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Sri Lanka workers can win better opportunities, with technology: Prime Minister

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankan workers can get better conditions and opportunities by embracing technology in a globalized marketplace, Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe said.

"Today, the workers are not only those who harvest the fields and fuel the machinery: as the concept of working is reinvented in the 21st century, the workers are also those who are engaged with their work via technology and the internet in the global marketplace," Prime Minister Wickramasinghe said in a May Day message.

"The stage today is set for us to rise above the standard May Day celebrations to embrace a bigger, more relevant and meaningful concept with the participation of the private sector in Sri Lanka.

"This May Day, may we experience the courage, the desire and the capability to go beyond the traditional definition, to encompass a greater dialogue that includes better working conditions, greater opportunities and ideas that deliver the kind of results needed in today’s world of technology and connectivity."

The May Day commemorates a massive march in May 01, 1886 by over a quarter million private sector workers in Chicago, in the United State of America, demanding an 8-hour working day.

The unrest occurred during what is now known as the ‘Long Depression’ starting with the Panic of 1873 where thousands of banks failed, and lasted at least until 1879 (or 1896 according to some calculations).

The Panic ended a massive economic bubble involving property and railways, that came after the money printing in the US civil war and the collapse was worsened by the demonetization of silver.

The economic crisis also spread to Sri Lanka leading to the failure of the Oriental Bank Corporation in Ceylon which issued notes.

The US, May Day of 1886 was an event that had its origin at a national convention of the Federation of Organized Labour (later the American Federation of Labour) in 1884, which declared that the 8-hour working day will come into effect from May 01, 1886.

The original May Day was a purely an effort by private sector workers, and not state workers or politicians who are paid by the taxes collected from the sweat of the labours of private citizens working in productive sectors .





Ironically today, especially in Sri Lanka state workers and representatives of the state, have become an integral part of the May Day.

Three days after the May Day 1886 in the so-called Haymarket Massacre, the police, which is the embodiment of the state and ruling classes, fired into a crowd, killing many.

But some activists (including anarchists who are against the state and the monopoly on violence by which States are naturally maintained), were then convicted of throwing a bomb. Several were executed by the State using its monopoly on violence.

The Haymarket Martyrs’ Memorial has an inscription attributed to the words of one of the activists executed by the state, Albert Spies: The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today."

Some of those convicted were later pardoned by a Governor of the State of Illinois.

The May Day, was embraced by Socialists, who stood for a stronger state and reducing individual freedoms and liberty, especially economic freedoms. The Socialist Labour Party of the United States, said to be the second oldest socialist party in existence, were also key contributors to the original May Day in Chicago.

Socialists were not Nationalists but were internationalists. The May Day spread from the USA to other countries partly with the help of socialist movements, that saw no difference between the workers of different countries. (Colombo/May01/2017 – corrected 1886)

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