LET US RECOMMIT OURSELVES ON JUNE 19TH
by Dr. Godfrey Vincent
The first Labour Day celebration was held in 1972. This was two years after the 1970 Black Power Revolution.
On that day on June 19, 1972, the revolutionary rhetoric was high because the state had intensified its repression against the working class and its allies. Eric Williams had stripped May Day of its holiday status and made June 19th a holiday instead. The detainees had been released three days before, including George Weekes, Nuevo Diaz, Michael Brother Scobie" Joseph and Allan Campbell.
Moreover, the revolutionary fever was high because, internationally, the Arab world had challenged the American/Dutch/English/French oil companies for control of its oil and natural gas resources.
Additionally, the revolutionary spirit was high at Fyzabad because unemployment was high on account of the dire socio-economic situation the country faced at the time.
At that first Labor Day celebration, hundreds of people came to Fyzabad to honor those who risked their lives in the struggle against British imperialism. The 1937 struggle was not just about higher wages and living conditions but was part of wider struggle in the Caribbean for independence and emancipation from foreign domination.
The men and women who risked their lives in this struggle did not seek their own political agenda but sought to build a movement that would unite the working class not only in Trinidad and Tobago but the entire Caribbean. Because of their resolve, the revolutionary spirit lived on to 1970 and the birth of a new revolutionary movement.
In 1975, two years after the first Labour Day celebration, oil, sugar and other workers joined with the leaders of the Progressive Labour Movement and passed a resolution to create the United Labor Front (ULF) to defend the interest of the working class.
The ULF pledged to: unite the working class as a class for political struggle and to struggle with the workers or any section of them for such political objectives as are immediately realizable and for the ultimate political objective of working class power.
It pledged to establish an economic system, a social order and a government consistent with the interests of the working classes and the people in general; promote and defend democracy and democratic institutions among the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
It pledged to eliminate all forms of imperialism, capitalism and racialism in our society and to achieve genuine independence for Trinidad and Tobago in all spheres, economic, political, social and cultural, and to end the exploitation by man by man.
It pledged to secure and maintain the interests, well-being and prosperity of the oppressed, exploited and dispossessed people of Trinidad and Tobago and win and preserve their fundamental freedoms and human rights; provide for the political education for our people so as to stimulate consciousness and guide their ideological, social and cultural development.
It pledged to struggle against all trends which are opposed to the interest of the exploited masses; establish and maintain unity among the peoples and the working class in the Caribbean and Latin America and throughout the world; support and collaborate with progressive peoples who are struggling against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, capitalism, racialism, and fascism everywhere throughout the world (Taken from the ULF Constitution).
This Labor Day (June 19, 2011), we are once again coming to Fyzabad to honor those who made this historic day possible. However, we are coming to Fyzabad not in strength but in weakness because we are coming as a divided trade union movement, despite the fiction of a united platform.
If we really want to celebrate this historic occasion in sprit and truth, let us recommit ourselves to creating one unified labor movement that seeks the interest of the working class and works towards rebuilding the promise of 1976, the spirit of 1937.
The stakes are very high, the country is in deep crisis and the working class is under tremendous pressure. Let us use history as our guide and build not only a new labor movement but work towards building a working class political party.