…is the solidarity?

Written in the early days of trade unionism, some may wonder whatever happened to the sentiments of their battle song – Solidarity Forever: “When the union’s inspiration through the workers’ blood shall run,/ There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;/ Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,/ But the union makes us strong./ Solidarity forever, (x3)/ For the union makes us strong”!!
Your Eyewitness knows there’s always gonna be competition between unions as they fight for turf and such like, but hey!! when it comes to extracting more goodies for their members, don’t they accept that solidarity will make them stronger? But, like with everything else in our dear Mudland, politics is what crept into our dear Garden of Trade Unionism!!
Ironically, the trade unions came before politics – and in fact, the former gave birth to the latter!! Clearly, however, you can take politics out of the trade unions, but you can’t take trade unions out of politics!!
And there you have it, folks. Everything was hunky dory back in the day, after old Critchlow founded the BGLU back in 1919 – just four years after “Solidarity Forever” was composed. The sentiments expressed about the workers’ plight in the States would’ve been ten times worse in BG. “Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,/ Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?/ Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?/For the union makes us strong….”!!
When Jagan returned from America, he joined the MPCA – founded by Ayube Edun in 1937 – and when Burnham returned from England, he joined Critchlow’s BGLU. Politics wasn’t as open then as it is now!! But there you see that the schism that’s still dominating our politics was already there: the MPCA organized the mostly Indian sugar workers, and the BGLU organized the dock workers and other African urban workers!! But what’s also noteworthy is that the founders of the unions were “unlettered” men – Critchlow was a dock worker and Edun was a goldsmith – and the class-conscious professionals always felt they could do better.
Well, the two leaders went on to found their explicitly political organizations, but they kept their hands inside the affairs of their stepping stones. The entry of the CIA, in its mission to remove the PPP from office in the 1960s, was the critical factor in the unions becoming openly politicised. They were manipulated by American unions that were in cahoots with the CIA, and formed the initial phalanx that precipitated the Black Friday riots that were the PPPs death knell!! Absolutely nothing’s changed!!
So, those who still hope for solidarity are just pi55ing in the wind!!

…is free speech?
All sorts of platitudes can be – and are! – uttered in a vacuum when it comes to “free speech”, especially by the US, which prides itself at having made the FIRST AMENDMENT to its constitution to protect the value!! It’s made free speech as a bedrock of democracy, and hammered nations from veering from the straight and narrow. Well, right now, America’s been put to the test, as, all across its land – “from sea to shining sea” – on free speech, students at some of its most elite universities – like Columbia and UCLA – along with a host of public universities, have come out in vehement support of the Gaza Palestinians under attack by Israel. Just like in the days of the Vietnam war, they’ve “encamped” on campus lawns and gone on to occupy university buildings. In Columbia – with its famous school of Journalism – its president, who just happens to be Arabic – just called in the police, who arrested some 300 students!!
Free speech stops at criticizing Israel!!

…is the line drawn?
After Muneshwers and Banks DIH’s sidewalk clearance – and what a beautiful sight it is!! – your Eyewitness was astounded to see food vendors – who’d been cleared before, with a mayor throwing himself under a tow truck! – had reappeared!!