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1 May, 2010 07:00

Russia joins workers across the globe to mark Labor Day

Thousands of Russians from the country’s labor unions and political parties have taken to the streets to celebrate Labor Day, also known in Russia as Spring Day.

Moscow labor unions joined by supporters of the ruling United Russia party held the biggest rally, with around 25,000 people marching through the main streets of the city. The march was devoted to the maintenance of social guarantees in the country. It is thought that the demonstrators will show both their support for, and criticism of government policies.

Around 7,000 members of the Communist Party were campaigning for workers’ rights near the Karl Marx monument. Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said that this year communists held the largest rallies of the past decade, reports news agency Interfax.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia held its march with the purpose of demanding some real changes and not just promises. The Liberal Democrats protested against corruption among government officials.

“In the past, International Labour Day used to be like a holiday. Today it is a big protest action,” declared Dmitry Gudkov of the Fair Russia party, which has a socialist platform. The party was rallying against the increase in educational, medical payments, tariff rates.

Rallies have been held across the country. However, for most citizens, it is still a holiday devoid of politics.

“May 1 for me is a holiday when you can go for a walk around the city and feel the atmosphere, what’s happening and which events are taking place,” said one Moscow passerby.

During the Soviet era, Labor Day was a significant holiday to celebrate the solidarity of all workers across the world. It all started with a tragic incident at a factory in Chicago in 1886 when workers stopped working in order to demand an 8-hour workday, instead of a 15–hour shift. The strike ended in clashes with the police with more than a dozen killed.

In 1889, an international labor organization decided that workers should hold their demonstrations every year to have a chance to put forward their demands. In the Soviet Union the event was turned into a celebration instead to mark how happy the workers of the country were.

In the wake of the economic recession, workers worldwide are more eager to take to the streets to get their message across. Hundreds of thousands of workers have taken part in May Day demonstrations across Europe.

Although most rallies have had a peaceful character, in some European cities demonstrators were rather loud. Left-wing protestors clashed with the police in Berlin, the AP news agency reported.

In Athens, a rally of 17,000 left a trail of destruction, with smashed windows and broken marble. The protestors rioted against measures the Greek government is taking to tackle the country’s ongoing economic turmoil.