Workers mark May Day globally

May 2, 2014
Protesters proceed to Taskim Square in Instanbul, Turkey on May Day. Photo by Holly Pickett, via The Bullet.

Millions of workers across the globe hit the streets on May 1 for mass rallies marking International Workers' Day.

The day was chosen in 1889 as a global day to mark the struggle of the working class by representatives of socialist parties in the Second International. It was held to commemorate the Haymarket Martyrs, anarchists executed in Chicago for their role in the struggle for an eight-hour day in 1886.

Morning Star said the focus in May Day in each country was different, but the central theme of working people’s rights was common to all of them.

It said: “In Turkey, protesters defied a ban on demonstrations in Istanbul’s Taksim Square even as police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse them.

“In Cambodia, hundreds of protesters near Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park suffered indignity at the hands of security forces armed with sticks and batons.

“Rallies took place across Asia, including in Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Taipei and Seoul, where the annual protests took a sombre tone in the wake of the South Korean ferry disaster.

“And in Russia, over 100,000 workers paraded on Red Square for the first time since 1991.

“Meanwhile, Greek steel workers in hard hats and high-visibility vests marched in company with Kurdish activists and suspended Finance Ministry cleaning workers. They chained themselves together for a parade in central Athens in a 20,000-strong anti-austerity protest.

“Indonesian unions said up to two million workers turned out in force to demand better working conditions, with the biggest rally in Jakarta, where around 35,000 workers hit the streets.

“Union organisers in Hong Kong said some 5000 people joined a march from the city’s Victoria Park to government headquarters, with better working hours topping their agenda.

“Malaysians rallied in Kuala Lumpur against price rises. Thousands of Taiwanese workers marched to the labour ministry demanding wage rises and a ban on companies hiring cheap temporary or part-time workers.

“The Philippines saw thousands march in Manila to protest against low wages and the use of scab workers.

“And in Bangladesh, many thousands of garment workers used the day to demand punishment for negligent factory owners and compensation for their victims in Dhaka.”

In Havana, about 600,000 people marched as an “expression of support for our revolution and our historic leaders”, said secretary general of the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC) Ulises Guilarte. said millions more paraded across the island.

Guilarte expressed support for Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution, which is facing fresh right-wing attacks, AFP reported. He said: “We're showing our full support for the Bolivarian, Chavista revolution, and its constitutional president Nicolas Maduro, in the face of destabilizing actions by the reactionary right.”

Speaking at a large May Day rally in Caracas, Maduro announced the extension of social programs and benefits to workers and the population in general, Venezuela Analysis said.

The announcements included a new fund to protect and increase the value of workers’ social security savings, the extension of social programs to workplaces, and the introduction of free wifi in many public parks and urban spaces.

Maduro congratulated workers at the march for “fighting against capitalism”.

Citing the recently announced 30% minimum wage rise, which may further rise later in the year, and the increased inclusion of workers in formal employment, Maduro said the large May Day rally was “the greatest demonstration of what side the majority of the people and the working class is on, the working class that wants revolution”.

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