MAY DAY 2006 is historic.
It is taking place in a period of an enormous crisis of world capitalism and rapidly developing world revolution.
This crisis has driven the imperialist powers into wars to redivide the world, especially in the oil and gas bearing regions of the Middle East, the Gulf and the Caspian Sea region, and into war against the workers of the major capitalist states, to destroy all the gains that the working class has made since the end of the Second World War.
This is the only way that capitalism and imperialism can survive.
The imperialist powers have however reaped a revolutionary whirlwind, in response from the workers and the poor of the world.
We send our May Day greetings to the Iraqi insurgents who have shattered the American military and demoralised the British officer class who obeyed Blair’s orders to go to war, chained to the US chariot, knowing full well that it was a war that they could not win.
The Iraqi masses will liberate Iraq from the occupiers. Their struggle has shown the feet of clay of imperialism, whose brutal and horrific tactics could not subdue a revolutionary people whose victories have given confidence to the masses of the world.
On this May Day we also salute the revolutionary people of Palestine.
They have exposed the imperial rottenness at the centre of Bush and Blair’s drive for alleged ‘democracy and freedom throughout the world’.
They refused to vote the way they were directed to by Bush and Blair in their recent elections.
They are now facing draconian punishment for this ‘crime’.
They are facing aid cut-offs by the US and its allies, to starve them out – men women and children – and murderous round the clock Israeli attacks to decimate a people who have already endured 39 years of occupation.
So much for bourgeois freedom and democracy.
We also congratulate the people of Iran for insisting on their right to have a nuclear energy programme, and for their determination to defend their country and defeat any attack on it by US imperialism and its allies.
There is no doubt that the liberation of Iraq from imperialist occupation will clear the way for driving imperialism and Zionism out of the Middle East, and for liberating Palestine through the establishment of a secular socialist state, with Jerusalem as its capital, in which Arab, Jewish and Christian workers will live side by side.
We also send our May Day greetings to the workers of Nepal whose three week general strike defeated the absolute monarchy and has paved the way for the working class leading the rural poor to take power.
At the same time as these struggles have been raging, decisive struggles have broken out in the major capitalist countries where the bosses and their governments are determined to drive the working class back.
The employers are aiming to privatise all state-owned services, and deregulate entire economies, so that inspection takes place after disasters and not before, to prevent them.
They are aiming to export entire industries to eastern Europe or Asia (or bring eastern European wages into Western Europe), and abolish ‘Welfare States’ and all of the benefit and pension arrangements that are part of them, in order to hand tens and hundreds of billions a year to the employing class.
The working class has now begun to answer this offensive with revolutionary actions.
We refer to the revolutionary events in France – from the revolt of the urban youth of the great French cities, last November – to the mass movement of students, school youth, young workers and the trade unions in the months of March and April 2006.
This movement of millions brushed aside the feared and massed ranks of the CRS riot squads, and forced the French government to scrap the hated CPE law which gave French employers the right to super-exploit youth and sack all workers under 26 without even a minute’s notice.
The French working class saw that the vicious CPE attack on youth was the thin end of the wedge for a major assault on their wages, conditions, jobs and basic rights, and were determined to rip the law out of the statute book.
This was a clear victory for French revolutionary tactics, and an inspiration to the workers of Europe and America.
This French victory was followed by the defeat of the billionaire right-wing Berlusconi-led alliance with the neo-fascists in the Italian general elections.
In the United States, the working class is under attack with employers at Ford, GM and Delphi demanding huge wage cuts, mass redundancies and big cuts in health care and retirement pensions.
The US is on the brink of massive struggles. Many workers are already talking about the French events, and a return to the mass strikes and occupations that were a feature of the development of the US trade unions in the 1930s and 1940s.
Last Monday, the leader of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), Roger Toussaint, went to jail for 10 days, and the union was fined $2.5 million for a three-day illegal strike on the New York transit system in defence of pensions and benefits.
In the US, the temperature of the class struggle is rising rapidly. Today, millions of US workers are expected to take strike action in support of the rights of immigrant workers.
Meanwhile in Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus, where workers are beginning to push forward, the development of the class struggle in the major capitalist countries is a huge encouragement to workers to take further action to defend the gains of the October revolution.
The contrast between the revolutionary French events and decrepit British reformist trade unionism – in which bad and vicious laws are accepted and worked, and grovelling leaders are willing to sell out workers as a way of life, negotiating away pension rights and the Welfare State – is blinding!
The centre of the storm has now moved to Britain.
Here, the capitalist Labour government is collapsing and being torn asunder by its own contradictions.
Nevertheless, it is determined to complete the privatisation of the NHS – and is currently busy collapsing its network of hospitals.
It is determined to privatise education, smash all final salary pension schemes, criminalise youth, abolish basic rights, preside over the export of manufacturing industries, and bring in a contract labour system organising hundreds of thousands of migrant workers to smash trade unionism.
The three Blair-led Labour governments – the first two elected by landslides – have comprehensively betrayed the working class, to the point where the current Tory leader, Cameron has proclaimed himself to be a Blairite, and is keen to work with Blair and his government.
However, the working class has thrown a giant spanner into the works of this cosy arrangement.
The way that the UNISON health conference and the RCN conference delegates greeted Health Secretary Hewitt, with boos, jeers, slow handclaps and outright opposition to NHS privatisation has set the alarm bells ringing for the ruling class.
It fears that the Tories are still hated after 18 years of Thatcher, Major and Heseltine, and that if the Blair government falls, the Tories will not be able to take over, or deal with the working class.
The open emergence of working class anger and hostility to the Blair capitalist privatisation programme has created a crisis of bourgeois rule in Britain.
The Tories are frightened of the consequences of the Blair government being removed. They see Blair as a vital ally and not as an opponent.
The trade union leaders are rattled and fear that they will not be able to retain control over the working class.
The issue of the day, here in Britain, is the mobilisation of the working class to follow the French road, with a series of mass actions culminating with a general strike to defend the Welfare State and bring down the Blair government, then bring in a workers’ government that will carry out a socialist programme to expropriate the banks and big business and end the privatisation programme.
The reformist labour and trade union leaders will not lead such a struggle.
However, faced with the rising anger of the working class, the union leaders are losing their unity, are under pressure and can be removed.
On the question of final salary pensions in the public sector, the union leaders are split.
The leaders of the CPS, TGWU, GMB, FBU etc have decided to negotiate them away, including adding between five and ten years onto the retirement age, and have cancelled industrial actions that were decided on.
The BBC and rail trade unions have however decided to defend final salary pensions with the leaders observing that the members are very angry.
On the NHS, no health trade union leader has said that they will lead industrial action to stop the privatisation of the NHS.
At the UNISON health conference, UNISON leader Prentis said, under extreme pressure, that the union would support any section of NHS workers that decided to fight for their jobs.
This is better than nothing, but it is hardly a great trade union leading action to halt the rapid privatisation of the NHS.
In industry the trade union bureaucracy is providing little or no leadership at all.
In fact, the door to mass sackings and mass union busting was opened up by the conduct of the TGWU leaders at Gate Gourmet.
Gate Gourmet locked out over 800 workers, at a minute’s notice, many of them by loudhailer, last August 10th.
The TGWU leaders refused to make the dispute official and after two months made a deal agreeing to the company’s ‘survival plan’, agreeing to the sacking of 500 workers (including 144 compulsory redundancies), and agreeing to a ‘compromise agreement’, under which no workers would take up industrial tribunal cases, or any kind of legal actions against a company that TGWU leader Woodley called ‘gangster capitalist’.
With over 200 workers refusing to sign the compromise agreement, to this day the TGWU leaders are carrying out a campaign to get workers to sign the deal and give up their tribunal cases.
Since January 6th, the TGWU leaders have refused to pay any hardship money to those workers that have refused to sign the compromise agreement, and who are continuing with the dispute, and demanding that they be returned to their jobs on their original terms and conditions.
This is not the kind of leadership that the British workers require to defend their jobs, pensions, basic rights and the Welfare State.
The present leadership must be called to order and removed by the membership of the TGWU.
In fact, the trade union bureaucracy as a whole must be removed and be replaced by a revolutionary leadership.
British workers require a leadership that will use the great strength of the working class to resolve the crisis of British capitalism by going forward to a workers’ government and socialism.
This means workers joining and building up the Workers Revolutionary Party and the Young Socialists.
However, the key to the worldwide struggle that is emerging, is the building of sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International in every country, to provide the necessary leadership to the working class to ensure that the developing world socialist revolution is victorious.