On May Day, we celebrate working-class humanity

BY:Communist Party USA| April 30, 2021
On May Day, we celebrate working-class humanity


We struggle for the right to be human.

To the ruling class, we are units of labor-power endowed with “human capital.”  The latter term refers to intangible attributes of the workforce that contribute to productivity.  It includes education, training, and experience, but also non-cognitive skills (like flexibility or resilience) and even patterns of emotional response.  In other words, their “human capital” is our intellect, knowledge, thoughts, feelings, and acquired skills insofar as they enhance the productivity of our labor and thus the profits of capitalist class.

But human capital is not the same as humanity. Indeed, the difference between the two is one of the great lessons of the struggle for the eight-hour day, where International Workers’ Day sinks its roots.  The fight to restrict the workday to eight hours, to limit the intensity of exploitation, was also a struggle to seize part of the day for ourselves.

“Eight hours for what we will.”

“Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest,” as the slogan says — but also “eight hours for what we will.”  Eight hours to socialize, argue, study, garden, make and hear music; to meet, swap stories, plan, and organize.  Eight hours to be human, in the sense that Marx and Engels understood the term: to use our minds and bodies, consciously, freely, and in coordination with others, to meet our material and spiritual needs.

Where does that struggle stand today?  The eight-hour workday has never been a reality, especially for working-class women, who still do the majority of household work and child-rearing even when they work outside the home as well.  Now, education and automation have quadrupled the productivity of our labor over the past half century, with no raise in pay or shortening of the workday.

If anything, we spend more of our lives in the service of capital than at any point in our history.  The digital revolution has stretched the workday and the workplace into our homes. Private ownership of the basic tools of communication means that even our human need for sociability has been captured as a source of value for the capitalist class.

The social and economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this process, further eroding the barrier between work and home. More broadly, it has revealed the consequences of a 40-year dalliance with neoliberalism.  The world’s billionaires gained five trillion in new wealth, while workers and small business owners suffered through the worst crisis since the Great Depression. Corporations lined up to beg for bailouts while the unemployed struggled through convoluted or overwhelmed websites, interminable waits, and byzantine protocols to access relief.  Millions, especially undocumented workers, received no government assistance.

In the end, over half a million people died because 40 years of right-wing ascendancy, of uninterrupted deregulation and privatization, of unchecked white supremacy left us with the Trump regime: a government so deliberately incapacitated, so subservient to capital, that a public health crisis could drown it in a bathtub.

“Human capital” is the collateral damage of capitalist crisis.

In all this, the fate of essential workers should dispel any misconceptions about how the ruling class thinks of its “human capital.”  Millions of workers, disproportionately working-class women and people of color, many in high-skill, high-need fields like health care, were thrown onto the front lines without hazard pay, without adequate PPE, and without support from their employer or their government.  As it turns out, “human capital” is as expendable as any other.  The exhausted physicians and overworked nurses, the retail workers exposed to unmasked customers, are the human echo of the shuttered factories and ruined communities: the collateral damage of capitalist crisis.

And so we demand and defend the right to be human: to employ our minds and bodies in cooperation with others in ways that advance our well-being and contribute to the well-being of our families, our communities, and our world.

We fight for our freedom from the capitalist class because we are not like them.  Working-class people understand that surviving, let alone thriving, is a collective undertaking.  We rely on each other; we help each other — not always out of political principle, but because that is what capitalism requires of us.

We fight for a world of humans, rather than human capital.

Our values, our understanding of community and collectivity threaten the ruling class, which relentlessly projects its values onto us.  It preaches by example that selfishness, competition, inequality, and poverty are inevitable in a world of finite resources.  It props up, profits from, and propagates white supremacy, male supremacy and misogyny, and every other oppressive system.  It tries to rob us of our solidarity and blind us to the possibility of a world where people come before profit: a world of humans, rather than human capital.

That humanity — our creative, cooperative, egalitarian, working-class humanity — will be the work of generations, but it must be fought for here and now.

Part of that fight is winning the PRO Act to enhance our collective bargaining rights.  Labor unions fight to protect and empower workers, but they are also invaluable schools for working-class democracy, solidarity, and collective action.

Another, equally important, part is the struggle for voting rights.  As we saw when a mass electoral uprising prevented Trump’s fascist coup, the vote becomes an instrument of collective power when the people take it up and rally around it.  The Trump-GOP attempt to disenfranchise millions of Black and Brown people, poor people, and youth must be stopped.  Like winning the right for all workers to organize and bargain collectively, protecting and expanding the vote has the potential to bring millions of workers into collective struggle for a better life.  It, too, will teach us to advance and defend our working-class humanity, our values, against the capitalist class.

This is why the future of the world is in the hands of the working class: not only because we are the vast majority of humanity, or because “without our brains and muscle not a single wheel can turn,” but because our class struggle to affirm our own humanity against capitalism is a struggle for humanity as a whole, for the possibility of a humanity that is not shackled to profit and a society where “the free development of each, is the condition for the free development of all.”

Long live international working-class solidarity!

Onward to working class power, to socialism, and to the better world that we will build together!

Happy May Day!

Image: Johan Fatenberg (CC BY-SA 2.0).



    The Communist Party USA is a  revolutionary working-class  political party founded in 1919 in Chicago, IL. The Communist Party stands for the interests of the American working class and the American people. It stands for our interests in both the present and the future. Solidarity with workers of other countries is also part of our work. We work in coalition with the labor movement, the peace movement, the student movement, organizations fighting for equality and social justice, the environmental movement, immigrants rights groups and the health care for all campaign. But to win a better life for working families, we believe that we must go further. We believe that the American people can replace capitalism with a system that puts people before profit — socialism. We are rooted in our country's revolutionary history and its struggles for democracy. We call for "Bill of Rights" socialism, guaranteeing full individual freedoms.

Related Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer