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MAY DAY this year comes as we face continuing challenges. At home there is the fight against austerity and internationally there has been a dangerous ramping up of tensions, particularly over the Middle East.
In this increasingly globalised capitalist economy, workers have to fight to maintain what they have previously won so it is not stolen from us — like the NHS, universal education and pensions — and for what we need, such as good public housing, proper safety at work and a more equal society.
We have seen what unfettered private greed leads to with Grenfell and in the corridors of our hospitals.
On May Day we support the fight for a better world based on class justice. We want an end to the society that hands massive riches to the top fat cats while cutting our pay and social benefits.
After Brexit we have to fight for our employment and social rights. We also have to expose the continuing racist attitudes that have most recently been shown up by the treatment of the Windrush generation.
These will be to the fore at London’s May Day when it assembles today at noon on Clerkenwell Green — a historic space for the working-class movement.
It will link with the Marx Memorial Library before moving off at 1pm to Trafalgar Square for the annual rally.
There is always magnificent support on May Day from the international communities and migrant worker organisations and it is the day to reaffirm our international solidarity.
There are so many issues facing workers across the world from French rail workers fighting to preserve their rights to the wars in Syria and Yemen; the attacks on Kurdish workers; attacks on workers’ rights in Turkey; oppression of the Palestinians and the Rohingya in Myanmar; the Chagossian people and Diego Garcia; attacks on progressive forces in Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ireland and so many more.
We will be, as every year, marking current disputes being fought by workers as we march. This will include the Bectu cinema strike, the PCS disputes in the Civil Service and the start of the third year of the long battle of RMT workers on Southern trains. We have had confirmed that general secretary Mick Cash will be joining us on the platform.
We also know many of our supporters are involved in political campaigning for local council elections and the battle for progressive policies.
London May Day Organising Committee always sees May Day as related to Workers’ Memorial Day and the importance of carrying that commemoration message forward.
There is also the growth of related events being held locally to raise May Day and celebrations in major cities. London is committed to always hold its event on May 1 and exchanges greetings with capital city May Days across the world.
We also want to advance the demand to make May Day a public holiday, as it is across the world. Most European countries, for example, mark International Workers’ Day.
Where it is not marked it is usually part of right-wing governments’ attempts to suppress workers’ struggles.
Many workers in such countries will risk imprisonment or even death for marking May Day.
In Britain, the call for May Day to be a public holiday was supported across the trade union movement and was backed by the TUC in the 1970s.
The Labour government of the mid-70s, however, diluted the trade union call and sowed confusion by making the nearest Monday to May 1 a public holiday. This missed the significance of having one day when workers across the world were standing in solidarity together.
While May 1 remains a working day, it limits the ability of workers to mark this historic day which has been demanded for over 128 years in Britain.
This followed the events in Chicago and the call of the Second International to mark May Day, originally focused on the eight-hour day, which many still battle for. We have to strengthen the call to properly mark May 1 and to join all those countries across the world that do.
May Day is also when we celebrate the achievements of the working class, past battles and victories and recognising it is ordinary workers who create the wealth of the country and deliver the services to our society.
Roger Sutton is organiser of the London May Day Organising Committee.
LMDOC is supported by Glatuc, S&ERTUC/LESE, Unite London and Eastern Region, CWU London Region, PCS London and South East Region, Aslef, RMT, TSSA, NEU, MU London, Bectu/Prospect, FBU London and Southern Regions, GMB London and Southern Regions, Unison Greater London Region, the People’s Assembly, National Pensioners Convention, GLPA and other pensioners’ organisations and organisations representing Turkish, Kurdish, Chilean, Colombian, Peruvian, Portuguese, West Indian, Sri Lankan, Cypriot, Tamil, Iraqi, Iranian, Irish, Nigerian migrant workers and communities plus many other trade union and community organisations.
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