Labor Day – time for holiday
This year, Russia’s Federation of Independent Trade Unions expects over two million demonstrators to flood the streets of cities and towns all across the country. Over one hundred events will be held in Russia, according to RIA Novosti news agency.
The city of Vladivostok on Russia’s eastern coast was one of the first to start demonstrations, gathering some 52,000 people. The proceedings were followed by a concert.
About 25,000 members of trade unions took to the streets in the center of Moscow, which has been emptied of traffic especially for the holiday. The participants headed towards the Kremlin. As well as balloons and flowers, they carried banners with messages such as, "Observe the workers’ rights! Better salaries and wages!" The demonstration was accompanied by an orchestra.
Over 7,000 police were keeping an eye on demonstrations in the capital, according to Russia’s Interior Ministry.
In Russia, May Day is not purely about trade union action. Besides the trade unions, oppositional and fringe political parties, such as Communists or Nationalists, and NGOs also use the opportunity to showcase their social demands.
Among all the labor, social and political gatherings, one meeting differed from the rest. The so-called “Monstration” demonstrations by Russia’s youth took place in many cities of the country. They carried banners with rather unusual slogans. The participants informed on-lookers that “Tea’s no coffee” or urged to “Go ye all to a better future” or held up boards saying “For no reason.” Other slogans read “Less drugs, more milk” or “I won’t speak without a sawyer” and “Stephen King for presidency”.
The holiday of Labor Day in Russia dates back to Soviet times, when the day of Spring and Labor, as it was called then, united workers from all over the USSR.
Originally, the day marked the police severely dispersing a workers’ strike in Chicago, which happened on May 1, 1886. In 1889, to commemorate the victims of that strike, Paris Congress of the Second International proposed May 1 as the day of workers’ solidarity. They also suggested holding annual social demonstrations to mark this. May 1 has become a day for trade unions, when workers in over 140 countries speak their mind or simply manifest their belonging to a trade union.
For many Russian people May Day is simply another holiday, giving them a longer weekend. Russians spend some more time at the dacha – the country house – with families and friends, gardening or planting vegetables or just having a barbecue and a little fun.
Workers worldwide campaign for rights
Thousands of workers joined in Labor Day rallies across the world on May 1, demanding greater rights and improved employment conditions.
In the Indonesian capital Jakarta, protesters clashed with police and burned tires in front of the presidential palace, the Associated Press reports. The Protesters demanded safer working conditions, a doubling of basic wages, tax exemptions for low-income families and for making May 1 a public holiday.
Some 2,000 people rallied in Taiwan's capital on Sunday to protest against the island's increasing wage gap and to demand the government creates better conditions for its workers.
In the Ukrainian capital Kiev, and other cities in the country, the trade unions conducted a campaign called The Wall of Truth, according to Ukraine’s National Forum of Trade Unions. The forum has put up stands in various locations across the cities, where local residents can leave their comments on the government’s performance. The forum intends to compile a record of the best and most urgent comments and hand them over to the authorities.
Greek trade unions, as well as oppositional left parties and NGOs will hold several demonstrations in Greece to protest the austerity measures taken by the government in order to reduce the deficit of the country’s budget. The demonstrations in Greece will be further stressed by the transport workers’ strikes. The strike will immobilize trains and ferries, part of the subway in Athens, as well as public transport in the Greek capital and its region.
Over 200,000 demonstrators gathered on Sunday in the central square of Istanbul, Turkey. The trade union leaders said at the gathering that the main problems of the country are unemployment and poverty. The speakers also added that Turkey was ranked third in the world for the number of accidents in production industries. Some 40,000 police officers were guarding the city during the event. Demonstrators also filled the streets of other Turkish cities, including the capital Ankara.
In Copenhagen, Denmark, social parties and their supporters have been talking about exiting the economical crisis while preserving the welfare of the country. Some ultra-left parties demanded rejecting the government’s plan to abolish premature retirement.
Cuba’s capital Havana saw several thousand residents gather for May Day rallies. The demonstrations started with the background of “actualization” of the social-economic system, which will enhance the opportunities of individual labor, reduce the surplus of state jobs and provide larger autonomy to ventures and local authorities. The May Day rally is aimed at convincing Cubans to take an active part in the reform, RIA Novosti news agency says.
Watch RT's gallery from a Communist Party demonstration on Theater Square in Moscow.