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The Spirit of May Day

The Spirit of May Day

This year May 1st will not see International Workers’ Day celebrated on the streets of cities throughout the world reminding people of the vibrancy and tenacity of the trade union and socialist movement.

The ‘stay at home’ requirements of fighting the coronavirus requires that to be the case.

By contrast the virus has raised the profile of International Workers’ Memorial Day. Every year on April 28th, the trade union movement in Ireland and around the world unites to re- member those who have lost their lives at work, or from work-related injury and diseases. Trade unions recommit to organising collectively to prevent such deaths and injuries.

On Tuesday a minute's silence was held across the UK on International Workers’ Memorial Day to commemorate the key workers who have died with coronavirus.

The NI Executive’s Minister of Health expressed his support:

“International Workers’ Memorial Day is an important, annual international commemoration. It is brought into even sharper focus for us this year as we battle Covid-19. I know that the main health and social care unions have suggested a minute of silence and I wholeheartedly endorse this proposal, as does the Executive as whole.”

As the British Trade Union Congress pointed out: “Tens of thousands of workers worldwide have died.

More have fallen ill or continue to go to work risking their lives.

“Many workers are still attending work ill-equipped and without necessary safety measures in place. We could not have a starker reminder of the important role of trade union health and safety reps in saving and protecting workers’ lives than the cur- rent crisis we are living through.”

That message requires particular attention as Northern Ireland’s First and Deputy First Ministers are meeting the head of the NI Civil Service this week to discuss a "path back to normality."

The questions need asked: whose ‘normality’? At what cost? Who’s paying?

Sinn Féin MLA Declan Kearney has warned that "right-wing elements" in the British Cabinet are prepared to put "corporate greed over public welfare" in pursuit of their normality.

Tory Secretary of State for Northern Ireland last week dismissed that warning. But experience teaches different.

On the recent 150th anniversary of the birth of Lenin, the Communist Party of Ireland in a joint international statement with 88 other Communist and Workers’ Parties emphasised that “the pandemic of Covid-19 is spreading, tragically demonstrating the great shortages of health systems in capitalist countries as well as the anti-social and parasitic nature of the capitalist system.” They also noted that “the bur- dens of the crisis will be again put on the workers’ shoulders” and committed “to the struggle for the abolition of exploitation and the construction of the socialist society.”

The 2008 financial crisis showed that state monopoly capitalism will always show an unswerving commitment to its own political and economic interests. The aftermath of the coronavirus will be no different.

Only an organised working class can resist a return to ‘their normality’ of welfare cuts, privatised health care, housing shortage, precarious working and climate catastrophe.

Faced with the pandemic people are realising that those who really matter aren’t the CEOs, the bankers and the billionaires, but the workers in hospitals, laboratories, care homes, transport, food retail and the rest.

What better time to celebrate the role that workers play in society than now?

What better time to re-commit to the organisation of working people in the trade union and socialist movement.

This May Day it may not be possible to be on the streets but the spirit of the day can still be celebrated by being proud to be amongst workers tireless in their efforts to counter the coronavirus; to be amongst all those struggling across the globe for dignity and justice in their workplace and in their community.

May Day is our day – celebrate it!

By John Pinkerton

Originally printed in Unity, weekly paper of the CPI

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