May Day: Workers around the world mobilise
May Day marches, demonstrations and strikes have swept the world in a whirlwind of anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation struggle. Never before in history have the actions been so widespread and militant bringing fear into the cloistered sanctuaries of the big corporations. However, the focus on May Day in Australia was more subdued in some cities as alternative celebrations and bad weather stole the crowds. In Brisbane a 5000-strong force of workers marched under the slogan of "Union members win!, in reference to recent statistics that show workers in unions receive better pay and conditions than the non-unionised workforce. T-shirts with the slogan "I'm for a workers' republic were extremely popular, along with those bearing "free public transport, and "shorter working hours with no loss of pay demands. In Perth 2000 workers and supporters marched through the city streets from the Fremantle Esplanade. Workers in Western Australia were particularly full of cheer at the ousting of the hated conservative Government of Richard Court several months ago. However, amongst their number was a large contingent of nurses who are continuing their struggle for better wages and staffing levels against the new Labor Government. They began strike action the next day to reinforce their claims. In Melbourne, the traditional May Day prevailed, despite a parade celebrating Australia's centenary of federation attracting massive public attention and the media spotlight. Torrential rain and strong winds brought about the last-minute cancellation of the May Day march in Sydney this year. In Adelaide, a strong crowd of trade unionists assembled on Victoria Square before being led to Rymill Park by a Scottish Pipe Band in full traditional costume. "This is the day we remember peoples' struggles! said Andy Alcock from the East Timor campaign during his key-note speech. Attention was also drawn on that day to the 20th anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands, elected member of the UK parliament, who was the first of the 10 hunger strikers to die in a Northern Ireland prison in 1981. International Around the world, May Day actions were up on previous years, highlighting growing public discontent with the anti-worker dictates of the IMF and World Bank. In France thousands marched in Paris, Marseilles, Lesquin, Montpellier and other cities and towns protesting at job losses and low pay. They stretched out along the banks of the Seine carrying banners demanding pay increases, better training and the end of the shedding of labour. Mass rallies in Athens, Greece, and throughout the country focused on demands for a reversal of the erosion of social security and for a 35-hour working week. Some 20,000 marched in Istanbul, Turkey calling for the government to come to terms with those political prisoners and their supporters on hunger strike — 20 of whom have already died. In Isfahan, Iran, a group of workers from a textile factory resorted to violence during a May Day gathering in a local gym. The workers have not been paid for four months and they started to vandalise the gym after a speech by a reformist MP. In Berlin, Germany, 600 protesters were arrested during clashes with about 10,000 police who used water cannons. Barricades were set up and ignited in East Berlin. Demonstrations were held in Spain, where unions united under the slogan "Stable, safe jobs and workers' rights. In Austria, where the presence of the extreme right-wing Freedom Party in the ruling coalition has galvanised support for left-wing parties, 100,000 marchers gathered in Vienna to hear calls for greater job security. Tens of thousands of trade unionists and leftists marched through the streets of Moscow, with Communists demanding the government's dismissal and speakers fondly recalling the Soviet era. Communist Party leader Gennady Zuganov led a procession through the centre of the Russian capital towards a monument to Karl Marx beside the Kremlin that gathered up to 15,000 people, according to police. Elsewhere in Russia, more than 50,000 people took part in May Day rallies in towns and cities across Siberia and the Far East. They were demanding higher wages, better working conditions, improved pensions, price controls and abolition of a single social tax introduced at the beginning of the year. In Ukraine around 1000 Communists rallied on May Day in the capital Kiev to protest against President Leonid Kuchma, whom they accused of reducing the former Soviet country to misery. They went through the city centre, bearing red flags, portraits of Lenin and banners proclaiming: "All power to the workers,and "Out with the bourgeoisie. In China, the People's Daily published an editorial extending greetings to the working population and calling on them to make new achievements in the 21st century. It called on Chinese workers to support the Tenth Five-Year Plan period (2001-2005) and push forward China's socialist modernisation drive. It also called on governments at all levels to attach great importance to employment issues and make efforts to improve the living conditions of workers. In Cuba, more than a million people attended this year's celebration of International Workers' Day in Havana's Plaza de la Revolucion. The ceremony ended with a speech by President Fidel Castro, who then led the cheering crowd on a march to the US interests Section. In Venezuela, workers who support President Hugo Chavez held a counter demonstration in what they called a mobilisation against the traditional labour union mafias. The Bolivarian Workers Force called for a greater workers' participation in the management of firms, and for a redistribution of land to put an end to what is known as the "latifundio — the agrarian model based on large land holdings. In Ecuador, workers took to the streets of all the major cities to deplore an unprecedented emigration of Ecuadorians because of unemployment and underemployment. Between 1999 and 2000, one million Ecuadorians left the country according to the National Statistics and Census Institute, and that figure has increased in the first months of this year. In Chile, President Ricardo Lagos chose International Workers' Day to announce a job creation program amid predictions that unemployment could surpass 10 percent this year. In Brazil, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sao Paulo, Claudio Cardinal Hummes, lashed out at free market globalisation, calling on workers worldwide to mobilise in a fight against the effects of the current economic world order. Colombian workers launched May Day mobilisations with a call to set up a special commission to investigate the wave of assassinations of labour leaders, which this year alone has claimed 38 lives. That figure represents a four-fold increase in the number of labour leaders killed over the same period last year. The South African Communist Party conveyed revolutionary greetings to all the workers of their country and the world for their continued determination to wage an unceasing struggle against racism, gender oppression and class exploitation. Mobilisation for the recognition of May Day under apartheid became one of the most important platforms, which was effectively used to defeat apartheid. In North Korea (DPRK) a May Day pro-reunification meeting of workers from the north and the south of Korea, the first of its kind since the division of the country, was to be held on Mt Kumgang. The South Korean authorities however refused to allow the vice-chairman of the South Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and concurrently chairman of its reunification committee to participate in the meeting as a head of the south side's delegation. In Jakarta, Indonesia, thousands marched demanding wage increases and that May Day be made a national holiday. Decked out in distinctive red-and-white headbands, they called for the IMF to be dissolved. Defying government repression in Malaysia, about 2000 people gathered to celebrate May Day. They demanded country's wealth be distributed equally and justly among the population, equal and just pay and compensation for workers, rights to housing benefits, free quality health services, rights to fair and equal education and consumer rights. In Vietnam, the 26th anniversary of the liberation of south Vietnam on April 30 and the 115th anniversary of International Labour Day on May 1 were celebrated at public meetings and cultural activities. Across the United States many demonstrations took place. In Los Angeles, among other cities, police arrested over 100 anti-capitalist protestors chanting "down with the police state. In New York, a spirited crowd rallied in historic Union Square and then marched to protests at the sites of sweatshop labour, and against the policies of the International Monetary Fund. Labour and immigrants' rights figured prominently in many marches. A coalition of organisations sponsored the festive "May Day Mobilisation for Workers' rights which demanded amnesty for all undocumented workers. International solidarity and workers' rights are the essence of May Day celebrations and actions. Trade union rights are under severe attacks in many countries — and this year's May Day celebrations were no exception. Many people have been detained during protests. In some countries arrests mean more severe punishment than in others. An appeal from Pakistani trade unions says, "We are appealing to you to help us in the campaign for the release of workers' leaders in Pakistan... Workers and trade union leaders all over Pakistan were arrested for taking part in May Day rallies. Some have since been released, but many are still being held. We urge you to send letters of protest to your nearest Pakistani Embassy or High Commission. In other words, May Day rallies, demonstrations and celebrations may be over for this year, but the global struggle continues.