"Workers of all nations unite!"
"Workers of all nations unite!" So do marchers chant in
May Day rallies across many countries in the world. Through
this maxim workers exchange solidarity and a sense of
common purpose. However, its interpretation spans a wide
range of ideologies.
Since the industrial revolution, various ideologies have
evolved recognizing the role of workers and the fare share
that the working class ought to get in shaping society.
Marxism with all its stripes and versions amounts to
maximal role of the working class. On the other hand, the
new economic fundamentalists that followed after the demise
of the Soviet system pushed hard and fast their market-
does- it- all agenda relegating the working class to a mere
extension of the assembly line.
The impact of economic fundamentalism varies from nation to
nation. The role of government, no matter what the socio-
economic conditions of a nation are, has to be diminished
to a bare minimum. Consequently, the burn and slash policy
that has been going on has taken away many of the gains
that workers had achieved over the years. The so-called
economic restructuring was unfairly implemented over the
shoulders of the middle class, which also includes to a
certain extent the working class
Because of its economic cushion, the industrially developed
world relatively sustained less damage than the emerging
societies. Despite its rich human and natural resources,
Argentina, a country that was considered a jewel of the new
economic tide, saw its economy turn into shambles like a
ship left to the gods of the wind. Except for a handful
few, the whole society suffered the consequences of the
unabated capitalism-everywhere dogma, which is the hallmark
of the new economic fundamentalism.
On the other hand, the organizational base and experience
of the working class in various parts of the globe had
presented itself as an aggregate counter-force in resisting
the unfair and essentially undemocratic economic policies.
In this context, by workers, it doesn’t mean a strictly
defined economic class, but also includes other segments of
a society that understand and intellectually identify
themselves as such.
Argentina was a test case of the consequences of the
winner-takes-it-all policy that it embraced in the mid-
nineties. Finally, in 2001, with a whiff of a wind, the
country became broke. High flying enterprises fell like
autumn leaves; workers lost their pensions; the middle
class almost got wiped out. Faced with such mishap, workers
that were left in the cold formed a movement called The
Abandoned Factory Movement and succeeded in taking over
legally a number of abandoned factories. Several plants
started to get a new life and many have turned to be
profitable again. This experience in a way shows the
creative role played by the working class in re-shaping the
economy. Similarly, many local initiatives have been
floating around in mitigating the negative effects of the
unjust economic policies.
Our rapidly changing world is so occupied with religious
fundamentalism, albeit Islamic, that many progressive
thinkers link such phenomena as the consequences of
economic fundamentalism that had been globally imposed in
the last twenty years. A typical example is the rise of
Hindu fundamentalism in India, which has increasingly
become a major threat to the secular Indian State
Eventually, common sense started to appear showing a widely
accepted recognition of the negative outcomes created by
the draconian economic policies. Significant segments
within institutions, which had been the vehicles of
economic fundamentalism, have started to admit to the
injustices that occurred in the name of The Market-Does-It-
Were does Eritrea stand in all the dynamics of the
reorganization of the global economy? How was it affected?
If so, how did it cope with those challenges?
Given the time Eritrea came into being, it is not easy to
answer those questions except to point out that Eritrea has
shown its capacity to creatively face multifaceted
challenges whose real sources are less tractable. However,
it is not improbable that forces behind economic
fundamentalism had cast their shadows during their receding
Eritrea as an independent state came into being at the
crossroads of these enormous global realignments. To many,
its emergence was an unexpected occurrence, yet there was
virtually nothing in terms of infrastructure or ordinary
state functions. The process of nation building has to
start from scratch. Hence, it is hard to come with valid
arguments that make sense as to how the economy was to be
restructured or the civil service to be dramatically
slashed or public enterprises to be privatized wholesale.
In these regard, Eritrea didn't have hospitals ready for
the auctioning block, schools with too many teachers to be
laid off en mass or water-treating plants to be privatized
Yet, one cannot argue that this working nation doesn’t have
a working class, at least in its more generalized form. The
retired railroad workers who initiated the reconstruction
of the Eritrean railway system in the mid-nineties
constitute a typical example of the role workers play in
present day Eritrea. It has been a symbol of self-reliance
that characterizes Eritrea as a nation. Then, the only
alternative was the hiring of foreign contractors who when
contacted to rebuild the system asked a prize tag that
amounts to the entire budget of the state of Eritrea many
times over. Finally, under The Warsay-Yekeallo project, the
initiative of the retired railway workers came to
completion with incomparably low cost.
Unlike many misguided nations in our continent, Eritrea has
never relented from its zeal to work and self-help. In this
dynamics, there is a significant role of its workforce. At
times, there are exceptional cases that require utmost
devotion and sacrifice. As an example, during the onslaught
of the latest imposed war, the construction of the Tessenei
Bridge by Segen Construction Company is worth mentioning
here. It is an inspiring story to read how the workers put
their lives in line when they moved the equipment to the
other side of the overflowing River Gash temporarily held
back with what was then available.
Doesn't it seem an anomaly to mention a company especially
on May Day?. To start with, nothing is wrong with any
company as long as it operates legally and conscientiously.
But Segen and other similar companies have a mission beyond
the bottom line. Like the Recovered Factory Movement that
played a creative role in the devastated economy of
Argentina, Segen has also a role to play in nation
building. So is that of the cooperative movement in times
of relative stability.
As we celebrate May Day, we can give witness to the world
of the new Eritrea being built with the sweat and toil of
its sons and daughters; and also the support of its genuine
friends and partners. Eritrea is working hard to help
itself. So as we celebrate the working people across the
globe for their struggles, ingenuity and victories we
proudly see ourselves in the retired railway workers, in
the members of the EDF enrolled in the Warsay-Yekeallo
project or in the domestic workers across the Diaspora.
Workers of all nations unite!!
Wetru Awet Nehafash!
Haileab Luul Tesfai.