May 1

Garen Yegparian


It’s good to see May 1st making a comeback in the United States as a day of labor and related rights.  It’s sad that the post WWII efforts by the political right in the country have succeeded in largely erasing the origins and importance of that date from popular memory.

In 1886, there was a strike in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, peaceful, until police were sent in to break it up.  Somewhere along the line, a bomb was thrown and police died.  They opened fire and demonstrators died.  It’s not clear who threw the bomb, some say anarchists, others, a police agent.  It became known as the Haymarket Massacre, or Haymarket Riot, depending on one’s political bent, I suppose.  Haymarket “Affair” seems to be a neutral solution that Wikipedia is using.

Thus did May 1 become a day for labor throughout the world.  But political pressures in the U.S. led to the creation of an alternative date, the one now celebrated in September.  This of course suits the interests of the moneyed classes because it dims the connection between the sacrifices made to get decent working conditions and analogous problems we confront today.

Luckily, with the immigration related demonstrations of the last few years being held on May 1 and now, with the Occupy movement and others joining them on the streets this year, attention is being refocused on that date.  With the focus comes greater knowledge of labor history.  Ultimately, this leads to elevated awareness and activation.  Coupled with the increasing burden felt by the working classes, this may portend a nascent labor rights movement.

No doubt some readers are rolling their eyes at all this.  But, a century ago, the Armenian communities of the mill towns where our “bantoukd” men worked, through the efforts of the Hnchagians and Tashnagtzagans, were intimately, necessarily, involved in the labor movement of the time.  Today, it is again time to plunge in.  And, worker no longer means just an illiterate grunt in a shoe factory or steel mill.  Even doctors have started forming unions.  It’s the only way to withstand the class warfare of the richest class of society.

Whether referred to as nobles in the time of feudalism, robber barons/trusts/bosses a century ago, or the corporate elite/1% of today, the economically most powerful relentlessly pursue the accumulation of ever greater wealth, at everyone else’s expense.  Unfortunately, to not stand up to this onslaught also hurts Hye Tahd because it disempowers us and decreases our capacity to pursue our goals.

Luckily, some of us have already connected with the Occupy movement and others with labor.  It was heartening to see the SEIU present at April 24 commemorative activities.  Jump in.  Our efforts will pay of both for us as individuals, workers, and citizens and as members of a nation with a huge, unfinished agenda of liberation.


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  1. Harb said:

    I always read your views and struggle to find some perspective or position that warrants agreement. Some of pieces are more difficult than others to find some common ground. Personally, I would never chose equality of outcome vs. equality of opportunity. Our country is at its best when people are responsible for their own success. It seems among the primary life alternatives we all face-there are these 3 alternative taken with high frequency.

    1. An individual develops their talents and intellect in a way that allows them to make a contribution that a free market economy values. These folks tend to accrete material success over time.

    2. An individual develops their talents in a way that may be personally satisfying but maybe not so valued by the economy as in alternative 1. May prove to be more successful in a non-material perspective and may prove to be materially adequate for a reasonable quality of life.

    3. An individual makes choices by either commission or omission that results in a life that is maybe neither materially or otherwise satisfying. Some of these folks see the world through an “ain’t it just awful” prism. Further some of these folks see themselves as victims often identifying with affinity groups that share that perspective. Often seeing their predicament as something the bad people or evil ones or 1 percenters contrive to do to them. Some of these folks feel people who went down paths 1 or 2 owe them something–they blame people who went down course 1 or 2 for their unsatisfying circumstance. More responsible than they themselves.

    It seems to me that you would want us all to be in category 3-victims-whining and spending all our time playing “ain’t it just awful”. I don’t think this works out well at an individual level, certainly won’t work out well at the level of our country-it just doesn’t seem to resonate with the American character.

  2. Ara said:

    Thank you Garen for your compassion towards the poor and the disadvantaged. These are difficult topics that you tackle repeatedly. Your life would be much easier if you continuously talk about Turkish and Azeri governments. You are supporting the principle of providing equal opportunities to every person in our society. If we provide equal opportunities to every person, most of the poverty will be eliminated. But we don’t. Is there equal opportunity in the U.S.? Is there equal opportunity in the Republic of Armenia? Unfortunately there is more unequal opportunity in the Republic of Armenia than in the U.S.

    Please Garen continue caring about the poor and the disadvantaged and defend their rights. Remind us about their plight, because the mainstream media ignores them. Do not get aggravated by some noisy and stubborn readers who don’t have compassion, readers who don’t care about the poor and disadvantaged people, readers who don’t care about poor and disadvantaged Armenians, who live both in Armenia and U.S. or readers who are misinformed.

  3. ArdeVast Atheian said:

    Garen my brother and Ara for that matter, socialism has been an unmitigated disaster everywhere that it has been tried. The whole world is moving away from it. You want now to advocate it for our little precious Armenia? Have some mercy for your home country my friends. As bad as oligarchy is, it is a thousand times preferable to socialism. I wish we could all afford to try it in our beloved and sacred homeland so you could all see what socialism does. Fortunately we have other less destructive alternatives. See what three and a half years of Obama style socialism has done to us in America. Do you like this deadly stand-still economy that has been gripping and suffocating us to continue for another four years? All socialism does is convert us all into poverty and you two like little children still dream of it like you were living in the early years of the past century when nobody knew nothing yet about socialism .

    • Ara said:

      Sireli ArdeVast Atheian,
      For the record, the socialism that I am dreaming of is the socialism that exists in Scandinavian countries, such as Sweden, Finland and Denmark. Would you by unhappy if Armenia becomes a socialist country such Sweden or Denmark?