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This May Day, Bangladesh must reaffirm its “people’s republic” pledge

May Day in Bangladesh recalls sacrifice of workers for the Prpublic's progress

On May Day, the essence is one of a recapitulation of the sacrifices made by some brave men in Chicago in 1886 in defence of their rights as workers. That these men called forth the courage to let their employers know and by extension let the world know that the pursuit of happiness in life came from sharing in the resources of the earth is a tale we celebrate this morning.

And we celebrate the sacrifices of these men because it was these men who instilled in all of us the idea that struggling for a cause affecting the collective body of people was the noblest act that people could undertake. And all these decades since that supreme sacrifice in Chicago, the idea has grown that it is through a constant reinforcing of courage and a clear understanding of contemporary realities that societies can move forward. That rights matter, that human dignity must not be trampled upon are ideas we reinforce on May Day.

Nowhere is the lesson of May Day more significant than in Bangladesh, for it is in this country that workers and peasants have historically waged long, desperate battles to claim for themselves a niche in the wider community. These are men and women who have carried, along with others, our nationalistic struggle of the 1960s forward. And again they did not flinch from linking up with the War of Liberation in 1971 to ensure for the nation a life to be lived in liberty and with a full application of the potential for progress.

That May Day is for us, indeed for others around the world, a summation of the thought that national development is fundamentally a guarantee of happiness and prosperity for those who produce the goods, in the factories and in the fields, is a cardinal truth we recall today. And yet we note with a considerable degree of concern that vast swathes of our working classes yet struggle to make ends meet for themselves and their families. That tens of thousands of men and women have found opportunities to ensure square meals for themselves through employment in the ready-made garments sector is a truth we cannot ignore.

Even so, every time workers of garment units take to the streets to demand their arrear payments, to ask for a better working atmosphere, we know that much more needs to be done to give these workers something of stability in life. Every time a child goes out to work in order to assist his family, we know there is yet a very long road we need to travel for this child not to be pushed into premature adulthood through a lack of education and economic security. When primary school teachers ask for an enhancement of salaries, we understand the shortcomings which yet afflict society.

On May Day, it is the consequences of consumerism we condemn. It is the rise of pseudo-capitalism, with all its concomitant evils, we raise our voices against. On this day, in Bangladesh, where democracy must dig deeper roots because democracy empowers the masses; where a redistribution of resources in equal as also equitable manner is a paramount need, our call is for the growth of a society based on justice and rule of law. Society in Bangladesh remains in large measure agrarian, which enjoins upon us the responsibility of ensuring the welfare of our peasants and farmers. For those who work in the factories as also those who have lost their jobs in the Covid-19 and global recession-driven upheavals of the past few years, we need to create the conditions of life being restored to normalcy.

On this day, we will reassert the idea of Bangladesh being a people’s republic, where it becomes necessary to uphold and exercise the rule of law through ensuring that robber barons do not commandeer the economy, that the corrupt in fear of the law are not permitted to become fugitives from the law, that the nation’s money is not laundered abroad.

On May Day, we express our solidarity with those whose lives are a ceaseless struggle for decent survival. On this day, here in our beloved country, we inform ourselves that the right to life, to resources, to education, to health, to employment and, overall, to dignity and self-esteem is a truth we must assert again and again — for it was this idea which underscored the nation’s battlefield struggle for liberty more than a half century ago.

Let May Day be a simple, poignant lesson in how much more we can do, and systematically, to ensure for ourselves a well-ordered, economically viable society in Bangladesh. Ritual must give way to an effective transformation of society, through guaranteeing the happiness of those who ensure the continuity of the factors of production.

May Day is a loud, piercing and inspirational call from the ramparts.

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