Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day Ironies and Wikipedia

While surfing various sites to bone up on my Labor Day knowledge today, I noticed a significant change made to the Wikipedia article on the origins of Labor Day. This morning, I read the Wikipedia piece (still cached on Google) correctly telling that Labor Day became a national holiday because President Grover Cleveland sought conciliation with the labor unions. Election-year conciliation was needed after he sent in troops to put down the 1894 Pullman Strike in Illinois, which had lead to bloodshed and to the imprisonment of labor leader Eugene V. Debs (who thanks to this prison stint would have time to sit down and read Karl Marx; Debs would later go on to win 1 million votes as the Socialist Party's 1920 presidential candidate, during another stint in prison). According to this morning's Wiki-piece, Cleveland rejected the widely recognized May 1 labor protest day for fear that it would commemorate Chicago's bloody Haymarket Riot and aftermath of 1886.

This evening as I once again surfed for information on Labor Day, I went over to Wikipedia again. However, this time I found (see update below for clarification) that any reference to President Cleveland's role in the establishment of Labor Day had been scrubbed (apparently by one "J M Rice" at "UTC"), and in its place was pasted verbatim the official Bush Administration's Department of Labor interpretation of the "History of Labor Day," which makes it sound more like a holiday of picnics, of hubris, and of tributes to prosperity, than it does a commemoration of organized labor's suffering and struggle to bequeath to today's workers many of the benefits that they enjoy.

I understand that cultural shifts in the U.S. have caused many to geld this holiday of its connections to fighting the powers-that-be for rights and of its memories of hard-won victories through protest and demonstrations, but that is no cause to revise history along the Bush Administration's partisan lines. Labor Day--what with Cleveland's symbolic appeasement of the labor movement and his loss in the following election--is already full of ironies (including my own sense that if Grover had gone with May 1, the holiday might not have survived the McCarthy Era). Today's cut-and-paste job over at Wikipedia only magnifies the irony.

09/05/2006, 1:00 p.m. Update: Someone over at Wikipedia has restored the article that I read yesterday morning with the reference to Grover Cleveland. I could not find the cut-and-paste Bush Labor Department version from yesterday evening cached on Google. I guess that it was not up long enough to be cached.

1 comment:

  1. "Labor was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labor, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased."