The International Labour Day, widely known as May Day, will be observed in Bangladesh as elsewhere around the world today commemorating the uprising of the working class people who fought for their rights.
All industries and factories would remain closed on the day. Red flags will be hoisted at the offices of the political organisations.
Marking the day, different organisations will host various programmes including processions, discussion sessions, cultural events and staging plays.
Historically, May Day evolved as a day recognising the rights of the working class people in the late 19th century.
One of the three major trends of trade unionism of the time, the Federation of Organised Trades and Labour Unions of the United States and Canada in its 1884 convention passed a resolution: ‘Eights hours shall constitute a legal day’s labour, from and after May 1, 1886.’
The largest of the trends, the Knights of Labour, included the demand for the eight-hour day in its first convention in 1878.
The third was the anarchists, who organised the International Working People’s Association in 1883.
Many of the strikes in 1886 became unsuccessful but on May 3, 1886, one of the anarchists, August Spies, addressed a crowd of strikers at McCormick Harvesters Works in Chicago, Illinois, where a force of 200 police attacked the crowd. At least one striker was killed and about half a dozen were seriously wounded.
The anarchists convened a meeting for the next evening at Haymarket Square in Chicago to protest at police action. But on the peaceful May 4 rally, the police carried out a series of attacks against the strikers.
A bomb, thrown from the crowd into the police ranks, exploded. Sixty-six policemen were wounded; of whom seven died later. The police pulled the triggers of their gun on the workers. Two hundred were injured and several were killed.
Anarchists August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Michael Schwab, Adolph Fisher, George Engel, Louis Lingg and Oscar Neebe were arrested within days. Albert Parsons evaded arrest and turned himself in on the day of trial, opened on June 21, 1886.
They were framed on false charges of planning the explosion. On August 19, seven were sentenced to death and Neebe to 15 years in prison.
The state later commuted the sentences of Schwab and Fielden to life imprisonment. Lingg committed suicide in his cell the day before the execution. On November 11, 1887, Parsons, Engel, Spies and Fisher were hanged.
Three, after seven years in prison, were freed on the grounds that the trial had been unjust. The four executed and Lingg were pardoned posthumously.
The convention of the American Federation of Labour in 1888 announced that labourers would enforce the eight-hour working day with strikes and demonstrations on May 1, 1890.
May 1 was adopted as International Labour Day by socialist delegates in Paris in 1889. More than 400 delegates met in Paris on the centenary of the French revolution at the Marxist International Socialist Congress, the founding meeting of the Second International.
The 1889 resolution called for a one-time demonstration but it became an annual event in course of time. May Day was celebrated in Russia, Brazil and Ireland first in 1891.
The day is a public holiday in most of the countries today.
The president, Zillur Rahman, the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, the leader of the opposition in the parliament, Khaleda Zia, and leaders of different political parties and labour organisations have issued separate messages on the occasion.
In his message, president Zillur put emphasis on maintaining good relations between employees and employers for industrialisation as well as socio-economic development to protect interest of the working people of the country and create a congenial atmosphere.
The president hoped that the relations between workers and owners would be stronger protecting the interest of the working people.
‘I hope that production at all mills and factories would be increased through cordial relations between employees and employers by following the ideals of the historic May Day,’ prime minister Sheikh Hasina said in her message.
Khaleda Zia said they took up and implemented various steps and programmes during their tenure of the government to serve the interest of workers. She said they would continue their efforts to serve the workers, in the future.
The Workers Party of Bangladesh president, Rashed Khan Menon, and the general secretary, Anisur Rahman Mallik, in a statement called for ensuring proper wages and trade union rights of the workers and full rationing for them.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal president Hasanul Haque Inu and general secretary Sharif Nurul Ambia demanded ensuring of trade union rights of the workers.
Jatiya Mukti Council urged workers to wage a mass movement protesting death of workers and demanded ensuring the labour rights.
The labour and employment ministry, political parties and labour organisations have chalked out different programmes to mark day.
Jatiya Sramik League will hold a workers rally at Tongi, to be addressed by prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal and Sramik Jote will hold a labour rally near Shere Bangla Stadium at Mirpur at 4:30pm.
May Dibosh Udjapan Jatiya Committee will hold a rally in front of National Press Club at 9:00am
The National Garment Workers’ Federation will hold a labourers’ rally and bring out a procession carrying red flags from the Purana Paltan crossing at 10:00am.
Jatiya Sramik Federation will hold a discussion at Topkhana Road at 9:30am. Bangladesh Trade Union Federation will hold a labourers’ rally at 8:30am in front of National Press Club.
Textile Garments Workers Federation will also hold a rally in front of National Press Club.
Jatiya Neat Dying Garments Sramik Karmachari Federation will hold a red flag rally at Purana Paltan at 10:30am.
Warbi Development Foundation will organise a human chain and discussion at National Press Club at 11:00am. The Bangladesh Labour Welfare Foundation will bring out a procession at 10:00am.
Theatre group Ayanyak will stage play Rarang at the Shilpakala Auditorium at 7:00pm on the day.
-With New Age input