The following speech was given by Workers Party candidate for Wellington Central Don Franks at a protest organised by the Newtown Residents’ Coalition against the rising cost of living on May 2:
Folks, we’re here tonight to commemorate Mayday, International Workers Day.
This day has been marked internationally since May 1st 1886, when there were strikes and protests in Chicago in pursuit of an 8 hour working day.
The US state attacked the strikers and broke up their demonstrations. Subsequently the authorities made many arrests and 4 anarchist union organisers were hanged.
Today, here we are in Wellington many years on, continuing to mark Mayday.
This Mayday finds increasing numbers of working people feeling the pinch. Transport food and fuel prices go up, while our jobs disappear. We don’t need to go on and on about how bad things are getting, we know all that already. We can feel how bad things are getting for low paid workers.
What we want to know is what we can do about it.
The traditional self-proclaimed supporters of the workers are not going to help us. Take GST. The Workers Party is against all GST as a tax on the poor. The Labour Party was recently faced with a reasonable but modest demand to remove GST from food. Labour refused immediately. The fact is, the Labour Party has cut adrift a large section of the low paid part of the population. They are not interested in us and there’s no point in appealing to them.
Another traditional self styled supported of the workers is the top union leadership. The fact is, too many of the top union leaders have their heads too far up the arse of the Labour Party to see anything else. They are only interested in their own future parliamentary careers. One highly placed CTU official replied to our invitation to join us here tonight by saying that a protest about living standards would play into the hands of the National Party. We can’t expect people like that to help us solve our problems.
The plain fact is, noone is going to come down and save us. What we must do is look to our own self activity to fight back against falling living standards. We should support the idea raised here tonight of an ongoing Campaign Against Rising Prices. We should organise more demonstrations and strikes and support the strikes and demonstrations of other workers.
One more thing. I just want to leave you with another thought this Mayday - while we need to fight back, it is not enough to just keep battling for the next couple of dollars increase. Not enough because that won’t get us off the treadmill of the capitalist system. We need to do more than temporarily improve our position on that treadmill. What we need is a vision of a future without the private property system, a socialist vision of a better world.
At the end of the day, there’s a particular reason we need to struggle for such a future - we owe it our kids. We need to struggle to change the system to make it a better world for our kids.