Thursday, 28 April 2011

International workers' memorial day

Tomorrow is a bank holiday. Heads of state from across the world, including some despicable tyrannies, are flying into Britain. There will be street parties, a parade through London, and rolling 24-hour news coverage. But two people getting married tomorrow pales in importance next to today.

Every year, on the 28th April, workers around the world commemorate International Workers Memorial Day. It is our day, to honour the countless workers who have died - and who continue to die - in hazardous and unsafe workplaces. We mourn the dead, but continue to fight for the living - because a strong, organised workforce is the only guarantee against employers sacrificing the safety of the workers in order to squeeze another fast buck out of us.

Perhaps the most horrific example of this in recent times is the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India. Staff layoffs, corner cutting, and gross negligence led to the incident which killed 3,500 immediately and up to 25,000 since, as well as causing birth defects in newborns.

This was just one case, but it is symptomatic of global capitalism. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) exists to ensure that such pesky things as health and safety regulations aren't used as "disguised protectionism" or pose a "barrier to free trade." As a result, around the world, free trade is killing people. David Cameron wants this to spread to Britain, aiming to "curb" what he sees as the "red tape" of health and safety legislation. The media is complicit in this aim, perpetuating myths (PDF) about health and safety but falling silent when the lapses in it kill.

This is why it is as important as ever, today, to "remember the dead and fight for the living." In a society tailored to the interests of capital, it is only our strength as a class that can challenge the bosses squeezing profit from us at the expense of our health - and even our lives.