“Workers of the world unite you have nothing to lose but your chains”
The World Federation of Trade Union Trade Union International Public Service and Allied (WFTU-TUI-PS&A) sends warmth and revolutionary salutations to millions of its members, friends and public service workers and allies around the globe on this occasion of celebrating workers and the working class struggles in the world.
This year’s May Day comes while the world is still confronted by the coronavirus pandemic which has subjected most countries to be under different levels of lockdowns. Indeed, this is a second Mayday commemorated and celebrated by workers of the world under devastating and unbearable conditions brought about by the global capitalist crisis and COVID-19 pandemic combined.
The current year May day celebrations are extremely important in the calendar of the class oriented federation of workers the World Federation of Trade Union (WFTU) as it is convening its 18th World Congress of Trade Union in October as a world platform of the working people and working class to reflect on the need to provide an alternative to the barbarism of capitalism across the world.
The Trade Union International Public Service and Allied (TUI PS&A) remembers the clarion call made by the 1848 Communist Manifesto in Chapter 1 on Bourgeoisie and Proletarian: “Workers of the World Unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains” as more relevant than ever and most urgent today given levels of exploitation at the point of production. Certainly, history and recent events have clearly demonstrated and exposed that working people and the working class as a whole are always at the receiving end of capitalism as poverty and misery is the order of the day. The architects and beneficiaries of capitalism, the bourgeoisie are living off the sweat, toil, blood and suffering of the working masses of the world.
On this day, workers commemorates the gallant struggles of 1886 where the generation of workers literally refused to submit to the ravages of capitalism and inspired by the commitment of the generation who are still confronting capitalism in the twenty first century as the working class today embodies the best values and principles of humanity and human progress. The negative effects of capitalism on a disproportionately large segment of humanity outweighs its benefits that accrues to only a few in societies across the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic only served to expose the already glaring limitations of capitalism that are reflected in the worsening poverty in the world, growing inequality, rising unemployment and the shrinking middle class that is a symptom of the pauperisation of the working class.
Even before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 the world had already entered yet another recession in 2019, so, the COVID-19 crisis only served to exacerbate the already existing crisis. Besides the adverse effects of these multiple crises, the problems arising from them are deepened further by the responses of capital that sought to profit further from the situation it has created while shifting the burden of economic recovery to the working class. It was in this context that we witnessed the hoarding of health supplies and the inflation of prices of these supplies in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak. This profiteering was, and is still, accompanied by attacks on workers and trade union rights under the pretext of ‘COVID-19 responses’.
So, it is not surprising to those who understand capitalism that in spite of the lessons learnt earlier with regard to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply chains, the development and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has also fallen victim to profiteering and geopolitical manoeuvres. The first instance of vaccine scepticism resulted from the irresponsible politicisation of vaccine development when the US and its allies sought to vilify the scientific work being done by countries such as Russia, China and Cuba in the development of COVID-19 vaccines. Under the pretext of “health standards” and “health procedures”, the Western imperialist powers have sought to cast doubts on COVID-19 vaccines and medicines developed elsewhere in order to secure the COVID-19 vaccine market for themselves. This is where the seeds of vaccine imperialism originate from.
Having prepaid millions more doses of COVID-19 vaccines from a handful of pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines, developed countries found themselves competing and fighting to be first in line to receive such vaccines. This situation resulted in the pharmaceutical companies that have taken billions of dollars for COVID-19 vaccine pre-orders being unable to meet the demand. The limited production capacity can be directly linked to the prevailing profit-driven Intellectual Property Rights regime of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which prevents the unlicensed production of these essential drugs. This despite the fact that governments pour billions into the research and development of these drugs that are later licensed and sold at huge costs to the same governments for private profit.
Rather than dealing with the underlying causes that hamper the worldwide production, distribution and rollout of COVID19 vaccines, the rich countries have chosen to engage in vaccine nationalism in order to secure vaccines only for their populations. This strategy leaves much of the world without vaccines and allows the COVID-19 pandemic to continue to spread and mutate, thus prolonging the global pandemic and the economic restrictions that are imposed to counter it. Only a global and not a country or continent specific strategy can bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control, the triumph of solidarity over competition and human needs over profits should be the goal of all class conscious elements in this struggle.
The impact of the COVID19 and the weak responses are also as a result of the fact that the pandemic struck at a time when public health institutions had been hollowed and weakened in many parts of the world. The global neoliberal policy that has been defined by the erosion of free state provided public services such as health in favour of profit as a result poor people lost their lives in millions and endangered the livelihoods of millions of public service workers and workers in general. The COVID-19 pandemic has also demonstrated the importance of the so-called “private healthcare” that is grossly ill-equipped to meet the healthcare needs of all societies on the globe. Private healthcare is built on the premise of profiteering from the health needs of society, while free public healthcare is built on the premise of healthy productive citizens.
The WFTU TUI-PS&A has noted that many employers are using the cover of COVID-19 restrictions to undermine and reverse the historic gains of workers in the workplace. Collective bargaining, health and safety and trade union rights have all come under increasing pressure in different parts of the world. Many trade unionists face victimisation due to their unwavering struggles for fair treatment of workers and decent wages – and many strikes and pickets are not allowed in the name of fighting COVID-19 in some parts of the world.
Given all the challenges confronting workers in the public sector and those who rely on public services, the WFTU TUI-PS&A urges all its affiliates and regions to carry forward the slogan of WFTU “hope lies in our struggles”. As a trade union international, we can only fulfil this slogan by continuing to raise and pursue the following practical demands:
- Free and affordable vaccines for all and call for an end to vaccine Nationalism
- Lifting patent right restrictions to allow poor countries to produce the own vaccines.
- Free public healthcare for all
- Respect for the health and safety of workers in the workplace.
- The protection of trade union and workers’ rights and respect of all collective agreements reached by workers and employers
- End to Economic and financial blockade on Cuba by imperialist USA
- Freedom of Palestinian illegally jailed by Apartheid Israel
- End to economic and financial aggression on Venezuela by Imperialist USA
The WFTU TUI-PS&A and the broader progressive trade union movement are waging struggles to attain these demands in different corners of the world under difficult conditions. Our demands need to be understood in the broader context of our opposition to imperialism and its policy of war mongering and domination. The rising tensions among imperialist countries and the proxy wars that accompany those affects workers the most. We therefore need to simultaneously continue our solidarity work in solidarity with the people of Cuba, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Syria, Palestine and Zimbabwe etc. as part of the broader working class struggle against imperialism and capitalism.
Hope Lies in Our Struggles!!!
Satisfaction of Workers Contemporary Needs!!!
Vaccines for All Now!!!
Issued by the Office of the General Secretary of WFTU TUI-PS&A
Zola Saphetha: General Secretary