May 1 'carnival against capitalism'
BY CHRIS WILLIAMS
Aiming to take May Day, the annual workers' day, back to its militant roots, hundreds of mainly young radicals around the country demonstrated, marched, waved flags and chanted on May 1.
In Sydney, the "MayDay2K" demonstration, organised by the newly formed CACTUS (Campaign Against Corporate Tyranny in Unity and Solidarity), began at the Australian Stock Exchange in the heart of the city's financial district, before marching to Prime Minister John Howard's nearby office.
Speakers focussed the anger of the 250 demonstrators on the major institutions of "corporate globalisation": transnational corporations, Western governments and international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and World Trade Organisation (WTO).
New Zealand academic and author Jane Kelsey spoke passionately about the devastating impact that two decades of trade liberalisation, privatisation and union-bashing have had on her country. She warned against further "free trade" agreements between Australia and New Zealand, saying that they would only work to the detriment of workers and the environment in both countries.
Nick Everett, representing Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (ASIET), told the crowd, "The people of Indonesia now face a new dictatorship — not that of Suharto but that of the IMF".
IMF and World Bank loans to Third World countries, he said, are entirely dependent on those countries opening up to further domination by Western businesses and governments; these institutions were irredeemable and should be abolished.
When the demonstrators arrived at Martin Place, a row of 50 police, including 12 on horses, blocked them from entering and forced them back. Organisers claimed that the show of force by the police was just another rehearsal for the Olympic Games in September.
In Brisbane, Sean Walsh reports that 100 left activists marched behind the banner of a new left initiative, "Carnival Against Capitalism", in the ACTU Queensland-organised May Day march.
With red flags held high, the Carnival contingent was by far the most vocal and political in an otherwise quite tame 5000-strong march.
In an attempt to inject some politics into the traditional event, the CAC organised an alternative platform at the end of the march. Set against a backdrop of beer tents and carnival rides put on by the day's official organisers, CAC speakers emphasised that May Day was a day to promote internationalism and working-class resistance, in particular to institutions such as the World Bank and IMF.
The CAC contingent included members of Resistance, the Democratic Socialist Party, the International Socialist Organisation, the Communist Party of Australia, environmental activists and members of student unions and the National Union of Students.
In Wollongong, Andy Gianniotis reports that 100 residents of Port Kembla and their supporters blockaded Port Kembla Copper's smelter, as their contribution to the May 1 global day of action against corporate tyranny.
The protesters were able to close two of three possible entrances to the site, forcing the company to hire dozens of extra security guards and bring in a squad of more than 20 Special Operations police from Nowra, in "training" for the Olympics.
An attempt to close the third entrance met with a furious response from police, who dragged away nine protesters for "breaching the peace". Upon their release, all those arrested immediately returned to the picket.
The protest was a riot of theatre and colour complete with a seven-metre high "Miss May Day 2000" puppet and a three-metre high spray can of oxygen to clean the air for the community. Protesters brought banners and chalk to make sure their message was heard: that opposition to multinational corporations which exploit local and overseas workers, and pollute and poison communities, was serious and would continue.
Meetings were held on the picket lines throughout the day to discuss tactics and organisation, putting into practice the ideal of democratic participation and control.
The civil disobedience included people from all walks of life — pensioners and artists, students, workers and the unemployed — making the day the most diverse action of this type in Wollongong for many years. Significant support was received from local residents and small businesses.
The action was organised through a sub-committee of the Wollongong May Day organising body. Members of local environment groups coordinated the day's activities with students from Wollongong University's Students Representative Council and radical groups including Resistance and Revolutionary Action.
More May Day marches and rallies were held around the country on May 7.