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A resurrection of Workers’ Day

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The Billboard outside the offices of our Trades Unions should say boldly:

ONCE, WE WERE ACTIVE

AND MILITANT

WORKERS’ ORGANIZATIONS;

NOW, PASSIVE AND

MENDICANT OFFICES.

Twenty or so years ago, our Trades Unions were vocal and adamant, as they fought the cause of their memberships; they were part of the street forces in defence of Democracy; they seemed eager to induce regime change; and they welcomed that change happily. Today, apart from one or two abnormal instances, there is no out front champion of the workers’ cause. Our people wait in vain to hear THE distinct working class voice speak and analyse our progress and our crises.

Meanwhile, imported diseases like gun toting, ‘lotto’ and movie violence eat away the consciousness and moral tissue of our workers and youth. A clear sign that the workers’ self-esteem is fading fast is the status of Workers’ Day, or Labour Day. It is becoming like Easter Monday and Whit Monday, just another recreation day without any specific meaning and challenge that penetrate the community.{{more}}

Along this path, in another 20 years, there may not even be a funeral when Workers’ Day is put to rest.

The workers’ organizations need to take themselves to a clinic and analyse their strengths, weaknesses etc as industry organizations, whether in the utilities, or the hospitality or public services. Workers have to recognize also that they are a class network, and an indispensable partner with others who make up the society. In a different direction, some fundamental groups, like farmers, and young unemployeds, must really throw off their mentality of “Bottom of the heap is our place to be”. We cannot get away from this fact: the working people in our society are in need of a new self-definition, a new grasp of history and a fresh inspiration. A new path as a class. How else will they become workers who respect the fact that others have won a day for them to be proud of? How else will Labour Day each year become a festival of appreciation and celebration and anticipation?

LOOKING FURTHER BACK

Workers’ Day was born because working people bound themselves together as a fighting force against the owners of industry in modern imperial society. The owners wanted to squeeze out and hold on to every last dollar from the labour power of workers. One sticking point was to limit how many hours the employers could take from workers legally for a week of work. “No more than 40 hours” was the workers’ position, and they stuck to that in militant and pain-filled and successful walkout and protest. The owners of industry retreated. In our Caribbean case, the class war that our ancestors faced and won took place on a brutish colonial battlefield. Some of the war fronts were the British policy of extermination-expropriation-exile against the original peoples; then there was the importing of African people as for-cash commodities, but used for slaved extortion of labour power. The population was segregated into upper and lower classes and races/species, and unlimited sexploitation was normal. These were the conditions that our working ancestors went through. Their triumphs in that uneven European colonial slave economy present our working people today with a legacy of broken bodies, short life spans and collective psychoses.

Through their undying struggles though, we face our battles on a higher platform. Their God was for them, and they helped create the day that we enjoy today. Now, we have our turn to build on their foundations. Workers’ Day, or Labour Day is our Upliftment Day to celebrate and to emulate our parents, while we move onwards to a culmination of all labour struggles.

A FRESH SOLIDARITY

Four major Trades Unions embrace the organized working people in SVG. They are soft spoken and our media houses do not interview or interfere with them to inform us of the situation of our workers. The Union which represents teachers does undertake some media presentations, and in my view provides more visible services for its members. There is the yearly August professional and social development workshop; there is a ‘Remember November’ week of activities, which includes an education based lecture; there is a fairly transparent convention programme, when leadership matters are settled, and they may well have other member involving services and projects that are ‘industry based’. As a start, is it wise to suggest that other trades unions also become more exposing and member friendly? Might the teachers consider using Labour Day as the Remember our History of Struggle Day instead of the November date, and will all the unions make common cause next 1st of May in a significant set of activities? Imagine if today’s workers could take hold of August 1st in honour of the exterminated, enslaved and indentured working people. A coalition of culture workers, history students and scholars can take on this project to pollinate and stimulate our Kalinago-Garifuna, African, Indian, Madeiran and Dorsetshire Hill worker heritage to turn August into a national cultural and class solidarity festival. It would damage the old colonial monument of division and distrust among us. Workers Day, the day when the working class sector begins to give social leadership, rather than be the tail end of things, is a day to look forward to and dream our ancestors’ dream. A social resurrection.

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