May Day 2009: Workers make their voices heard around the world

Marches and protests mark international workers’ day

Below we publish accounts from CWI members in a number of countries around the world of the events held to mark May day 2009.

Workers make their voices heard around the world

Hong Kong –

At total of 7,000 took part in this year’s May Day demos in Hong Kong, the only place (along with Macau) in China that international workers’ day can be celebrated. This turnout is a sign of the crisis, and radicalisation among workers and youth. Over 3,500 demonstrators joined the march organised by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU), the newer trade union federation (founded after the 1989 Beijing massacre). CWI comrades and supporters marched with the HKCTU, where young women – many migrant workers – far outnumbered men, and the call for a minimum wage was the main focus. Around 2,000 joined the demo of the HKFTU (Federation), the older, pro-Beijing and pro-government trade union centre. Even this more right-wing union demanded more measures to fight the crisis.

Smaller demonstrations took place earlier in the day by migrant groups, and around 300 marched with the League of Social Democrats. At the League’s closing rally, Leung Kwok-Hung (Long Hair) made a fiery appeal attacking neo-liberalism. Vincent Kolo of the CWI was also invited to give a fraternal address. Vincent drew loud applause when he said that today’s stimulus policies were only for the rich, "while working people and the poor are being offered anti-stimulus policies: job cuts and wage cuts". CWI comrades sold out of Shehui Zhuyi Zhe (Chinese socialist magazine), and sold 11 annual subscriptions for the magazine.


Trade union opposition dominate media on 1 May

Bigger demos, good response to socialists

Offensiv reporters (CWI in Sweden)

TV news and the daily paper, Expressen, reporting on May Day, spoke of a new petition being circulated in the trade union movement in Sweden. "Today, [Social Democratic leader] Mona Sahlin and [TUC leader] Wanja Lundby-Wedin, will give their May Day speeches. At the same time, a big number of trade union leaders launch a massive protest – an angry petition directed against them", was the news on Expressen’s front page on 1 May.

The petition calls for the launch of a major fightback, criticises the retreats of the LO (TUC) leaders and calls for the election of trade union leaders that are prepared to fight for their members and to live on the same wages as the workers they represent. It demands massive struggles to defend jobs, services and the climate – and more specifically, a day of national mass protests against the crisis of capitalism and right wing policies on 15 September, when parliament resumes after the summer.

Social Democracy has this spring lost an 18% lead in opinion polls against the right-wing government. The LO (TUC) leadership has organised no struggle at all, but instead been involved in scandals regarding the most important pension fund which the LO owns jointly with the employers’ federation. This has caused a wave of resentment among workers and rank and file activists in the unions. The petition has been launched by 33 well known local leaders of the miners, severely battered Volvo workers and other sectors of engineering workers, paper and pulp, public transport and health and child care workers. It was also presented in the May Day issue of Offensiv, the weekly paper of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden).

Generally, 1 May demos in Sweden were bigger than the last few years. The fear of the economic crisis as well as the new danger that the defeat of the right wing government next year is less likely are probably the mayor reasons, apart from the nice weather.

Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (RS – CWI Sweden) focused on the electoral alliance, ArbetarInitiativet (AI, Workers’ Initiative), which RS has launched together with others for the European elections in June. In Stockholm, 4,000 colour leaflets were distributed while over 200 copies of Offensiv were sold. 800 marched in the AI contingent, 400 of them with RS. In Gothenburg, 200 marched with RS and in Umeå, the United Left, of which RS is a part, again organised the biggest May Day demo in the city with 500 people. RS also had speakers and intervened in May Day demos in Luleå, Östersund, Sundsvall, Västerås, Malmö and in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Here are two links to news about the petition. 1

and 2


SAV (CWI in Germany)

May Day in Germany saw more than 400 local trade union rallies but also a number of big anti-fascist mobilisations against Nazi marches and some far left ’revolutionary’ demonstrations.

All in all the participation in the trade union rallies was not bigger than in the last years, which reflects the lack of a combative response by the trade union leaders to the effects of the world capitalist crisis.

SAV members intervened in a whole number of cities for the first time like Essen, Frankfurt/Main, Bamberg, Karlsruhe, Duisburg, Hannover and Ulm. We had a special leaflet which called for a fighting strategy to defend all jobs and all factories, outlined the case for a one-day general strike and the necessity to find a socialist solution to the crisis.


Trade Union Rights campaign (TURCP) Mayday intervention

Syed Fazal Abbas Shah, TURCP National Organiser

Hundreds and thousands of workers took to the streets across the country to celebrate May Day. Workers from different sectors of economy, nationalities, ethnic backgrounds and religions marched together in the streets, cutting across the rising religious, national and ethnic tensions in the country. The workers showed their class unity and brotherhood in practice and rejected the politics of hatred and communalism. They also rejected the neo liberal economic policies of the present government and demanded better living conditions and services.

TURCP members and supporters organised and intervened in the May Day activities across the country. These activities were organised in the four provinces and in all the main cities. TURCP also produced special May Day leaflet in two languages, which was distributed throughout the country. A special May Day issue of Socialist was also produced and sold in these activities.

Here are brief accounts of some of these activities.


TURCP Sindh organised May Day activities in the different cities of Sindh including Karachi, Mir Pur Khas, Mehar and Larkana. In some cities, TURCP was the only organisation which held May Day activities. TURCP produced a special May Day leaflet in Sindhi language.

TURCP organised a joint May Day activity in Mir Pur Khas. 14 trade unions and social movements participated in a labour conference. More than 250 trade union and social activists attended the conference. The original idea was to organise a rally and to march through the main streets, but the PPP-led Sindh government imposed a ban on all sort of rallies and protest demonstrations in the province. The local authorities and police refused to give permission for the rally and public meeting on the grounds of security situation. But local authorities allowed the PPP labour wing to hold an ‘official’ rally in which just few dozen workers participated. TURCP and other workers organisations organized the biggest May Day activity in city despite all the odds and difficulties they faced. TURCP Sindh organiser Hameed Chanah played an important role in organising this joint activity. The speakers at the conference condemned the ban on May Day activities in Sindh. They also demanded the increasing of minimum wages and strict implementation of minimum wages in the private sector.

In Mehar, the only May Day activity was organised by the TURCP, in which around 300 workers participated. The majority of the unions in this city took part in a public meeting which was presided over by TURCP District Dadu organiser, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi.

In Tharri Mohabat town in Dadu district, TURCP organised the only May Day activity in which hundreds of Beri Mazdoor (traditional cigarette making workers) participated. These workers have won two important strikes in last 6 months. This union was formed by TURCP members who are still actively supporting and helping to strengthen this union in this feudal-dominated area.

TURCP Karachi organised a joint seminar with 4 other unions in the largest industrial area in Karachi. More than 400 industrial workers participated in this seminar. Three members of TURCP spoke from the platform and put forward a clear program to build the strong trade union movement. TURCP also intervened in the other main activities organised by different trade unions and federations in the different areas of the city.

In Larkana, TURCP organised a seminar in the largest public sector hospital where TURCP members control the health workers union. More than 100 health workers participated in this seminar. TURCP members also participated in the other May Day activities in the city. TURCP members also intervened in the other cities and towns of Sindh and distributed leaflets and other material.


TURCP organised or intervened in almost all the cities in the largest province of Pakistan. TURCP and textile workers of a local textile mill jointly organised a public meeting to celebrate May Day in Faisal Abad. Faisalabad is the 3rd largest city in the country and hub of textile industry. Nearly 2000 textile workers participated in this public meeting. TURCP international secretary Khalid Bhatti was the main speaker in this meeting. Leaders of the local textile unions described the horrifying situation faced by the textile workers. Workers are working 12 to 16 hours a day without being paid for months. When these workers protest against non-payment of wages and terrible working conditions, the mill owners threatened to shut down the factories. Protests against the non-payment of wages have become a daily routine in the textile industry. There is widespread anger and hatred against the bosses and government. Even the minimum wages are not being paid to the workers. The speakers strongly condemned the anti-worker policies of the PPP-led government. They announced the launching of a country-wide protest movement against these policies. Khalid Bhatti also spoke at the rally organised by the railway workers union. TURCP members intervened in the other May Day activities organised by different trade unions and workers organisations.

In Sahiwal, TURCP organised a May Day rally in the city centre. 6 public and private sector unions participated in the rally. Around 300 activists and members of different trade unions and social movements attended the rally.

In Muzafar Gar, TURCP participated in a jointly organised rally which was attended by 700 workers and peasants, including women. TURCP in Bahawalpur organised a seminar in which 100 workers participated. In Rahim Yar Khan, TURCP jointly organised a rally in which 230 workers from both private and public sector unions participated.

In Lahore, TURCP members intervened in the 4 main rallies organised by different trade unions. The main rally was organised by the workers confederation in which a couple of thousand workers participated. TURCP members distributed leaflets in the rallies.

TURCP members in Islamabad intervened in the main public meeting organised by the Pakistani workers federation. TURCP was the main left trade union force in this public meeting.

North West Frontier Province

There were very few May Day activities organised in this province, which is under attack from Taliban fighters. The rising tide of religious extremism and rapid Talibanisation in this province made it impossible to organise any sort of activity in many cities and areas. The trade unions and TURCP were able to organise activities in Peshawar, Mardan, Charsadah, Nowsherah and Dir upper.

The main activities were organised in the provincial capital, Peshawar, in which a couple of thousand workers participated. TURCP members participated in a main rally and public meeting jointly organised by different public and private sector unions and federations. The May Day leaflet was distributed and got a good response from the workers. One TURCP member also spoke from the official platform.

In Mardan, the second largest city in the province, TURCP participated in a jointly organised seminar in which more than 150 workers and social activists participated.

The workers, trade union, political and social activists vow to continue the joint struggle against religious extremism. In a unanimously adopted resolution, the participants demanded proper services and living facilities for the affected families coming from conflict zones. There are hundreds and thousands of internally displaced people in the different cities who were forced to leave their homes by insurgent Taliban groups or military operations.

In Dir, TURCP organised a small meeting to celebrate May Day. This city and surrounding areas is a centre of religious extremism. The military operation is going on against Taliban groups in some areas. TURCP members organised this activity in very a difficult situation. TURCP members are facing constant threats from the Taliban and other religious extremist groups.


TURCP intervened in the main rally and public meeting organised jointly by all the main trade unions and federations. A few thousand workers attended the rally. TURCP May Day leaflet was distributed and papers were sold. TURCP members made interventions in some other cities. The May Day activities were badly affected by the murder of three Baluch Nationalist leaders in Turbat area of Baluchistan. The whole province has been paralyzed by continued strikes and protests from last two weeks. The situation is very volatile in this province which is already suffering from nationalist insurgency and state repression.

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May 2009