MAY DAY 2013 SPEECH TO TRADES HALL COUNCIL
By Len Cooper, Secretary, Melbourne May Day Committee, Thursday 2 May 2013
May Day is an important day for the union movement and becoming more so.
There are not many days in the annual calendar that bring together workers from different industries and union members from different unions.
There are not many days in the annual calendar that bring Unionists and non-unionists together, that bring unions and community organisations together; organisations like the community groups campaigning against the impact of smart meters, campaigning for fair treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, the Aboriginal community, organisations campaigning to prevent the total disintegration of Syria as a nation, campaigning against foreign military bases and war, and so on. May Day does that.
There are not many days in the year which present an opportunity for unions to put extra resources into reaching out to build solidarity, national and international, which is so vital to our movement. May Day does that.
There are not many days in the annual calendar which enable us to listen to the various struggles, suffering and aspirations of working people everywhere and support those working people. May Day does that.
If we study what is happening across the globe and if we understand Australia’s place in those events, we know that capitalism is in the grip of a major crisis of such global proportions that it is probably the deepest and most prolonged crisis since the so-called great depression of the 1930s and potentially worse.
In Europe today, for example, the official figures show a 12.5% unemployment rate and up to 50% rate amongst youth.
Big business, globally, is determined to make sure that it is the working class and other sectors of society that will shoulder the burdens of the capitalist crisis.
Pay cuts in real terms, longer working hours with no extra pay, reduced working conditions and suppressed workplace rights, attacks on unionisation and unionism, cuts to social spending on the peoples’ needs, the tens of millions of displaced peoples in the world who are being used as a reservoir of cheap, super exploited labour, the legislative attacks on democratic and human rights (e.g. incarceration without charge or proper due process) and so on. These are the conditions that face us whether we like it or not.
May Day in historical terms is about working class struggle. Fighting against all odds and winning despite the difficulties.
The bringing together and uniting working people and their unions, of uniting workers, unions and struggling community organisations, of solidarity and support for peoples fighting exploitation, poverty, oppression, war and destruction of the environment, this model which occurs on May Day each year, is a model that will need to be nurtured, supported, built on, improved and extended if we are to prevent the impact of the capitalist crisis from being borne totally by workers and others.
The other thing about May Day which is also important is that it presents an opportunity to debate whether we believe that the capitalist organisation of society, that is the profit motive, can ever solve the huge problems faced by the peoples of the world. And if not, how we build an alternative vision of a social organisation and society that can prevent economic crisis, oppression, exploitation, war and destruction of the environment, a society that really represents the democratic aspirations of the working people.
So we, on the Melbourne May Day Committee believe that May Day is important, even vital, for these reasons and more. We ask you to think about it and get more involved.
Thank you for your time and the opportunity.
Long Live May Day.
Melbourne May Day Committee