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Yet another May Day


“THE HISTORY of all hitherto existing society…”

On one hand: Labor, exploited, struggling to live in dignity – to work in order to live.

On the other: Capital, keeping Labor barely to live in order to work – unsatiated even by spiraling profit.

Then, the government always long in promises, ever short in deliveries of “packages” to ameliorate the state of the working man.

The May Day tableaux since forever: “Capital is dead labor, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking blood from living labor.” Resurrected to life annually the twice-dead Marx – in 1883, mortally; in 1991, ideologically with the demise of the Soviet Union.

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 poetpatriot 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, to wit:

“The following duties . . . concern rich men and employers: Workers are not to be treated as slaves; justice demands that the dignity of human personality be respected in them, … gainful occupations are not a mark of shame to man, but rather of respect, as they provide him with an honorable means of supporting life.

It is shameful and inhuman, however, to use men as things for gain and to put no more value on them than what they are worth in muscle and energy.”

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 evermore!


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