International Workers’ Day

It is May 1st. In China and other Communist countries, this is a very important holiday, celebrating the proletariat (or proles, as George Orwell called them) as the foundation of society. In the U.S., nothing much goes on; Labor Day in September is a somewhat different affair.

Denmark, being traditionally a social welfare state, lies somewhere in between. When the world was divided between the U.S. on one side and the Soviet Union on the other, Western Europeans liked to see themselves at occupying the middle ground, offering solid benefits from a large state apparatus, while retaining personal freedom.

May Day is still a big deal for some people. Most union workers will have a half or a full day off work, and some socialists will still march with their red banners and listen to political speeches. Many others will opt for the more relaxed option of drinking beer in the park.

I have usually tried to spend this day working, as a principle.

I don’t care much for people fighting for causes that stopped being relevant many years ago. Denmark is by some measures the most equal society the world has ever seen, employment is ubiquitous, and living standards are high. Class struggle is a thing of times gone by. You might say that the proles have won, and there’s nothing left fighting for. But a more accurate picture would be that the labor market has changed so that the term ‘class’ is not really applicable any longer. Ours is not a society of the rich exploiting the poor; it is a society where mostly everyone is middle class.

Your employer is not your enemy. Your employee is not your enemy. Let us re-invent May 1st as a cooperation of both workers and employers – celebrating a society where the class struggle is over.


Author: Kenneth Mollerup Birch

Living north of Copenhagen, Denmark. MA in Information Science. Interests include communication, internet, sociology, language, politics, religion, theology, travel, music, and food.

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