The working class deserves this special day which shows how significant is their contribution to the economy of the world. The Labour Day brings to our reminiscence the dark period through which the working class had gone. From feudalism to commercialism and from this stage mercantilism came into being. From the womb of mercantilism capitalism took birth. It is to note that the working class was terribly oppressed and exploited to the maximum by the capitalist class due to lack of regulations from the authority.
In the eighteen century Adam Smith, supported by JS Mill and Spencer propounded the theory of Laissez – Faire in his book Wealth of the nation. He advocated that the state should act as a police man and should protect the freedom, life and property of the people without interfering in the economic activities. This theory actually was in favour of the landlords who had grown immensely rich due to monopoly in trade. The working class was left to work in an unregulated frame work. In UK child labour was at its height and this practice is reflected in many novels of Charles Dickens.
The Bolshevik revolution took place on 17th October 1917 and Lenin over threw the Tsar from power. He destroyed the traditional society of Russia. The Communist party developed a new economic constitution thereby establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat propounded by Karl Marx, father of communism. It was believed that Marxism could alleviate the lots of the laboring class by advocating the concept of equality. But soon it was realized that equality was a vague word and those found at the top were enjoying power to the detriment of the proletariat. Liberty and equality are two elements brought forward by the two blocks, one granting equality by suppressing liberty while the other one granting liberty but not equality.
In between these two blocks socialism coined by Henri de St Simon came into being. Socialism is a mid way between capitalism and communism in terms of belief and ideology. The fundamental view of socialism is that man, society and the universe are equal. Socialist government is based on a fair distribution of the profit among the workers. It also advocates that production should be made to satisfy human needs, not as under capitalism, for sale and profit. It gives the right to the workers to control and manage the industries through a democratic government based on the nationwide economic organization.
Next to socialism, political thinkers introduced the concept of welfare state just to counter communism. In this system the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the social and economic well being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equitable distribution of the wealth and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. Services like free health, free education, and old age pension among others are provided by the state. It is funded through the redistribution of taxation and referred to as mixed economy.
The trade union, an indispensable institution, plays a paramount role in defending the rights and interests of the workers. In Mauritius, under the dynamic leadership of Guy Rozement, Pandit Sahadeo, Anquetil and Dr Maurice Curé a sea of people was gathered at Champ de Mars in 1950 just to fight for the cause of the workers who were exploited by the colonial power.
Since long the Labour Day in Mauritius has been hijacked by influential political parties. It is practically used to gauge their popularity. Colossal sum of money are sum spent in order to attract maximum number of people to their meetings. Trade unionists are helpless in such situation. The cause may reside in the fact that with the end of colonialism workers are less oppressed, negotiations are being carried out correctly and effectively by their trade unions. Anyhow more battle will take place in the future by the trade union in order to address the situation of the workers.
Workers’ rights are pretty well protected in Islam. Allah says in the Quran: disperse through the land and seek the bounty of your Rab. Work is worship and each individual will be accountable and questioned about how he earned his wealth and spent it. Wages in Islam are determined at the outset of the employment and paid before the sweat of the employee dries up. In another Hadith it is reported that Allah will be opponent to three types of people on the day of resurrection, one who makes covenant in His name but proves treacherous, one who sells a free person and eats his price and one who employs a worker and takes full work from him but does not pay him for his labour. Further it is reported by the Holy prophet “your employees are your brothers upon whom Allah has given you authority/ so if a Muslim has another person under his control he/ she should feed them with the like of what one eats and clothe them with what one wears and you should not over burden with what they cannot bear and if you do so, help them in the jobs.
On the other hand the employee must work with honesty and sincerity. It is said in a hadith “ fulfil the trust of one who has entrusted you”. Both employer and employee must act with full conscience thereby living within the parameter of Islamic law.
By Cassam Tupsy