International Workers’ Day, also known as Labor Day or Workers’ Day in some countries and often referred to as May Day, is a celebration of laborers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labor movement which occurs every year on May Day (1 May), an ancient European spring festival.
The date was chosen by a pan-national organization of socialist and communist political parties to commemorate the Haymarket affair, which occurred in Chicago on 4 May 1886. The 1904 Sixth Conference of the Second International, called on “all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace.”
The first of May is a national public holiday in many countries worldwide, in most cases as “Labor Day”, “International Workers’ Day” or some similar name – although some countries celebrate a Labor Day on other dates significant to them, such as the United States, which celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday of September.
Since inception of industrial revolution started in 18th Century onward, masses in the whole world have seen many changes. Countries under rule of imperialist forces started fighting and getting back their own countries and societies. This saw many revolutions starting from French Revolution, Liberation of United States from UK, liberation movements in Africa, Middle East Latin America and Asia. War of independence in India in 1857, Ist world war, 2nd world War, Vietnam War in 19th centuries and then with nuclear era starting from destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Low trodden people and labor classes always played leading role in all these changes.
20th century particularly brought major changes and now we are in 21st century with oppression still going on with a fight with ruling classes still on agenda everywhere. In this environment several thinkers, writer and poets emerged who sided with oppressed classes and resultantly suffered a lot in prisons and out of their countries.
We name here few ones:-
Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet-diplomat and politician. Neruda became known as a poet when he was 13 years old, and wrote in a variety of styles, including surrealist poems, historical epics, overtly political manifestos, a prose autobiography, and passionate love poems such as the ones in his collection Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Neruda is often considered the national poet of Chile, and his works have been popular and influential worldwide. The Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez once called him “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language”, and Harold Bloom included Neruda as one of the 26 writers central to the Western tradition in his book “the western cannon” He died just after killing of Allende the Chilean popular president by Military of Chile under Pinochet
His one verse is as follows giving hope to the freedom fighters
“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.
I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her. Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees.”
Another Nâz?m Hikmet was a Turkish poet, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, director and memoirist. He was acclaimed for the “lyrical flow of his statements”. Described as a “romantic communist and “romantic revolutionary”, he was repeatedly arrested for his political beliefs and spent much of his adult life in prison or in exile. His poetry has been translated into more than fifty languages. Nazim Hikmet left Turkey after World War I to study at the University of Moscow. While in Russia, he became a Marxist, a political affiliation that remained important to him politically and personally throughout his life. Arrested for his political activities, he escaped to Russia and returned to Turkey in 1928. Over the next ten years, Hikmet wrote many works of poetry, including the long poems ?eyh Bedreddin destan? (“The Epic of Shaykh Bedreddin”) and Memleketimden insan manzaralar? (“Portraits of People from My Land”), a 20,000-line epic novel-in-verse. Both were published in 1936. His early verse tended to be patriotic and written in syllabic form, but from the 1930s, Hikmet increasingly eschewed overtly poetic devices in his work and instead returned to Turkish folk traditions.
His one Popular verse is:-
“Since I’ve been in jail, the world has turned around the sun ten times, and if you ask the earth, it will say: ‘It’s not worth mentioning, a microscopic time.’ And if you ask me, I will say: ‘It’s ten years of my life.’ ,I had a pencil ,the year I came to jail. ,It wore out in a week from writing., And if you ask the pencil, it will say: ,’A whole life.’ ,And if you ask me, I will say: ,’It’s nothing, a mere week.’ ,Osman who was jailed for murder ,completed a seven-year stretch and left ,since I’ve been in jail. , He wandered around outside for a while, and then got jailed again for smuggling. , He served a six-month term and left again, and yesterday a letter came saying he’s married, and a child will be born in the spring. , Now they’re ten years old, the children who fell from their mothers’ womb, that year I came to jail, And the colts of that year who had long thin shaky legs, have long since become docile broad-rumped mares. , But the olive shoots are still shoots, and they’re still children. , New squares have opened up in my distant city, since I’ve been in jail. , And our family, is living in a house I’ve never seen, on a street I don’t know. , The bread was pure white, like cotton, the year I came to jail. , Later it was rationed out, And we here on the inside beat one another, for a piece of black crust the size of a fist. , Now it’s free again, But brown and tasteless. The year I came to jail, The Second One had just begun. , The ovens in Dachau Camp were not yet lit, The atom bomb was not yet hurled upon Hiroshima. , Time flowed like the blood of a child with his throat cut. , Later that chapter was officially closed; Now American dollars are talking about a Third. ,But in spite of everything, the days have brightened ,since I’ve been in jail, And about half of them ,’put their heavy hands on the pavement ,and on the edge of darkness ,straightened up.’ ,Since I’ve been in jail ,the world has turned around the sun ten times. ,And again I repeat with the same passion ,what I wrote for them ,the year I came to jail: ,’They ,whose number is as great ,as ants on the earth ,fish in the water ,birds in the sky ,are fearful and brave ,ignorant and learned ,and they are children, And they ,who destroy and create ,it is only their adventure in these songs.’ ,And for the rest, ,for example, my lying here for ten years, it’s nothing…
Another poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz was a Pakistani leftist poet and author, and one of the most celebrated writers of the Urdu language. Among other accolades, Faiz was nominated for Nobel Prize in Literature and won the Lenin Peace Prize.
After Pakistan’s independence, Faiz became the editor to The Pakistan Times and a leading member of the Communist Party before being arrested in 1951 as an alleged part of conspiracy to overthrow the Liaquat administration and replace it with a left-wing government.
Faiz was released after four years in prison and went on to become a notable member of the Progressive Writers’ Movement and eventually an aide to Bhutto administration, before being self-exiled to Beirut. Faiz was an avowed Marxist, and he received the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union in 1962. His work remains influential in Pakistan literature and arts. Faiz’s literary work was posthumously publicly honored when the Pakistan Government conferred upon him the nation’s highest civil award, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, in 1990
His one popular verse is:-
“That which then was ours, my love, don’t ask me for that love again. The world was then gold, burnished with light — and only because of you. That what I had believed. How could one weep for sorrows other than yours? How could one have any sorrow but the one you gave? So what were these protests, these rumors of injustice? A glimpse of your face was evidence of springtime. The sky, wherever I looked, was nothing but your eyes. If you’d fall in my arms, Fate would be helpless. All this I’d thought all this I’d believed. But there were other sorrows, comforts other than love. The rich had cast their spell on history: dark centuries had been embroidered on brocades and silks Bitter threads began to unravel before me as I went into alleys and in open markets saw bodies plastered with ash, bathed in blood. I saw them sold and bought, again and again. This too deserves attention. I can’t help but look back when I return from those alleys — what should one do? There are other sorrows in this world, comforts other than love. Don’t ask me, my love, for that love again.”
Another poet, Habib Jalib: was a Pakistani revolutionary poet, left-wing activist and politician who opposed martial law, authoritarianism and state oppression. Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz paid tributes to him by saying that he was truly the poet of the masses.
“The light which shines only in palaces
Burns up the joy of the people in the shadows
Derives its strength from others’ weakness
That kind of system,
Like dawn without light
I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept
I am not afraid of execution,
Tell the world that I am the martyr
How can you frighten me with prison walls?
This overhanging doom,
This night of ignorance,
I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept
“Flowers are budding on branches”, that’s what you say,
“Every cup overflows”, that’s what you say,
“Wounds are healing themselves”, that’s what you say,
These bare-faces lies,
this insult to the intelligence,
I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept
For centuries you have all stolen our peace of mind
But your power over us is coming to an end
Why do you pretend you can cure pain?
Even if some claim that you’ve healed them,
I refuse to acknowledge, I refuse to accept.”