The Guardian May 8, 2002


The world went marching on May Day

Militant, dynamic, massive are just some of the words to describe this 
year's May Day demonstrations. In country after country and in scores of 
cities and towns, workers, farmers, professional people, academics, people 
of all ages, men and women demonstrated for the many demands and issues 
that confront the people in every country.

Rapacious capitalism can no longer even pretend to have a "human face". 
War, poverty, unemployment, the attacks in every country on democratic 
rights have impelled people on to the streets in their millions.

France is the latest country to experience a lurch to the extreme right  
half a million people hit the streets to assure themselves and the rest of 
the world that extremism, racism and neo-nazism has to be fought.

N is for Nazi. F is for Fascist

Chanting "N is for Nazi, F is for Fascist", demonstrators packed dozens of 
cities and towns in a massive show of peaceful opposition to Le Pen and his 
National Front Party ahead of the May 5 run-off election between Le Pen and 
Jacques Chirac.

There was unity shown in the massive people's demonstrations determined to 
strike a blow against the threat of fascism. Against this unity were the 
Trotskyists who distributed leaflets urging voters to shun both Le Pen and 
Chirac, thereby refusing to join in the task of defeating the immediate 
right-wing danger.

In Russia, more than one million people were on the streets in over 500 
cities and towns. They denounced the present government and its anti-people 
policies. A large demonstration of about 100,000 people took place in 
Moscow. Organised by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, other 
communist parties and left organisations, it was warmly welcomed by on-
lookers who lined the streets. A government-sponsored trade union 
demonstration attracted another 140,000 people who gathered near the Red 
Square.

In the Philippines about 500 people gathered to protest against the 
government and the US military exercises. They focused on claims that 
thousands of US troops now invading the Philippines are part of a plan by 
Washington to re-establish a permanent US presence in the Southeast Asian 
country, which was formerly a US colony and site of US military bases.

Sea of red flags

In Italy, where unions are locked in a bitter fight against Berlusconi's 
Government intent on "reforming" labour laws, half a million people rallied 
against them. A sea of red flags and banners transformed a medieval piazza 
in Bologna, northern Italy, as some 60,000 labour union members, many 
clutching red carnations, attended a Labour Day rally with the slogan: "For 
peace, employment, the defense of rights and against terrorism".

In South Korea unionists vowed an "all-out struggle" for the rights of 
workers.

In Tokyo, where record-high unemployment has helped undermine the 
popularity of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, 35, 000 people demonstrated 
peacefully.

In Iran, some 5,000 workers took to the streets of Tehran to protest 
against rising inflation and low salaries. The demonstrators, who included 
some 100 women, demanded pay rises and an end to temporary jobs. Among the 
demonstrators were clothing factory employees, who said they had not been 
paid in 14 months.

In Greece, protesters used May Day marches to denounce Israel. They burnt 
an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Sharon outside the US embassy in 
Athens. "Long live international solidarity with Palestine", read a red 
banner in central Athens, where thousands of demonstrators had gathered.

Solidarity with Palestine

In Turkey, 70,000 people gathered in Istanbul on May 1, protesting 
privatisation, the threat of war against Iraq and the Zionist aggression 
against the Palestinian people. "A thousand greetings to the Palestinian 
resistance', read one banner.

The demonstration was organised by trade unions with many political parties 
taking part. Police tried to disrupt the rally by arresting about 320 
people who were taking part in preparations for the rally.

In Syria, a huge workers' rally in Damascus turned into a show of 
solidarity with the Palestinians.

In Spain around 75 demonstrations were held across the country against the 
government's unpopular reforms to unemployment benefits.

In Croatia, workers marched through the capital Zagreb to protest 
government plans to trim labour rights.

In Chile, demonstrators burned a US flag during a May Day rally in 
Santiago.

In Colombia, protesters dressed in paramilitary costumes protested against 
the US "Plan Colombia".

The United Workers' Federation of Colombia reports brutal attacks by the 
national police on workers during the May Day march in Cali. In violent 
scenes, the police assaulted Jesus Gonzalez with such ferocity and 
brutality that he is now in intensive care and his prognosis is not clear. 
A number of other leading trade union leaders were attacked as well.

Malaysian authorities arrested 17 people in the capital after labour 
activists marched through the city centre with banners calling for better 
rights for plantation workers.

"May Day is an act of solidarity, recognised even by the state", organisers 
said. "The police action mocks fundamental rights of workers to assemble 
peacefully".

More than 3,000 Indonesian workers were outnumbered by 7,000 police in 
Jakarta. At least 15 people were arrested.

In Germany, a woman is fighting for her life after violence broke out in 
two districts in Berlin. It began when a group of about 500 anarchists lit 
a large fire on a main street and then pelted the fire brigade with bottles 
and stones. Police used water cannons against the demonstrators and 
hundreds of riot police moved in.

Support for Chavez

In Venezuela, hundreds of thousands of exuberant, flag-waving and chanting 
Venezuelans demonstrated in support of Hugo Chavez  the first public 
demonstrations after the abortive coup.

Chavez supporters, many wearing red berets, held banners labelling the 
president's opponents "fascist dictators". Many wore red T-shirts reading 
"Bolivarian circles" as the neighbourhood groups are known.

The only weapons we have are the lessons we give the poor  to help them 
fight for their rights", said a farmer who was proudly marching towards the 
presidential palace.

Millions in Cuba

By far the largest May Day crowds gathered in Cuba.

Across the 14 provinces, seven million of Cuba's 11.2 million people were 
reported to have taken part in demonstrations which criticised the 
governments of Argentine, Chile, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and 
Uruguay  all of which supported a UN resolution that chided Cuba on the 
false question of human rights. The United States pushed the resolution in 
the UN.

Fidel Castro slammed the Latin American countries as "lackeys" and "boot-
lickers" of the United States. "They have plotted with the United States" 
to condemn Cuba when none of these nations "really is in any condition to 
criticise Cuba", Castro said.

Plagued by "hunger, unemployment, corruption and social marginalisation" 
Castro said, "they are the political symptom of the fact that the 
prevailing political and economic system in Latin America is coming to an 
end".

"They are the swan song of neo-liberal society", said Fidel Castro.

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