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Carl Davis

What Labor Day ’43 Means to the Workers

(August 1943)

From Labor Action, Vol. 7 No. 35, 30 August 1943, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

There was a time when the American labor movement celebrated May 1 as the holiday of all who toil. May Day was a tradition of labor struggle. It emphasized the fact that the American working class had to fight for its right to organize and for all the gains it had won in wages, hours and conditions of work.

It was to counteract the militant working class spirit of its marching legions on May Day that the government, acting jointly with big business and reactionary labor leaders, set aside the first Monday in September as a labor holiday.

Thus Labor Day has become a traditional “day of rest.” But more important than that, it has become a symbol of labor docility, of collaboration with the bosses, of everything that weakens and hurts the working class.

It is the day when government officials pat labor on the back and then warn the workers to be good slaves, not to fight profits, not to resist their bosses, not to demand higher wages, shorter hours or better working conditions.

It is a day when reactionary bosses and hard-fisted industrialists say hello to the men in overalls and thank them for their labors, cautioning them to be good slaves and to resist any desire to change their conditions of existence.

It is a day when reactionary labor leaders plead with the workers not to be trouble-makers by fighting for their rights, and thus upsetting the “good” relations which exist between “capital and labor.”

The whole atmosphere of Labor Day is repugnant. It is against the best traditions and the best interests of labor. It is the perpetuation of a lie that the workers can improve their lot by being quiet, agreeable mules.

Since the war broke out, labor has received one blow after another.

Wages have been frozen.

Jobs have been frozen.

More than half of the working class exists on a wage of under thirty dollars a week!

Hours of work have been lengthened. Conditions of labor have worsened to the point where industrial accidents far exceed war casualties.

The cost of living is far beyond the ability of the workers to meet it.

Price control and price rollbacks have become a bitter joke!

On the other side of the ledger we find war profiteering without a let-up.

We find the growth of new war millionaires.

We find cost-plus contracts which further enrich the rich. There are no real limits to profits. There are no limits to salaries!

In addition to the frightful situation on the home front, there is the war – a wasteful, destructive and purposeless feature of a decaying capitalist system.

Labor Day 1943 brings home the point: There is need for a change of our society. Socialism is a necessity.

It would destroy the capitalist system wherein one class is enriched by exploiting the majority.

We need socialism because the means of life, the factories, mines, mills and land would belong to the people!

We need socialism because production of the necessities of life would be for the use of the people instead of the profit of a few.

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Last updated on 13 June 2015