Last year we commemorated First May by organizing an arts exhibition. Shortly before that, we won in another workplace conflict and we thought it could be interesting to point out that workers’ struggles are not only about workplaces. They are primarily about our creativity. And we need it even more at the time of layoffs, unpaid and lowered wages, and suppression of our rights and freedoms. Therefore, this year on First May we are launching a campaign „COVID-19 Crisis: We are not on the same boat!“.
The pandemic has shown that things that we would otherwise doubt about are suddenly possible. It is not only related to the fact that some sectors of the economy are suddenly needed (while others are not really missed) or that some companies were able to quickly transform and start producing what is necessary at the moment. Workers are making big steps as well. All around the world and recently also in Slovakia collective actions have been taking place: protests, wildcats (sometimes in several company branches at once), work refusals due to health and safety, occupations of unused buildings, rent strikes etc. Such activities and many demonstrations of mutual aid in the society are a nice basis for the future. They clearly confirm that “it isn’t possible” or “it can’t be done” is simply not true both in terms of production transformation and workers’ potential. We should keep this in mind because we will have to repeat this fact a lot in the future.
But other things that are not as surprising are happening as well. The government is pumping millions into the private sector while people with low wages and precarious conditions have to stay at work and risk infection (retail, healthcare). Others have already lost their jobs or will lose them in the future (hospitality, tourism, construction, transport etc.).
The pandemic frustrates us and we wish it would go away as soon as possible. The return to “normal” does not attract us, though. We haven’t forgotten what situation we as workers faced before. Precarious jobs, low wages, mistreatment, inequalities based on income, gender, birth and the omnipresent consequences of the climate crisis. Such is the world we live in and it doesn’t affect tens of thousands but billions. However, the root cause is not the greedy or “bad” individuals. There are several reasons. First, it is capitalism with its production based not on our needs, but solely on profit. Second, it is the hierarchies on all levels of social life which artificially divide us and are a breeding ground for inequality and oppression. And we should not forget about the state in the role of the always reliable savior of capitalism and holder of the power over the rest of society (although, for many on the left it is still a symbol of hope and change).
But beware, the companies and the state are not aiming to go back to normal either. They made it clear with the measures taken during the pandemic and the policy statement after the elections. They want more. For them, of course. They will go for it and will talk about it as if it is something we should want as well. They plan austerity measures, further environmental destruction and a lot of populist and nationalist bullshit. They will ask us to sacrifice ourselves for.. their world.
We do not want such a world. We are irritated by their “all will be well” and other fairytales. We deserve more. But we must start taking action.
Let’s speak about our point of view, about the workers’ perspective. That is what First May is about as well – it carries an important message that we should create a society wich fulfills our needs and not the needs of capital. We are not in this world to create profit for someone else. We are here to live a happy life and develop our own capacities as well as the society. We don’t need capitalism or the state. This is how we see it. If you see it this way, too, contact us. On First May or any other day. Let’s create something together. Because together it can be done more easily.
THIS IS HOW WE RESPOND TO THE COVID-19 CRISIS
We use First May as a symbolic event to intensify our crisis response activities. We should focus on talking about our situation, conditions and future.
The end of pandemic will not end the attacks on our living and working conditions. We need to be in the best possible position to solve the current problems and those that are about to come.
Our aim is to approach as many people as possible and create a network of contacts between those who want to be active.
1/ We support people who want to be active
2/ We show that it makes sense to fight back
3/ We connect with people who see things the same way we do
4/ We are against the ideology of self-sacrifice
5/ We want to build power in the workplaces
If it sounds interesting, get in touch.
In any case, we would be glad if you could share this text on your social media.
Solidarity workers’ union
Slovak section of the International Workers’ Association (IWA-AIT)