May 1st 1998
Around the World
Revolutionary Worker #957, May 17, 1998
The following are some initial news reports that we have gathered so far of this year's May Day actions around the world.
The RW received a brief correspondence from readers in Berlin about May Day in Germany. Among the many different actions and protests on May 1, the main ones were two major demonstrations in Berlin and a clash between fascists and demonstrators in Leipzig.
The correspondence from the readers in Berlin begins with an account of the struggle leading up to May Day: "Before May 1st the police tried to impose many restrictions that would have amounted to a practical ban on all these activities. So there was a big struggle about this and also in the courts. All the groups joined together to issue a press release and leaflet against these restrictions, and around 20,000 were distributed in just one or two days. On April 30 a court issued a decision which canceled most of the police orders. The next tactic of the police was to mobilize between 5,000 and 10,000 riot police and have a massive presence at all the various actions. (The overall class struggle is sharpening very much in Germany this year. The two main areas of this are cuts in wages and social services and a racist offensive by the government and main parties against immigrants.)"
The letter from Berlin gave this account of the action in the Kreuzberg area of Berlin: "This is the annual revolutionary May 1st demonstration at 1 o'clock from Oranienplatz. Again this year the main slogans were: `Fight Internationally Against Exploitation and Oppression!' and `No Liberation Without REVOLUTION!' We think between 3,000 and 3,500 people took part. People from 26 different countries attended (the main nationalities were Kurds, Turks and Germans). So this was a very internationalist action. Many different political and social forces took part: anarchists, communists, punks, squatters, feminists, students, workers, etc. This was a very big spectrum of people.
"After the court issued its ruling to stop most of the police orders, the demonstration was allowed to march. The main goal of the police and city authorities was to try to force the demonstration to disperse before reaching its planned end rally. For them this is a way of saying that revolution will also never be able to reach its end goal. They tried to do this by attacking the demonstration many times with clubs. Also, when they attack for no real reason other than their political goals--and people defend themselves against these attacks--they claim that the demonstration is violent, and this becomes the `grounds' for attacking again. So the demonstration took place with several thousand police in riot equipment on all sides. All these attacks were beaten back, and the demonstration was able to reach its planned end point at the Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg. This was a big political success for the revolution and a defeat for the police and ruling class. (There is a big housing complex at Kottbusser Tor. A majority of the residents are immigrants. The city government has announced that if they cannot force at least half of the immigrant residents to leave and replace them with Germans, they will tear the building down. But the building is not in bad condition or anything like that--there are just `too many immigrants.' And of course, it has been a symbol and rallying point for many years. The government says that in 1999 when Berlin becomes the capital of the new Reich and the government comes here, Kreuzberg must be `free' from immigrants.)"
The other major May Day demonstration in Berlin started from the Rosa Luxemburg Platz in the eastern part of the city and was mainly attended by students and German youth. According to the readers in Berlin: "The motto of this demonstration this year was `Enough is Enough.' This began with a rally that started at 6 p.m. The demonstration began around 8 p.m. We think around 4,000 or 5,000 people were there. This demonstration was also given the same treatment as the demonstration in Kreuzberg. There were many police attacks. Because of these attacks the organizers decided to officially end the demonstration before it reached its planned end point. At that time the police completely surrounded a part of the demonstration. The people defended against the police attacks and built barricades and fought against the police. This was some of the most fierce street fighting in Berlin in several years. The police wanted to beat the people into submission, but instead the people rebelled. This was a big political defeat for the ruling class and the police."
In the aftermath of the Berlin demonstrations, the government is trying to hit back. The readers in Berlin wrote: "Now after these defeats, the Interior Minister for Berlin (his name is Schonbohm, and he used to be a high ranking general in the Germany Army) had a press conference. Of course, he told many lies about what happened--he said that the demonstrators attacked the police first, instead of what really happened. He is now saying that all May 1st actions must be banned, and that the constitutional right for demonstration must be changed because it is just being used as a "constitutional right to make violence and destruction." Also, 300 to 400 people were arrested in Berlin during the May 1 weekend and many are still in jail. So there will probably be many trials, and this will also be part of the struggle."
As for the events in the east German city of Leipzig, the readers in Berlin wrote: "The NPD (National Party of Germany), which is a neo-fascist party, called for a demonstration for May 1 there. They tried to mobilize all the fascists from around Germany to come. They wanted to do this to take away the idea that May 1st is a revolutionary day for the international proletariat and world revolution. Also, they wanted to make an openly fascist and racist mass movement. This is part of how the ruling class is making an overall offensive against the masses.
"Many anti-fascist groups (and others) called for people from around Germany to come to Leipzig and oppose the NPD rally. The press said that 5,000 demonstrated against the fascists. The press said 5,000 were at the NPD rally (mainly fascist youth). The fascists said before the rally that there would be 10,000 to 15,000. There is a big fascist movement in East Germany. This is a movement of open terror and is encouraged and protected by the ruling class and police. We also know that 5,000 police were there to protect the fascists--so altogether, at least 10,000 fascists! There was a big battle between the anti-fascist demonstrators and the police. We must talk to people who were there to find out what really happened. But we can say now that this was a big battle and a very important protest."
Other Parts of the World
Turkey: Riot cops--known as "Robocops" because they wear full body armor--attacked a May Day march of 70,000 people in Istanbul. According to a Reuters wire service report, "The clash began after police used tanks and armored personnel carriers to block access by the leftists, many affiliated with outlawed guerrilla groups, to an official May Day rally at the Freedom Monument in Istanbul's Sisli district. Witnesses said the leftists threw stones at about 3,000 approaching riot police, who then moved in swiftly with water cannons and batons. Police helicopters hovered overhead."
South Korea: Tens of thousands of workers and students marched in Seoul to protest the growing number of layoffs. South Korea is one of the "Asian Tigers" promoted by the imperialists as a "model" for Third World development. But these countries are now being deeply shaken by capitalist crisis. The riot police attacked the May Day marchers with tear gas. According to an AP wire service report, "The workers and student supporters dispersed but quickly regrouped, hurling rocks and garbage at police. The district reverberated with exploding tear gas, the workers' staccato slogans and labor songs blaring from loudspeakers."
Nigeria: Opponents of the U.S.-backed regime headed by General Abacha called for nationwide protests on May Day. In the southwestern city of Ibadan, protesters tried to burn the offices of a pro-government newspaper and attacked other strongholds of the Abacha regime. The police reportedly fired into crowds of protesters.
Denmark: In Copenhagen, 135,000 rallied for May Day. Half a million Danish workers--about 10 percent of the population--are in the midst of a general strike that has paralyzed the country. The government passed a law declaring that the strike was "over"--it remains to be seen what the workers will do.
Switzerland: Hundreds of radical youth, many wearing masks, marched through downtown Zurich, burned imperialist flags and targetted offices of monopoly capitalist corporations. Streetfighting broke out as cops used tear gas and water cannons against the May First protesters at burning street barricades.
Philippines: In Manila, thousands participated in a rally led by Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU--May 1st Movement), Bayan (New Patriotic Alliance) and other groups. There were demonstrations in many other areas around the country. According to Reuters, the KMU denounced "the government's continued implementation of pro-imperialist policies that kill the national economy and threaten food security."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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