WOLVERHAMPTON MAY DAY 2007 speech by Graham Stevenson

A few words first on a special initiative associated with the Morning Star, given that today is not only international workers’ day, it’s also the launch of the new website  http://www.midlands-morningstar.org.uk/

Go to it to see how you can help and why you should. Unlike the rest of the media, the Morning Star is independent of big business. Why any active trades unionist doesn’t read it every day is beyond me, For anyone who thinks the Star is `left behind’, you haven’t read it in years. The Star is rightly proud of its heritage, But anybody who’s anybody on the left knows that its outlook is now very broad.

The Star tells you what it does on the tin � well on the front page – “the daily paper of the left” it says. The Morning Star is owned by its readers, via the Peoples Press Printing Society co-operative. You can own it by buying shares, as many trade unions are now doing. But no one shareholder is any more important than another. The masthead also tells you it’s “For peace and socialism”. That�s what you can expect to see in the paper. It doesn�t just enjoy support of �. and give coverage to �. the trade unions and the Labour left; you�ll find the SNP, Plaid, the Greens, SSP, Respect, the women’s, peace and international solidarity movements there.

If you want real news this is the paper for you; if you want to know what�s going on in Big Brother, or Beckenham Palace, don�t bother with the Star! If you want controversy, you can’t do better than the Star letters� page. Its regular columns from John Pilger, Ken Livingstone, Jon Cruddas, Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Liz Davies, Robert Griffiths, George Galloway and the marvellous cartoons of Martin Rawson make the Star the brightest spot in the firmament of the Broadest Left possible.

It’s there that you can read why the Ineos strikers at Grangemouth have been taking the action they have. `Greedy’ one red-top has called them. Greedy? To take strike action to defend the pensions of future workers in the company? Unreasonable? To defend the non-contributory scheme because they are paid less than other refinery workers, who have to pay for their schemes.

It often depends on what you choose to read as to whether you are appalled or enthused. It’s all in how you view it. Half a million public sector workers striking, as a Tory shadow minister says, at the drop of a hat � I dare say he’d know, top hat and all. Gordon Brown lauded the dockers of Durban for refusing to unload a freighter carrying arms for Zimbabwe; I didn�t hear him complain that such an act would be illegal in this country. Nor did I hear him applaud the leaderships of both the South African Transport Workers Union and the Chinese Seafarers Union, who jointly prevailed upon the China Ocean Shipping Company to turn the ship back.

You�ll not find another paper that tells you as much about the complicated events that the modern world provokes. I defy anyone to say that the remarkable briefings from Kenny Coyle on Tibet do not add to the sum of our knowledge. If you read the Star, you’d know that 10,000 Chinese citizens marched in Edinburgh to celebrate the contribution of the Beijing Olympics to world peace; and that similar huge numbers marched in several other cities. Didn�t see it on BBC News; maybe that�s why the Chinese community is currently signing up en masse to a petition against the news whitewash?

That there�s a great deal of hypocrisy about is evident to those that know that as many people are killed in Iraq and Afghanistan every day � and have been every day for five years now – as were in the whole of the sad but thankfully short period of riots in Tibet.

All of the contradictions you can spot are firmly linked to the strange form of economics we have here, which relies on the price of privately owned homes built decades ago not to tumble; or heaves around the price of crude oil, or the massive capital flows that Russian capitalists employ to shuffle their bundles away to our Channel Islands tax havens. It seems to many as if, as the western world teeters on the edge of recession and gloom. Despondency appears to be the main beneficiary of our prized electoral systems; look at Italy, which has just elected its first Duce for six decades.

If you read the Star, you will know that the thrice-misnamed European Court of Justice is piling on the rulings that the right to business comes way ahead of the right to free association and, especially, the right to strike that makes such a freedom effective. The poor human rights that workers such as those at Grangemouth enjoy are in fact tottering on the edge of abolition. My great-grandfather was a born around the time unions were legalised in Britain; it isn�t so long ago. How firm are our rights? As firm as the competitive free-market system will permit, it seems.

But, you know, the human race is not a competition; if it was, most of the runners would be knackered, barefoot and thirsty before they started. There�s them that would get a head start though and a few would have the umpires on their side. No wonder many give up and watch the rat race with a beer, burger and chips for company. Don�t, deep down, we all want to help one another? I believe that human beings would prefer to be like that; to live by each other’s happiness, not by each other’s misery. Our way of life can be free and beautiful but we have lost our way. Technology that could give us abundance has left us permanently wanting things and our society has become cynical, hard and unkind. I remember being told by media pundits in the 1970s that we�d all work a 25 hour week by the 21st century. Yeah, 25 hours in one job and 25 in the second job to hold your head above water!

The world has become a smaller place but the effects of this cry out for humanity, kindness and gentleness. Even now, this May Day, our voice, the voice of the international working class movement unites millions of men, women and little children throughout the world. The disordered society that is now upon us is but reflective of the bitterness of those who fear human progress. The hate of unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts; but humans are not computers, or calculators.

We need to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance to win a world of reason, where science and progress will lead to the happiness of all and not the death and misery of people in far-off lands. Ultimately, it is the mass of the people who have the power. The power to serve others and create happiness; we each have the power to make life free and beautiful. Let�s use that power to unite and fight for a new world, a decent world that will give people a chance to work to fulfil themselves; that will give future and security to all.


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