[OPE-L:2052] May Day Greetings

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Wed, 1 May 1996 02:51:13 -0700

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****** == May Day greetings to all! == ******

May Day -- an international day of struggle and demonstration by the
working class.

May Day was born in the US as part of the 8 hour day movement of the
1880's (in contrast to the popular image, put forward in the McCarthy
period, of May Day being the Russian "communist" holiday when tanks roll
past the Kremlin).

There are basically two contradictory positions taken by contemporary
labor historians towards the 8 hour day movement. One school emphasizes
the relation between hours of work and employment in terms of
safeguarding workers' jobs in the presence of productivity-increasing
technical change. The other school emphasizes that the major demand of
the 8 hour movement was: "8 hours for work, 8 hours for sleep, 8 hours
for what we will." From that perspective, the demand for increased
leisure time was central to that struggle.

It's 1996 and there still isn't the 8-hour day in many advanced
capitalist nations, including the US. In other parts of the world, the
average working day is frequently even longer. [... sigh ... followed by

Both of these issues (the demand for the short workweek to prevent
employment loss and the demand for greater leisure time) remain powerful
ones that can mobilize working class activity. In the 1980's, in
particular, the demand for a short workweek as an answer to the
anticipated and actual job loss due to the introduction of new process
technologies (e.g. CAD/CAM, NC, robotics, etc.) was advanced by many
unions and led to some important strikes (e.g. by I.G. Metall, the
metalworkers federation, in Germany circa 1983). Similarly, the demand
for greater leisure time has been very powerful in other countries,
especially among younger "alienated" workers. Additionally, many
feminists have championed the struggle for women's leisure (there is an
extensive literature on this subject).


Since Simon and Riccardo have taken a turn at quiz-asking, here is my May
Day quiz/intellectual exercise/challenge that relates to the above:


Suppose you were asked to give a lecture later today to a meeting of
trade unionists on the causes of unemployment and the micro and macro
employment effects of new technology. Develop an outline of your speech
*which includes a listing of ***all*** of the determinants of
unemployment*. Then, publish the outline on OPE-L.

For *EXTRA CREDIT* answer the following question as well:

In the question and answer period following the speech, a young
militant Marxist woman asks you the following off-topic question that you
decide to answer anyway: "How does domestic labor affect the
value-creating ability of laborers and the reproduction of the commodity
labour-power?". Answer her question and publish your response on OPE-L.

Note that neither of the above -- important -- questions have been
addressed yet on this list.

In OPE-L Solidarity,