthew Maguire, a  machinist from Paterson, N.J., was
the real father of Labor Day.

W. Willard Wirtz, then secretary of labor, settled the matter at
the next IAM  convention. "There is no question as to who is the
father of Labor Day," he told the delegates, " ... so far as the
Department of Labor is concerned, he is Matt  Maquire, the
machinist."

But what difference does it make? Isn't it enough that there is a
Labor Day -- a day that recognizes the contributions of the
millions of working men and women  who create the nation's
wealth?

If all that's involved is setting history straight, we could end
here. But  there's more to history than great men and women.
There are also ideas -- and  history is the clash of ideas just
as it is the battle between classes --  between those who work
for a living and those live off those who work. And that  helps
to explain why, for nearly 75 years, Peter J. McGuire was passed
off as  the father of Labor Day.

According to Murray Zuckoff, whose research did much to
straighten the  historical record, Maguire was a socialist -- a
special kind of socialist. As  Zuckoff put it, Maguire was "a man
deeply imbued with the ideas of Marx." In  today's world he would
probably be a member of the Communist Party.

That -- Maguire's deep commitment to socialism as a follower of
Karl Marx -- was enough to send shivers up the spine of America's
ruling elite and their  supporters in the leadership of the labor
movement. Thus, as they saw it, the  need to find a "founder" for
Labor Day: someone not "tainted" as an advocate of  socialism --
a society based on common ownership of the means of producing
wealth and distributing it, a society where those who create the
wealth share  equitably in the fruits of their labor.

That person was Peter J. McGuire, conservative head of New York's
Carpenters  Union, who once urged "the propriety" of setting
aside a day for labor at a New  York Central Labor Union meeting.
After that it was easy -- and McGuire stood  beside the president
as Cleveland made it official in 1894.

Only the capitalists -- the class workers call "the Bosses" or
"Big Business" -- benefit from division in the ranks of workers.
Thus the development of "divide  and rule" -- a tactic the
capitalist class here has refined to the nth degree.

Part of that tactic is to keep the U.S. working class and its
unions separated  from the world working class movement and from
the ideas of socialists and  Communists. That is why, when the
powers that be finally acceded to the workers' demands for a
national holiday recognizing labor, they set it for September
while workers in other countries celebrate their holiday on May
Day.

In this way, American workers were further separated from their
brothers and  sisters in other countries -- a tragedy made even
more tragic because it was AFL President Samuel Gompers who asked
the international labor movement, at that  time led by associates
of Karl Marx, to establish an international day of labor
solidarity to commemorate the May 1, 1886 strike by American
workers for an  8-hour day!

Another essential of "divide and rule" is to deny people their
heritage, to  convince them that things have always been the way
they are and that nothing can -- or need -- be done about it.

Another way is to deny or distort the contributions that
syndicalists like "Big  Bill" Haywood, socialists like Eugene V.
Debs and Communists like William Z.  Foster, Elizabeth Gurley
Flynn and Gus Hall made to the struggles of American  workers.
And, when it comes to Labor Day, create and perpetuate the myth
that  someone -- anybody but a socialist -- was the father of
Labor Day.

Without the men and women who shared a vision of a just society,
where no person could profit from the work of another -- without
the struggles they led and the  ideas they fought for -- the
American labor movement and, for that matter,  American society
would be much different from what it is today.
##30##

Scott


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