BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Friday, April 17, 2009


A message from KMU

April 29 - May 10, 2009
Manila, Philippines

Theme: “Resist Imperialist Crisis, Plunder and War!
Celebrate 25 years of International Anti-Imperialist Working Class Solidarity!”


The International Solidarity Affair (ISA) is an annual gathering of workers, trade unions, labor rights advocates, friends and supporters of the working class in Asia and the Pacific, Africa, Europe, North and Latin America. The ISA is hosted by the most militant trade union center in the Philippines, the Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement).

Since 1984, the Kilusang Mayo Uno or KMU which is composed of eleven national federations and two mass organizations of informal workers, has successfully brought together several trade unions and federations from many countries to discuss, unite and participate in several campaigns and struggles for decent wages, labor rights, against IMF-WB impositions and WTO, and other existing and emerging challenges facing the global labor movement.

As we celebrate the 25 years of robust international solidarity among the working class, we take this opportunity to look back at ISA's beginning and contributions. It was during the height of fascism in the Philippines under the US-Marcos dictatorship that the KMU first organized the ISA.

During those times, several trade union leaders and members affiliated with KMU were arrested, tortured, forcibly disappeared and killed by government forces and paramilitary groups. Thus, there was a great need for support from trade unions all over the world to counter the mounting repression and violence against Filipino workers and unionists. Tremendous response came from trade unions and solidarity groups from Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Africa. Since then, the ISA has developed from being a venue of gathering international support to workers in the Philippines into an anti-imperialist international solidarity event among the workers of the world today.

This year, KMU hopes to gather the biggest assembly of trade unions, workers, labor advocates and friends in the global anti-imperialist struggle to celebrate the 25 years of ISA and the working class' forward movement against monopoly capitalism and toward socialism.

Resist Imperialist crisis, plunder and war!

As we confront the worst global economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression, the KMU unites with the workers of the world in exposing, condemning and opposing the root causes of the crisis – extraction of surplus value by the monopoly capitalists from our own labor power, grinding down of our wages and removal of other social benefits, and other manifestations of the chronic crisis of capitalist overproduction.

Despite the intensified social character of production in our factories and places of work aided by the high level of technology at present, we continue to witness the most abominable forms of accumulation and concentration of capital in the hands of the monopoly bourgeoisie. This hideous irrationality of monopoly capitalism leads the moribund system into a cycle of boom- and-bust characterized by the worsening crisis of overproduction. Among the salient features of this crisis is the escalating unemployment rate that can be gleaned at in all corners of the world.

The policy shift from Keynesianism to "neoliberalism" to combat stagflation in the 1980s has brought nothing but mayhem to our lives and to our families. The no-liberal policies of deregulation, privatization and liberalization of trade and investments took back workers’ hard- won rights, pushed down real wages, raised taxes and the prices of basic consumer goods and services, and imposed budget cuts on basic social services.

Under the flexible labor policy, a centerpiece aspect of neoliberalism, the number of unemployed workers has risen while real wages continue its descent. The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that around 200 million workers were unemployed in 2008 compared to 190 million in 2007, 187 million in 2006 and 140 million in 1997. The ILO further states that 1.3 billion workers do not earn enough to lift themselves above the US$2 per person, per day poverty line while three billion of the world's population (or almost half of the total population) live below the US$2 per day threshold.

In the Philippines, the highest mandated minimum wage is PhP382 (US$ 8.1) yet most companies provide the apprentice rate of only 75 percent of the minimum wage to millions of contract workers. Meanwhile, eleven million workers remain unemployed and underemployed. Around 600,000 workers are expected to lose jobs in the first half of 2009 alone due to plunging demands and closure of companies notably in the electronics, automotive and garment industries. Unemployment continues to rise as bulk of the 500,000 Filipino contract workers from Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, Canada, Europe and Middle East head back home due to lay offs and closures.

The recession has already caused some 10 percent of the workforce in the US to lose their jobs including around 30,000 migrant Filipinos. Workers face continued losses in their real wages with the inflation now running at four percent, an indication that the purchasing power of most American workers has been stagnant or declining since the 1970s.

The economic formula of combining neoliberalism with military Keynesianism of the Bush regime has totally failed. Despite the swelling military industrial complex with the ongoing US-led wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza, the bankruptcy of the US economy can no longer be concealed.

The US-led wars have incurred an understated total debt of US$53 trillion, which is 350 percent of the US GDP of US$14.6 trillion. With a national government debt of US$10.6 trillion, corporate debt of US$23 trillion and household debt of US$14 trillion, the US has transmogrified itself from the No.1 creditor into the No.1 debtor in the world.

The global slowdown also hit the world’s No. 2 economy – Japan – with major companies such as Toyota, Nissan and Sony cutting down on production and jobs. The South Korean government acknowledged that it is facing a state of “national economic emergency”. Meanwhile, a slowdown in large-scale agricultural production, mineral extraction, building construction and reassembly plants in Australia and New Zealand is probable.

Imperialist plunder causes the rapid impoverishment of the workers and peoples of Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. The chronic crisis of overproduction in labor-intensive consumer manufactures, backward agriculture, and the repeated structural adjustment programs imposed by the IMF, WB and WTO transformed their economies into neocolonial debt vassals of the US and other imperialist states. Third world debt now amounts to US$4 trillion compared to US$612 billion in 1982 and U$130 billion in 1973.

Measures made by the monopoly capitalists to alleviate the global slowdown have not only aggravated the crisis but also pound our livelihood further down. The US shamelessly funneled US$700 billion to the coffers of the finance oligarchy to bail them out from the crisis while its workers and other oppressed peoples of the world continue to face unabated exploitation and plunder of their earnings and ecology, widespread poverty, and decreasing incomes and government social spending. Public funds are now being delivered to the corporate giants in a paradoxical aim to expand production and generate employment.

Similar measures were strongly condemned by the French workers in a general strike in January 29 of this year. Major French unions CGT, CFDT, FOR, FSU, CFE-CGC, CFTC, UNSA and SOLIDARY led the broad masses of France in condemning the Sarkozy regime for enforcing job cuts, prioritizing protection of company executives' pay, and other neoliberal measures catastrophic to their lives and which only worsen the global economic crisis.

With the collapse of the financial markets, weak consumer spending and deepening economic recession, the monopoly capital and the imperialist states are resorting to crushing organized resistance of workers and peoples and intensification of militarism and political repression.

As strikes and mass protests against the curtailment of our rights, unemployment, plummeting real wages, disintegration of social benefits, racism, discrimination and repression take place in different countries, the state and the monopoly bourgeoisie puts the blame on "unions which drove their companies off the cliff."

Thus, we see some 86,000 workers in the US who were laid off from 2001 to 2008 for union organizing. And despite a newly installed US president, American workers remain uncertain if President Obama can act on their behalf by approving the Employee Free Choice Act, which allows unionizing through majority sign-up and provides stiff penalties for harassment of union supporters.

Globally, there has been an increase in the cases of rampant repression against workers. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) shows an alarming rise in the number of workers killed as a result of their union activities, from 115 in 2005 to 144 in 2006. ITUC 2008 survey points to Colombia, Burma, Belarus, Sudan, Swaziland, Philippines, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Pakistan, Nepal and Honduras as worst offending countries in terms of anti-union violence and repression. Colombia remains to be the most dangerous place for trade unionists, with 39 workers killed in 2007. Most serious violations in the Asian continent were committed in the Philippines where 80 killings have been recorded from 2001 to 2008.

Criminalization of labor disputes in the Philippines is on the rise. At least 13 workers are included in a list of 72 persons charged by the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government with trumped-up cases of arson, destruction of property, multiple and frustrated murder. Six of them have been illegally arrested and jailed, among them, KMU Chief Legal Counsel Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr. Even the proposed P125 across the board daily wage increase sponsored by the late Rep. Crispin Beltran in Congress has been rejected by the Congress and workers actions pushing for the bill’s passage are met with state violence.

Assassinations, abductions, torture and other forms of brutality against union leaders and members remain to be Arroyo's policies in enforcing "industrial peace" alongside Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Freedom Watch) I and II, a counterinsurgency military plan patterned after the Operation Phoenix of the US in Vietnam.

At present, major contradictions in the world intensify between the imperialists and all the oppressed peoples, between the monopoly bourgeoisie and the working class, between the imperialists and states asserting national independence, and among the imperialists themselves.

Imperialism has historically plundered natural resources and the social wealth created by the working class and the entire peoples of the world, and has unleashed wars either to subjugate entire countries and peoples or settle the conflicts of the imperialist countries over sources of raw materials, markets and fields of investment, and strategic points of geopolitical control.

The US remains to be the No. 1 imperialist power, terrorist and warmonger. It makes use of its military power to secure control and expansion of economic territory, maintain US hegemony, and oppose any "rogue" state or any patriotic movement that resists Pax Americana. In Asia and the Pacific, the US exercises its hegemony through its role as senior partner of Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, and as the patron of neocolonial states in Southeast Asia, especially in the Philippines and Indonesia.

The US has become even more aggressive with its global war on terror as a convenient pretext to pump-prime the military industrial complex and revive its sluggish economy as well as expand and consolidate its global hegemony. More than 200,000 civilians were massacred in wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan while 1,300 Palestinians were massacred when the US-backed Israel occupied Gaza.

The US-Arroyo regime has propagated the "war on terror" in order for the US military to implement and profit from counterinsurgency operations with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the New People's Army (NPA) under Operation Enduring Freedom, directed by the Joint Task Force-Philippines of the US Special Operations Command in the Pacific (SOCPAC).

As the global recession under monopoly capitalism worsens and the imperialists continue to engage in plunder and war, the workers of the world are duty-bound more than ever to lead all the oppressed peoples in defeating imperialism and building socialism.

International Workers Solidarity Against Imperialism

Recognizing the essential task of raising the level of the international labor movement from making economic demands and protesting globalization and war to confronting the No.1 imperialist and terrorist power, we gather for the 25th International Solidarity Affair (ISA) to coordinate and provide mutual support with fellow workers and trade unions in exposing and opposing imperialism as the source of plunder and war.

Through this gathering, we hope to build a broad anti-imperialist labor front that will include all trade unions regardless of ideological and political orientations but are united in opposing monopoly capitalism as the common enemy of all the oppressed peoples.

Let us carry forward our victories in the international movement against imperialism, fortify our determination to resist the chronic and worsening crisis of the world capitalist system, and bolster our revolutionary optimism toward socialism.

We hope you can join us in this important and historic affair.