“The proletariat goes through various stages of development.”
—Karl Marx and Frederick Engels—The Communist Manifesto
The thousands of workers who will gather today in Fyzabad to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Butler riots, now designated as Labour Day, should pause for a moment of stocktaking and praise, and reflect on the above statement, written in 1848.
Back then, Marx and Engels were specific in their denunciation of capitalism. Europe was some 80 years into industrialisation and The Communist Manifesto was a response to the suffering of the working class in the “dark satanic mills” and the overall wretched socio-economic conditions that 19th century capitalism was fashioning.
On Caribbean sugar plantations Africans, emancipated from slavery in 1838, had begun to describe their “freedom” as “the new slavery”. By the 1930s, the decline in the sugar and cocoa industries darkened workers’ mood into one of general discontent.