Action speaks louder than words
May Day is regarded as Workers’ Day. It is a day that is set aside internationally to celebrate the role and contribution of labour in the creation of global wealth. It was Karl Marx, however, who was credited for highlighting the key and critical role played by the working class in the creation of surplus value which is appropriated by the capitalist class, leaving the worker with a mere pittance. This exploitative situation, Marx posited, inevitably resulted in what he termed as the ‘class struggle’ which he regarded as the locomotive of world history.
The class struggle is manifested today in the street protests in a number of western capitals, in particular in the Eurozone countries which are beset by unprecedented high unemployment rates and drastic cuts in social services. In the final analysis, it is the working class who suffers the most. Many are forced into the breadline, being forced by circumstances to suffer the indignity of literally begging for food and shelter to put body and soul together. A growing number of people in the United States and other western countries are forced to live on dole and food stamps offered by the state.
This situation of a ‘naked cash nexus between man and man’ caused by the heartless and inhumane character of the capitalist system was elaborated by Marx in several of his writings. He posited that the greater the capitalist accumulation of property at the expense of the working people, the more vulnerable and insecure the workers become as they become mere cogs in the production mill which stripped them not only of their right to exist, but of their very identity and individuality. This state of affairs is what he called “alienation” where the worker is alienated not only from himself but also his family, and the only relationship that matters is one based on money.
This is why enlightened and progressive humanity have always been opposed to the capitalist mode of production and distribution which is inherently unfair and exploitative. Under capitalism, the main emphasis is on the creation of surplus value which, as mentioned earlier, is hogged by the capitalist class, with the workers only getting ‘the proverbial crumbs that fall from the master’s table.’
There are some who will regard all of this as intellectual garbage or worse as ideologically biased and propagandistic, but a closer examination of current realities would demonstrate that despite technological and scientific advances in the means of production, the gap between those who provide labour and those who own and control the production process continue to widen.
Simply put, the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. What we have today is what sociologists refer to as the ‘working poor,’ where many people simply cannot exist on the income they receive and are forced to do multiple jobs or to supplement incomes by way of borrowed money. This tendency to spend more than they earn has now become a norm in many developed countries, including the United States, and has been a major contributory factor in the collapse of the banking system.
With so much wealth concentrated in the hands of a tiny few, it is only natural that workers will be trapped into forced borrowing with disastrous consequences, as is now playing out in the United States and a number of European countries.
In Guyana, Labour Day was once again observed with a fractured labour movement and a fragile political situation in which the opposition parties in parliament have consorted to cut budgetary spending with obvious implications for the working people. Many countries, both in the developed and developing world, faced with severe financial crisis, are finding it difficult to mobilize resources for development.
The budget is in effect a work plan for the government which, when executed, will have a multiplier effect on the rest of the society in terms of money circulation, job creation and the provision of social services. To suggest cuts in budgetary allocation is not only irresponsible, but counterproductive, and clearly not in the best national interest.
The PPP/C administration consistently defended the interests of the working people as stated by President Donald Ramotar during his May Day address. This is so because the PPP emerged out of the bowels of the working class struggles and is not only sympathetic to labour, but has openly and unapologetically identified itself with the cause and aspirations of the working masses. This is quite unlike many other parties which played games with the working class and had betrayed their class interests.
There was a time in this country when May Day activities were used as a façade to legitimize anti-worker postures by way of sloganeering and empty promises. Public servants were forced to participate and display slogans which were clearly against their own interests. There was one particular instance where workers were forced to shout slogans which pitted salary increases in favour of a proposed hydro-electric power plant which, needless to state, never saw the light of day. Today, workers participate in May Day activities on their own free will, without fear of losing their jobs if they fail to show up.
The opposition parties have once again demonstrated that they are prepared to sacrifice the greater good of the Guyanese people on the altar of political expediency. How else can one explain the opposition’s blocking of money that was intended to enhance the quality of life of the Guyanese people, such as the provision of laptops for the poor and vulnerable; titling of ancestral lands for Amerindians; hinterland electrification; subsidized electricity ; completion of the Amaila Falls hydro-electric project, among others.
Actions speak louder than words. By their actions, the opposition parties in Parliament have exposed their true colours, which is their lack of concern for the well-being of ordinary people.