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.