|Year 2003 No. 44, May 6, 2003||ARCHIVE||HOME||SEARCH||SUBSCRIBE|
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Thousands took part in the annual May Day march to mark International Workers Day, from Clerkenwell Green, through Central London, to Trafalgar Square.
The TUC march and rally were jointly organised with the London May Day Co-ordinating Committee which includes the Southern and Eastern Region of the TUC and other community and campaigning organisations.
Workers in Oxford also took to the streets to protest against cuts in local services and the occupation of Iraq.
More than 100 people took part in the May Day march, organised by the Oxford and District Trades Union Council, on Monday. They marched to South Park after listening to speakers, including a member of the Campaign to Close Campsfield, an Oxfordshire detention centre for asylum seekers.
Around 6,000 people descended onto the streets of Belfast to take part in the annual May Day Parade.
Organised by the Northern Ireland committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) the parade celebrated diversity in Northern Ireland.
Clare Moore from the ICTU said that the days theme reflected the bread and butter work of local trade unions as well as highlighting the diversity of the trades union movement.
See further reports below.
The rally was co-chaired by Anita Halpin representing SERTUC and Bob Tennant representing the May Day Committee. Under a banner that proclaimed "Modern Rights for Modern Workplaces" Anita Halpin welcomed the marchers by saying that the past year had been historic and sad, but with victories as well. After 100 years wages were still central to the TUC campaign with employment rights its main theme. The movement for peace had great importance.
Nigel de Gruchy, TUC President, said it was an important day in the campaign for the employment rights of all working people. Too many were excluded, such as agency workers. They were covered by the minimum wage but excluded from redundancy compensation and particularly in the case of care and cleaning workers, faced great insecurity. The increasing use of agency workers in the public services, he said, was privatisation by the back door. There was some good news, he said, the EU Commission was bringing in legislation to crack down on such practices, but the British employers were lobbying against it and the Labour government backing them. He said there must be fair employment rights for all, including the right to strike. At present there was no positive right to strike, only immunity from damages, to which Margaret Thatcher had provided loopholes. New Labour had done little to withdraw these. It was important to fight on, he said. It was no good Tony Blair saying Labour was better than the Tories. We expected better stands from government.
John McDonnell MP said that young people, pensioners, fire-fighters and other workers were all united in the cause of peace, fairness and justice. Five hundred yards from Downing Street we must demand for students abolition of tuition fees and restoration of grants; for pensioners decent pensions linked with earnings; for public sector workers a vote against Foundation Hospitals, a fair settlement of the fire-fighters pay dispute. We must demand an end to attacks on asylum seekers. Who thought a Labour government would handcuff asylum seekers and load them onto planes back to an Afghanistan they had helped destabilise? We must demand peace. The war against Iraq was immoral and illegal. We must not allow the armed occupation of Iraq to continue, or the war extended to Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea or others. We would not forget or forgive those who had bombed, killed and maimed children. We will not allow George Galloway to be thrown to the wolves. Peace, Justice and Solidarity, he ended.
Emilie Ferreira of Globalise Resistance called for mobilisation against George W Bush and other world leaders at the G8 Summit in Evian. They would be making decisions to shape our futures, the use of resources and services, the privatisation of water, health and education. We need to stop them, she said. Everyone will be there, debating alternatives. It will be bigger than Genoa, louder than February 15, bright as today! We must all believe another world is possible, she said. Do not miss the international day of mass action, June 1!
John McGhee of the FBU expressed condolences for the deaths of South African workers killed earlier in the day on their way to a May Day Rally. He said that the government today was announcing a Bill to impose a settlement on the fire-fighters. It must be opposed! If they got away with it, he said, teachers, others would be next. The dispute, he said, was about protection of the public and smashing the public sector. We must not stand back. He hoped it would not happen, but we must defend free collective bargaining.
Joy Moss of Greater London Pensioners Association said fighting for the state pension was of paramount concern. It had been one third of the national wage, a half for married couples. In the 80s Margaret Thatcher had tied it to the cost of living. Now three million pensioners lived below the poverty line. We laid the foundation of the welfare state, she said. Now it was being sold off! We must all fight as we would all be pensioners one day. The government could find 3 billion for an illegal war, why could it not link pensions to earnings? She said she was sorry the TUC had extolled private pensions.
Brendan Barber, General Secretary Elect of the TUC, spoke of winning justice and dignity for all at work. Since the Labour government had come to power, he said, a minimum wage, trade union recognition and some improvement in rights had been achieved. But had enough been done? No! What was needed was full rights for all at work. Campaigning must continue. He expressed solidarity with all working people in struggle throughout the world.
Louise Richards of War on Want said we must join another war, the war on poverty. This was the true weapon of mass destruction in the developing world. Poverty was not inevitable. We needed to challenge the root causes: greed and corruption. World leaders must take responsibility. The so-called Millennium Project would not happen with world debt. The global trading system did not help the poor. Trade rules must be stood on their head. The big corporations put protecting their profits above saving lives. Dont stay silent, she said. We must wage real war on poverty.
Francesco Ramires, President of the Mineworkers of Colombia, told the rally that 3,000 workers had been assassinated in Colombia by US and British multinationals. The war on Iraq was the same war waged on the people of Chile and Argentina, and today the people of Cuba and Venezuela. He said he had come to tell the British multinationals, BP and others, we are not afraid. We will defend our sovereignty. Stop killing trade unionists! We are called "guerrillas", he said. But we will defend ourselves. We will mobilise against the assassination policy of the multinationals. The fight is not finished! We will continue resistance until we win!
A message was read from the Workers Communist Party of Iraq saying they had just celebrated May Day and called for the immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
Bill Morris, General Secretary of the TGWU, pledged his unions support for the causes held dear at home and abroad. He said that six years ago the new Labour government had said things could only get better. Some things were better, but some were the same, such as workers rights. They were not to ILO standards. They were not from day one. There was not proper consultation. There were too many deaths, with no law of corporate manslaughter. We were still waiting for the right to take industrial action, without fear of sacking. We welcomed the minimum wage, but still awaited equality for men and women. We demanded freedom for our comrades in Colombia, Palestine, Zimbabwe. We did not support the illegal occupation of Iraq. We must continue to campaign for better public services and a fair deal for the fire-fighters. We will not stand idly by and see the end of free collective bargaining. We demand justice and fairness, he said, together we will win!
Kamalam of ICFTU called on governments and employers to respect working people. International solidarity must be harnessed against globalisation, privatisation, restructuring, increasing unemployment, poverty and risks to life and limb, she said. We must reject war to resolve conflicts. She said the Palestine issue must be resolved according to UN Resolutions. The fundamental rights of collective bargaining, of young workers, of woman, of health and safety must be respected. Let us mobilise and organise and utilise the strength of our numbers, she said. Long Live International Trade Union Solidarity!
Former MP Tony Benn pointed out that wealth was created by 95% of the people and owned by 5%. Thus the state of the world, he said. Thirty five million died of hunger, 40 million died of AIDS because they could not afford drugs. Five percent controlled the worlds media, multinationals and governments, he said. We must control the world and it was never more so. Who would do it? We must do it ourselves or nobody would. He said he was an old man. He had been in Trafalgar Square protesting against the Suez invasion in 1956, against apartheid in 1964. This Square was historic, he said. The people must do it themselves. Only they could bring liberation, not the US army. It can be done because it has been done, he said.
Christos Alecou of the Pan-Cyprian Federation of Labour (PEU-Cyprus) said these were difficult moments. Humanity had watched events in Iraq. War was not an option in the settlement of conflicts, he said. The war on Iraq had done irreparable harm. It had undermined the international law and security put in place after the Second World War and substituted the concept of "Might Makes Right". If they were worried about the Iraqis, why not Israel and the 40-year plight of the Palestinians? It would only create new conflicts and tension. He expressed fraternal support for all Cypriot trade unionists and called for a reunited Cyprus. We must not forget the meaning of May Day, he said, which had inspired millions. Let us celebrate our victories and renew our faith in our ideas and goals. Long Live International Solidarity!
Brian Case of the Prison Officers Association pointed out that it had been made unlawful for his members to take industrial action since their protest against prison overcrowding. The Labour government had not kept its promises in this regard. They should honour their commitments.
Caroline Jones of the Institute of Trade Union Rights said the record of the Labour government on rights was not good enough. Britain had the longest hours and most restrictive trade union laws of all Western countries. She called for a Charter of Workers Rights to be adopted.
Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition said the war on Iraq was a war of colonial conquest and occupation, not of liberation and democracy. If May Day means anything, she said, we must oppose the war on Iraq. Working people were being shot every day. The occupation must end and US and British troops be withdrawn. But it was a war on us too, she said. The same corporations who were rebuilding Iraq were engaged in privatisation and union busting here. The oil had been protected in Iraq, she pointed out, but not the water supply, food supply and housing. This shows the link between the Labour government and global capitalism. We should not forget, she said, the power of protest. Trafalgar Square was a historic place, she said, as was Clerkenwell Green from where the march had started. The Chartists had gathered there. She called for an end to the occupation of Iraq and no more imperialist invasions.
Jeremy Corbyn MP pointed out that this was the first time since 1832 that a demonstration had been held in Trafalgar Square while parliament was sitting. This showed the power we had. This May Day march and rally had brought together all types of causes. The young population were more committed, more political than at any time in his life, he said. There was unity of purpose. He said that in 1997 he was delighted at Labours victory. But something was missing. He asked why taxpayers money should flow out to the corporations in PFI and other schemes. Where were trade union rights? The minimum wage had been won, but why so low? He called for the linking of state pensions to earnings. He asked why the Chancellor had no problem finding 3 billion for the war and could say there was no limit in this. He longed for the day when a Labour Chancellor would say there was no limit on spending on health and education while bearing down on arms expenditure. He denounced the export of arms to dictatorial regimes today while complaining about their use tomorrow. He said we must continue to march against the occupation of Iraq. He condemned the looting of libraries and museums, and the looting of the oil. He called for the immediate withdrawal of US and British troops from Iraq, for solidarity with the Palestinian people. Britain should not be sending arms for the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. He spoke of the power of global capitalism and asked if we should accept market forces as the arbiter of the global economy. May Day, he said, brought all the issues together. What was needed was unity and solidarity. We must recognise our strength and power.
On Saturday, May 3, the May Day March and Rally took place in Newcastle-upon Tyne.
More than 300 hundred people, including trade union members with their banners and a large contingent from the Stop the War movement across Tyneside, attended the May Day march and rally this year. They marched behind a brass band from John Dobson Street through the streets of Newcastle to Times Square. Many held flags and banners calling for an end to the occupation of Iraq and end to war.
In Times Square the rally was addressed by Kenny Bell, Deputy Convenor of Unison in the Northern Region, Derek Simpson General Secretary of amicus/AEEU, Andrew Grey representing the Tyneside Stop the War Coalition and Bill Hopwood from the Public Services Alliance.
On Thursday, May 1, the South Tyneside May Day Rally and celebration was held in the Iona Club, Hebburn. About 50 people attended the event, which consisted of a rally and social. At 8pm the Chair of May Day Committee opened the rally. He introduced the first speaker, Nader Naderi, a long standing resident of South Shields and its immigrant communities, who has taken an active role in fighting for their rights and interests.
Nader in his contribution exposed the newspaper owners and their close links with New Labour and George Bush in identifying the source of the new and virulent climate of division and hatred that had moulded racism into what he said was a politically correct and socially acceptable form of proxy racism which had categorised asylum seekers and economic migrants. He said that they had done this with headlines screaming; "we are being swamped", "economic migrants posing as asylum seekers", "Britain is a soft touch", etc. He said that the policy of divide and rule is not a new idea but what was alarming was the fact that this was all happening at the dawn of the 21st century.
Nader then spoke about the move to the right and what he called the "even bigger and greater injections of doses of the right wing ideologies in to our daily lives". This was the consequence of the deepening economic crisis in which he spoke about the lack of incentive to produce and the parasitic robbery by the big companies. This in turn brought about a whole host of new policies including foreign policies that propped up what he called vassals in charge of countries that supply the raw materials while promoting repression and poverty in those countries that find their assets in the arena for globalisation, yet their citizens marginalised and their human rights systematically eroded.
Nader exposed the medieval nature of the New Labour government's policies by drawing parallels between the application of the Poor Law in 17th century Britain and the treatment of the migration of the poor to the richer parishes and the inhuman treatment of asylum seekers and immigrants in Britain today. He pointed out that having put the current perception into the minds of the public of being overrun by an army of asylum seekers, Tony Blair sets himself "the goal of dealing with the problems of the NHS, and asylum seekers". Nader pointed out that this goal was not to deal with the horrific crimes caused by the social and economic divisions, or the crumbling transport system, or to stop the hocking of the national assets, such as fire engines and hospitals and "myriads of other problems facing our nation". These, he said, are not Blairs primary concern, but asylum seekers are to be "crushed and jailed if not hung and drawn". Commenting that 29 Afghans are being forcibly sent back to Afghanistan at huge cost, he noted with concern and how strange it was how 2.5% of immigrant population in Britain bolstered with asylum seekers could be presented as jeopardising the well-being of the rest of the 97.5% of the population.
Nader concluded that these policies of division are to distract the attention of people from the real and worrying problems they are facing. He urged people to start to become really informed "setting out to find the real truths behind the headlines". His opinion was that democracy is the concept that has empowered the people in trying to balance the odds against them. "Our forefathers have marched, fought and died for this concept, and so it is high time to start using it before you lose it!" Nader's thought-provoking contribution was warmly received by the rally.
Alan Newham then spoke on behalf of the South Tyneside Stop the War Coalition. He spoke about the way in which concern over the impending attack on Iraq had brought many people from all over the borough, not previously political, together to oppose the war. These were the same concerns, he said, echoed around the world by ordinary people. He said any organisations were welcome to send representatives to the meetings of STSWC, but he stressed that the emphasis was on individual participation in the work. He said it matters not what your religious or political persuasion is the issue is: "Do you want to live in peace?" In his contribution Alan Newham posed the question: "Do we continue now that Bush says the war is over?" What hasnt finished, he said, is the so-called "war on terror" which is being promoted by the US government, and he outlined the plan of the US to implement the principles of the Project for the New American Century in its quest to dominate the world. He pointed out that millions around the world have different projects for the new century like waging a war on poverty and disease. He said it was worrying for everyone that the US ignored the UN and Iraq was now in chaos. He said these issues will keep us going and said that STSWC was shortly organising a Public Forum to discuss the way forward. He pointed out in his conclusion that ordinary people can change the world, that they are sick and tired of wars and they want something different.
After warm applause for that contribution, the Chair then introduced Kenny Bell, Deputy Convenor of Unison in the Northern Region, and thanked him for standing in for the advertised speaker.
Kenny Bell in his contribution said that it was very interesting that in terms of a May Day meeting in Hebburn the focus of what was being discussed was local issues but relating them very much to the international context. He said what we have seen today in May Day meetings around Britain and across the world is that global issues and international issues are being discussed. He said that the three key issues that we are facing are war, racism and privatisation and there is a linkage between all three. He then spoke of the promotion of racism in the face of worsening conditions of the people under the Labour government. He said that with the governments so-called "war on terror" and the war with Iraq it is a short step from launching a "war on terror" to a war on Muslims, to a domestic race war against Asians.
Kenny Bell then said that his members in local government are saying why is the union bankrolling the Labour Party that they do not get any true representation from? He said that 15 schools, libraries and other projects are going to be subject to the discredited Private Finance Initiative (PFI). He said they are privatising street lighting, council house management, swimming pools and sports centres and refuse collection. He said that what is happening in Newcastle City is also happening in other boroughs. He said the problem is that it is happening at such a pace that it is virtually impossible for trade union activists and the people as a whole to keep abreast of it and get the publicity out and inform people of what exactly is taking place. This is why, he said; "union members, and others are not voting for Labour".
Kenny Bell said that this privatisation of local authority services was part of an international agenda of big business through organisations like the World Trade Organisation (WTO), IMF (International Monetary Fund), and the World Bank. As we speak international negotiations are taking place under the auspices of the WTO to extend the privatisation programme and make it irreversible, he said. These free trade negotiations, he said, are being conducted through the WTO under the General Agreement of Trade and Services (GATS). He said GATS is something we must learn about and must intervene in and come to terms with.
He pointed out that the EU is presently saying to the governments: what companies that you represent do you want to privatise? In the rest of the world there exists a submitted list of 109 countries, 50 of which are in the Southern hemisphere and the most poverty-stricken in the world. He pointed out further that the war on Iraq has further illustrated that wars are fought in the interest of the big corporations and big business. He said that in terms of policies that this Labour government is now pursuing it is likely that in future wars will not only be fought in the interest of corporations but that they will actually be playing a key role in the war themselves. The Labour government is going through a process of privatising the military operation. He said companies are operating warplanes, war ships and army vehicles, and further private firms will even hire, train and employ soldiers under the PFI scheme. The supply of tank transporters is already happening in this way now as we speak he remarked.
In his conclusion Kenny Bell said that racism, privatisation and war are the problems of an international economic system which is based on profit, but he spoke about movement that was rapidly developing in opposing racism, opposing privatisation and opposing war.
Kenny Bell's speech was also received with warm applause the Secretary of the South Tyneside May Day Committee moved a motion of thanks to the speakers. He then called on every one to join in and enjoy the social, which was a Ceilidh performed by the traditional Irish group, Cappaquinn & Friends. Discussion on many of the issues raised continued during the social late into the night.
Resolutions Adopted by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Convention in San Francisco
May 1, 2003
Opposition To The U.S. Occupation Of Iraq
WHEREAS: The ostensible purpose of the U.S. military invasion of Iraq was to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, facilitate "regime change" by ending Saddam Husseins brutal dictatorship and "liberate" the Iraqi people; and
WHEREAS: The real purpose that war was waged by Bush was for control of Iraqs nationalized oil fields and to impose its influence in the Middle East; and
WHEREAS: To realize those aims the U.S. is occupying Iraq and imposing its own military dictatorship while the Iraqi people have been angrily demonstrating in the streets demanding U.S. military withdrawal; and
WHEREAS: This war cost $75 billion dollars while the U.S. economy is in shambles, leaving people jobless, homeless, without universal health care, and public school systems in major cities like Oakland bankrupt; and
WHEREAS: Over a billion dollars is being cut from veterans benefits as many who fought in the 1991 Gulf War are still suffering from debilitating diseases while hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts are being given to U.S. companies closely connected to the Bush Administration like Stevedoring Services of America to run the port of Umm Qasr and the San Francisco-based Bechtel Corporation to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed by U.S. bombs in Iraq; and
WHEREAS: The war in Iraq is over and Bush is now making threats in that region against Syria and Iran, not to mention North Korea, China and Cuba; THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED: That we demand that the U.S. military immediately withdraw from Iraq and the Middle East and recognize the right of the Arab peoples to self-determination free of foreign interference.
ILWU Local 10
Oppose The U.S War Against Iraq
WHEREAS: Working people in the U.S. will pay for the war on Iraq by cuts on health, education, workers safety and social services; and
WHEREAS: The war in Iraq is being used to escalate attacks on the working class, workers democratic rights, and our civil liberties, through the use of the Homeland Security Act, Patriot Act, and Port Maritime Security Act; and
WHEREAS: Workers throughout the world, and in every trade union, must stand together to oppose this war; and
WHEREAS: United labour action internationally has the power to stop the war against Iraq; and
WHEREAS: The ILWU had opposed the Vietnam War and the first U.S. invasion against Iraq in 1991; THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED: That the International Longshore and Warehouse Union opposes the war against Iraq and stands in defence of labour and peoples democratic rights throughout the world.
ILWU Local 8
General Strikes And Taft-Hartley
WHEREAS: This Union was born of a general strike; and
WHEREAS: The current national and international political environment restrains the rights of workers to such a degree that they are unable to rise above the oppression; and
WHEREAS: The achievement of the Longshore hiring hall, the elimination of the shapeup, and the current right for all members to attend every Longshore Local Union General Membership meeting followed the San Francisco general strike of 1934;and
WHEREAS: Since the inception of Tart-Hartley, workers have been unfairly and unjustly fettered in their ability to organize, to strike in sympathy with other workers, to engage in secondary boycotts and pickets and engage in large scale acts of solidarity; THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED: That the ILWU will publicize and champion the goal of regaining the right of workers to engage in a General Strike, in plain and proud view of all workers for further consideration; and BE IT FINALLY
RESOLVED: That the ILWU will work with other Unions and coalitions towards repealing the Taft-Hartley Act.
ILWU Local 5
Stop Allowing The Threat Of War To Attack Our Civil Liberties And Workers Rights At Home
WHEREAS: The Bush Administration has carefully crafted a strategy of distracting Americans from its anti-civil liberties, anti-labour and anti-worker agenda at home by an endless war on terrorism; and
WHEREAS: Wars have been waged in Afghanistan, Iraq, with Syria and Iran possibly being next; and
WHEREAS: The Bush Administration has used the issue of patriotism to silence the dissent of working people who oppose the wars and who speak out against the growing infringement on our civil liberties, civil rights and workers rights; and
WHEREAS: The anti-labour agenda of the Bush Administration using the cover of the economy and national security intervened into our contract negotiations; and
WHEREAS: Taft-Hartley was invoked against us subsequent to the lockout by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) during an impending war against Iraq; THEREFORE BE IT
RESOLVED: That in the tradition of the ILWUs progressive history, we take an active role in building labour and community coalitions to organize to protect our workers rights and civil liberties here at home.
ILWU Local 10
May Day Statement of Communist Party of Brazil PCdoB
May Day, the day of the international workers struggle, is this year celebrated in Brazil under the sign of mobilisation and hope. The hope comes from the conquest never reached before: today, after a long political popular journey, the biggest country in Latin America has a government formed by democratic and popular forces, under the presidency of the worker leader Luiz Inácio da Silva [Lula].
The workers, the main victims from the two neo-liberal governments of FHC [Fernando Henrique Cardoso, twice president of Brazil, before Lulas victory], are the most interested in a successful new government. Therefore on this May First they seek to reinforce the struggles and mobilisations by their flags and rights. They already know the accommodation is an error and the best way to contribute with the new government an outcome of the struggles themselves is exactly to impel it to make changes, preserving its own entities and the movements autonomy.
The peoples and workers mobilisation that was decisive to the "Front Lula President" victory, is now also vital in order that the government can win the challenge of undertaking a real reconstruction of country, free from the damaging and destructive ties of neo-liberalism. For the political majority that the new government wishes to construct, support is necessary from the National Congress and also from the state governors. But the government cannot forget that the support on the streets, from social and union movements ant the enthusiastic sustain from masses, is vital.
The last decade was lost to Brazil and was a period of disaster for the working class. Some job rights won during the period of the Republic were cut or restrained. The economic semi-stagnation broke the countrys development and let a million people into unemployment. Wages were tightened and the country shown the shameful "trophy" to be one of the world champions of the concentration of wealth, resulting in the peoples starvation and poverty. As if that were not enough, working class families were the biggest victims of the violence that desolated especially the outskirts of the big cities.
The rescue of this social debt, this debt of Brazil to the working class that for generations has constructed the wealth of our country, is the most important compromise of Lulas government and no other task can overcome it.
To rescue this historic social debt, the government has no other way except to cross even gradationally the old neo-liberalism imposed by IMF and to reach a new developmental model to overcome external dependence, to enable an upturn in economic development, to increase production and to offer employment to all. The wealth resulting from this production increase should be channelled to improve the quality of life of the people and the working class.
Besides constructive critics and the necessary surveillance, many sectors of the union movement have presented several proposals in order to contribute to the government overcoming the obstacles inherited from neo-liberalism. The Class Union Current (CSC) that acts in the CUT [The Unique Central of Workers (the major Brazilian trade union entity)] and is formed by combative trade unionists, reinforces in the entire Brazilian territory in this May Day its campaign to reduce the working week without reducing the workers wages. The lowering to a forty-hour week will create two million new jobs in Brazil.
Justly, the CSC argues that this measure can both combat unemployment and decrease professional diseases and increase the leisure and education time of the working class as well as enabling them to be with their families. CSC also defends that the reduction of work time without reduction of wages can produce an increase in the salary and a new revenue distribution that can improve the internal market, increasing the commercial sales and as a result can stimulate the national economy and development.
When we are talking about International May Day, we cannot forget to refer to the Communist Party of Brazil. For more than 80 years PCdoB has been present in Brazilian history, always struggling in defence of the working class. In Brazil, PCdoB it is the party of socialism. The communists were one of the conductors of victory that took Lula to the government and as an integral part of the new government, we struggle for the realisation of its programme of change. The efforts we are making for the success of Lulas government have as a reference its compromises with the working class. The communists understand that if the new government implement a development project to enable revenue redistribution, besides the people having a better life, the government will be making a historic step towards the major working class project: socialism.
In Brazil and all over the world the working class also celebrate its day, calling for peace and combating US imperialism condemning it for using fire and sword to escalate its war aiming to subjugate the peoples and to plunder the resources of sovereign countries. If the Bush administration increases its ferocious imperialism till insanity, the union of people is stronger against such offensive. The lemma of the Communist Manifesto Workers of all countries, unite! is contemporary and reinforced in unison by peoples and workers for the winning of a new world in peace and solidarity.
São Paulo, April 30th 2003.
President of the Communist Party of Brazil
Speech given by Dr Fidel Castro Ruz, President of the Republic of Cuba, at the May Day rally held in Revolution Square. Havana, May 1, 2003
Dear fellow Cubans:
Our heroic people have struggled for 44 years from this small Caribbean island just a few miles away from the most formidable imperial power ever known by mankind. In so doing, they have written an unprecedented chapter in history. Never has the world witnessed such an unequal fight.
Some may have believed that the rise of the empire to the status of the sole superpower, with a military and technological might with no balancing pole anywhere in the world, would frighten or dishearten the Cuban people. Yet, today they have no choice but to watch in amazement the enhanced courage of this valiant people. On a day like today, this glorious international workers day, which commemorates the death of the five martyrs of Chicago, I declare, on behalf of the one million Cubans gathered here, that we will face up to any threats, we will not yield to any pressures, and that we are prepared to defend our homeland and our Revolution with ideas and with weapons to our last drop of blood. What is Cubas sin? What honest person has any reason to attack her?
With their own blood and the weapons seized from the enemy, the Cuban people overthrew a cruel tyranny with 80,000 men under arms, imposed by the US government.
Cuba was the first territory free from imperialist domination in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the only country in the hemisphere, throughout post-colonial history, where the torturers, murderers and war criminals that took the lives of tens of thousands of people were exemplarily punished.
All of the countrys land was recovered and turned over to the peasants and agricultural workers. The natural resources, industries and basic services were placed in the hands of their only true owner: the Cuban nation.
In less than 72 hours, fighting ceaselessly, day and night, Cuba crushed the Bay of Pigs mercenary invasion organised by a US administration, thereby preventing a direct military intervention by this country and a war of incalculable consequences. The Revolution already had the Rebel Army, over 400,000 weapons and hundreds of thousands of militia members.
In 1962, Cuba confronted with honour, and without a single concession, the risk of being attacked with dozens of nuclear weapons. It defeated the dirty war that spread throughout the entire country, at a cost in human lives even greater than that of the war of liberation.
It stoically endured thousands of acts of sabotage and terrorist attacks organised by the US government. It thwarted hundreds of assassination plots against the leaders of the Revolution.
While under a rigorous blockade and economic warfare that have lasted for almost half a century, Cuba was able to eradicate in just one year the illiteracy that has still not been overcome in the course of more than four decades by the rest of the countries of Latin America, or the United States itself.
It has brought free education to 100% of the countrys children. It has the highest school retention rate over 99% between kindergarten and ninth grade of all of the nations in the hemisphere. Its elementary school students rank first worldwide in the knowledge of their mother language and mathematics. The country also ranks first worldwide with the highest number of teachers per capita and the lowest number of students per classroom. All children with physical or mental challenges are enrolled in special schools.
Computer education and the use of audiovisual methods now extend to all of the countrys children, adolescents and youth, in both the cities and the countryside.
For the first time in the world, all young people between the ages of 17 and 30, who were previously neither in school nor employed, have been given the opportunity to resume their studies while receiving an allowance.
All citizens have the possibility of undertaking studies that will take them from kindergarten to a doctoral degree without spending a penny.
Today, the country has 30 university graduates, intellectuals and professional artists for every one there was before the Revolution. The average Cuban citizen today has at the very least a ninth-grade level of education. Not even functional illiteracy exists in Cuba. There are schools for the training of artists and art instructors throughout all of the countrys provinces, where over 20,000 young people are currently studying and developing their talent and vocation. Tens of thousands more are doing the same at vocational schools, and many of these then go on to undertake professional studies.
University campuses are progressively spreading to all of the countrys municipalities. Never in any other part of the world has such a colossal educational and cultural revolution taken place as this that will turn Cuba, by far, into the country with the highest degree of knowledge and culture in the world, faithful to Martís profound conviction that "no freedom is possible without culture". Infant mortality has been reduced from 60 per 1000 live births to a rate that fluctuates between 6 and 6.5, which is the lowest in the hemisphere, from the United States to Patagonia. Life expectancy has increased by 15 years. Infectious and contagious diseases like polio, malaria, neonatal tetanus, diphtheria, measles, rubella, mumps, whooping cough and dengue have been eradicated; others like tetanus, meningococcal meningitis, hepatitis B, leprosy, hemophilus meningitis and tuberculosis are fully controlled.
Today, in our country, people die of the same causes as in the most highly developed countries: cardiovascular diseases, cancer, accidents, and others, but with a much lower incidence. A profound revolution is underway to bring medical services closer to the population, in order to facilitate access to health care centres, save lives and alleviate suffering. In-depth research is being carried out to break the chain, mitigate or reduce to a minimum the problems that result from genetic, prenatal or childbirth-related causes. Cuba is today the country with the highest number of doctors per capita in the world, with almost twice as many as those that follow closer.
Our scientific centres are working relentlessly to find preventive or therapeutic solutions for the most serious diseases. Cubans will have the best healthcare system in the world, and will continue to receive all services absolutely free of charge. Social security covers 100% of the countrys citizens. In Cuba, 85% of the people own their homes and they pay no property taxes on them whatsoever. The remaining 15% pay a wholly symbolic rent, which is only 10% of their salary. Illegal drug use involves a negligible percentage of the population, and is being resolutely combated. Lottery and other forms of gambling have been banned since the first years of the Revolution to ensure that no one pins their hopes of progress on luck.
There is no commercial advertising on Cuban television and radio or in our printed publications. Instead, these feature public service announcements concerning health, education, culture, physical education, sports, recreation, environmental protection, and the fight against drugs, accidents and other social problems. Our media educate, they do not poison or alienate. They do not worship or exalt the values of decadent consumer societies.
There is no cult of personality around any living revolutionary, in the form of statues, official photographs, or the names of streets or institutions. The leaders of this country are human beings, not gods. In our country there are no paramilitary forces or death squads, nor has violence ever been used against the people; there are no extrajudicial executions or torture. The people have always massively supported the activities of the Revolution. This rally today is proof of that.
Light years separate our society from what has prevailed until today in the rest of the world. We cultivate brotherhood and solidarity among individuals and peoples both in the country and abroad. The new generations and the entire people are being educated about the need to protect the environment. The media are used to build environmental awareness.
Our country steadfastly defends its cultural identity, assimilating the best of other cultures while resolutely combating everything that distorts, alienates and degrades. The development of wholesome, non-professional sports has raised our people to the highest ranks worldwide in medals and honours. Scientific research, at the service of our people and all humanity, has increased several-hundredfold. As a result of these efforts, important medications are saving lives in Cuba and other countries.
Cuba has never undertaken research or development of a single biological weapon, because this would be in total contradiction with the principles and philosophy underlying the education of our scientific personnel, past and present.
In no other people has the spirit of international solidarity become so deeply rooted.
Our country supported the Algerian patriots in their struggle against French colonialism, at the cost of damaging political and economic relations with such an important European country as France. We sent weapons and troops to defend Algeria from Moroccan expansionism, when the king of this country sought to take control of the iron mines of Gara Djebilet, near the city of Tindouf, in southwest Algeria.
At the request of the Arab nation of Syria, a full tank brigade stood guard between 1973 and 1975 alongside the Golan Heights, when this territory was unjustly seized from that country. The leader of the Republic of Congo when it first achieved independence, Patrice Lumumba, who was harassed from abroad, received our political support. When he was assassinated by the colonial powers in January of 1961, we lent assistance to his followers. Four years later, in 1965, Cuban blood was shed in the western region of Lake Tanganyika, where Che Guevara and more than 100 Cuban instructors supported the Congolese rebels who were fighting against white mercenaries in the service of the man supported by the West, that is, Mobutu whose 40 billion dollars, the same that he stole, nobody knows what European banks they are kept in, or in whose power. The blood of Cuban instructors was shed while training and supporting the combatants of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, who fought under the command of Amilcar Cabral for the liberation of these former Portuguese colonies.
The same was true during the ten years that Cuba supported Agostinho Netos MPLA in the struggle for the independence of Angola. After independence was achieved, and over the course of 15 years, hundreds of thousands of Cuban volunteers participated in defending Angola from the attacks of racist South African troops that in complicity with the United States, and using dirty war tactics, planted millions of mines, wiped out entire villages, and murdered more than half a million Angolan men, women and children.
In Cuito Cuanavale and on the Namibian border, to the southwest of Angola, Angolan and Namibian forces together with 40,000 Cuban troops dealt the final blow to the South African troops. This resulted in the immediate liberation of Namibia and speeded up the end of apartheid by perhaps 20 to 25 years. At the time, the South Africans had seven nuclear warheads that Israel had supplied to them or helped them to produce, with the full knowledge and complicity of the US government.
Throughout the course of almost 15 years, Cuba had a place of honour in its solidarity with the heroic people of Viet Nam, caught up in a barbaric and brutal war with the United States. That war killed four million Vietnamese, in addition to all those left wounded and mutilated, not to mention the fact that the country was inundated with chemical compounds that continue to cause incalculable damage. The pretext: Viet Nam, a poor and underdeveloped country located 20,000 kilometres away, constituted a threat to the national security of the United States.
Cuban blood was shed together with that of citizens of numerous Latin American countries, and together with the Cuban and Latin American blood of Che Guevara, murdered on instructions from US agents in Bolivia, when he was wounded and being held prisoner after his weapon had been rendered useless by a shot received in battle.
The blood of Cuban construction workers, that were nearing completion of an international airport vital for the economy of a tiny island fully dependent on tourism, was shed fighting in defence of Grenada, invaded by the United States under cynical pretexts. Cuban blood was shed in Nicaragua, when instructors from our Armed Forces were training the brave Nicaraguan soldiers confronting the dirty war organised and armed by the United States against the Sandinista revolution.
And there are even more examples.
Over 2000 heroic Cuban internationalist combatants gave their lives fulfilling the sacred duty of supporting the liberation struggles for the independence of other sister nations. However, there is not one single Cuban property in any of those countries. No other country in our era has exhibited such sincere and selfless solidarity. Cuba has always preached by example. It has never given in. It has never sold out the cause of another people. It has never made concessions. It has never betrayed its principles. There must be some reason why, just 48 hours ago, it was re-elected by acclamation in the United Nations Economic and Social Council to another three years in the Commission on Human Rights, of which it has now been a member for 15 straight years.
More than half a million Cubans have carried out internationalist missions as combatants, as teachers, as technicians or as doctors and health care workers. Tens of thousands of the latter have provided their services and saved millions of lives over the course of more than 40 years. There are currently 3000 specialists in Comprehensive General Medicine and other healthcare personnel working in the most isolated regions of 18 Third World countries. Through preventive and therapeutic methods they save hundreds of thousands of lives every year, and maintain or restore the health of millions of people, without charging a penny for their services.
Without the Cuban doctors offered to the United Nations in the event that the necessary funds are obtained without which entire nations and even whole regions of sub-Saharan Africa face the risk of perishing the crucial programmes urgently needed to fight AIDS would be impossible to carry out.
The developed capitalist world has created abundant financial capital, but it has not in any way created the human capital that the Third World desperately needs.
Cuba has developed techniques to teach reading and writing by radio, with accompanying texts now available in five languages Haitian Creole, Portuguese, French, English and Spanish that are already being used in numerous countries. It is nearing completion of a similar programme in Spanish, of exceptionally high quality, to teach literacy by television. These are programmes that were developed in Cuba and are genuinely Cuban. We are not interested in patents and exclusive copyrights. We are willing to offer them to all of the countries of the Third World, where most of the worlds illiterates are concentrated, without charging a penny. In five years, the 800 million illiterate people in the world could be reduced by 80%, at a minimal cost.
After the demise of the USSR and the socialist bloc, nobody would have bet a dime on the survival of the Cuban Revolution. The United States tightened the blockade. The Torricelli and Helms-Burton Acts were adopted, the latter extraterritorial in nature. We abruptly lost our main markets and supplies sources. The populations average calorie and protein consumption was reduced by almost half. But our country withstood the pressures and even advanced considerably in the social field.
Today, it has largely recovered with regard to nutritional requirements and is rapidly progressing in other fields. Even in these conditions, the work undertaken and the consciousness built throughout the years succeeded in working miracles. Why have we endured? Because the Revolution has always had, as it still does and always will to an ever-greater degree, the support of the people, an intelligent people, increasingly united, educated and combative.
Cuba was the first country to extend its solidarity to the people of the United States on September 11, 2001. It was also the first to warn of the neo-fascist nature of the policy that the extreme right in the United States, which fraudulently came to power in November of 2000, was planning to impose on the rest of the world. This policy did not emerge as a response to the atrocious terrorist attack perpetrated against the people of the United States by members of a fanatical organisation that had served other US administrations in the past. It was coldly and carefully conceived and developed, which explains the countrys military build-up and enormous spending on weapons at a time when the Cold War was already over, and long before September 11, 2001. The fateful events of that day served as an ideal pretext for the implementation of such policy.
On September 20 of that year, President Bush openly expressed this before a Congress shaken by the tragic events of nine days earlier. Using bizarre terminology, he spoke of "infinite justice" as the goal of a war that would apparently be infinite as well.
"Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen."
"We will use every necessary weapon of war."
"Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."
"I've called the Armed Forces to alert, and there is a reason. The hour is coming when America will act."
"This is civilization's fight."
" the great achievement of our time, and the great hope of every time --now depends on us."
"The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain and we know that God is not neutral."
Did a statesman or an unbridled fanatic speak these words? Two days later, on September 22, Cuba denounced this speech as the blueprint for the idea of a global military dictatorship imposed through brute force, without international laws or institutions of any kind. "The United Nations Organisation, simply ignored in the present crisis, would fail to have any authority or prerogative whatsoever. There would be only one boss, only one judge, and only one law."
Several months later, on the 200th anniversary of West Point Military Academy, at the graduation exercise for 958 cadets on June 3, 2002, President Bush further elaborated on this line of thinking in a fiery harangue to the young soldiers graduating that day, in which he put forward his fundamental fixed ideas:
"Our security will require transforming the military you will lead -- a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for pre-emptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives."
"We must uncover terror cells in 60 or more countries "
" we will send you, our soldiers, where you're needed."
"We will not leave the safety of America and the peace of the planet at the mercy of a few mad terrorists and tyrants. We will lift this dark threat from our country and from the world."
"Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name. By confronting evil and lawless regimes, we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it."
In the speech I delivered at a rally held in General Antonio Maceo Square in Santiago de Cuba, on June 8, 2002, before half a million people of Santiago, I said:
"As you can see, he doesnt mention once in his speech (at West Point) the United Nations Organisation. Nor is there a phrase about every peoples right to safety and peace, or about the need for a world ruled by principles and norms."
"Hardly two thirds of a century has passed since humanity went through the bitter experience of Nazism. Fear was Hitlers inseparable ally against his adversaries Later, his fearful military force [led to] the outbreak of a war that would inflame the whole world. The lack of vision and the cowardice of the statesmen in the strongest European powers of the time opened the way to a great tragedy. "I dont think that a fascist regime can be established in the United States. Serious mistakes have been made and injustices committed in the framework of its political system --many of them still persist-- but the American people still have a number of institutions and traditions, as well as educational, cultural and ethical values that would hardly allow that to happen. The risk exists in the international arena. The power and prerogatives of that countrys president are so extensive, and the economic, technological and military power network in that nation is so pervasive that due to circumstances that fully escape the will of the American people, the world is coming under the rule of Nazi concepts and methods."
"The miserable insects that live in 60 or more countries of the world chosen by him and his closest assistants --and in the case of Cuba by his Miami friends-- are completely irrelevant. They are the dark corners of the world that may become the targets of their unannounced and pre-emptive attacks. Not only is Cuba one of those countries, but it has also been included among those that sponsor terror."
I mentioned the idea of a world tyranny for the first time exactly one year, three months and 19 days before the attack on Iraq.
In the days prior to the beginning of the war, President Bush repeated once again that the United States would use, if necessary, any means within its arsenal, in other words, nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and biological weapons.
The attack on and occupation of Afghanistan had already taken place. Today the so-called "dissidents", actually mercenaries on the payroll of the Bushs Hitler-like government, are betraying not only their homeland, but all of humanity as well.
In the face of the sinister plans against our country on the part of the neo-fascist extreme right and its allies in the Miami terrorist mob that ensured its victory through electoral fraud, I wonder how many of those individuals with supposedly leftist and humanistic stances who have attacked our people over the legal measures we were forced to adopt as a legitimate defence against the aggressive plans of the superpower, located just a few miles off our coasts and with a military base on our own territory, have been able to read these words. We wonder how many have recognised, denounced and condemned the policy announced in the speeches by Mr. Bush that I have quoted, which reveal a sinister Nazi-fascist international policy on the part of the leader of the country with the most powerful military force ever imagined, whose weapons could destroy the defenceless humanity ten times over. The entire world has been mobilised by the terrifying images of cities destroyed and burned by brutal bombing, images of maimed children and the shattered corpses of innocent people.
Leaving aside the blatantly opportunistic, demagogic and petty political groups we know all too well, I am now going to refer fundamentally to those who were friends of Cuba and respected fighters in the struggle. We would not want those who have, in our opinion, attacked Cuba unjustly, due to disinformation or a lack of careful and profound analysis, to have to suffer the infinite sorrow they will feel if one day our cities are destroyed and our children and mothers, women and men, young and old, are torn apart by the bombs of Nazi-fascism, and they realise that their declarations were shamelessly manipulated by the aggressors to justify a military attack on Cuba.
Solely the numbers of children murdered and mutilated cannot be the measure of the human damage but also the millions of children and mothers, women and men, young and old, who remain traumatised for the rest of their lives.
We fully respect the opinions of those who oppose capital punishment for religious, philosophical and humanitarian reasons. We Cuban revolutionaries also abhor capital punishment, for much more profound reasons than those addressed by the social sciences with regard to crime, currently under study in our country. The day will come when we can accede to the wishes for the abolition of such penalty so nobly expressed here by Reverend Lucius Walker in his brilliant speech. The special concern over this issue is easily understood when you know that the majority of the people executed in the United States are African American and Hispanic, and not infrequently they are innocent, especially in Texas, the champion of death sentences, where President Bush was formerly the governor, and not a single life has ever been pardoned.
The Cuban Revolution was placed in the dilemma of either protecting the lives of millions of Cubans by using the legally established death penalty to punish the three main hijackers of a passenger ferry or sitting back and doing nothing. The US government, which incites common criminals to assault boats or airplanes with passengers on board, encourages these people gravely endangering the lives of innocents and creating the ideal conditions for an attack on Cuba. A wave of hijackings had been unleashed and was already in full development; it had to be stopped.
We cannot ever hesitate when it is a question of protecting the lives of the sons and daughters of a people determined to fight until the end, arresting the mercenaries who serve the aggressors and applying the most severe sanctions against terrorists who hijack passenger boats or planes or commit similarly serious acts, who will be punished by the courts in accordance with the laws in force.
Not even Jesus Christ, who drove the traders out of the temple with a whip, would fail to opt for the defence of the people.
I feel sincere and profound respect for His Holiness Pope John Paul II. I understand and admire his noble struggle for life and peace. Nobody opposed the war in Iraq as much and as tenaciously as he did. I am absolutely certain that he would have never counselled the Shiites and Sunni Muslims to let them be killed without defending themselves. He would not counsel the Cubans to do such a thing, either. He knows perfectly well that this is not a problem between Cubans. This is a problem between the people of Cuba and the government of the United States.
The policy of the US government is so brazenly provocative that on April 25, Mr Kevin Whitaker, chief of the Cuban Bureau at the State Department, informed the head of our Interests Section in Washington that the National Security Councils Department of Homeland Security considered the continued hijackings from Cuba a serious threat to the national security of the United States, and requested that the Cuban government adopt all of the necessary measures to prevent such acts. He said this as if they were not the ones who provoke and encourage these hijackings, and as if we were not the ones who adopt drastic measures to prevent them, in order to protect the lives and safety of passengers, and being fully aware for some time now of the criminal plans of the fascist extreme right against Cuba. When news of this contact on the 25 was leaked, it stirred up the Miami terrorist mob. They still do not understand that their direct or indirect threats against Cuba do not frighten anyone in this country.
The hypocrisy of Western politicians and a large group of mediocre leaders is so huge that it would not fit in the Atlantic Ocean. Any measure that Cuba adopts for the purposes of its legitimate defence is reported among the top stories in almost all of the media. On the other hand, when we pointed out that during the term in office of a Spanish head of government, dozens of ETA members were executed without trial, without anyone protesting or denouncing it before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, or that another Spanish head of government, at a difficult moment in the war in Kosovo, advised the US president to step up the war, increase the bombing and attack civilian targets, thus causing the deaths of hundreds of innocent people and tremendous suffering for millions of people, the headlines merely stated, "Castro attacks Felipe and Aznar". Not a word was said about the real content. In Miami and Washington they are now discussing where, how and when Cuba will be attacked or the problem of the Revolution will be solved. For the moment, there is talk of economic measures that will further intensify the brutal blockade, but they still do not know which to choose, who they will resign themselves to alienating, and how effective these measures may be. There are very few left for them to choose from. They have already used up almost all of them.
A shameless scoundrel with the poorly chosen first name Lincoln, and the last name Díaz-Balart, an intimate friend and advisor of President Bush, has made this enigmatic statement to a Miami TV station: "I cant go into details, but were trying to break this vicious cycle."
What methods are they considering to deal with this vicious cycle? Physically eliminating me with the sophisticated modern means they have developed, as Mr. Bush promised them in Texas before the elections? Or attacking Cuba the way they attacked Iraq?
If it were the former, it does not worry me in the least. The ideas for which I have fought all my life will not die, and they will live on for a long time.
If the solution were to attack Cuba like Iraq, I would suffer greatly because of the cost in lives and the enormous destruction it would bring on Cuba. But, it might turn out to be the last of this Administrations fascist attacks, because the struggle would last a very long time.
The aggressors would not merely be facing an army, but rather thousands of armies that would constantly reproduce themselves and make the enemy pay such a high cost in casualties that it would far exceed the cost in lives of its sons and daughters that the American people would be willing to pay for the adventures and ideas of President Bush. Today, he enjoys majority support, but it is dropping, and tomorrow it could be reduced to zero.
The American people, the millions of highly cultivated individuals who reason and think, their basic ethical principles, the tens of millions of computers with which to communicate, hundreds of times more than at the end of the Viet Nam war, will show that you cannot fool all of the people, and perhaps not even part of the people, all of the time. One day they will put a straightjacket on those who need it before they manage to annihilate life on the planet.
On behalf of the one million people gathered here this May Day, I want to convey a message to the world and the American people:
We do not want the blood of Cubans and Americans to be shed in a war. We do not want a countless number of lives of people who could be friends to be lost in an armed conflict. But never has a people had such sacred things to defend, or such profound convictions to fight for, to such a degree that they would rather be obliterated from the face of the Earth than abandon the noble and generous work for which so many generations of Cubans have paid the high cost of the lives of many of their finest sons and daughters.
We are sustained by the deepest conviction that ideas are worth more than weapons, no matter how sophisticated and powerful those weapons may be.
Let us say like Che Guevara when he bid us farewell:
Ever onward to victory!
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