The Meaning and Origin of Labor Day

THE PEOPLE
SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 2005
VOL. 115 NO. 3

Labor Day

50 Years Ago --

THE MEANING AND ORIGIN OF LABOR DAY

(WEEKLY PEOPLE, Sept. 3, 1955)

American Labor Day -- the first Monday in September -- is traditionally a day for buttering up the American workers and telling them about the wonderful gains they are supposed to be making under the capitalist system. This is a logical use of Labor Day. The holiday is not something labor wrested from capital through struggle. On the contrary, it represents a gift handed to the workers free, gratis and for nothing by the capitalist politicians.

This is how Labor Day became a legal holiday: The labor fakers of the AFL had pleaded in vain with the politicians to given them a legal holiday. Then, in 1889, the Founding Congress of the Socialist International declared the first of May a day for workers in all countries to demonstrate for the eight-hour day and proclaim their class solidarity. Shortly thereafter several state legislatures made the September Labor Day -- which symbolizes the falsehood that capital and labor are brothers -- a legal holiday, and in 1894 Congress made it a national holiday. September Labor Day was meant as an antidote for labor's own May Day.

Ever since the first Labor Day the "organized" workers have furnished "captive" audiences for capitalist politicians posing as "friends of labor." Indeed, for the labor fakers who run the job-trust unions, Labor Day long ago became an occasion for displaying their voting cattle and for making political deals. Labor Day was inspired by the fear that the workers, heeding the message of socialism, might wake up to their true status as wage slaves. It is logical, therefore, that it be used to keep labor in capitalist blinders.