Statement for International Workers’ Day,
Issued by the Office of the Chairperson,
International League of Peoples’ Struggle, May 1, 2016
We, the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS), raise our clenched fists to salute the workers and peoples of the world celebrating 130 years of International Workers’ Day.
On this day, we recall and celebrate the victories of the labor movement in fighting for the eight-hour workday, higher wages, better working conditions and social transformation. We pay tribute to the pioneers and martyrs of the labor movement and we draw inspiration from their commitment, courage, and perseverance as we seek to boldly expand and strengthen the working-class movement and heighten its revolutionary consciousness and militancy.
It has been 130 years since the workers’ protest at Haymarket Square in Chicago, USA. This signal event in working-class history teaches us many lessons that are valuable to this day: Capitalists, especially the big bourgeoisie, will not recognize the workers’ role in production, basic needs and dignity in order to increase their profits. Governments are in the service of the capitalist class and will use its repressive apparatus to uphold capitalist interests. Workers need to unite and fight in order to attain victories in improving their working and living conditions. They are able to raise their working-class consciousness and militancy in the course of class struggle against the bourgeoisie.
At the same time, we express our indignation that the victories of the labor movement have through decades been taken back by the monopoly capitalists, big comprador capitalists, and all reactionaries especially with the onset of their neoliberal attacks on workers and the labor movement. We heighten our resolve to regain and further build the strength of the labor movement in order to reclaim our victories and advance the fight for greater freedom, democracy and socialism. We intensify our commitment to confront the present situation and challenges facing the labor movement through the standpoint, viewpoint and method bequeathed to us by the history of working-class struggles.
WORSENING ECONOMIC CRISIS
The imperialist system is sinking deeper into the quagmire of economic crisis. The measures that it is taking to extricate itself from this quagmire amounts to mere floundering in the course of sinking deeper in crisis.
The global financial and economic crisis which erupted in 2007-2008 has persisted and is causing the rapid deterioration of the situation of workers both in advanced capitalist countries and underdeveloped countries. Even bourgeois economists and financial analysts now acknowledge that the global economy has not really recovered and instead has entered a third wave of the global financial crisis.
The first wave was triggered by the 2007 sub-prime mortgage crisis in the US that led to the near collapse of the global banking system in 2008. Central banks of the imperialist countries responded by rescuing the big banks and corporations of the finance oligarchy with the use of public money. This further widened fiscal deficits and raised the levels of public debt in the advanced capitalist countries. While this temporarily succeeded in protecting the balance sheets and assets of big financial institutions and corporations, it quickly led to a sovereign debt crisis centered in the Eurozone.
This second wave of the global financial crisis plunged the less developed countries of Europe – Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain – into severe recessions and saw the near collapse of the European Monetary Union in 2012. It has also prompted governments across the continent to impose harsh austerity measures and dismantle labor rights to the detriment of workers and impoverished people.
Now the third wave of the crisis is centered in the so-called “emerging economies” with the end of debt-driven growth in China, the end of the commodities boom for raw material exporting countries such as Brazil and South Africa, and massive capital flight from developing countries as a whole.
The results of the measures taken in relation to the crisis are paving the way to greater and more dangerous convulsions. Bank bailouts and the ultra-loose monetary policy adopted by the imperialist central banks have put more money in the hands of the financial oligarchy but has inflated global debt by US$57 trillion in just eight years from 2007. Global debt is now over US$200 trillion and growing at a much faster pace than global GDP. This unpayable debt is the ticking time bomb that is inevitably going to explode and plunge the world into another and more severe financial seizure.
Meanwhile, the richest 62 monopoly capitalists in the world have increased their stock of wealth by US$ 542 billion since 2010 while the most exploited 3.6 billion people have lost US$ 1 trillion over the same period. The official figures show joblessness is at an all time high of 200 million people globally, with another 3 million expected to join the ranks of the unemployed over the next two years.
Among those employed, precarious conditions of work are now the norm even in the biggest and wealthiest monopoly firms. For instance, only 6% of the total workforce of the top 50 global corporations are recognized as direct employees while the rest are hired as short-term contractual workers or informal workers. More workers are also forced to seek employment abroad, adding to the 150 million global migrant workforce. Monopoly capitalists are dismantling workers’ rights previously won through the heroic struggles of the labor movement, including the right to a living wage, social benefits, job security, the eight-hour workday, and safe working conditions.
Never satisfied, the monopoly bourgeoisie is carrying out a new wave of neoliberal offensives aiming to increase profits amidst crisis conditions. They are implementing more severe austerity measures and labor flexibilization; privatizing the public sector and the commons most prominently in the form of land grabs; deepening the denationalization and compradorization of third world economies by extending the global supply chains of their monopoly firms; and strengthening protections for monopoly-capitalist property and profits, especially by extending intellectual property rights over technologies and knowledge.
They are rewriting international and national legal systems and regulations through new trade and investment agreements such as the Transpacific Partnership Agreement, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and Economic Partnership Agreements. They are institutionalizing mechanisms for Investor-State Dispute Settlement that grants de facto veto power to multinational corporations over regulations or reforms that governments might adopt under increasing popular pressures for immediate relief and reforms amidst the crisis.
All these can only be expected to further impoverish the toiling masses of the world, increase the concentration and overaccumulation of capital in the hands of the monopoly bourgeoisie, and exacerbate the crisis of overproduction that neoliberalism was intended to resolve in the first place.
MORE REPRESSION AND WAR
This neoliberal offensive of the monopoly capitalists is of necessity combined with the brutal suppression of all working people deemed as potential threat to the further accumulation of wealth and power by the ruling classes. Repressive laws and regulations are being enforced everywhere with the avowed aim of attracting more capitalist investments. States are further intensifying their crackdown on trade unions and people’s movements demanding higher wages, better working conditions, social services and government accountability.
There has been a steep increase in the number of arbitrary arrests and detentions of workers for exercising their democratic rights. In Europe and elsewhere, activists have been arrested or subjected to criminal charges for opposing austerity measures through strikes and protests. Critics of corporate or government abuses are threatened with physical assault, death, and placed under surveillance. States are also filing trumped-up criminal charges against political activists. Women activists face gender-based threats and abuse.
In many countries, fundamental rights, such as freedom of assembly, association and expression are curtailed under the guise of countering terrorism, counterinsurgency or protecting national security. This is particularly prevalent in underdeveloped countries where land and resources are being seized by energy companies, extractive industries, large-scale agriculture and property developers.
These activities are often financed and promoted by imperialist financial institutions such as the World Bank. They are also backed up by state security forces and paramilitary groups — with guidance and support from the US military. As a result, human rights groups have documented the rise in the number of extra-judicial killings and disappearances of activists, organizers, mass leaders and journalists in such countries as the Philippines, Honduras, Colombia, Brazil and elsewhere. Many of the victims are from the labor movement.
Monopoly capitalists are united in their interest to exploit and oppress the people especially in the neocolonies. But they are also in constant economic, geopolitical and military competition with one another, especially as the worsening global crises underscore the finiteness of the world’s labour, resources and markets compared to the insatiable drive of monopoly capitalists to profit and accumulate capital. Hence the struggle between the imperialist countries to secure their share of the bounty is becoming ever more acute.
Since the start of the US-led War of Terror in 2001, US imperialism has instigated, led and/or supported “regime change” in numerous countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Somalia, Honduras, Libya, Ukraine and now Syria in order to install governments that would help secure US interests. Since 2011, the US has been trying to orchestrate the ouster of the Assad government in Syria, using proxies — Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey — to finance and arm numerous anti-Assad Jihadist groups, among them Daesh, Al Nusra and Al Qaeda. But this has been stymied by the support of Russia and Iran for the Assad government.
The US war for oil in the Middle East/West Asia has resulted in the massacre of millions of people in the region. It has destroyed the local economy, social infrastructure, and cultural heritage of the people in these countries, and has forced more than five million people to seek refuge abroad in 2015 alone.
In waging these wars of aggression, thousands of young Americans — especially people of color and the unemployed — have been sacrificed in the interest of the big bourgeoisie. Moreover, the US spent an estimated US$ 3 trillion for the war on Iraq alone, excluding another trillion dollars for the medical and other costs of the returned soldiers, while denying needed social services in health and education for working people in the US.
European NATO allies are now suffering the blowback from their support of these US wars of aggression in the Middle-East/West Asia with the terrorist bombings in Paris and Brussels that have victimized civilians and created an atmosphere of terror among the people. The ongoing refugee crisis — the worst in human history — is now overwhelming European governments and giving rise to xenophobia, bigotry, racism and fascism that is exposing migrant workers and minority groups to the most vicious attacks by the most reactionary elements in society.
INTENSIFYING WORKERS’ AND PEOPLES’ RESISTANCE
Imperialist neoliberal policies are intensifying the exploitation and oppression of working people, creating objective conditions for the people to fight back. The ongoing and emerging struggles, though scattered and shortlived in many cases, are important for building resistance against the global capitalist system.
In Europe, workers and the people have conducted large mass actions against austerity programmes which have been escalated, especially in Greece, Spain, and the UK. Millions of workers have taken part in these protest actions demanding a stop to government cutbacks in spending on social welfare and public services, higher wages for working families, protection of trade union organising and bargaining rights. In Greece they are demanding freedom from debt bondage to the EU banks and other instruments of imperialist globalization. Tens of thousands of people marched in the streets of Brussels, Madrid, Helsinki, Warsaw, Prague, Berlin, Munich, Paris and other European cities last year to oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US.
In France, workers and youth are currently leading militant street demonstrations against the Hollande government’s draft labour bill that would weaken the right to bargain collectively, worsen working conditions, and extend working time. They have also been doing nightly sit-ins, nuit debout, occupying public squares to address a host of other grievances, including rising inequality, housing evictions, billionaires’ tax evasion, the state of emergency and security crackdown in the wake of last year’s bombings; climate change, etc.
In North America, private and public sector workers, migrants, women, youth and people of color have conducted protests against austerity measures, racist violence and exploitation of working people. Worker are finding ways to conduct widespread protests against the worst anti-labor practices such as the coordinated days of action of workers against Walmart, the “Fight for 15” campaign of low-wage workers in the service industry, the recent strike of tens of thousands of workers in Verizon in the US, and strikes of Canadian workers in the health sector.
In Australia, former Prime Minister Abbott was ousted after carrying the most vicious neoliberal attack against the workers and the people. The monopoly bourgeoisie and their parties are determined to break the power of unions in Australia, and workers and people are preparing to fight renewed attacks.
In Asia, although sporadic, protests and strikes against multinational corporations and governments have been increasing and maturing towards organized resistance against neoliberal policies, state repression, and the monopoly capitalist system itself. Workers’ strikes are on the rise in China in recent years, including massive strikes against multinational corporations. In India, over 100 million workers participated in a one-day strike against the neoliberal policies of the Modi government last September. Workers in the country have continued to gather in huge numbers. This month in Bangalore, thousands of garment workers, mostly women, came out of the factories to protest the governments’ policy on social security and blockaded highways.
Indonesia and Cambodia are some of the countries where workers have mounted nationwide actions for wages, and have won significant increases in the last few years. Their struggles have gained global attention and significance because they have linked their campaigns to global value chains of multinational corporations, and more importantly, because they have displayed the power of workers to win gains through collective action and defy the race to the bottom. Both countries are now facing battles against labour reforms which aim to curtail their right to organize and bargain collectively.
In South Africa and Senegal, workers and people are resisting the privatization drive and fighting courageously to improve wages and living standards. In Nigeria, workers and people are opposing the price increase of basic commodities like petrol. In Burkina Faso, protesters took to the streets to topple the three-decade-old dictatorship. In both countries, anger is growing against the militarism and terrorism backed or instigated by US imperialism. Throughout the African continent, there are a growing number of protests and other people’s actions demanding respect for human rights and calling for an end to racism, fundamentalism, terrorist violence, and ethnic genocide.
In Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil and elsewhere the economic slowdown resulting from the end of the commodities boom is now being exploited by the persistent big comprador-landlord oligarchs and rabid US puppets to reverse social gains achieved under progressive governments. But the struggles of workers and peoples across Latin America and Carribean countries are strengthened by decades of resistance against these same local elites and US imperialism. Workers and social movements are condemning and opposing US intervention and destabilization attempts in Paraguay, Honduras, Venezuela and other countries in the region.
Peoples’ anger against the US runs wide and deep in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and throughout West Asia where the worst crimes against humanity have been committed by US imperialism and its allies in recent decades. The struggles of the Palestinian, Kurdish and other peoples for national and social liberation are heroic examples of people’s resistance in this region. They are showing the path of people’s resistance against US imperialism and against the violence spread in the regions by US-backed terrorist groups. National and cross-border alliances sometimes involve tactics responsive to complex and fluid situations.
Elsewhere progressive and revolutionary movements are also waging struggles for national liberation and democracy, the ground for which is made fertile by intensified neoliberalism, repression, militarism, imperialist rivalry and wars of aggression.
We are confident that the people’s resistance will rise higher as the crisis of global capitalism worsens and inflicts intolerable suffering on the people. The level of resistance that has already emerged signals more widespread and more intense struggles of the working class and the people. The plunderous neoliberal policy and the aggressive wars of monopoly capitalism have caused unprecedented social devastation and will generate people’s resistance on an unprecedentedly wider and more intense scale.
As the imperialist system descends further into barbarism, we recall the great Vladimir Lenin’s call on the workers of the world 100 years ago to refuse to fight the wars of the imperialists and to transform wars against countries – in which workers are pitted against each other – into proletarian wars against their respective bourgeoisies.
Workers and unions everywhere must link their struggles to one another and to a broader resistance movement against monopoly capitalism, neoliberalism, state terror and imperialist wars. They must maximize opportunities to arouse, organize and mobilize amidst the worsening global crisis, inter-imperialist contradictions, and win immediate and long-lasting gains for all working and oppressed peoples.
Workers, peasants, migrants, indigenous people, women, youth, must link arms and raise their various struggles against the global capitalist system itself. Only the struggle against imperialism and for socialism will truly end capitalist crises and imperialist wars; liberate the masses from exploitation and oppression; and realize greater freedom, democracy, social justice, all-round development and lasting peace. ###