In the 19th-century, the world witnessed a revolution among the working class, when they started revolting against the domination of the upper class. It was the first time in the course of history that the workers were unitedly raising their voices against their employers. Finally the socialists, communists and the trade unionists decided to celebrate labour on the 1st of May. It was a day of acknowledgement earned by the labourers through centuries of struggle.
But how was such a revolution possible?
In the earlier times, when the world was ruled by monarchs, the fate of the commoners were decided by them. Any event like the birth or death in the royal family, or the marriages, were recorded as historical events. These recorded dates were celebrated as holidays by the common people. For instance, when Caesar defeated Pompey, the people of Rome celebrated the day by declaring it a holiday.
Holidays were declared either according to the rulers or by the religious preachers. In a country like India, where religion was a way of life, people celebrated the birthdays and achievements of gods and goddesses. In every society of the world, the fate of the commoners or the lower class has always been decided by the upper classes.
However in the 18th century, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution in Europe, there was a rise of a new class called the ‘middle class’. The middle class comprised the businessmen who owned factories and produced goods for trading purposes. To run the factories, these owners also owned a huge mass of workers, working under them.
In the industries, these workers were forced to work for long hours in exchange for very little wage. Working with machines all day, the labourers were isolated from their families and friends. They had to risk their lives everyday, working very close to the fire or coal chimneys, to produce goods. But in return, their health and happiness were not cared for by the factory owners.
From this kind of inhumane treatment, the labourers started losing faith in the upper classes. After almost a century, with the rise of communism, socialism, and the idea of ‘equality’, the workers started revolting against the factory owners. Their demands were, limited hours in the factories, increase in pay and better facilities for the workers. In a nutshell, the labourers struggled to reclaim their basic human rights!
After a prolonged struggle and several strikes by the workers of the world, their demands were finally fulfilled. And that is how the labour unions decided to celebrate the first day of May as the International Workers’ Day. It was the first time in the history of humankind that a day was declared to be special in acknowledgement of the lower class workers.
This day is all the more important in India, as our country homes the second largest population of cheap labour, after China. It is however sad to see our workers and daily wagers walk thousands of kilometers to reach home in this pandemic. Let us all pray for their health and hope for their condition to get better this year, from our respected homes, and celebrate International Workers’ Day or May Day.