Speech By Isaac Velazco, International Representative Of The MRTA, To The May Day Rally In Zurich, Switzerland
Dear comrades and friends!
In celebration of this year's May Day, I would like to greet all those workers who are determined to wage resistance against the inhumane model of capitalism: neo-liberalism. We are told that ideology is dead, that democracy has finally defeated socialist "totalitarianism". But today we can see that this is far from true, that the contradiction between social labor and individual, private profit has far from disappeared.
Neo-liberalism is sharpening the contradictions by making the rich richer while millions of people around the world sink deeper into poverty. Neo-liberalism knows no boundaries. To greater or lesser degrees of brutality, this economic system is ruling the entire world, both in the countries of the North and the South. More than a century ago, workers began to win social concessions from the capitalists. The struggle for an 8-hour workday created consciousness among the workers. Out of a few individual demands grew a political struggle against exploitation and the contradictions between labor and capital. In Peru, the struggle for the 8-hour day began in 1906 among the dock workers in Lima's port of Callao. They achieved this goal two years later. The workers' movement soon encompassed all of the production sector.
From the struggle of bakery and textile workers grew the trade union federation CGTP. Its founder was Amauta Jose Carlos Maridtegui, one of the first socialist thinkers in Peru and Latin America. The union in the CROMOTEX textile factory was particularly exemplary. When the factory's owners decided to bankrupt the factory, to protect their own profits and ignore their responsibilities to the workers, the union decided to peacefully occupy the plant. Despite months of negotiations between the union and management, there was no solution. On February 4, 1979, the owners decided to let the police storm the factory. 6 workers were killed, and one policeman died after falling from a second storey window. Workers and trade unionists were arrested. They were charged with attacking the security forces and killing a policeman. Among those put on trial was Nestor Cerpa Cartolini. After 8 months in prison, Cerpa and the other jailed workers were released following public pressure.
The brutal attack on the peaceful factory occupation, which had been undertaken to win the legitimate rights of the workers, proved to Cerpa that rights could not be won by unions alone, nor solely with peaceful and legal means. The Peruvian state did not hesitate to use violence against trade unions. It was against this background that Cerpa opted for revolution, to resist Peruvian state terrorism with arms, and to thereby win human rights for all Peruvians, including the right to education, health care, culture, and social justice.
For Nestor Cerpa and his campaneros/as, violence was not the goal, but rather a means of achieving legitimate rights. It its 15 years of struggle, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) has always placed great importance on respecting the Geneva Convention, protecting the civilian population, and treating its prisoners war and wounded captives with dignity. In 1987, during the occupation of Juanjui in the Peruvian jungle, Nestor Cerpa Cartolini handed over all prisoners of war and wounded persons to church officials so that they could receive medical treatment. Among these prisoners were an officer and the son of the chief of the national anti-terrorist police, John Caro. In 1991, following an armed clash with the national police in Rioja, Cerpa took all 9 prisoners of war to the local bishop. In numerous television broadcasts, Nestor Cerpa Cartolini called on the Peruvian people to abide by the Geneva Convention and respect human rights. With the occupation of the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima on December 17, 1996, Cerpa brought the logic of the armed struggle for all the world to see. He also pointed out the insanity of an economic system that uses violence against its entire population to defend the interests of capital.
The embassy occupation brought international attention to the mechanisms and consequences of the neo-liberal model: the poverty of a majority of the population, and the ceaseless exploitation of human and natural resources for the benefit of a small class of people with ties to international capital. The embassy occupation of December 17 showed the insanity of the neo-liberal economic system, whose maintenance requires the use of state terrorism, torture, arbitrary imprisonment, murder, and the use of death squads. 9,000 men and women are held in inhumane conditions in prisons across Peru simply because they resisted against this system.
On April 22, 1997, the residency compound, which is on Japanese territory, was stormed and all the members of our commando were executed. This was done to protect, in the eyes of the world, this unscrupulous model of capitalism, neo-liberalism. We must think of these things on this day, the International Day of Labor!
Long Live May Day! Long Live International Solidarity!