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May Day 2010: For workers' rights and the environment, oppose racism, defend revolutions

Havana, May 1, 2010.

May 1, 2010 -- May Day -- saw millions of people mobilising around globe to oppose attacks on workers' rights, reverse the degradation of the environment, defend the rights of oppressed peoples and migrants and -- as in Nepal, Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia -- to make, extend or defend unfolding revolutions.

In Nepal, Jed Brandt reports that between 500,000 and 1 million people flooded the streets on Kathmandu to demand the resignation of the government. The massive mobilisation -- called by the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the Young Communist League -- is the prelude to a general strike that begins May 2.

Hundreds of thousands march in Havana.

Across Cuba, reported Prensa Latina, "millions of men, women and children packed the main squares, marched along central avenues all over the provinces and municipalities of the nation declaring their support to the revolutionary process they have freely chosen". In Havana, hundreds of thousands marched. "Along Paseo Avenue and the Revolution Square ... an almost never-ending march in front of the monument to national hero Jose Marti brought together students, workers, sportspeople, professionals, technicians and even many foreign youngsters studying in Cuba. A huge bloc of more than 10,000 women ... marched with much happiness, enthusiasm, showing an unequivocal message of their support in the historical moment Cuba is living. The common slogan in all demonstrations was unity as the only alternative to overcome hardships and to stand up to the dangers coming from abroad, especially political harassment from Washington and some European capitals with the old illusion of finishing with the Cuban revolutionary process."

Venezuelans marched on May 1 to celebrate International Worker's Day. President Hugo Chavez also implemented a 15% wage increase, and the government broadened social security entitlements. The main national march was in the capital Caracas, where people chanted, danced, waved placards and banners and played music as they marched towards the presidential palace Miraflores. While there were no official or police estimates, observers estimate that 100,000 people turned out, celebrating the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution and its promotion of wage increases, better working conditions and better life conditions for the poor majority.

In Bolivia, the government of socialist president Evo Morales nationalised a number of electricity firms. The Cuban news agency Prensa Latina reported that "a large police contingent took over the plant of Electric Company Corani S.A., located in the town of Colomi, 52 miles from Cochabamba. Another group ... intervened [at] the facilities of the Empresa de Luz y Fuerza Electrica Cochabamba S.A.... other enterprises, Guaracachi, Valle Hermoso and Transportadora de Electricidad, were also taken over by police as part of the nationalisation process decreed by the government... In previous days, the Evo Morales administration advanced its intentions of nationalising three private power enterprises, subsidiaries of French and British firms." Morales was quoted in Al Jazeera as saying, "Basic services cannot be a private business. We are recovering the energy, the light, for all Bolivians."

Photos bt ArtfulActivist

Across the United States, large rallies have been held, with opposition to attacks on immigrants being a major theme in big cities and small towns. According the Los Angeles Times, "As many as 60,000 immigrants and their supporters joined a peaceful but boisterous march through downtown to City Hall, waving flags and holding signs blasting the harsh new immigration law in Arizona." However, LA police estimated the crowd at 95,000 and organisers said it was 250,000.

In Tucson, Arizona, 15,000 protested against the racist law. Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, said that Brewer’s signing of SB1070 had had an unintended effect: “It has brought el pueblo together, not only in Arizona, but across the nation!”

Up to 3000 protested in Washington DC. From New York City, Billy Wharton reported:

May Day is definitely back in New York City. The energy was high as around 30,000 people participated in two separate demonstrations. Many in the crowd were motivated by the recent decision in Arizona to pass harsh anti-immigrant legislation. For one day at least lower Manhattan was taken away from the yuppies and tourists who dominate it on weekends by the sheer size of the crowds.

An early march in Foley Square was organised by trade unions in New York City and more mainstream immigrant rights groups. Fifteen thousand answered this call and carried out a march around City Hall to demand real immigration reform. This demonstration followed up a well-attended rally on Wall Street on April 30 in support of financial regulation. Participants in both the April 30 and May 1 were greeted by a full lineup of official union and community spokespeople.

Things were a bit more raucous at the Union Square May Day demonstration. Speakers from several grassroots immigrants’ rights groups were backed up by hip-hop artists and spoken-word poets. Arizona was everywhere at this rally. People wore buttons urging a boycott of the state, signs demanded the repeal of the anti-immigrant law SB1070 and one handmade poster described Arizona Governor Jan Brewer as “the daughter of Hitler”...

Other marchers called for more systemic changes. “We are marching today to demand amnesty for all the undocumented”, said Kristin Schall of the Socialist Party USA, “If you live here and work here you deserve to have legal status.” Most in the march were sympathetic to this position, viewing it as an end goal for the movement.

In Turkey, Press TV reported, more than 200,000 people "gathered for the first time in 33 years in Istanbul's Taksim Square, where dozens were killed decades ago. The Taksim Square was declared off-limits after gunmen, during the 1977 May Day rally, killed 34 people in cold blood."

In Palestine, more than 4000 Palestinians held May Day demonstrations near the Erez crossing with Israel and the Rafah border with Egypt to protest at the lockdown of Gaza. Two thousand demonstrators waving red and Palestinian flags gathered near the Erez border crossing with Israel in northern Gaza in response to a call from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and other left-wing groups. Two thousand more gathered at Rafah, while hundreds of other demonstrators took part in a sit-in against the blockade -- which causes high unemployment in the impoverished territory -- at Rafah on the border with Egypt. "We call on the world to stop the siege of Gaza and to come to the defence of Palestinian workers in all Palestinian territories", said Ramzi Rabah, a protest organiser with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

In Auckland, New Zealand, a huge march of 50,000 turned out to march against the government's plans to allow mining in the country's national parks. While not a formal May Day march, it highlighted the fact that environmental issues, particularly climate change, are a key issue for the left and progressive movement. Greenpeace ambassador Robyn Malcolm said: "For nearly 50,000 Kiwis to turn out and be prepared to speak with one voice, must tell the government something. And that something is this: we, the people of NZ get it; we get the argument, we see what you’re up to and we won’t have it. Our land will always be more important to our identity than some extra dollars in the pockets of mining companies."

According to the first capitalist press reports, in Europe hundreds of thousands took part in May 1 protests, including 300,000 in France.

Made with Slideshow Embed Tool. Photos by PRP Indonesia.

In Jakarta, Indonesia, 30,000 mobilised.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, more than 1000 people took part in a May Day march organised by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress and the May Day Committee. The committee includes the Oppressed People's Network (JERIT); Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram); Malaysian Youth & Student Democratic Movement; Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia and the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM). May Day marches began in 1994 and have since become an annual gathering. The themes, made crisply and vividly obvious through the chants from the protesters -- "GST: Makes Poor Poorer", "Bantah GST" (oppose GST), "Hidup rakyat" (long live the people), "Hidup pekerja (long live the workers), "Hari Pekerja, hari kami" (Labour Day is our day) and "Gaji minima" (minimum wages) could be heard as far as a mile away, reverberating along the bustling streets as the protesters headed towards the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall for a rally, reported Police tried to stop the march and arrested six people, including four PSM members.

Made with Slideshow Embed Tool. Photos by Peter Boyle.

In Sydney, 2000 marched with contingents from trade unions, left groups and supporters of liberation struggles from many countries. Supporters of Thailand's pro-democracy Red Shirts enlivened proceedings.

Two thousand took part in London on May Day 2010. Photo by HarpyMarx.


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