Tell it to SunStar: Labor Day in the digital age

Tell it to SunStar.
Tell it to SunStar.SunStar file photo

By Herman M. Lagon

As we celebrate Labor Day, it is time to think about the progress made by workers’ movements. Looking at this day through Karl Marx’s perspective during this period of tremendous technological advancement makes it even more intriguing. Even in this tech-driven modern world, the long-dead Marx and Engels bring up class fights on a different level.

Surprisingly, with all the new technology, Marx’s power, money, and labor theories are more pertinent than ever. The current technological revolution is blending our digital and physical lives in ways that Marx would find intriguing, even unexpected.

Like Marx’s time, the worry that technology would replace humans in the workforce remains a significant issue today. Everyone is wondering who benefits most from the increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence, robotics, and quantum computing. Considering the complexities of operationalizing his “mode of production” in the modern world, Marx perhaps wants us to consider who gains from automating specific tasks.

Some people have gotten even richer in this age of the internet—particularly those with power over digital technology. This is not exactly novel, as Marx’s theories on power and wealth show. The disparity between the technologically adept and the rest of us is the most recent development in a long-running tale of inequality. This brings us to question whether Marx’s revolutionary dialectical materialism has, indeed, lost relevance in the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Before, Marx extensively discussed the often-mentioned sense of estrangement or disconnection. Gig-flexible workers and social media users may feel disoriented in today’s work environment. In a digital sense, it is similar to what Marx wrote about employees becoming alienated from both their jobs and one another. As he might have predicted, the expansion of global capitalism’s impact directly results from technology, albeit in the form of the Internet of Things at this time. Perhaps serendipitously, Marx’s view of capitalism as an international system sheds light on the globalization of capital and labor in the modern technological era.

Yet, optimism persists. The use of digital tools has energized the fight for workers’ rights. A new wave of organizing is emerging for improved working conditions, with computer workers creating unions and movements opposing precarious contracting or freelancing jobs.

As we commemorate Labor Day amid this technological transformation, the ideals of Marx and the labor movement remain relevant. He described the same struggles workers confronted in his writings and the Manifesto, but only now do they take on various forms. With this, we can look to Marx’s vision of a just society and his scathing critique of capitalism for guidance in the face of modern world problems. The way they make us rethink and fight for a fair share of the advantages of technological developments is very inspiring.

Let us remember Marx’s enduring lessons on this Labor Day. His plea for workers to stay vigilant and unite remains paramount. Amid technological splendor, Marx’s theories serve as a sobering reminder that the struggle for social justice persists. On Labor Day, we are encouraged not to rest on our laurels but rather to prepare for future fights. It is a day to renew our resolve to stand up for equitable treatment in the workplace, whether in the real or virtual world.

For remembering the values of labor and workers’ rights is essential as we face the problems of the modern period. It serves as a timely reminder that, despite technological advancements, we must not give up the struggle for equality and unity. And so, let us honor the sacrifices made by workers now and in the past and do everything we can to ensure everyone’s labor is respected and receives their just share. Both technology and our resolve to improve working conditions for everyone are constantly evolving.

We can let the technological revolution exacerbate workplace conditions or use it to create a more equitable society. Marx’s theories and the struggles of workers throughout history can help us make the proper decision. Let us make this Labor Day not just a day off but a step toward continued fighting and unity. Looking ahead, we can still hope to create a world where work is genuinely honored anytime and everywhere.

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