Labor Day — Burgers, Brats and … Socialism?

The holiday is a socialist creation, but labor isn't. Christianity and capitalism do it much better.

By Matt Barber Published on September 5, 2016

How’s about some ketchup on that burger? It’s extra red. What about a pinch of socialist sauerkraut on that bubbling bratwurst Didn’t you know? That’s what your Labor Day barbecue was originally meant to commemorate: socialism. Delicious, juicy, smoky socialism with a side of potato salad (German, of course) and a game of Cornhole (everyone’s a winner!).

But hey, isn’t Labor Day really just all about celebrating the value of hard work? Actually, no. At least not originally. And no, I’m not being paranoid. The history of Labor Day is fascinating. And it really is rooted in socialism.

Don’t take this capitalist’s word for it. Marxist.com, a popular pro-socialism website, proudly exclaims, “The September holiday was conceived of and celebrated by socialists and militants within the labor movement, and we should remember and reclaim this history.”

Labor Day: A Brief History

The history stretches back at least to 1882 when a couple of socialists named Matthew Maguire and Peter McGuire, both members of the Socialist Labor Party, proposed an official workers’ holiday in New York to be called Labor Day. While historians differ over which man was principally responsible, the socialist pair had success, and on Sept. 5 of that year the United States saw its first official socialist Labor Day celebrated in New York City.

As the popularity of New York’s Labor Day gained momentum in urban centers across the U.S., Labor Day was declared a national holiday in June of 1894, to be held, like New York’s own, the first Monday of every September.

Whereas the rest of the socialist world celebrates Labor Day on May 1 (May Day), America has always marched to the beat of a different drummer. And so we — a nation made both the greatest and wealthiest in all of history through free-market principles, heretofore reasonably regulated, but, alas, regulated almost to death under our current administration — give our little nod to socialism on the last day of summer (appropriate, I think, as wherever there is socialism, the fall is not far behind).

And so, as we enjoy friends, family, food and fun this extended Labor Day weekend, let’s heed the advice of Marxist.com and remember that this holiday — this “workers’ paradise” for a day — was “conceived of and celebrated by socialists and militants within the labor movement.”

Socialists Started Labor Day, But They Don’t Get It

Socialists may have started Labor Day, but it’s Christianity and capitalism that best understand, dignify and magnify human labor.

It was the influence of Christianity, remember, that led the Christian West to gradually raise its view of common labor. As tough as the serfs of the middle ages had it, they were vastly better off, and with far more rights, than the slaves under pagan Rome. (See Rodney Stark’s The Victory of Reason for a good discussion of this.) Christianity elevated the status of common laborers partly by recognizing them as a fellow creatures made in the image of God, and by insisting that the Christian peasant was a brother in Christ.

Christianity also elevated common, manual labor by insisting that the material creation was rational and good (even if wounded by the fall), not something irrational and dark to be despised and avoided, as many pagans had believed. God after all, became flesh and dwelt among us. The incarnation dignifies the material world.

Finally, Christianity, by rejecting atheistic materialism, recognizes that the labor of the office clerk, the banker and the entrepreneur is also real labor, even if you don’t see them shaping physical things with their hands. Christianity gets this right because, unshackled from the shortsightedness of materialism, it understands that the immaterial labors of the mind are as real as the creations of the brick layer or steel worker.

These insights, taken together, helped birth capitalism in the West, which has lifted literally billions out of extreme poverty, even as the false vision of socialism has impoverished, and stranded in poverty, tens and hundreds of millions.

So, yes, the socialists started Labor Day, and if they have their way, they’ll ruin labor. If we intend to stop them, we have our work cut out for us.

 

Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com, and author of Hating Jesus: The American Left’s War on Christianity. He is a columnist, cultural analyst, attorney concentrating in constitutional law and a retired, undefeated heavyweight professional boxer. Follow Matt on Twitter.

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