Today, more than 80 countries are celebrating International Workers Day, which traces its heritage back for more than a thousand years to the traditional celebrations of feudal peasants who danced, sang, and enjoyed a time of rest on “May Day.”
We recognize the sacrifices, commitments, and accomplishments of workers around the world in bringing us the opportunities that we have today to gather, plan, organize, and cooperate. In their honor and memory, we chose to establish and celebrate International Workers Day as one of our cooperative holidays, when all of the workers of XENSHA receive bonuses and patronage credit is transformed into new equity shares.
A Brief History of Labor Holidays
Americans celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday in September. May Day was made into a pageant by Communist dictatorships that used (and still do use) the occasion to showcase their armies, so some people assume that the U.S. set up Labor Day in September to avoid overlapping with Communist parades.
This is incorrect: when the holiday was proclaimed in 1894, there were no Communist dictatorships. However, there was plenty of social strife surrounding labor. May 1, 1885 had been the deadline for industry to meet demands of the American Federation of Labor for an eight-hour workday, and the first days of May in 1886 were when the Haymarket Riot had taken place in Chicago. Aware that the anniversary of a violent event could create lasting problems, those in power had a clear reason for wanting to avoid making May 1 the focus of labor attention.
Still, that is not the whole story. The history of the labor movement places May and September as prominent times for rallies and events associated with labor action and accomplishments. Labor Day had been made a holiday in Oregon in 1887, and by its Federal proclamation, 30 states had adopted it. Support for Labor Day came from the Knights of Labor, which in 1887 had been by far the largest and most comprehensive of the labor organizations of the United States (and a strong advocate for the formation of cooperatives). The Knights’ influence had waned to the point of obscurity by 1894, but the same workers who had supported Labor Day in their time as Knights were still around as members of different labor organizations, including the AFL.
What’s with the “Hammer and Keyboard?”
Our use of this striking image* in our 2018 International Workers Day banner is not an endorsement or glorification of Communism. Communist terror killed at least 100 million people and systematically oppressed half of the world in the guise of liberation. There should be no nostalgia for its legacy.
Communists appropriated May Day, the hammer of industry, and the red flag of revolutionary assembly, just as they appropriated all of the trappings of labor identity, from trade unions to cooperatives, discarding the intent of the workers’ organizations and using the labels to justify their totalitarian system. As surely as we defend the cooperative plan and trade unionism in their true forms, we must reclaim these symbols for the workers who envisioned and created them before anyone was reading Marx.
XENSHA is a cooperative whose work spans white- and blue-collar labor. We bring residential carpentry and handyman services under the same umbrella as consulting, tutoring, and advertising, so we are well represented by a symbol that combines a keyboard and a hammer. We embrace this image and encourage people of all industries, trades, and professions to examine their roles and associations as workers and look for ways to come together for mutual benefit.
Cooperation for the Future
Cooperatives brought and continue to deliver electricity to most of rural America. Based on the same cooperative plan, credit unions provide credit and deposit services to millions of people, and millions more safeguard themselves with mutual insurance policies that are also cooperative in design. Untold tons of fresh produce is brought to market under recognized brands brought together in cooperation among small farmers, and workers are rediscovering in a new economy the opportunities and advantages of adopting cooperation as the basis for the social-labor enterprise.
The Marxists dreamed of seizing the means of production by force and brought disaster to themselves and others even when they succeeded in their goal. We call upon people everywhere to look to cooperation as the essential foundation for a new and better world, one of voluntary self-help in which we develop the ways to solve our problems. Working together, we can own and control enterprises that we run for our mutual benefit, democratically and with a long-lasting positive impact for humanity.
We say, “Workers of the World: Cooperate!”
* We did not create the “hammer and keyboard” image. It was posted to OpenClipart on March 20, 2013, attributed to the name “worker.”