‘Capitalism has had its day, it’s historically bankrupt. Now’s the time to bring it down and go forward to socialism.’
Workers Revolutionary Party General Secretary Frank Sweeney was speaking to a successful 150-strong May Day rally at the Africa Centre in Covent Garden at the end of Thursday’s May Day March.
Four thousand workers and youth marched for socialism through central London on May Day.
Led by the May Day Organising Committee banner there were trade union delegations and banners from SE Region TUC, striking TGWU Shelter workers, RMT Finsbury Park and RMT Leeds City, GMB, Newham NUT, NUJ Book Branch and the POA.
There was big support for Workers Revolutionary Party and Young Socialists contingents with their revolutionary slogans as well as big support for a contingent of Chagos Islanders as well as for the TGWU Gate Gourmet sacked workers.
All the way along the lively WRP and YS contingent shouted ‘Defend the NHS, Kick the government out!, Defend free education, No to academies!, Defend council housing, kick out the privateers! End cheap labour, kick the government out!, Victory to Iraq, imperialism out!, Youth demand a future, kick the government out!, Victory to Palestine, imperialism and Zionism out!, Down with imperialism, victory to world revolution!’
News Line spoke to some of the participants.
Striking Shelter workers TGWU shop steward Elizabeth O’Hara told News Line: ‘We are workers in struggle on strike today, fighting cuts and downgrading and have come directly from the picket line.’
Visiting French student Christie Chery said: ‘There has been a big movement around Paris with marches blockades and strikes. We are determined to defend our education.
‘Sarkozy wants to get rid of options, especially for less academic children by shortening their courses. For economic reasons they want to get rid of artistic options.
‘The government also wants to privatise the universities. Everybody is up in arms, Sarkozy is getting rid of teachers to get more police – violence as opposed to education.’
At the Africa Centre WRP General Secretary Frank Sweeney said: ‘We send revolutionary greetings to the oppressed masses of the world fighting imperialism arms in hand. We send particular greetings to the Palestinian masses, fighting the butchery of the Zionist army.
‘Israel is the product of imperialism which arms it to the teeth, but the Palestinian people are fighting back. They elected the Hamas government and they can feel the weakness of imperialism. What’s beckoning is revolution.
‘The Iraqi people’s tremendous sacrifice shows they will never accept occupation and will drive out the occupiers. During the siege of Sadr City over the last three weeks 925 residents have been killed, mainly women and children, but America is facing defeat.
‘The Iraqi people’s great sacrifice has also created the conditions for revolution in the US and Britain and the same applies to the struggle in Afghanistan. The Afghan resistance movement, the Taleban and their supporters, are winning and the British will be driven out, just like before in history.’
Sweeney continued: ‘The American banking collapse can’t be stopped. The crisis has forced major attacks on the US working class, the biggest in the world. Dockers on the west coast today are striking for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. The writing is on the wall for capitalism.
‘But if you’re looking for the sickest capitalist country look here in Britain. In a stroke of genius Brown sold off Britain’s gold reserves when prices were at their lowest. Brown’s reputation as an economic wizard is a sham. His one basic policy is that the working class must pay for the crisis.
‘Last week the Brown government agreed that the Bank of England would accept bad debt as collateral. This means they are on the road to state bankruptcy.’
Sweeney concluded: ‘Brown has brought Admiral West into his government and ex-CBI chairman Digby Jones. We’ve got a national government developing here. What’s coming up in Britain is a run on the banks, a collapse of Sterling, 40% wage cuts and the abolition of all benefits.
‘But the emergence of a national government is not a foregone conclusion. No jobs must be allowed to go, or hospital beds. There must be a general strike to defend jobs. Only the WRP has a revolutionary programme for this crisis.
‘There are food riots in Egypt, where there is plenty of food, but it’s in the warehouses, and it’s the same in many other countries. Sri Lanka is most fertile, but millions there are threatened with starvation. Capitalism is historically bankrupt. The WRP was created to organise and lead an insurrection, and that’s what we are going to do.’
Aslef railworkers union rep and Secretary of the North East London Council of Action, Bill Rogers told the meeting: ‘Last week there were 400,000 workers on the streets on strike, civil servants and teachers.
‘At Grangemouth in Scotland 1,200 workers are fighting to defend their pensions. “Modernisation” for capitalism means smashing pensions. On the railways we’re heading for the same struggle over pensions, which are deferred wages.
‘At Grangemouth the trade union leaders said “Let’s pause for peace”, but there’s no peace in the struggle between the working class and capitalism.’
Young Socialists National Secretary Nash Campbell said: ‘This capitalist system harms the youth all over the world. We support the Chagos Islanders and the people of Iraq and Palestine. We have to rise up, get rid of capitalism and win power.’
Sacked Gate Gourmet worker and Transport and General Workers Union member Raksha Sharma said: ‘800 of us were sacked by megaphone at Heathrow Airport on 10 August 2005. The company had a “survival plan” to bring in casual workers.
‘Our union leader Tony Woodley said we all came out together and we would all go back together, but then he signed the “Compromise Agreement” accepting 144 compulsory redundancies. We are fighting the bosses and the union leaders, not just for ourselves but for everyone.’
Chagos Islanders Community Association leader Hengride Permal said: ‘We were forced out from our island by the British 40 years ago. Diego Garcia, the most important island, now houses a US military base. The US uses it to fight Iraq, Afghanistan and soon it’s going to be Iran.
‘We’ve won in the court three times, but the government keeps appealing. We are going to have a picket of the House of Lords on June 30. Please come.’
Council house tenant on the Camberwell Estate and member of the News Line Editorial Board Chris Eames said: ‘Council housing is a huge question and in South East London we are fighting to defend council housing. Working class communities are being literally bulldozed down. If Southwark Council gets away with its plans there will be nothing left. Next week we’re holding a meeting to form a Council of Action.
‘All schools in Southwark have been turned into private academies. They want to close all the hospitals and replace them with polyclinics.’
Peckham CWU postal workers union rep Billy Colvill said: ‘We desperately need a leadership to defend jobs, pensions, the NHS, but instead we’ve got a leadership trying to help the government.
‘If this system can’t provide people with what they need then the system has to go. The working class won’t be budged, but we need a leadership to reflect this determination.’
May Day Greetings were read out to the meeting from the Workers Revolutionary League and Socialist Youth, Soviet section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, from the United Workers Party, Sri Lankan section of the ICFI, and from the section in Greece.
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