MAY DAY MANIFESTO 2020 — CONGRESS OF INDIAN TRADE UNIONS (CITU)

On this Day of International Working Class Solidarity, May Day 2020,

In the midst of the Corona virus pandemic – One of the worst tragedies that struck humanity in a century,

Leading to an impending economic crisis predicted to be the worst since the World War II,

CITU

Expresses its heartfelt gratitude and class pride at the invaluable services being rendered by –

All the front line health workers, the doctors, nurses, paramedical staff, the sanitation workers and all other workers across the globe, risking their lives to safeguard the lives of others

Extends solidarity to

The working class, who kept the wheels of society running during the lockdown imposed in countries across the world by maintaining the essential services – water, electricity, transport, communication, financial services, milk, groceries, vegetables, medicines, etc to sustain life for the hundreds of millions of people under the lockdown in many countries, braving huge personal difficulties and sufferings

All the peasants and agricultural workers who continue to feed the world,

And all the workers and other toiling people, the unsung heroes and heroines who are the real ‘wealth creators’, the unseen powers that propel the world

CITU

Deeply condoles the families of the millions of people across the world who lost their dear ones to the Covid -19 pandemic

Stands in solidarity with

The hundreds of millions who suffer from the disease and many of whom are also stigmatised by sections of society, for no fault of theirs, and

The many other hundreds of millions who live in anxiety and fear –

Anxiety and fear not only of the virus but

Anxiety of the future of those who have already lost their jobs and sources of livelihood

Anxiety of many more who fear losing their jobs and source of livelihood, tomorrow if not today

On this May Day, CITU

Asserts that the only way to overcome the present crisis due to the Covid -19 pandemic as well as the already existing global economic crisis, is for the workers and all sections of toiling people to Unite; unite by demolishing the walls being built between them in the name of religion, race, region, caste, ethnicity, language, gender etc; Unite as human beings to protect our lives, livelihoods and the earth and environment that sustain our lives and livelihoods

The Covid -19 pandemic has stripped naked the inhuman and barbaric nature of the society that we live in today – the capitalist system and its neoliberal avatar

The challenge that the novel Corona virus, an invisible micro organism, has thrown before humanity in this twenty first century, requires a united fight to protect lives, to mobilise the entire world’s scientific and technological knowledge, financial resources, pool all our human strength to fight and defeat it.

Instead, what we see today is the most hideous and repulsive face of the capitalist system.

Today over 22 lakhs of people are infected with the corona virus, crores of people at risk and already more than 1.5 lakh people dead across the world. Tens of millions have lost their jobs and incomes because of the lockdown imposed in many countries.  They have become homeless; they and their families are going hungry. In this situation, the big corporates and businesses are making use of the pandemic, retrenching workers, cutting their wages, bonuses, increasing work hours, denying them their rights. The corporate friendly, rather corporate-led governments that rule in many countries are taking advantage of the situation to help their corporate masters by changing the labour laws to curtail the rights of workers, legalising the illegal violation of labour laws by the employers and suppressing democratic rights. Pandemic or no pandemic, what matters to the capitalists and the governments representing their interests is not the lives and livelihood of the toiling people who create wealth, who keep the wheels of society moving; it is only the profits of the capitalist class. Profit is their god; not Ram or Allah or Jesus. They use people’s religious beliefs to divide people, to make them fight each other, but when it comes to exploiting people, attacking their rights, the capitalists are united and they exploit and attack all the workers; no discrimination or favouritism here.

US imperialism, the most powerful country in the world stands exposed today. In a most cruel and barbarous display of its hegemonic aggression, it continues its economic and political war against Cuba, Venezuela and Iran. Despite being almost isolated in the world community of nations, it supports Israel to deny Palestinians their right to Mother Land. It is blocking many countries from accepting the unilateral offers of medical help from Cuba, which has a unique record of extending international medical solidarity. It is also blocking any international assistance from reaching Cuba. Socialist Cuba, despite facing the US imposed sanctions has developed universally acknowledged public health services with health indices which surpass many of the advanced capitalist countries. USA has stopped any help reaching Iran invoking its sanctions resulting in many preventable deaths. Trump has also invoked Korean War era Defence Production Act having extra territorial jurisdiction to force US companies to supply to the US market. What is more heinous is the diversion and stealing of consignments meant for various countries, including India and even its European allies. The arrival of rapid test kits to India from China was delayed because the consignment meant for India was diverted to the US. Trump has warned India of ‘retaliatory measures’ if it does not lift ban of export of Hydroxychloroquine, which he believes can cure the corona virus disease. Germany, France, Canada and Brazil and some other countries have accused the US for its attempts to block face-masks, PPE and testing kits designated to their countries. This is nothing but modern day piracy.

And recently the USA has stopped funding to the World Health Organisation, which has been helping the world to deal with the critical situation arising due to the corona pandemic, accusing it of siding with China.

The claims of USA as the world leader also stand totally discredited today. It has totally failed to protect its own people despite its unprecedented advance in science and technology, because of its policies. Health care in the USA is run by the private corporates with profit motive. This has proved to be totally inadequate and incapable of dealing with a public emergency like the corona virus pandemic. The private corporate health sector is unwilling to give up its profits even in situations like this. Even in normal times, private health care in the USA is unaffordable for the majority of workers who do not have health insurance. The public hospitals do not have beds, ICUs, ventilators and personal protective equipment for its health care personnel. So while the rich can buy better medical facilities, the poor die in thousands. President Trump also failed to take early measures to contain the disease. The next Presidential elections and his chances of winning in the face of restrictions on the economy weighted more on him than the lives of the people. Thus today, USA has reported the largest number of cases crossing 7 lakhs and the largest number of deaths, crossing 36000.

A country having innumerable missiles, fighter jets, submarines and mercenaries all over the world, ready to attack any country to impose its economic and political terms, does not care to allot adequate resources for the health of its own people. It is not able to provide its own people with hospital beds, ventilators; it is not able to provide its own health staff with personal protective equipment and masks. It is resorting to stealing consignments of these items meant for other countries. At the same time Trump announced $500 billion worth package for the monopolies, $29 billion for airlines and $17 billion for security companies.

This is imperialism, as Lenin termed it ‘The highest stage of capitalism’. As the crisis aggravates, so does the gangsterism of imperialism rise, exposing its most degraded and heinous side.

Under neoliberal capitalism, even some advanced capitalist countries, which had better public health systems like the UK, Italy etc have cut down social welfare expenditure including on public health, education etc and promoted privatisation. This has further worsened with the austerity measures taken up after the global crisis of 2008. The result of this is now evident in their inability to meet the requirements of the present crisis as in Italy, Spain, UK, France etc. Spain had to nationalise private hospitals to meet the crisis now.

The world has not yet recovered from economic crisis that has engulfed it in 2007- 2008 when the corona virus pandemic struck. Now it is widely predicted that the world economy would slip into the worst economic crisis the world has ever seen. This has also brought to the fore the antagonisms between the imperialist countries. Trump has been reported to have offered funds to lure CureVac, a German company developing a potential vaccine against corona virus, into coming to the US and exclusively working for it. It was also reported that the German government was making counter offers to tempt the company to stay in Germany. Germany refused medical equipment to Italy. Italy and Spain prohibited exports to Greece. Germany and Netherlands denied help to Spain, Italy and France having large number of deaths due to the corona virus.

But when it comes to protecting the profits of the capitalists by attacking the hard won rights of the workers, their wages, welfare etc, all the capitalist countries are united in implementing the same policies.

The slogan ‘All united to get out of the crisis’ is meaningless as far as the capitalists and the countries they rule in proxy or directly, are concerned. It is only the workers and the working class governments, the socialist countries that have always extended solidarity to the toiling people everywhere. Unity is the urgent need also in the midst of this worst Corona Pandemic, and that is unity of the entire toiling class united to fight the atrocious exploitative system, which does not hesitate to barter human lives and livelihood with insatiable greed for profit. Entire global scenario today vindicates that position.     

The tiny country, socialist Cuba has heroically sent 60 doctors to Italy, the second most affected country after the US, to help fight the corona virus there. When many countries including the USA refused permission to a British ocean liner carrying passengers and crew diagnosed with corona virus, to dock in their ports, it was Cuba that allowed the ship to dock in its port. Strictly following WHO guidelines it has helped the more than 1000 passengers and crew members to leave the boat, carried them in buses with special police escort to the airport and safely transported them in chartered flights back to the United Kingdom.

That is the stark contrast between socialism and capitalism, between highest form of humanism and predatory barbarism. 

Despite all the difficulties it had faced due to the decades long criminal US blockade, Cuba has developed a model public health care system for the people that provides free health care, with only a nominal registration fees. It has also developed advanced drug industry. Medical teams including specialist doctors are sent to many needy countries in Latin America, Africa etc regularly by Cuba. In addition to Italy, Cuba has sent medical teams to Venezuela and four Caribbean countries during this pandemic. Socialist system in Cuba provides free public education, public provision of food, housing etc.

China, where the first case of corona virus was detected, mobilised all its resources to stop its spread. WHO said this was ‘the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history’. This was possible because of the strong public health system in China. Because of its political commitment to establish an ‘accessible, equitable, affordable and efficient health system to cover all people by 2020’, the health expenditure rose from 5% of GDP in 2009 to 6.4% of GDP in 2017. Out of pocket expenditure dropped to 29%; 82% in patient care was provided in public hospitals in 2017. This was the result of planning and the socialist system where the driving force is not profit, but people.

It is also noteworthy that during every crisis and emergency, it is only the much vilified public sector that rises to the occasion and comes to the rescue of the nation and the people. This was seen in the 2008 global financial crisis. It was the public sector banks and financial institutions that came to the rescue; and it is the public sector companies and institutions that kept the national economy floating through continuous capital spending. It was the public sector pharmaceutical sector that contained the dominance of the pharmaceutical MNCs and provided affordable medicines to our people for a long time after Independence. But the neoliberal policy regime  got this self-reliance in medicines severely eroded and did everything virtually destroy and/or severely weaken the pharmaceutical PSUs like IDPL, Hindustan Antibiotics, Bengal Chemical & Pharmaceuticals Ltd etc, much to the detriment of national and peoples’ interest.It is also seen now. It is the public hospitals, the government doctors, nurses, para medical staff, the sanitation workers, who are working 24 hours a day to save lives and contain the virus. In almost all the capitalist countries including India, they are waging an unequal war; they are fighting like soldiers without weapons, without protective equipment, without even masks, gloves etc, risking their own lives and their family members. Many doctors and nurses have lost their lives in the process. In several places big hospitals had to be closed when the doctors and nurses get infected, further depriving medical help to tens of thousands of common people.  On the other hand, the private corporate hospitals utilise the situation to charge exorbitant rates for tests, treatment, beds and everything but at the same time exploit their staff by paying a pittance as wages and deny them even the right to organise.

This is what the capitalist system is. Not only in the health sector; it is the same everywhere – in education, housing, social security, work place, labour rights… profits for the capitalists, miseries and deprivation for the workers and toiling people; governments are mostly working for the corporates and big businesses

It is the same in India. The public health expenditure in India is only around 1% of GDP. The health system is one of the most privatised. And it has happened in phases throughout the period of neoliberalism.  Out of pocket expenditure on health comprises nearly 70% of total expenditure on health. Only 44% of inpatient care is provided in the government hospitals. India promotes health tourism. People who can afford come from other countries for medical treatment in the big corporate hospitals. At the same time, the poor in our country are dying in thousands of preventable and curable diseases like diarrhoea and tuberculosis because they cannot access proper health care. Under neoliberal policies, public hospitals are being neglected and in some states, even primary health centres are being privatised. Naturally our public health system is unable to meet the requirements of the present corona pandemic. Our doctors, our nurses, the para medical staff, ASHAs, the sanitation workers and others are compelled to work without the minimum protection, risking their lives. In the process several doctors and nurses have died due to the corona virus.

Of course, Kerala is an exception. The LDF government has planned the necessary measures even when the corona virus disease was limited to China because many students from the state are studying in China. It has taken all the necessary precautions including testing, tracking, isolation, quarantine etc. The public health care system has been developed over the years in the state with the LDF governments, motivated by socialist goals, taking measures to strengthen it, whenever they are in power.  

It is a shame that in this situation when the working class, particularly the unorganised workers are suffering from job losses, loss of wages and incomes, the BJP government reportedly  wants to hasten labour law changes to push them into slave like conditions. The workers today are reeling under the triple whammy – the pre existing global economic crisis, the corona virus disease and the totally unplanned preparation-less lockdown. The Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry demands suspension of the provision of formation of trade unions for at least one year, extension of the period of 90 days to clear dues related to PF and ESI and reduction of wages of the contract workers to Rs 202 per day on par with the MGNREGS workers. Employers Federation of Southern India demands 12 hours working day and suspension of revision of dearness allowance and exemption from even bare minimum punitive measures for labour law violations.  The government of India is reportedly moving towards amending the Factories Act to increase working hours to 12 a day and 72 a week. Already the BJP governments of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have issued notifications in the matter. The BJP government led by Modi is also reported to be pushing through the labour code bills now with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour, through an ordinance or executive order. This is nothing but a brazen and shameless attempt by the government to gratify their big corporate masters and donors by pushing the workers into slave like conditions, depriving them of the basic rights of organisation and collective actions. These measures also tantamount to make the corona pandemic situation an instrument for promoting further the interest of their corporate masters.

The ugly communal face of the RSS and its tentacles spread over the country was exposed when even a human tragedy like corona virus disease, which does not discriminate between religions, castes etc, was utilised to spray communal venom and attack the Muslims. Through aggressive abuse of the media including social media, communal poisoning of society is being continuously sought to be engineered by the RSS and their various wings with tacit support of the administration.  This was despite the fact that not only were such congregations held by several other religions including by ISKON in London, but also many political leaders including BJP leaders celebrated birthdays, marriages and shradh ceremonies involving hundreds of people, violating the lockdown guidelines, endangering their own health and that of others.

The corona virus has exposed the barbaric nature of the capitalist system. The economic crisis that existed before it, has exposed its inability to address the basic needs of the common people, of providing employment, decent and dignified living conditions, education, and health for all. It has also exposed its inability to even make the economy grow sustainably. The inherent exploitative, divisive, disruptive and poisonous character of the system has also been laid bare for everyone to see.

At the same time, working class solidarity in its best was also displayed in these times of distress. The workers and toiling people, the poor peasants, agricultural workers and many progressive sections have been working untiringly during the most critical period of lockdown to stand by and extend all support to the extremely suffering workers and migrant workers who lost their jobs and incomes and were stranded in different places, far from their homes. They could reach to the large sections of such hapless, jobless and shelter-less workers and their family members running into several lakhs to give them food, relief and all kinds of support including moral support in all the states throughout the country.  CITU is proud of its committees, cadres and activists, even those in organisationally weaker areas, who did an enormous work going out of their capacity in demonstrating the class solidarity in supporting their distress stricken brethren and sisters during the lockdown period.  

The difference between capitalist greed and exploitation and working class solidarity and sacrifice is now crystal clear for everybody to see. It is time the working class compare words with deeds. It is time for all toiling people to match speeches of leaders with their own experiences; to understand that their issues are linked with the policies, that these policies are in turn governed by the politics of the exploiting class.

In the midst of deepening crisis of the neoliberal capitalist order, further aggravated by the Corona Pandemic, the ruling class is going to be more aggressive and cruel in their onslaught on the toiling peoples’ rights to life and livelihood. Human lives have little value before the lust for profit by the capitalist rulers. The continuing crisis is making the exploiting class and their political agents in governance pounce on all rights of people, to turn more arrogantly authoritarian with a clear fascistic intent and also more aggressively divisive and disruptive. In the name of so called crisis management and bringing out the economy from slow down and crisis, the capitalist class will try to extract more pounds of flesh from the mass of the people through the Govt machinery by various anti-people measures and the corporate media will try to sell and justify those measures in order to befool the people. The employment and employment-relations are going be targeted for more exploitative reorganisation and restructuring in favour of the profiteer class. The working class movement cannot accept such an exercise lying down. And such a situation vindicates the correctness of the understanding pronounced by the 16th Conference of CITU—“the working class movement is entering a new phase –one of defiance and resistance”. Let the May Day 2020 be observed with the pledge of preparing ourselves, both organisationally and ideologically for the said struggle, uniting the entire class. 

This is the time for the working people to expose this nefarious destructive game plan of the capitalist order through their agents in governance. This is the time for us to identify who stands for whom; for what, with whose support and against whom to fight. This is all the more urgent and necessary today. As George Mavrikos, the general secretary of World Federation of Trade Unions said ‘Our struggle against daily problems is just. Our struggle for social liberation of the working class is necessary. All the workers together, we can do it’.

The vanguard section of the working class and the class oriented working class movement has to make consistent and continuous effort to ensure that the nakedness of the cruel system, its inhuman machination and the dubious politics promoting the same reach the consciousness of the toiling people in entirety. May Day this year, which coincides with the 150th birth anniversary of comrade Lenin, enjoins upon the class oriented working class movement to take up this task right earnest.

Thus, on this May Day,

CITU appeals to all workers and toiling people across the world and in India to –

Unite to fight the Virus, to stay safe and protect their health

Unite to fight the manoeuvres and machinations of the capitalists and the governments that represent them to shift the burden of the economic crisis aggravated by the virus entirely on to the working class

Unite to fight the dirty attempts to pauperise the workers and denude them of their hard won rights while protecting profits and wealth of the big corporates, generated by the working class and the toiling people

Unite and fight to thwart all attempts to disrupt working class unity and unity of all toiling people and divide them on the basis of religion, region, race, caste, ethnicity and gender

Long Live May Day

Long Live Working Class Solidarity

Long Live Worker Peasant Alliance

Long Live Socialism

Down With Capitalism

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