Summary: The following leaflet was written for May Day 2020 by a production worker in Nagpur India in response to the effort of the Indian government to make workers pay for the Covid-19 pandemic.
May Day, the international workers day has once again arrived but without the spirit of celebration. There would neither be mass demonstration nor huge rallies this year, due to the dance of the death all around us, brought about by the worldwide spread of the corona pandemic. The capitalist class all over the world has failed miserably to bring the virus under control. However, as we know, every crisis is also an opportunity for capital to find new ways to expand and accumulate surplus value. In India they are doing it by retrenching workers in huge numbers and extending the working day. We also know that the very arrival of the corona virus is due to capital’s callous mistreatment of nature over a long period of time.
The economic crisis during the corona pandemic is likely to impact 1.6 billion informal economy workers significantly worldwide, according to a report from ILO, out of which about 400 million workers in India are likely to be rendered unemployed. There is no discussion as to how to provide them jobs but there is enough concern as to how to retain the position of an economic superpower or how to become one, taking advantage of the corona crisis! Thus, the corona pandemic for the working class is a crisis of class-divided society which can be resolved only through class struggle. In order to intensify the class struggle we have to fight a united battle against the capitalist class as well as against all the instruments of state power deployed to keep capitalist order intact. This struggle cannot be fought as an isolated battle in any one country alone but will have to be fought together worldwide.
In India too under the guise of the corona virus the capitalist class is planning to introduce a 12-hour working day. The demand is under serious consideration by the government. The government has suggested that due to the current shortage of workers, two shifts of 12 hours each may be introduced with slightly increased wages. The owners would be given exemption from paying ESI, PF and gratuity and by revising the ID act a new two-shift norm may be introduced legally. This will put the workers under pressure to accept 12 hours working day due to the fear of losing jobs.
Today, the grim reality is that the conditions in which the migrant workers are stranded in different states are extremely miserable. Millions of these workers are literally on the streets without food and shelter while desperately walking to their homes hundreds of km away, since no means of transportation has been provided to them on the pretext of Lockdown.
May Day as we know had come into existence through workers struggles for a shorter working day. Millions of workers had participated in these struggles all over the world in which the workers of Chicago USA had played a special role. Now after more than a century and a quarter, attempts are being made by the ruling classes to take away these hard-earned achievements gained through centuries of workers’ struggles. The two-shift formula of 12 hours each is already in practice in the states of Gujrat and Rajasthan for quite some time, and is now being introduced in the states of M.P and U.P. during this Lockdown. When this measure was first introduced, some workers had welcomed it thinking it would provide them more wages than they were getting previously. However, the real purpose of the two-shift formula was revealed to them when many of them lost their jobs as a consequence of this measure.
Not only in India has intense exploitation of workers has now become the norm. Wages of a huge number of workers in the USA, China and many other countries that are paid on hourly are being cut and workers are becoming redundant due to the impact of the corona pandemic. Taking advantage of the corona pandemic the capitalist class is now bent upon making our lives a hell!
However, since it is only through the exploitation of our labor power that capitalist production thrives, we the workers also have the choice to make production into a weapon in our hands in our struggle against the capitalist class and the state. The Italian workers have raised this very slogan during the Corona Lockdown: “If we can work, then we can also go on strike!” When production becomes a weapon in the hands of the working class it can be used against the capitalist class and the state effectively.
To be able to do so, the workers throughout the world would need to have dialogue among themselves. Through these dialogues workers of one country would learn about the conditions of workers of other countries and their struggles and thus be able to act collectively to direct their struggles against the world capitalist system. During these united struggles against the world capitalist class the workers could form their own democratic organizations as they had done during revolutionary upsurges of the last century in the form of Factory Committees, Struggle Committees, Workers’ Councils, Soviets, etc., or form completely new forms of organizations which cannot be visualized beforehand. New forms of political organizations might emerge in close alliance with revolutionary intellectuals although controlled by workers themselves from below. We believe that these struggles of the working class fought collectively on an international scale would create conditions to end capitalism and help us move forward towards a new human society free from exploitation and all forms of oppression based on race, class, caste and sex. Simultaneously a harmonious and human relationship with nature is likely to emerge which will prevent diseases like corona from becoming a pandemic.
Hence our 2020 May Day message for us is: dialogue, unity and organization so that we may convert our struggles into a victory over Capitalism. Long live workers solidarity! Workers of the world unite!
Our immediate demand in India: Millions of migrant workers who are stranded on the streets of different states in extremely miserable conditions be immediately provided with food and shelter not as a charity but as a right with dignity, and immediate arrangements be made for them to return safely to their homes.
It is possible to change the world!
Deadly class war against the world working class with the help of the Corona Virus!
The governments of all countries are with the capitalist class!
Dialogue, Unity, Organization —– Need of the Hour!