May Day 2021 – The workers’ global struggle against capitalist barbarism

The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) sends revolutionary May Day greetings to all workers, youth and the oppressed fighting against exploitation, injustice and capitalism.

On May Day, we stand with all those fighting against all discrimination, be that based on gender, sexual orientation, age, race, nationality or religion.

May Day also commemorates the sacrifices of past generations of fighters and working-class martyrs in the struggles against bosses and for a socialist world. We support all today’s struggles for democratic rights and freedoms, not least the heroic masses of Myanmar resisting the brutal military junta.

The immortal Paris Commune

We salute the martyrs of the immortal Paris Commune, on its 150th anniversary. The Commune, for the first time in history, saw the working class take power – “storming heaven,” in the words of Karl Marx. In extremely hazardous circumstances, Parisian workers attempted to re-organise society and to abolish exploitation and poverty, before falling beneath a vicious counter-revolution.

On May Day 2021, we remember the vast number of lives lost to covid, due to the reckless, criminal and inhumane policies of capitalist governments around the world.  A virus arises from nature but the catastrophic actions of governments in dealing with the covid-19 disease are due to the domination and dictates of the profit-making system. 

Capitalist governments did not take all the measures necessary, and advised by scientists, to stop the deadly spread of covid-19, including mass testing/contact tracing, providing full PPE provision for health, public transport, and other front-line workers, providing a living income for furloughed workers and no threat of job losses, and keeping workplaces and schools safe. 

The impact of the pandemic will be seen for years to come and is inextricably bound up with world perspectives for capitalism, as well as the key tasks facing the international workers’ movement, as the CWI outlines in its statement issued earlier this week.

Up to three million people, worldwide, have fallen to the terrible disease. India, under the rule of the authoritarian Modi government, is the latest country to see a sharp upsurge in infections and deaths. Officially there are over 200,000 covid-19–related deaths in India, though the real figure is vastly higher.

Under Trump’s rule, hundreds of thousands died in the United States and the terrible death toll continues. Likewise, the policies of right-wing populist, Bolsonaro, are largely responsible for over 350,000 deaths in Brazil.

In his State of the Union speech, this week, President Biden frankly admitted the disaster facing the US: “The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression…Twenty million Americans lost their jobs in the pandemic. At the same time, roughly 650 billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by more than $1 trillion, in the same exact period.”

Let the bodies pile high in their thousands!”

One million lives have been lost in Europe. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, presiding over 130,000 deaths in the UK, revealed the cold-hearted indifference of the British ruling class when it was recently revealed that he screamed, last November: “No more fucking lockdowns—let the bodies pile high in their thousands!”

From the beginning of the pandemic, the ruling classes’ main concern was defending their profits at the expense of the actions needed to protect and save lives. Much of the ruling class favour, in effect, a policy of “herd immunity”.

When vaccines were produced, an obscene row broke out over supplies amongst EU ‘allies’, between the EU and UK, and between other capitalist governments across the world. The richer countries hoard vaccine supplies while the poorer countries, where the vast majority of humankind live, face the disease, which hits the poorest hardest, unprotected. 

In times of war, the ruling classes have often used powers to direct production to their military needs but in reaction to covid-19, there was no organised worldwide manufacture of vaccines. Instead, pharmaceutical companies were allowed to organise production for their own vast profits.

While millions of workers have been infected and died, and millions of jobs have been lost and living standards are driven down, the collective wealth of the world’s billionaires, over the last year, jumped from $8 trillion to more than $13.1 trillion.

Much of the social democratic and trade union movement leaderships have shamefully collaborated with pro-capitalist governments during the pandemic. In contrast, the CWI, over a year ago, put forward a comprehensive emergency programme for the workers’ movement.

In Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa and elsewhere, CWI comrades have campaigned with these independent class policies in the trade unions, in the workplaces, colleges and in the communities.

The covid crisis, the death toll, and the craven role of much of the conservative labour and trade union leaderships reinforce the need for militant workers to struggle to transform bureaucratically-run unions into genuinely democratic, accountable and campaigning organs of the working class.

But even with union leaders failing to give a lead, working-class and youth resistance, including industrial action and mass social movements – not least the Black Lives Matter movement – have taken place under the difficult conditions of lock-downs and police harassment, with the state often invoking new repressive legislation.

Mass opposition to the cruel pandemic policies of the ruling class will grow. As will protests against exploitation and inequality,  environmental crisis, the oppression of minorities, and increasing repressive capitalist rule. Growing numbers of workers and youth will come to see these struggles are inextricably linked up with the struggle against the entire profit system. 

However, during this period of accelerated crises, most of the left parties and left formations have proven that they are not up to the task of fighting for the interests of the working class and oppressed. Podemos, in Spain, is in government with the right-wing social democrats, while the Left Bloc in Portugal props up a bourgeois social democratic government.

Biden’s public spending

Many in the Democratic Socialists of America, and figures like AOC, are in awe of the Biden administration’s promised nearly $6 trillion on public expenditure and welfare. These are indeed huge sums and can give American working families some temporary and limited respite. But they will not resolve the fundamental problems facing US capitalism in historic decline, nor arrest the decades-long fall in living standards facing millions of workers in the US. Reeling from the covid crisis and the disastrous Trump years, which greatly polarised US society, Biden’s policies are also an indication of the fears of the US ruling class over future social and class explosions.

The same Biden Administration that is applauded by sections of the Left, continues much of the Trump imperialist foreign policy. Biden’s military budget, upwards of $1 trillion, is the largest in history and is linked to the growing dangerous tensions between the United States with its allied western imperialist powers, and China and Russia.

The CWI stands resolutely opposed to militarism and imperialist wars.

Capitalism in 2021 sees a global pandemic and a world dominated by a tiny handful of the super-rich and their political representatives. This system means instability, war and hunger for vast swathes of the world’s population. 

Historically, May Day was a demonstration of the labour movement’s commitment to internationalism and socialist society, although for some leaders it was always just a time for speechifying about socialism while the rest of the year they dared not seriously contest capitalism. Today, the general crisis of the bosses’ system cries out for new mass parties of the working class with socialist policies – nationalisation of big industry and big finance under the democratic control and management of elected workers’ representatives, and a democratically drawn-up plan of production, distribution and exchange in the interests of the mass of people.


On 1 May, the CWI redoubles its efforts to strengthen the working-class movement and to help build parties of revolutionary change internationally. 

In stark contrast, sections of the revolutionary left have failed to grapple with the explosive period we are going through, and have succumbed to ideological backsliding, opportunism, pessimism and splits.

We, in the CWI, rededicate ourselves to the ideas, analysis and methods of Marxism – and its modern expression, Trotskyism – as the only way out of the catastrophe of capitalism for the working class and all of society.

On the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune, we follow in the footsteps of Marx and Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, and generations of worker-militants, and draw all the rich lessons from that world-historic event

Uppermost is the need for workers to act in their own independent class interests in the struggle for power, to decisively break the capitalist state and from the system of capitalism, to carry out far-reaching socialist policies to transform the lives of the poor and working-class, and by doing so winning the mass support to successfully sweep aside capitalist counter-revolution. To achieve these goals, Lenin and Trotsky repeatedly said, requires building a revolutionary socialist party, with firm foundations amongst the working class and the oppressed, and with a bold, decisive and tested leadership. 

The alternative is the continuation of capitalist barbarism in pursuit of profits. The blood-soaked streets of Myanmar are a stark example of when the enormous heroism of the masses – in this case, taking on a ruthless military junta – is tragically not enough. The working class and rural poor need their own organisation to organise self-defence, and also a political party of the masses, with socialist policies, to sweep aside the generals and take power.

The CWI will continue to step up the fight for world socialism – a world without military juntas and tyrants, without bosses, class exploitation and war, without famine and disease, and without the catastrophe entailed in the ruination of public health needs under capitalism.

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April 2021