Fighting For The World We Want To Live In


Kokila speaking at a town hall event


Like many Singaporeans, I was raised by people who taught me that the freedoms we enjoy are granted to us by those in positions of power, out of their benevolence, and only if we can earn them through proving our deservedness. That those in charge know what is best for us, and if they restrict our freedoms or take away the things we hold dear, it is for the greater good. Any hardships we faced were either the fault of fate or personal moral failure. There were people who had a lot more, and people who had a lot less, and sometimes the people who have a lot more choose to help the people who have a lot less, but they aren’t obliged to. Political awakening, for me, has meant becoming alive to how dangerously false these beliefs are.

Firstly, it meant discovering that no freedom is bestowed—we only get the freedoms we fight for. Women’s right to vote, the 5-day work week, the 8-hour work day—these and many other rights were all hard won through struggle, through people’s movements around the world and here at home. More recently, in Singapore, a day-off for domestic workers, housing for single parents, paternity leave, and freedom from criminalisation for LGBTQ+ people were won through sustained campaigns that many people put dogged efforts into over years. And once won, all freedoms must be vigilantly defended.

Secondly, it meant recognising that the world we live in is not unfair by accident, it is unjust by design. We struggle to get good enough grades, then good enough jobs, good enough homes, good enough healthcare, and secure, good enough futures for ourselves and our children, not because we don’t have the ability or talent to meet our needs, but because of a few people’s greed for power and money. But if our world is unjust by design, then it means we can redesign it. We all deserve rest, nourishing food, a safe and comfortable place to live, time with the people we love, the space to be gentle with each other, community spaces to gather, trees we can grow, climb and pluck fruit from, the opportunity to pursue our curiosities and express our creative energies, and so much more—we shouldn’t have to kill our bodies or spirits in pursuit of any of these things. This is the world I want to live in, and I believe most of us want similar things. Together, we can dream up, and then fight for, the world we want to live in. A world where the planet and all the creatures on it can thrive, free from pillaging, oppression and exploitation. The people in power do not have to dictate our lives. And they cannot, once we, the people, awaken to our collective power.

“Power to the People” is the rallying call of this year’s Labour Day Rally. This power is evident if we stop to think about how it is us, the working class masses—whether we are teachers, nurses, students, stay-at-home caregivers, domestic workers, lawyers, cleaners, construction workers, bus drivers, food delivery riders, IT workers, baristas, social workers or anyone else— who keep this city running. We care for children, the sick and the elderly, we provide essential services, we build infrastructure, we sustain the economy and our communities, we keep neighbourhoods safe and habitable. Our sweat, laughter, tears and hopes matter.

I hope you will join us, your fellow people, this 1st of May—a date that Singapore workers of the past fought for and won as a public holiday—at Hong Lim Park, from 3-7pm. This is your rally. It is a day to honour the struggles and sacrifices of the working class, to celebrate our strength and demand the changes we want to see. It is an opportunity to stand side by side, hold each other up and claim the power of our collective voice. We have put together The People’s 15 Demands, created through public town halls and many conversations with different cross-sections of the working class—I hope they resonate with you.

The rally will feature rousing speeches, performances by local musicians, songs of liberation, booths by home-based businesses, worker groups and social justice organisations and more. There will be food, drinks, love and fierceness. Let’s fill the park with our bodies, our dreams, our chants, our solidarity. Come and be counted.

Follow @workersmakepossible on Instagram or visit this website for more information and live updates on the rally. You can also sign up here to receive email reminders and let us know you’ll be there!

In love and solidarity,

Kokila Annamalai is a member of Workers Make Possible and Transformative Justice Collective. She is one of the many organisers of ‘Power to the People: Labour Day Rally 2023’.


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