Revolutionary Worker #1102, May 13, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
In hundreds of cities across the world, in rural guerrilla zones of the people's wars in Nepal, Peru, and the Philippines, in ghettos and campuses, in marches through government centers and business districts, in illegal meetings and comradely celebrations--millions of people marked May First, International Workers Day, as a day to advance the struggle toward liberation.
Over and over, people took to the streets to denounce and oppose the workings of global capitalism. International imperialist institutions and corporations were targeted--from the IMF to McDonald's. A growing anti-capitalist current made itself felt again, building on the last year of international resistance to capitalist restructuring and imperialist domination, advancing off the actions of Seattle, Prague and Quebec. In London, one marcher told the press: "I am here against the power of the finance houses and against capitalism, which are strangling and starving the Third World."
In the U.S. there were diverse May First activities in many cities. Thousands of immigrant workers and supporters hit the streets to oppose the "illegal status" imposed on so many working people. In cities across the country, fresh from actions in the streets, people gathered in revolutionary bookstores and private gatherings for the release of the new Draft Programme of the RCP,USA.
Here are brief reports on May First around the world. Part of this came from eyewitness reports and part from bourgeois press accounts.
In New York City rallies were held in the main Manhattan garment district and in Union Square to demand unconditional amnesty for undocumented immigrants, and an end to the sweatshop exploitation of working people. A march went to the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund.
In the morning of May First, protesters gathered in front of the Chicago Board of Trade, (dubbed the "Temple of Greed") and 400 staged a spirited march from the financial district through downtown, stopping at symbols of the government and the global capitalist/imperialist system--like the Daley Center, and sweatshop manufacturers like Nike and the Gap--and ending on the spot where the Haymarket Martyrs were executed over a century ago. That evening, a human chain of hundreds of people, including many proletarians, stretched out along Ashland Avenue to demand an end to U.S. bombardment of Vieques Island in Puerto Rico and amnesty for the 11 million undocumented workers in this country. Dorothy, an African-American woman standing in the human chain, told the RW: "I firmly believe that nobody is illegal. I think we need to stop using that kind of language... I think we need to begin to act globally and stop worrying about our own little niche in the world."
In Long Beach, California, 200 youth marched behind a huge banner reading "Capitalism Stole My Life!" Some people carried the heads of Jefferson, Washington and others on stakes. As they reached downtown they were attacked by over a hundred cops and many were badly beaten. Police opened fire with rubber bullets. About a hundred people were rounded up and taken to jail. After this vicious police attack, city authorities announced that their town should not be seen as a hotbed of anti-capitalist sentiment. One May Day protester answered: "Why Long Beach? Why San Francisco? Why Moscow? And why not Long Beach?"
In Louisville, Kentucky, street actions targeted various corporate symbols --after the police waded in to make arrests, the march went to target the police headquarters. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 150 May Day marchers tied up the downtown in protest against global capitalism. Police arrested eight people, and held some for several days. In Albany, New York, migrant farm workers and supporters demonstrated at the state capitol. Other actions included a sizable march in Portland, Oregon and hundreds of people taking the streets in San Francisco's Mission District.
In London, England, thousands gathered in the city's main shopping district--defying police threats to show "no tolerance." A banner read: "One stockbroker is too many." Anti-capitalist activists had described London as one huge Monopoly Board, and targeted corporate centers and imperialist institutions throughout the city. Clashes developed between marchers and police--as the authorities mobilized 9,000 police to confine the May Day actions to small areas of the city. Around Oxford Circus, demonstrators hurled bottles at police and set fires. In London's financial district demonstrators tried to break into the offices of the accounting firm of Pricewaterhouse. Banks and brokerage houses advised employees not to come to work wearing suits or carrying briefcases. Chants were raised: "Who let the pigs out?" As they converged on the London offices of the World Bank, marchers chanted: "Our world is not for sale! Put the bankers into jail." Elsewhere, hundreds of bicyclists, protesting the car culture and pollution, tied up traffic and converged on the U.S. embassy
May First actions in Australia targeted Stock Exchanges in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne. The actions turned into running street fights as police tried to keep these capitalist headquarters open.
After a May First rally in Zurich, hundreds of people waged street fighting through the city, as police attacked with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.
In Turkey's main city, Istanbul, over 20,000 people defied police threats and marched on May First. It was a powerful sign of mass support for political prisoners who have been on a hunger strike. Though officially the march was sponsored by legal trade unions and electoral parties, news reports said that parts of the crowd broke into revolutionary slogans supporting the illegal Maoist Communist Party of Turkey (Marxist-Leninist) [TKP/ML]. There were sit-ins in support of the fasting prisoners and arrests by police. Marchers left carnations on the street to remember 34 people who were killed by the authorities in the intense street fighting of May 1, 1977. Meanwhile there were May First rallies in 44 other cities in Turkey, and reports of street fighting in eastern Turkey's Kurdish areas.
The authorities in Berlin failed, once again, to suppress the Revolutionary May Day that has gathered in the proletarian district of Kreuzberg every year. In a particular outrage, the German government allowed nazi demonstrations on May 1st, while officially banning revolutionary actions. Police were brought into the German capital from all over the country--but could not prevent 5,000 radicals and revolutionaries from taking to the streets in defiance of the official ban. Barricades were set on fire as police tried to disperse marchers with water cannons. Meanwhile, thousands of people built barricades and faced off with cops during May First street fighting in Hamburg and Frankfurt, Germany's financial capital.
A march in Hong Kong, including women from Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand protested the vicious exploitation of domestic workers.
In Seoul, South Korea, 20,000 workers and students faced 15,000 riot troops. They denounced the vicious police attacks on Korean autoworkers last month and carried a huge banner that read: "Down with Kim Dae-jung, who ruined workers' lives."
In Phnom Penh, Cambodia thousands of young women workers defied a city order and marched in protest over the vicious exploitation of the country's 150,000 garment factory workers.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, thousands of workers marched through the city, and targeted the headquarters of imperialist institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
Other May Day actions included protest against the IMF in Quito, Ecuador; a march of thousands of transport workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the burning of U.S. flags in Honduras; mass marches in Colombo, Sri Lanka; a march of radical youth through the city center in Prague, Czech Republic; and a march targeting corporate headquarters in Wellington, New Zealand (Aotearoa).
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)