On this International Workers’ Day, the coronavirus crisis has demonstrated, in stark and dramatic ways, that it is the labour power of the working class – whether by hand or brain – which makes our society function.
We could manage without the bankers, the speculators, the property tycoons, the wealthy shareholders – but our society would collapse in one week without the workers who provide our essential industries and services. Capitalism’s bankers and financiers and billionaires like Richard Branson have their begging bowls out for public money when their system is in crisis – yet they take evey opportunity to live as tax exiles overseas to avoid paying tax.
What use is a system that cannot protect the mass of people – the real wealth creators who even create a fine living for the big capitalists – when a major crisis strikes? It threatens to fall to pieces when faced with a banking crisis of its own making, or with a major medical or other civil emergency – unless the government, the public sector and public money step in to rescue it.
This crisis should bring home to everyone how much we need and depend on one another. The COVID-19 virus knows no national boundaries. It doesn’t discriminate on grounds of sex, race, nationality or religion. Neither does the NHS and its multi-ethnic, multi-national staff when treating the pandemic’s victims. Reminded of our common humanity, we should resolve on this May Day to redouble our efforts to combat racism, sexism and narrow-minded bigotry of every kind. Above all, let us honour all front-line workers in the health and other essential services and industries in deeds as well as words. Let’s actively campaign for them to have the protection of every kind at work that they need and deserve. And when this crisis is over, our labour movement and unions must fight to abolish once and for all the category of the ‘low-paid worker’.
The coronavirus should also remind us how useless our nuclear weapons system in Britain is when it comes to protecting the people against mortal danger. In the aftermath of the pandemic, how can Tory and Labour leaders justify spending a £100 billion and more on upgrading the Trident system of atomic mass murder when we have an NHS which desperately needs more investment, and so many public sector workers need decent pay and pensions? Britain should immediately ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and stop blocking it alongside the US, NATO countries, most EU member states and other nuclear powers. For all the honeyed phrases, this Tory government will lead a fresh ruling class offensive after this pandemic is over to make working people pay for overcoming this crisis.
The labour movement, the People’s Assembly, CND and other campaigning organisations will face a bigger onslaught than the austerity measures of the past decade. A bigger, more influential Communist Party will make a substantial difference to our prospects of turning back that offensive, bringing down the Tory government and replacing it with a government of the left. Our party is growing rapidly – come and join us.
Long live International Workers Day! Long live the working class! Long live the Communist Party!
Robert Griffiths is general secretary of the Communist Party