The Kilusang Mayo Uno labor centre in the Philippines salutes all workers and people of the world in commemorating the 121st International Workers’ Day with renewed vigor and militancy in the crucible of working class struggle.
Since the first May Day in the U.S. when workers demanded for an 8-hour work day in major cities across the country, May Day has become a lasting symbol for workers around the world pressing forward the struggle towards our liberation, free from the chains of all forms of exploitation and oppression under imperialism.
The global crisis of imperialism characterized by the worsening crisis of overproduction has already resulted to a global recession in the brink of depression. Billions of the world’s workers and their families suffer from dehumanizing poverty, depressed wages, loss of jobs and are denied of their fundamental trade union, civil and political rights.
Today, the overwhelming majority of the people who are mostly concentrated in the poor and oppressed countries subsist on less than US$ 2 a day. The World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations reports that 85% of the world’s global wealth is owned by the richest 10% of adults while half of the world’s adult population owned barely 1% of global wealth. The aggregate wealth of the three richest billionaire is greater than the combined Gross Domestic Products of the poorest 48 nations (i.e. a quarter of the world’s countries) today.
The wealthiest 20% of the world’s population are in the imperialist countries, and the poorest 20% are in the third world or oppressed countries. In 2006, third world debt leaped to US$ 3.2 trillion. Imperialist plunder has caused the rapid impoverishment and indebtedness of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
The world’s top 500 multinational corporations, in which most billionaires from the imperialist states control or have shares, has combined assets of US$ 67.75 trillion and earned tremendous profits amounting to US$ 929.53 billion in 2005. The top earners are the oil cartel (Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell Group, British Petroleum, Chevron and Total) and the global financial giants (Citigroup, Bank of America and HSBC Holdings).
The U.S. has been chiefly responsible for pushing the policies of “neoliberal” globalization and the global war of terror. Under “free market” globalization, the imperialist countries headed by the U.S. have extracted huge profits and debt service from underdeveloped and poor countries to the detriment of the working people, women, children and the environment.
In the Philippines, 80% of Filipino families subsist on $2 per day. Workers are among the hardest hit by the rotten system that has unleashed the daily violence of poverty, abuse, and repression on the Filipino people.
The current daily minimum wage in the National Capital Region stands at PhP362 which is not even half of the PhP858 daily cost of living for a family of six. Last month, the price of rice, Filipinos’ staple food, increased by up to PhP40 per kilogram which is way too much than the capacity of workers to buy for their families.
Under Arroyo’s bankrupt presidency, the average annual unemployment rate hit 11.3%. About 4.1 million Filipinos are jobless and 7.5 million are underemployed. This is made worse by ongoing retrenchments and mass lay-offs due to the weakening of the dollar, continued increase in prices and intense competition.
Almost 4,000 Filipinos leave the country daily to work overseas due to lack jobs and pushed by the labor export policy of the US-Arroyo regime. More than eight million Filipinos are working in almost 200 countries. Together, they remit to the Philippines more than US$14 billion per year providing an ‘exhaust valve’ for the bankrupt economy, though at the great social cost of suffering racism, inhumane working conditions, and even death.
Creating more of a burden is the skyrocketing of oil prices which has resulted to higher prices of basic goods and services such as food, medicine, water, and electricity.
The unprecedented economic and political crisis is exacerbated by the Arroyo regime’s greed for more money and power. The infamous US$329-million National Broadband Network deal between the Philippine government and China’s ZTE Corporation is the latest in a series of scandals capping Arroyo’s legacy of corruption.
On top of this, President Arroyo has also become world-renowned for worsening the already critical situation of human rights in the country. Under the guise of fighting ‘terrorism’, Arroyo’s Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch) bloody military counter-insurgency program has been responsible for more than 900 extrajudicial killings, close to 200 enforced disappearances, and the displacement of over one million people.
The Philippines is the second most dangerous country for trade unionists. In 2007 alone, there have been 161 cases of human rights violations victimizing 16,466 workers. 87 union organizers, leaders, and workers have been killed since 2001, while five trade union leaders remain forcibly disappeared.
The Oust Arroyo people’s movement continues to grow as a result of the unbearable conditions infecting the country. A broad and active anti-Arroyo movement is ever more crucial as the situation is ripe to oust the puppet, fraudulent, and murderous president. The combination of worsening poverty, increasing repression, and continuing efforts to cover up corruption creates growing protests and widespread social unrest in the Philippines.
Around the world, the bare-faced brutality and destruction of imperialism serves to enrage and organize more workers and people into a movement for genuine change in society. More than ever we must unite and build a new and better world for workers and all exploited people.
KMU therefore declares its working class solidarity with the people in oppressed countries fighting for democracy, social justice and national liberation along with the groundswell of people in imperialist countries rising up to assert their basic rights.
As we celebrate International Workers Day, let us be reminded of the historic mission of the working class to build a society free from all forms of exploitation and repression. Let us continue to advance our struggle for total emancipation.
Under the same breath, the Filipino workers pledge allegiance to advance the long march of the Filipino people towards national democracy and socialism. This is our contribution to the global workers movement to break the chains of imperialism.
Long live the spirit of May Day!
Long live the struggle of the workers and oppressed peoples of the world!
Long live international solidarity!