April 21, 2020

May Day in Conditions of the Pandemic

On the occasion of May Day 2020 during conditions of a worldwide pandemic, the Workers' Centre of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) is organizing a series of video-meetings with workers representing different sectors of the economy to exchange opinions on matters of concern. Everyone who wants to join will be given the opportunity to register beforehand and identify the economic sector where they work or have worked.

The Workers' Centre of CPC(M-L) publishes Workers' Forum as a supplement of the Party's newspaper, The Marxist-Leninist Weekly. Workers' Forum has been presenting the views and reports of workers on how to handle the pandemic and their struggles for the working conditions they require to make their contribution to the well-being of the population as a whole.

A salient feature of this pandemic is that working people are speaking out in their own name in efforts to take up responsibility for society during these difficult times. The concentration of decision-making in fewer and fewer hands has created disastrous situations, which make coping with crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic much more difficult. In the face of this concentration of power, workers are fighting for an alternative way of doing things.

Anxiety and suffering intensify within a situation where the decision-making process is not in the hands of those who are affected by the decisions being taken. These decisions from on high come down to workers as a series of announcements and orders, which most of the time do not take into account the reality on the ground. Whether the Prime Minister, Finance Minister or other Cabinet Ministers are announcing what they have decided or these orders come from private owners of economic enterprises or "top management," the issue of whom the orders serve and the absence of the views of the working people and what they want to happen are never discussed.

The mantra is repeated over and over again that "we are in this together" and "looking after one another is the Canadian way." But beneath it all, the workers are not treated with the respect they deserve nor given the position of honour and leadership they require to deal with the situation. On the contrary, the ruling elite consider working people to be expendable, a sort of cannon fodder in what they call a war against this new enemy where we are all allegedly on the same side under their strict command and without our voices heard or respected. However, thanks to their continuing struggle for the wages and working conditions they require, workers are fighting to ensure they do not become additional victims of the negligence of those who rule. In this situation workers do not suffer from the illusion that "we're all in this together" but that insight is not enough.

Now that governments are speaking about restarting the economy, workers have to step up their struggles and speak out even more forcefully to tell governments and the owners of private enterprises what wages and working conditions they require to do their work. Already in Quebec, residential construction sites have reopened without providing the conditions workers demand including such elementary things as soap, running water and provisions for physical distancing. All construction sites are being geared up as well. The Quebec premier first announced that schools were to re-open on May 4, then backed off and said it will be at an alternative date that his government will decide and so too across the country restrictions are being lifted without the assurance that adequate conditions are being put in place to protect the workers and population.

It will not do to make announcements from exalted positions of high authority and then call in police forces to penalize individuals with impunity. The time is now to exchange opinions on the conditions workers need to return to work in a manner that protects their health and safety and that of the population. The longstanding regime of "business as usual" where governments at every level have engaged in a vicious anti-social offensive must be brought to an end. The dire shape of our hospitals, medical system, nursing homes, seniors' homes, care for the most vulnerable women, children, those with special needs and Indigenous peoples, and the working conditions in the mines, factories and work camps must be set right according to the views and needs of the workers and others directly affected. The dictate of narrow private interests declaring anti-social measures as necessary to "cut costs" must cease. To right itself and emerge from the pandemic not as "business as usual," society needs an alternative way of listening to workers on the factory floor, in the mines and mills, transportation and communications, agri-business, small farms, the fisheries, sanitation, retail, social programs and all aspects of life. They must  not only listen to those working people on the front lines of the economy but  implement their views in practice.

How to deal with a problem such as the coronavirus is not rocket science. Modern societies know what to do to activate the human factor/social consciousness and how to mobilize and coordinate forces countrywide and worldwide. The biggest problem facing the 21st century is that with few exceptions, the claims of the workers on society are denied and their views ignored. The people who sustain production, the supply chains and systems of health care and education are systematically disempowered by those who have usurped power on behalf of narrow private interests. Even though they are the ones who do the work and face the problems firsthand they are denied their decisive role in decision-making.

The pandemic is revealing above all else and for all to see or want to see that as economies are put back in gear, the working class and others in the population cannot afford to go back to "business as usual." The ruling elite are telling the working people to put up and shut up because that is your role and what we pay you to do under our dictate of "business as usual." In response, workers must draw a line in the sand and say with their own voice that "business as usual" is finished. This has been the mantra since free trade was ushered in and people were abandoned to fend for themselves while the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. Despite the wrecking and its consequences to the social and natural environment governments at different levels say it is "business as usual." This is not an acceptable guiding principle in this century. Workers are determined to become the decision-makers themselves so that they can exercise control over their lives at work and throughout society.

To put an end to this "business as usual" anti-social offensive, workers must continue to speak up in their own name. They must inform the population about their working conditions and smash the silence that keeps them isolated from one another and marginalized. They must stake their claims on the economy as it starts up and the special measures ordered to flatten the curb of the pandemic are lifted. Now and for the foreseeable future, working conditions must be geared to maintaining control over the spread of the disease so that the health system and other aspects of life most affected do not become overwhelmed, while elective surgery and other procedures are allowed to proceed. The suspension of many health services, other than those considered life threatening, is itself causing great anxiety and suffering amongst the people.

Very important in the conditions of the pandemic is to acknowledge that calling for more police powers to set things straight in the seniors' homes, reservations or communities is a stopgap measure which reveals the desperate conditions that exist and the incompetence of the ruling elite and their "business as usual."Lost in this call for the military is that workers have to be organized and mobilized to make sure those shameful conditions are dealt with and never return. The police powers are in place to ensure this does not take place. It reveals that the ruling elite are incapable of dealing with the actual conditions because their authority blocks workers from having the authority to deal with the conditions as they must and as they decide. The conditions remain outside the purview of the workers who are not allowed to activate their social consciousness, leadership and authority.

Let this May Day 2020 held in conditions of the pandemic mark a turning point when the workers are not told what to do but start to tell and assert what must be done and to put themselves into a position to make sure it is done. The workers must and can act as an organized force to lay their claims on what belongs to them by right, their wages and working conditions according to their views, needs and modern production. This means all workers are treated with the respect they deserve and receive a Canadian standard of living for fulfilling their duty to themselves, the economy and society.

Workers must also take up organizing themselves politically, not by splitting themselves up into what are called electoral political parties. Those electoral parties are in fact factions vying to usurp the reins of power and deprive workers of their right to decide. Workers organizing themselves politically means discussing together the problems society faces and exchanging views about what can and needs to be done. This is a first step. We urge you to join the exchange of opinions and information that the Workers' Centre of CPC(M-L) is organizing on the occasion of May Day during the conditions of the pandemic. Let this consultation and exchange of opinions become a permanent feature of life going forward.

Consultation and exchange of opinions are for purposes of the workers setting their own agenda of what they think is important, a platform to consult, listen and exchange views. They are not to lobby for this or that platform of this or that political party, union, government or non-government organization. No attacks of a personal nature or defamation of any kind will be permitted. Those who join the discussion must defend everyone's right to speak freely. Once one person has spoken, others can speak. They are encouraged to give their own views on the problem under discussion or any other problem rather than agree or disagree with somebody else's views. Participants are quite capable of discerning where somebody stands in relation to the matter at hand and require a calm atmosphere to draw warranted conclusions.

Let us mark this May Day under conditions of the pandemic with firm resolve to bring in the New!

No to going back to "business as usual"!

No to anti-social "new normals" that justify with high ideals the use of police powers.

Question all decisions that workers have not set for themselves: Together let us defend the rights of all!

All those who want to be included in the video-consultations please inform: workerscentre@cpcml.ca.

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The Slogan of Empire 

Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die

Only the organized workers through their actions can in fact protect the population and ensure "business as usual" does not continue to devastate the social and natural environment. The slogans of the ruling classes of the 19th century declaring, Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die are finished and have no place in the modern world. This description of duty of members of society was the slogan of Empire and cannot be the guide in the 21st century. It is best captured in the narrative poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, titled The Charge of the Light Brigade published in 1854. It deals with the losses suffered by the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War -- 118 men killed, 127 wounded, and about 60 taken prisoner. After regrouping, only 195 men were still with horses.

At the time, Britain and France were at war with Russia and fighting over control of Crimea, as is still the case today. The poem is seen as both praise and a lament for the soldier whose moral duty was alleged to be to fight for justice. This soldier did his duty despite knowing that the orders were not good.

The duty of the working people in the 21st century is to say NO! when their dignity and very lives are trampled underfoot. They do not accept to passively do what they are told when they are not permitted to participate in arriving at the decisions of what is needed to be done. Ours is to reason why, ours is to decide what's to be done and do it! This pertains to the direction of the economy, political affairs or policy on any front that affects our lives.

The Charge of the Light Brigade
Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!" he said.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.


Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.


When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

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Statement of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs [Extract], April 16, 2020

[...] COVID-19 has come into a world overburdened by production and consumption patterns, especially in highly industrialized countries and among the elites of developing countries, known to be unsustainable and incompatible with the finite character of the natural resources upon which life on the planet depends.

Before the first case was identified, there were 820 million people suffering from hunger worldwide; 2.2 billion people with no access to fresh water; 4.2 billion without access to safely managed sanitation services and 3 billion lacking basic facilities for hand washing.

This scenario becomes more inadmissible when it is known that globally around $6.7 billion is spent on a yearly basis just in advertising, while military expenditures, that are completely useless to combat the COVID-19 threat, which has already taken the lives of tens of thousands of people, amount to $1.8 trillion.

The virus does not discriminate. It does not distinguish the rich from the poor. However, its devastating effects multiply where the people who are the most vulnerable and have the lowest incomes live, in the poor and developing world and in the pockets of poverty in large industrialized cities. Its impact is especially felt where neoliberal policies and social spending cuts have limited the public administration capacities of the State.

COVID-19 has taken more lives where government public healthcare budgets have been cut. It has caused more economic damages where the State has few or no options to rescue those who lose their jobs, close their businesses and suffer the dramatic reduction or loss of their source of personal and family income. In most developed countries the death toll is higher among the poor, migrants and, in the specific case of the United States, among African Americans and Latinos.

Moreover, the international community must deal with this global threat while the biggest military, economic, technological and communicational power of the world implements a foreign policy that seeks to incite and promote conflicts, divisions, chauvinism and supremacist and racist positions.

At a time when the worldwide battle against the COVID-19 pandemic requires boosting cooperation and the leading role of international organizations, particularly the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the current U.S. administration attacks multilateralism and seeks to disqualify the established leadership of the WHO. It also persists in its petty strategy of taking advantage of the circumstances to impose its dominance and attack countries whose governments it has differences with. [...]

For the full statement click here.

(Edited slightly for grammar and style by WF)

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