Slaver Day vs. Labor Day
As a teacher who benefits from having an extra day off in September, it perhaps it will seem counter-intuitive for me to criticize Labor Day. But, in this era of intellectual lethargy, where even so-called conservatives have been shaped by a virulent strain of cultural Marxism, it has become necessary to draw rather clear lines.
First, let’s be clear that the Labor Day holiday does, in fact, have rather dubious origins, being first established by a conference of mostly socialist and communist organizations a century ago. Given the track record of communists and socialists in the last century, and the butchery en masse which accompanied their regimes, this should, in my view, make any sober person take pause. Yet, we may also note – with some satisfaction – that efforts to move Labor Day to May 1 (May Day, the day most of the rest of the world celebrates Labor Day, where it holds a more explicitly socialist overtone) has been fiercely resisted in the United States for just that reason.
This seems to be somewhat typical of the American experience with Marxism generally. One the one hand, we find ourselves taking part in the outward show, all the while denying we are acting on the principle. So yes, we may be celebrating a communist holiday, but we’re not actually communists…we are simply celebrating those who work for a living.
Obamacare is much the same sort of thing. “We do not,” we profess, “believe in universal, single-payer healthcare.” But anyone with even a little honestly admits that Obamacare pushed the envelope visibly in that direction as far as was politically possible, given the then-current cultural climate. Check back in twenty-five years to see how long that hair-splitting holds.
Consider the comparison with cultural Marxism. It is plainly understood by everyone (except perhaps Bernie Sanders) that economic Marxism failed. But Marxists are nothing if not persistent. By re-branding the “have vs. have-notes” to the “oppressor vs. the oppressed,” Karl’s kids have found new life in this generation of illiterates and ignoramuses. Demagogues on both sides have been only too welcoming of group identity politics that this oppressor-oppressed dichotomy foments, and have played right into the hands of these Neo-Marxists.
Today, your fastest route to fame, fortune, or position is to assert your victimhood status. The greater your victimhood, the smoother your path. Achievement is no longer the most desirable attribute. If you are part of a generational victim group, even better. In the same way Labor Day gave striking workers a sense of picket-line solidarity (in hopes of marshalling their willing participation in the final overthrow of capitalism), today’s media give victims a sense of solidarity through the use of mass-virtue signaling and unaccountably threatens ideological opponents with outright bullying.
Marxism, regardless of the guise, has at all times had the same basic strategy: break the family and the Church; and take possession both of the Fourth Estate and the schools – all with a mind towards recreating society, eliminating private wealth, and reducing us all to the slavery of a miserly totalitarianism. Thus, Labor Day was always “Celebrate the Slave Day.” This is an idea which we simply must reject. If you won’t believe me, ask any Venezuelan.
Now, in contrast to all this, is there anything like a good Labor Day? The answer is yes. There is the Biblical notion of labor. In the beginning, God labored, creating man with His own hands, fashioning him out of the clay, in His own image, and breathing into him His own breath and bestowing life and soul. Then immediately, he gave this Dirt Man the job of Manager down at the family business, the Jehovah & Son Zoo & Botanical Gardens.
This work detail was in advance of sin – that is, Adam had not sinned yet. Thus, work is not a side-effect of that debacle with the Tree. Rather, work is the natural disposition of all men. As such, work is intrinsically noble. All honest labor should be praised if it fulfills the potential of the man performing it, and if it is done to the benefit of his fellow man. And it is this labor which I am happy to celebrate today.
Strictly speaking, there is already a holiday for this labor. It’s called the Sabbath, the Lord’s Day, the Day of Rest. For in six days did God create the world and on the seventh day did He rest from His labor. Not because He was tired, but because He wished to model for us two important truths. First, that worship is necessary to our fulfillment as men, without which there can be no rest. And second, that the seventh day confers meaning and gravity to the preceding six. Labor means something because there is a day without it, just as life is more precious when set against the certainty of death.
In this sense, Labor Day for the Christian is every Sunday. That is true solidarity, in Christ and His Church, through Faith and the sacraments (or however your tradition refers to the Font and the Table). That is the Good Labor Day, the true celebration of the satisfying and purposeful work of a man in this world.
Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son;
and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
~ The Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians 4:7 (KJV)
Postscript: For an interesting take on the Biblical view of work (and leisure) consider Leland Ryken’s Redeeming Time: A Christian Approach to Leisure