May Day

    MABUHAY ANG uring manggagawa!

    Sahod itaas! Presyo ibaba!

    Cries as old as capitalism itself reverberated across the country anew Monday, with the addition of relatively newer hugot lines – End ENDO now! Wakasan ang lahat ng uri ng kontraktualisasyon!

    But for the total absence of violence once intrinsic in the celebration of the day – heads bashed, limbs cracked and backs smacked at each strike of the truncheon during police dispersal of rallyists, molotov bombings, etc. – this Labor Day past made like any other of the previous ones.

    The government still long in promises and short in deliveries of the “packages” to ameliorate the state of the workingman.

    The labor sector demanding inherent rights to live in dignity, that is to work in order to live, rather than the other way ‘round.

    The capitalists smug with their ever-spiraling profits.

    Stasis. Raising to life anew the twice-dead Marx – in 1883, mortally; in 1991, ideologically with the demise of the Soviet Union. Thus: “Capital is dead labor, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking blood from living labor.”

    That line in Das Kapital fi nding manifestation in the poetic protest of Shelly’s Song to the Men of England, fittingly the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and therefore the polluted fountainhead of labor:

    “Men of England, wherefore plough
    For the lords who lay ye low?
    Wherefore weave with toil and care
    The rich robes your tyrants wear?
    The seed ye sow, another reaps;
    The wealth ye find, another keeps;
    The robes ye weave, another wears;
    The arms ye forge, another bears.
    Sow seed – but let no tyrant reap;
    Find wealth – let no impostor heap;
    Weave robes – let not the idle wear;
    Forge guns – in your defense to bear.

    This finding close parallel – hence, affirming the universality of the sufferings of workingmen – in the poignancy of the lines of poet-patriot Ka Amado Hernandez in his Bayang Malaya:

    “Bisig na nagsaka’y siyang walang palay;
    Nagtayo ng templo’y siyang walang bahay;
    Dumungkal ng mina ng bakal at ginto ay baon sa utang;

    Lingkod sa pabrika ng damit ay hubad ang mahal sa buhay.”

    (The arm that farmed is one without the crops; The temple builder, without a house; The one who mined for iron and gold, deep in debt; The sewer, whose loved ones are naked.)

    Lest, it be still misconstrued – as indeed it has long been – that the workingman’s struggle is pure communist thingy, the Church has had its own take on uplifting the laboring mass. As indeed, Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum of 1891.

    Further back into history, St. Ambrose, the fourth century bishop of Milan, took the Parable of the Dives with this censorious swing at the rich: “The earth was established to be in common for all, rich and poor; why do ye rich alone arrogate it to yourselves as your rightful property?

    “You crave possession not so much for their utility to yourself, as because you want to exclude others from them. You are more concerned with despoiling the poor than with your own advantage. You think yourself injured if a poor man possesses anything which you consider a suitable belonging for a rich man; wherever belongs to others you look upon something of which you are deprived.”

    Deprivation is the eternal state of the worker. That is fated in capitalist societies, engrossed as they are in “…production not merely the production of commodities … (but) essentially the production of surplus value.”

    As Marx furthered: “All surplus value, whatever particular (profits, interests, rent) it may crystallize into, is in substance the materialization of unpaid labor.”

    As it was, so it is: “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Working Men of All Countries, Unite!”

    May Day, mayday, Marx lives!


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