April 30, 2010

Capitalism - we can't afford it, Rob Griffiths, Friday 30 April 2010


International Workers Day will be celebrated globally today. But the nature of the celebrations will illustrate the very different political conditions prevailing in each country.

In Greece, the militant movement against the socialist government's austerity programme, dictated by the European Union Commission and Central Bank, will fly the red flag in defence of public services, jobs and wages.

The Greek Communist Party along with its trade union front PAME and the Young Communists provide the most consistent, militant and imaginative opposition to the cuts - whatever the pretensions of ultra-left adventurists and opportunists.

Spain and Portugal will also see colourful, working-class May Day marches and rallies led by communists and other forces on the left. They know that if the bankers and speculators succeed in smashing public services, working-class living standards and trade union resistance in Greece they will be next in the firing line.

In Italy, the fractured left will still be able to mobilise workers on a far bigger scale than in Britain and many other countries.

But nowhere else in Europe can teach us more about the perils of social democracy and communist liquidationism than that country, in which the most powerful communist party in the western world capitulated to parliamentarianism, reformism and bourgeois respectability.

It changed its name to the Party of the Democratic Left and split the communist movement shortly before the Christian Democrats dissolved in a sewer of corruption and their leader sat in the dock alongside anti-communist and fanatically pro-EU "socialist" prime minister Bettino Craxi.

The latter fled to Tunisia to escape imprisonment. But the divided left failed to fill the political vacuum and the result was the rise of media monopolist Berlusconi and his neo-fascist allies.

The French Communist Party will use its deep roots in the trade union movement and local communities to lead many May Day events. Its activists will be buoyed up by good results in the recent regional elections, where the Union of the Left made substantial advances.

But some of the biggest, most joyous celebrations of International Workers Day will be taking place in Latin America.

Scores of thousands will fill the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana in a riot of colour, chanting their defiance of the US trade blockade and demanding freedom for the Miami Five.

Workers around the world will share those sentiments.

But we must keep up the pressure on our own governments and US President Obama to close Guantanamo Bay concentration camp and respect Cuba's national sovereignty instead of constantly trying to subvert it.

In Venezuela the revolutionary process continues to unfold as socialists and communists look beyond May Day in their efforts to mobilise the masses of people against the wealthy oligarchy and its US backers.

The workers and people of China have much to celebrate.

The international capitalist crisis has barely dented that country's phenomenal growth, based as it is on large-scale public ownership and central planning, as well as the utilisation of foreign capital and technology.

As the World Development Report of 2008 confirmed, China's reduction of poverty has been "massive and unprecedented" in human history.

Between 1981 and 2001 around 500 million people - almost half the population - were pulled out of poverty.

International Workers Day is likely to be a stormier affair in Russia. Communist protesters have clashed with security forces recently in demonstrations over prices and incomes.

The struggle for independent and militant trade unionism is taking place in very difficult conditions there against the manoeuvring of the Putin regime and its client monopoly capitalists.

Russian workers and their unions need our support and solidarity, but so too do the communists of Latvia and Lithuania - where their parties are banned - and the socialists and Communists of Poland and Hungary, who are banned by law from displaying the red star or the hammer and sickle.

This should remind us of how much the world has changed in just one generation.

In 1985, who would have predicted that the Soviet Union would collapse, capitalism would be restored and fascists in the Baltic States would be publicly honouring the anti-Soviet scum who fought alongside the nazi Waffen SS during the second world war?

Or that Nelson Mandela would be released from prison to be elected as president as part of a revolutionary alliance between the African National Congress, the Confederation of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party?

The SACP has confounded those who hoped to turn the ANC into a neoliberal party led by a new black bourgeoisie with the communists and trade unions marginalised. Instead, the ANC has been renewed and its communist component strengthened.

The government of Jacob Zuma now has to show the growing number of unemployed and disaffected youth that its new economic and social strategy will fight poverty, thereby undermining the appeal of black nationalist demagogues.

South Africa has abolished its nuclear weapons, but the rest of the world has yet to receive the "peace dividend" promised by US President Bush at the end of the cold war.

The need to rid the world of weapons of mass murder, to use precious resources to combat poverty and global warming instead, will be a theme of May Day throughout the world today.

But two others should be added.

First, the state terrorism inflicted on the Palestinian people - particularly those in Gaza - is a stain on Israel and humanity that can be tolerated no longer.

National and international sanctions must be imposed on Israel until real progress is made towards the two-state settlement demanded by countless United Nations resolutions. Free Marwan Barghouti and all the other political prisoners in Israeli jails!

Secondly, we have to renew our determination to defend jobs, wages, pensions, benefits and public services against the ruling class offensive now underway in Britain and across western Europe.

After the biggest bail-out of an economic system in history, the slogan for International Workers Day in 2010 could be: "Capitalism - we can't afford it!"

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