Lawanya Chandra, Tamil Solidarity and Socialist Party
Solidarity Day, an annual event organised by the Tamil Solidarity campaign, took place on 30 September. The first session was about struggles and the trade unions in Sri Lanka, and was held in Tamil.
Senan – International Coordinator of Tamil Solidarity, and from the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) – spoke about how our small campaign is involved in various struggles in Sri Lanka and against the Buddhist chauvinist Sinhalese government. People coming together in a mass movement in 2022 got rid of the Rajapaksa family (see ‘Sri Lanka: One year since the uprising’).
Saarangan, from Young Revolutionaries in Solidarity, spoke about how youth and the unions can unite oppressed people and win our rights. Refugee Rights Campaign activist Dhanu explained how we will continue to fight for the right to work and right to asylum.
The second session, ‘Tamil rights and trade union action’, held in English, was about what’s happening in Britain. April Ashley, the black members’ (female) rep on the national executive of public sector union Unison, and a Socialist Party member, spoke in a personal capacity.
She spoke about the cost-of-living crisis, the strikes that are taking place, adding that we also need a political voice, and to build our own mass workers’ party.
Hugo Pierre, another Unison activist and Socialist Party member, also spoke.
When he saw the 2022 Sri Lanka protests (Aragalaya – The Struggle) throwing out their government, he said he wished to see those events come here. When Hugo was on Unison’s ‘international committee’, he put forward a motion for the union to support last year’s protests, which was passed (see ‘Trade union solidarity with Sri Lankan workers’).
Socialist Party member Len Hockey has worked in the health service for 35 years, and is Unite the union secretary for Barts NHS trust.
Len said all the crises at the moment are a product of a crazy blind capitalist system, and the breakup and privatisation of public services.
Len wants union leaders to talk more about how we won the health service and welfare state. It came out of successive struggles of past generations.
After seeing Aragalaya and the people’s power, the Sri Lankan establishment is shaken. It is using the old technique to divide people and create communal violence.
Tamil Solidarity supports trade unions in Sri Lanka organising international solidarity. The unions need to be independent of the government, and should coordinate and mobilise all the workers and supporters. We are proposing a conference of trade union activists in Sri Lanka.
We need to build our strength. Mass struggle can dismantle oppressive regimes, and win our rights.