“May Day! May Day! – International Workers’ Day!”

By Darren C – UCD Frank Ryan Soc

This year I celebrated May Day in beautiful, sunny London. I was scheduled to speak at Workers Power’s May Day Rally on Sunday so I decided to arrive in Heathrow a little early to experience the colourful, raucous and vibrant display of the leftist tribes colliding, and fraternising, on International Workers Day.

The marchers assembled at Clerkenwell Green as early as 11.00 am before setting off around two hours later. Trotskyists and Stalinists of all hues mingled with trade unionists and community activists. The first thing that strikes you is the large number of émigré groups represented from Turkey, Kurdistan, Iran and other countries further east. These are the loudest and most militant contingents on the march. Many have brothers, sisters and comrades languishing in prisons. East of Istanbul, the stakes are so much higher for socialists fighting against capitalism and imperialist hegemony.

Internationalism therefore, not surprisingly, is the dominant theme of the celebrations in London. Just as well. As 2009 is fast becoming a year synonymous with capitalist economic crisis on a scale not seen since the Wall Street crash of 1929, the Labour government and bosses are fanning the flames of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment in order to divert workers’ attention and anger from the true cause of their misery – the capitalist system.

With a predicted low turnout for the European elections, the BNP are on course to their get their first MEP elected and repeat their success of last years’ Greater London Authority elections. One the groups on the march, the Refugee Workers’ Cultural Association, pointed out the ramifications of such an outcome in their leaflet:

“Such a result would promote their racism, their anti-Semitism and their Islamophobia but would do nothing to address the real issues facing communities across the capital: economic recession, youth unemployment, spiralling debts, housing shortages, and a lack of training opportunities.”

British chauvinism is on the increase and even the British trade union bureaucracy and some elements of the left have failed to challenge the growing nationalist slogan “British Jobs for British Workers”. Strikes at Lindsey and Staythorpe, alongside the protests currently going on at the Olympic Development site in East London, are clearly against the employment of foreign labour.

No wonder it caused consternation in Europe.  “What’s going on in Lincolnshire is one of the ugliest pages in the history of the trade union movement… English workers against Italian workers,” stated Sabrina Petrucci of FIOM-CGIL, the Italian engineering union.

The deep crisis of capitalism includes the destruction of our jobs, our livelihoods and futures. But already a fight back has begun. In France, Ireland and Britain workers threatened with the closures of their factories have occupied them. We need to combine such militant action with campaigns for real working-class unity and the demand for equal rights and jobs for all workers. International socialism remains the only alternative.

My abiding memory of  May Day in London was a multiracial bloc of workers and youth rallying to  the red flag of workers’ solidarity and socialist revolution. The message of May Day is as vital as ever – Workers of all Countries Unite!

All photos are copyleft

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