May Day saw a number of successful demonstrations, into which CWI comrades made successful interventions, using international workers’ day to make the case for an international fight back by workers and youth against the developing capitalist crisis and its effects. In over 40 countries, on all continents, CWI members organised and participated in large and vibrant demonstrations, which in many countries gave a reflection of the growing mood of anger and militancy amongst the working class, as capitalism moves to sharpen its attacks on living standards to pay for the crisis.
May Day demonstration in Lebanon
In Europe, where the continent continues to be rocked by the worsening crisis of the Eurozone, with Greece’s default on its debt sending shockwaves throughout the continent (not least to Portugal and Spain, where the threat of crises of similar proportions looms large), many countries saw significant demonstrations. The whole continent is now being shaken by the protests in Greece, giving an example for workers in Portugal, Spain and other countries, to follow. The need for political answers to overcome the crisis, arguing for a nationalisation of the banks and big companies to develop a plan to rebuild the economy under workers’ control and management is urgent. Greece underlines sharply the need for a government in the interest of working people. As reports of the General strike in Greece on 5 May follow, this has to be linked to a way of building democratic committees of action to organise and build on the general strikes, and show a way out.
In Turkey, workers entered Taksim Square with a demonstration of – even according to capitalist media – more than 200,000 demonstrators. After the murder of more than 30 people on May Day 1977, this was the first time, the new awakening workers’ movement in Turkey forced through to be allowed to demonstrate there, see report.
May Day demonstration in Pakistan
In Lisbon, Portugal, over 100,000 workers participated in numerous demonstrations, as the Socrates government announced the bringing forward of its austerity package of massive cuts and privatisations.
In Germany, Mayday saw large anti-fascist demonstrations. Neo-fascists in different cities tried to march, but where successfully blocked. In Berlin 15,000 people forced the Nazis to end their march after 350 metres – out of their planned 6,000 - despite the attempts of the police to force demonstrators off the streets. Further protests against neo-fascists took place in Schweinfurt with 10,000, Würzburg with 5,000, Rostock and many more.
United Socialist Party in Sri Lanka celebrating May Day
May Day Demonstration in the US
In the USA, immigrant workers used the day to stage mass protests (of over 100,000 in some cities) to demand an end to racism and the persecution of immigrant workers for being “illegal”, threatened with punishment by the state and forced to accept much lower wages.
In the neo-colonial world, Mayday, which historically has represented the day of workers’ unity and struggle, in a situation of deepening crisis, with war, instability and poverty, was celebrated with huge demonstrations in Pakistan and a successful demonstration in Sri Lanka, organised by the United Socialist Party.
Find below reports from sucessful CWI interventions in May Day demonstrations. See also: CWI May Day statement 2010
Hong Kong May Day demonstration
May Day in Hong Kong: “For a $33 minimum wage”
5,000 take to streets to vent anger over low pay scandal
chinaworker.info in Hong Kong, Sunday, 2 May 2010.
Demands for a minimum wage of no less than 33 HK dollars (US$4.25) per hour dominated the various 1 May processions in Hong Kong. The biggest march, with over 3,000 demonstrators threading their way from Victoria Park to Government House in Central, was organised by the independent Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU). Smaller marches took place elsewhere in the city. Around 1,000 marched with the pro-Beijing FTU, also calling for a $33 minimum.
The number “33” was emblazoned everywhere on the main demonstration, with many trade unionists wearing t-shirts in which the number “33” was depicted by the golden McDonald’s symbol. This was a tilt at the fastfood sector, a bastion of low pay and labour abuse. Catering sector bosses and most employer lobby groups in Hong Kong are arguing for the new minimum wage to be set at $24 per hour, which is far below the official poverty line!
Catering sector legislator, Tommy Cheung Yu-yan has become a hate figure among low paid workers and other unionists for suggesting last month that the minimum wage should be set at an hourly rate of just $20. The backlash over Cheung’s outburst caused him to revise his “offer”, falling into line with the $24 proposed by other neo-liberal and corporate lobbyists. Cheung was “elected” to the Legco from the elitist functional constituencies, which give the rich and powerful extra votes in Hong Kong’s warped “democracy”. Powerful opposition to the functional constituencies is reflected in the city’s “five district referendum” that takes place on 16 May, and was forced on the territory’s rulers by the resignation of five pro-democracy legislators from the League of Social Democrats and Civic Party. These groups took part in yesterday’s demonstration and identify themselves with the minimum wage demand of the trade unions.
As always in Hong Kong, the most spectacular and lively contingents in the May Day march were those of the city’s mostly women migrant workers. Over 250,000 migrants from Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal and other Asian countries work as domestic workers in Hong Kong. They were out in force to add their own voice to the chorus of calls for a minimum wage. Migrant groups, including the Indonesian Migrant Workers’ Union (IMWU), which is a HKCTU affiliate, are vocal in denouncing discrimination of foreign workers and demanding the new minimum wage law include migrants – a demand fully supported by chinaworker.info.
The government of Donald Tsang, depicted as a vampire on yesterday’s demonstration, will announce its decision on the minimum wage in July. Employers’ groups are engaging in ferocious lobbying and scare tactics to prevent the minimum being set higher than $24. They claim the HKCTU demand for $33 an hour would bankrupt small businesses such as restaurants, and cause 100,000 job losses. Most independent commentators and research bodies reject such arguments as hysteria.
Socialists argue that workers’ pressure against the “Scrooge” capitalists must now be stepped up as the July decision draws closer. The trade unions’ demand for $33 is in reality too low a figure. Most low paid workers in Hong Kong have seen their real wages shrink dramatically in the last 13 years since the handover of power to mainland China. They have been forced to take wage cuts during successive economic crises – in 1997 and again in 2003 and 2008 – with no “catch up” mechanism once the economy has recovered. As the HKCTU shows, the average nominal hourly rate for the lowest paid sectors has slumped from $34.10 in 1999 to $30.10 last year, a fall of 13 percent.
The leaflet distributed by CWI (Committee for a Workers’ International) supporters on the May Day march argued that, “unions should prepare for a one-day strike of all low-paid workers in Hong Kong unless the new minimum wage is set at no less than HK$33 an hour and includes ALL workers with no discrimination of migrants!” While socialists think even the $33 per hour demand is too low, we think the main focus now should be to pile on the pressure for this to be the absolute bottom line and insist on no backsliding from trade union leaders. A $33 hourly rate must be viewed only as the start, with steps taken to organise the worst paying sectors such as catering and retailing and fight to raise the legal minimum above the poverty threshold. The minimum wage level will be set by a provisional commission dominated by the employers and academics, no one should expect them to concede to workers’ demands unless massive pressure is built up.
The CWI’s May Day leaflet also explained the need for socialist measures: “wage trends [in the catering sector] are dictated mainly by the big and very profitable chains such as KFC, McDonald’s and Café de Coral (whose CEO sits on Donald Tsang’s minimum wage commission) not by small family-owned restaurants. We socialists say if any business cannot afford to pay its workers even a modest HK$33 an hour they should be taken into democratic public ownership to safeguard jobs and workers’ rights. We call for an immediate rent freeze and measures to break the power of the property speculators – high rents are the biggest burden on small businesses.”
The supporters of the CWI marched together with the very youthful contingent of the League of Social Democrats. Significantly, compared to previous years, there was a much greater interest in socialist ideas from marchers young and old, as reflected in strong sales of Socialist magazine (produced by supporters of the CWI and chinaworker.info). One marcher gave $500 to chinaworker.info’s campaign fund, saying “You seem to be the only socialists in Hong Kong, so I must support you”.
Hong Kong May Day demonstration
May Day in Taipei
CWI supporters in Taiwan took part in this year’s 1 May march in Taipei, joining 10,000 workers
By Marcin, CWI in Taipei, Sunday, 2 May 2010.
May Day demonstration in Taiwan
On May Day, Taiwan supporters of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) participated in the “Workers’ March Against Poverty 5.1 (May 1st)”
May 1, 2010, International Labour Day, under red sunshine, the Freedom Square in Taipei brings together thousands of angry workers, to take concrete action to fight the injustice of the system. At 1pm the whole deserted square witnesses masses of people begin to emerge; by 2.30pm, they stretch for 2 to 3 kilometers as the column begins to work its way towards the Executive Yuan (Taiwan’s legislature). Feelings ran high along the way as slogans roared across the main transportation hub of Taipei, Zhongshan South Road.
“Against outsourcing”, “against manpower agencies” – these were the main demands of this demonstration. The Taiwan government and capitalists together, push through neo-liberal policies under a variety of names, to cut workers’ entitlements, replace long-term employment with short-term employment; the labour force becomes more ‘free’ to transfer and give up its rights, the cost of living of workers becomes more insecure. As the capitalists all the time attack, workers choose to unite, loudly, roaring against the government [of president Ma Ying-jeou and the Koumintang] and the capitalists.
As thousands gathered in Freedom Square, CWI supporters in Taipei managed in less than 1 hour’s time to sell all the promotional materials they had, the magazine Shehui Zhuyi Zhe. People showed a high degree of interest in socialism, wanting to see an alternative to capitalism based on the role of labour that are the embryonic heart of the economy of Taipei.
The CWI and the socialist website chinaworker.info fully support Taiwan’s working class in their fight for workers’ rights and the just struggle against capitalism.