Listening to the drone speeches which seemed to have travelled from Fyzabad to Port of Spain intact, the ritual round of prayers, the “big up” of the individual trade union leaders, anyone with a little imagination was left wondering how lost the leadership of the Joint Trade Union Movement remains.
Following a major demonstration on Friday August 12, 2022, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of Independence, when workers are mercilessly being attacked on all fronts, these formal leaders will not or cannot seize the time to point out that our formal independence turned to be a false dawn; that this is a moment to remind that the hard fought gains post-independence have been eroded by a ruthless well organised ruling class with a clear agenda; that the Bim and Bam, Red and Yellow, elections are about who acts on their behalf.
CLR James pointed out that the race baiting is really about these parties avoiding the real issue of reorganising society.
The sectors over which we demanded people’s ownership through State control have been weakened. Health education, energy industries, water, electricity where the take back has not been completed, it is well underway, as in WASA.
What started in the steel industry with ArcelorMittal’s departure, continued in Petrotrin, Trinidad Cement, TIDCO, TSTT and others. The Industrial Court, which was never going to bring victory to workers per se, but offers some protection, has become a prime target in a well organised attack.
So yet another march was organised, along the same route in Port of Spain to show unity and solidarity. Of itself it will not blunt the attacks of the rampaging employer class acting on its own or through its influence on the State machinery. How many marches and motorcades have we seen as the Covid restrictions were eased?
All of this against the background of a highly militarised police service/force which is almost weekly reported to be in every type of lawlessness; from murder to extortion to assault. At this rate police may soon have their own wing in Remand Yard
After the march, the workers are once again in pockets and sectors fighting the individual employers on their own. Some leaders bleat loudly but have written themselves nice tickets in their exit plans continuing to live high on the hog with SUVs and expense accounts and agreeing to 65 as a retirement age; even as the NIB benefits are compromised by employers who deduct but do not submit payments, a practice which is illegal and is punishable by fine and imprisonment.
This fortnight will see a ceasefire of sorts where the population will be treated to open air concerts, steelband parades and other forms of cultural activity. Some citizens will be honoured for their contributions to national development. The rituals at the President’s House will resume, no doubt to her eternal joy.
But in the days after, the workers will continue to ketch hell to feed their families, buy school books and uniforms, to pay the rent or bail out a desperate relative who has committed a crime to survive.
Workers must create a new leadership. Not just by changing the executive. There must be a leadership that recognises the dangers workers face in this increasingly bitter class struggle.
That leadership will only emerge in the process of organised mass-based struggle that has moved beyond the ritual, routine marching. accompanied by drone speeches.