Thursday, May 01, 2014

May Day International Worker's Day

Today's workers Parade in Jakarta, Indonesia.


Millions of workers all over the world celebrated International Worker's Day - May Day. In most countries it was a peaceful holiday, but in some such as Turkey, where NATO/EU "values" are supposed to be the norm, the workers parades were attacked with brutal police violence

In tense Istanbul, hundreds of riot police backed up by water cannon moved in on protesters in the Besiktas district as they tried to breach the barricades leading up to the symbolic Taksim square on the anniversary of clashes that spawned a nationwide protest movement. A reported 40,000 police officers as well as dozens of water cannon trucks and armored vehicles were deployed throughout Istanbul, with roughly half that number drafted into the center to cordon off all the avenues, streets and alleys around the square.

Many people believe that May Day was an invention of the Soviet Bolsheviks after the 1917 Russian Revolution but, in fact, its origins are in the labour movement in the United States.

On May 4, 1886, a Chicago rally called to protest the killing of two workers by police, turned into a violent clash after a bomb was thrown. The chaotic scene that left several workers and seven policemen dead, and the legal aftermath, was to become known as the Haymarket Affair. Two of the leaders who spoke at the rally, Albert Parsons, and August Spies, as well as fellow anarchists George Engel and Adolph Fisher, were arrested, tried and executed by the state in 1887. Louis Lingg was condemned to death, but killed himself in prison. Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden and Oscar Neebe were pardoned in 1893.

In 1884, the U.S. Federation of Organised Trade and Labour Unions had passed a law declaring that, as of May 1, 1886, an eight hour workday would be the full and legal workday for all U.S. workers – the ruling class had that much time to recognise this new law and put it into effect.The owners refused.

On May 1, 1886, workers took to the streets in a general strike throughout the entire country to force the ruling class to recognise the eight-hour working day. Over 350,000 workers across the country directly participated in the general strike, with hundreds of thousands of workers joining the marches as best they could.

In what they would later call the Haymarket riots, during the continuing strike action on May third in Chicago, the heart of the U.S. labour movement, the Chicago police opened fire on the unarmed striking workers at the McCormick Reaper Works, killing six workers and wounding untold numbers. An uproar across the nation resounded against the government and its police brutality, with workers' protest rallies and demonstrations throughout the nation set to assemble on the following day.

On May 4, Chicago members of the anarchist IWPA (International Working Peoples' Association) organized a rally of several thousand workers at Haymarket Square to protest the continuing police brutality against striking workers on the South Side. As the last speaker finished his remarks that rainy evening, with only 200 of the most dedicated workers remaining at the rally, 180 armed police marched forward and demanded the workers to disperse. Then, deep within the police ranks, a bomb exploded, killing seven officers. The police opened fire on the unarmed workers – the number of workers wounded and killed by the police is unknown to this day. Eight anarchists were arrested on charges of "inciting riot" and murder. The retaliation of the government was enormous in the days to follow, filling every newspaper with accusations, completely drowning the government murders and brutality of days past. 

Eight workers were convicted as anarchists, were convicted of murder, and were convicted of inciting a riot. Only one of the eight men accused was present at the protest, and he was attempting to address the crowd when the bomb went off. In one of the greatest show trials in the history of the working-class movement no evidence was ever produced to uphold the accusations, though all eight were convicted as guilty. Four of the prisoners – Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel and Adolph Fisher – were executed, Louis Lingg committed suicide, and the three remaining were pardoned due to immense working class upheaval in 1893.

On May 1, 1890, in accordance with the decision of the Paris Congress (July 1889) of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket Martyrs, mass demonstrations and strikes were held throughout Europe and America. The workers put forward the demands for an 8 hour working day, better health conditions, and further demands set forth by the International Association of Workers. The red flag was here created as the symbol that would always remind people of the blood that the working-class has bled, and continues to bleed, under the oppressive reign of capitalism.

From that day forward (starting in 1891 in Russia, by 1920 including China, and 1927 India) workers throughout the world began to celebrate the first of May as a day of international proletarian solidarity, fighting for the right of freedom to celebrate their past and build their future without the oppression and exploitation of the capitalist state.

For the first time since the Soviet Era an Official May Day Parade was held in Red Square, Moscow.

May Day was a key date in the Soviet calendar, with elaborate celebrations involving ranks of marching athletes, soldiers and workers on the Moscow square, but in recent years the annual demonstrations have been relegated to a city highway. Trade union leaders said about two million people had turned up for May Day rallies across Russia

Russia's Official May Day Parade in Moscow today.

The Russian Communist Party holds its own Parade elsewhere in Moscow.

The tone was markedly different in Greece where thousands marched in the country’s two main cities of Athens and Salonika against an austerity drive following a disastrous debt crisis that led to mass lay-offs.

In Italy’s Turin, scuffles broke out between police and hundreds of protesters.

Activists lobbed smoke bombs at police, who charged against demonstrators in the northern industrial city, which has been badly hit by a painful two-year recession. 

Clashes in Turin, Italy, today.

 Rallies also took place across Asia, including in Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Taipei. In Cambodia, security forces armed with sticks and batons forcibly dispersed dozens of May Day protesters near Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park, according to an AFP photographer. Several people were beaten. The park, opened by the government in 2010 as a designated area for people to air their grievances, was closed off by police with barbed wire as the authorities sought to clamp down on protests against long-ruling strongman Prime Minister Hun Sen.

In Indonesia, protestors carrying portraits of leftist idols such as Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and the country’s first president Sukarno, marched to the state palace in Jakarta. Some sang and danced as others carried a three-meter-long toy octopus wearing a red hat with the words “Capitalist Octopus, Sucking the Blood of Workers.”

Red flags were abundant in Donetsk, Ukraine, today.
Caracas, Venezuela.

Havana, Cuba.

Worker’s solidarity and unity is more important than ever as workers’ rights and standard of living are under sustained attack across the world. Led by the Corporate Oligarchs of Wall Street, the IMF, the Brussels dictatorship and their inhuman ideology of neo-liberalism which is nothing more than super-exploitation and 
massive transfer of the world’s wealth to a greedy and arrogant minority. This perverse elite, whose greed and savagery knows no bounds, must be opposed and defeated by united actions on the same global scale as they use to conduct their criminal operations. Nothing less can save decent human civilisation on this planet!

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