IT'S 1886. THE BOSSES ARE ON THE ROPES. AND THEY KNOW IT.
Workers of the world are ready to unite. They show it everywhere. They form unions, go on strike, defy the bosses, defy the law, die. The bosses are getting panicy. Something has got to be done, something that will make workers feel they count. In Canada the answer is as Canadian as apologizing to someone who steps on your foot: a royal commission, the Royal Commission on the Relations of Labor and Capital in Canada.
It’s the perfect answer for the bosses: it makes workers feel as if they count; it does not actually change anything in the relations between capital and labour. When it is all over, when all the testimony from workers is written up, when it was all printed in two heavy volumes, nothing changed. Except...we did get Labour Day.
Small potatoes? Maybe. But, then again, not nothing. We were too strong to ignore. We had to get something for ourselves, something that would last.
We got Labour Day. Ours to keep forever. The bosses didn’t want to give us anything. We let them give us that. And now it is a “fundamental right” as fundamental as any we may ever care to claim. Because we say so. Because we are too strong to ignore.
It’s good for us to remember that this Labour Day and every day we labour.
Just like Milton Acorn wrote in his poem The Newfie Bullet*
Is the Newfie Bullet* a fundamental right?
As sure as there were seas on Mars
And will be again, if we wish it,
Anything the bourgeoisie tries to take from us
Or succeeds; becomes a fundamental right.
If it wasn’t one before
It is now.
* Train that crossed Newfoundland called the Newfie Bullet as a joke because it ran so slow.
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