[The following speech was presented by JOHN PERCY to the May Day celebration jointly organised by the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) and the Worker Communist Party of Iraq at Granville Town Hall, Sydney, on May 6.]
As we celebrate the first May Day of the new century, the glaring inequalities, injustices and contradictions of global capitalism appear more acute than ever. The gap between rich and poor continues to widen. Every day on our TV screens, images of obscene wealth and disgusting luxury and waste contrast with pictures of starving populations.
Can those bourgeois apologists still claim that capitalism is the best of all possible worlds?
Flood, famine, drought and disease ravage countries, even whole continents, such as Africa. Yet the US can spare just two helicopters to rescue drowning millions in Mozambique. But we know the capitalists’ priorities – their vast war machine is reserved for mass murder to retain their iron grip on the world and on their profits.
Most of the misery, starvation and deaths are preventable. These are human-made disasters: deforestation, global warming, poisoning of our rivers and oceans, and the biggest human-made disaster of all – the robbing of the wealth of the majority of the world by a tiny few – capitalism.
In April, the Dow and Nasdaq indices plummeted. The billion-dollar gamblers held their breath; some panicked. The stock market resumed its roller coaster ride, but all know the bubble will burst.
Can they really think capitalism is the stable, natural order?
Increasing numbers of workers, poor farmers and young people around the world are deciding no! Capitalism is the problem, and it has to go! The massive demonstrations in Seattle and Washington showed the way. Similar demonstrations will confront the World Economic Forum when it meets in Melbourne on September 11 to 13.
Neo-liberal capitalism needs to extract ever greater profit from workers, so we need greater struggles and better organisation to fight back. Workers in our region are waging inspiring struggles, in South Korea, India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Indonesia. Our task here in Australia is to rebuild militant trade unions that defend workers’ interests, not make peace with capitalism.
Around the world racism is rampant. In Australia, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party drew on all the basest prejudices and bigotry.
Young people, especially high school students, mobilised in their thousands against this racist threat. Resistance can be especially proud of the role it played; we made a difference.
But Howard has now taken up Hanson’s racist banner. Iraqi and Afghan refugees fleeing terrible repression are locked up in desert concentration camps. Kosovans promised “safe haven” are forced back to live in the rubble of Kosova. Aboriginal people are denied decent living conditions and compensation for past wrongs, denied even their history. Our task is to continue to struggle against racism, defending Aborigines, migrants and refugees.
This May Day we can reflect on some partial successes.
Reflect on East Timor, now free from Indonesian rule. Devastated yes, poverty-stricken and still suffering. But its workers and poor farmers are now politically organising more openly. We’ve seen the encouraging growth and organisation of the Socialist Party of Timor.
We in the DSP and Resistance can be well pleased with the role we played since last May Day. We stepped up our solidarity work, which we’ve been carrying out for many years through ASIET, and played a leading role in organising large demonstrations around Australia last September, pressing for Australian government action and United Nations intervention to stop the genocidal attacks of Indonesia’s murderous militia. Our action had an impact.
Reflect on Indonesia. Suharto is gone, threatened with war-crimes hearings, his ill-gotten billions threatened with investigation and seizure. Certainly, it’s still a very fragile and limited democracy; sure, it’s a government where the IMF and Washington are still pulling the strings, forcing austerity measures against the mass of the population. But it’s an increasingly aware and mobilised population. The People’s Democratic Party has grown, with young activists already steeled in many battles.
And reflect that Elian Gonzalez is free. He’s reunited with his father, out of the clutches of the Miami mafia. He’s not yet back in Cuba, but that is surely inevitable.
The cause of Cuba took a tremendous boost from this incident, exposing the anticommunist fanatics, making Washington’s blockade and embargo look ridiculous and needing to go. Any long delay in repatriating Elian would be an even worse defeat for the US ruling class. Already it’s Cuba’s biggest propaganda victory in its 41-year defence against the assaults of US imperialism.
But we might be called on for further pickets and protests to guarantee Elian’s return to Cuba. And it’s a reminder of our need to increase solidarity with Cuba. We need that bastion of socialist revolution; it’s our bastion. The inspiration from their long struggle, the help from their steadfast example and the education through their intelligent political moves can help build our movement here.
So we’ve had some victories, but we’ve also had repeated reminders that the need to replace this capitalist system with socialism is urgent.
A better world
May Day, the day commemorated for more than a century as the international workers’ day, began as the fight for the eight-hour day in the USA in 1886. But our socialist celebration of May Day is more than just an assertion of economic and social rights for the working class within the framework of capitalism. It’s a challenge to the rotten profit system itself. It’s an affirmation that history will not end with this racist, brutal society and that a better world is indeed in birth.
A world where work and the riches it produces are shared equitably. A world where progress in technology and science brings progress in solving social and environmental problems. Where work ceases to be a daily grind and becomes a contribution, a passion, a chance to grow and excel.
A world where privilege is but a relic of a dim, barbaric past. A world where coercion as social policy is unnecessary because everyone understands their interests are served by cooperation, where dog-eat-dog attitudes have faded along with becoming rich at another’s expense.
Such a future is not only possible but essential. Everything points to it, most of all the fact that capitalism is leading nowhere but to the grave and the madhouse.
May Day is not just a day for speeches, for looking back on past glories and victories, although they are many and we should preserve the lessons of our victories and the memory of our martyrs. This year we’re commemorating the 25th anniversary of the final victory of the Vietnamese people over US imperialism – “A victory for all humanity” as the special issue of our newspaper headlined it at the time.
But May Day should also be a day to prepare ourselves for action, to strengthen our resolve, to ensure our future victories over the capitalist monster and the winning of socialism around the world.
That means organisation, activity and commitment, and the building of a Marxist party to play our part in the international struggle by overthrowing the rule of profit and greed in Australia, the rule of racism, sexism, exploitation and environmental destruction. That’s our main task here.
We need more members to lead, to recruit others. So join!
Once you open your eyes, see beyond the bourgeois propaganda and crap; once you get that consciousness of class politics; once you have an understanding of what’s happening in the world, how it works; and as you continue to see the wars, misery, exploitation, crassness and cruelty, the cynicism and hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie and the misleadership of workers’ struggles here: what other choice do you have?
Do you close your eyes? Close your mind? Sit on your hands? Be part of the solution; otherwise you’re part of the problem, in the rich, imperialist West.
This May Day we also reaffirm our duty of extending moral, material and political support to the struggles of the workers and oppressed around the world, and especially in our region.
Increasing attacks by global capitalism are giving rise to growing consciousness of the oppressed, and growing recognition of the need for international socialist renewal, discussion, collaboration, regroupment of the Marxist forces. Especially in the Asia Pacific region, new parties and movements are emerging, revolutionary parties are growing, new links are being forged.
We saw this new growth and this new dynamic spirit at the Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference in April 1998, and at the Marxism 2000 conference in January this year. We look forward to further collaboration, discussion and cooperation with revolutionary parties, from many traditions.
The worldwide struggle for socialism inspired billions of people last century. The way forward may be difficult and require hard work and sacrifice, but it is clear: to build a revolutionary movement of the masses to liberate society from the class of capitalist parasites. That’s the spirit of May Day, and our international pledge this May Day.
Long Live May Day! Build the DSP! Build the Worker Communist Parties of Iraq and Iran! Build the international socialist movement! Workers of the World Unite!
[John Percy is the national secretary of the DSP.]
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