There can be no doubt that May Day 2020 will be unlike any other in living memory. The entire world is locked in a struggle with the coronavirus, COVID-19, and social distancing will prevent the mass gatherings we would normally associate with this day of celebration and commemoration.
May Day this year will be much more focussed upon commemorating the many thousands of ordinary people across the world who have fallen victim to this deadly virus.
Men, women and children across the globe have been lost to their friends, families and loved ones through no fault of their own. Indeed, in many instances the cause lies firmly elsewhere.
It lies with governments like that in Brazil; who failed to take the threat of the virus seriously enough.
It lies with governments like those in the UK; who underinvested in their primary care and public health systems, cutting corners for profit and failing to address the growing health needs of working people.
It lies with dictatorial regimes like that in Saudi Arabia; where the grasp on democracy and accountability to the people cannot even be described as slim… Where the ruling elite are dedicated to lining their own pockets from the oil wealth, rather than sharing the benefits with the people.
And, it lies with theocratic regimes like that in Iran, one of the global epicentres of the pandemic; where the authorities prioritise shows of stability over matters of public health… Where workers face the horrendous choice between utter destitution, even starvation, by staying at home – or going back to work and ignoring social distancing, thus exposing themselves and their loved ones to the very real risk of coronavirus.
Poor hit hardest
COVID-19 can attack both rich and poor, it does not discriminate in that respect. However, there can be no doubt that the poor are hit the hardest and due to major factors like an inadequate diet, impoverished living conditions and poor healthcare, die in greater numbers.
May Day 2020 must be the occasion to remember all those who have fallen victim to COVID-19 but it must also be the opportunity to redouble our efforts not to allow such disasters to continue to wreak havoc across the planet.
Campaigns worldwide for peace, democracy and human rights are central to the campaign against COVID-19 because they are central to the struggle for equality and against injustice.
While the body count in the United States from COVID-19 continues to mount, the US president can still find time to tighten sanctions against Cuba and attack the exemplary work carried out by Cuban health professionals across the world to combat the current pandemic.
This, while the US resorts to attempting to shift the rhetoric of blame for the crisis onto China – with US Republicans instructed to focus their activity accordingly in the lead-up to the presidential campaign in the autumn.
In spite of the clear and evident need for international co-operation to defeat the virus, the US also insists on maintaining sanctions against Venezuela and Iran, thus weakening the capability of those states to recover.
Wars of intervention continue to rage, to the detriment of the peoples of many countries in the world. The Western military presence in both Syria and Iraq continues to be an obstacle to a democratic solution, based upon the will of the people of those nations, and their ability to assert their right to self-determination.
Amidst all this, the struggle for justice and self-determination continues for the beleaguered Palestinian people. Their land continues to be occupied by Israeli forces, in blatant contravention of all relevant United Nations resolutions. The situation is particularly harrowing in Gaza owing to the ongoing Israeli land, air and sea blockade imposed upon the territory, effectively a siege – which restricts access to everything, including basic goods and health care provision.
The continued and bloody intervention of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, effectively being used as a testing ground for high-tech Western armaments, is a further reminder of the consequences of foreign intervention in a sovereign country’s internal affairs.
Refugee crises across the globe follow as a result of such occupations and injustices. The Rohingya Muslim communities, driven into Bangladesh by the authorities in Myanmar, are one example – the growing refugee crisis on the southern borders of the European Union is another.
The poverty, injustice and uncertainty in the daily lives of working people across the world are exacerbated by war and occupation. It is exacerbated by the climate crisis and increasing environmental destruction. It is exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no social distancing in a refugee camp!
This May Day will be one on which we must stay home in order to save lives, where we must socially distance in order to prevent a surge upon our healthcare services, where we must curtail our visits to friends and families to prevent the spread of this disease.
As we do so, we must take time to consider those displaced and homeless across the globe who will have no home to stay in; we must remember those who do not benefit from a well-organised professional health service to come to their aid; and, we must spare a thought for those whose families have been dispersed due to the uncertainty of war and foreign intervention.
They need our practical support and our solidarity more than ever. We must take this opportunity to redouble our efforts to provide that support and turn 2020 from a year of international tragedy to one of international solidarity and international action to defeat injustice.
In addressing the current crisis and afterwards, in the rebuilding of a post COVID-19 world, international cooperation and solidarity are essential. This has been emphasised by the Secretary General of the United Nations. He is calling for a global ceasefire, a lifting of all economic sanctions and the sharing of knowledge and resources if there is to be any hope of a lasting recovery.
On the occasion of May Day 2020, Liberation reiterates its determination to work in the post COVID-19 period to ensure that the lessons of this crisis are communicated to all political, social and economic forces so as to contribute to a safer and socially humane world.