May Day’s Strong Message
-COL DR. ABDUL RUFF
International Workers' Day, as the 1 May holiday is known officially, is meant to be a celebration of working people worldwide, irrespective of colors and creeds. A recognized national holiday in most of the developed world, it is also celebrated unofficially in some countries.
The 1 May protests there have become an institution, with public and private sector strikes and disruption to public transport. May Day events are under way worldwide, with the focus on Europe, against a backdrop of unpopular austerity measures and rising social unrest. Thousands of workers across southern Europe protested against spending cuts as part of annual May Day rallies, days before elections in Greece and France where voters are expected to punish leaders for austerity.
Financial crisis that crushed western economies has reignited the workers movement in Europe. The damage caused to the whole of the Eurozone by the financial crisis is enormous. The current financial crisis has thrown terminology from the business pages onto the front pages of newspapers, with jargon now abounding everywhere from the coffee bar to the back of a taxi. The European Commission is expected to call for an increase of close to 7% in its proposed budget for 2013 which would amount to $100bn extra. But with many EU nations having to adopt strict austerity measures at home, some governments feel the Commission should scale down its spending plans.
Unions in Greece, Spain, Portugal and France will use traditional marches to express their anger over an austerity drive across the euro zone, aimed at shoring up public finances but criticized for forcing countries deeper into recession. Greece's two major private and public sector unions GSEE and ADEDY marched in the capital Athens to mark the national holiday, while the Communist-affiliated PAME group was also holding a separate demonstration.
Anti-austerity protesters are taking part in a day of strikes and demonstrations across Greece. In Greece, police prepared for violence that has come to mark many rallies, though Athens has not seen major clashes since an unpopular austerity bill was approved in February. In the capital Athens, buses and trains came to a standstill as transport workers staged a 24-hour strike, while Greek seamen held a four-hour stoppage.
An inconclusive election result could thwart the austerity and reform policies Athens has agreed in exchange for the 130-billion euro bailout that saved the country from bankruptcy. Greece's lenders have said that if the country fails to stick to the reforms pledged in return for aid, the country might be forced to abandon the euro. Most Greeks want to keep the single currency, despite opposing the austerity measures they have been forced to endure since the country's first EU/IMF bailout in 2010.
Greece will vote on May 06 in a parliamentary election that risks derailing an international bailout keeping the country afloat by punishing the parties that backed austerity. Many public sector wages have been cut by an average of 25 percent. Maria Drakaki, 45, a public sector worked for 22 years whose salary was cut to 780 Euros ($1,000) a month said message will be stronger on poll day.
Repeated rounds of cuts have slashed wages and pensions and deepened a recession in Greece, that is now in its fifth year. Private sector wages shrunk by a quarter last year alone, while unemployment has soared to a record 21 percent. One Greek youth in two is out of work. "These politicians cannot help us. They have nothing new to tell us. They approved the austerity package and the bailout. We are turning our backs on them," said Dina Bitsi, 58, a pensioner with two unemployed sons.
The country's two biggest parties, the Socialist PASOK and the conservative New Democracy, are expected to barely eke out enough support to renew their pro-bailout coalition, which analysts see as the only viable option for Greece to carry out reforms needed for continued aid and to stay in the euro zone. Much of the support that the two parties, who have ruled Greece for decades, once enjoyed has now shifted to an array of smaller anti-bailout parties riding high on voter discontent over the austerity measures.
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy will compete with trade unions to draw the biggest May Day crowd, hoping to steal the limelight from their annual street march before the second round of a presidential election on May 06. Socialist Francois Hollande, who is not taking part in the May 1 activities, looks set to beat Sarkozy, who has been in power throughout the euro zone debt crisis. It is also the occasion for an annual march by the far-right National Front through Paris and this year, the conservative candidate in the presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy, is holding a rally, with the theme of "real work". The unions are holding a march to the Bastille. National Front leader Marine Le Pen led the march through Paris to the statue of Joan of Arc, an iconic figure for the far right. Ms Le Pen came third behind Sarkozy and Socialist favourite Francois Hollande in the first round of the election last month.
President Sarkozy is planning a rally at the Trocadero in Paris. This has infuriated the unions who say that May Day traditionally is for workers' marches. Sarkozy has irritated them further by saying that he will showcase "real work"; the implication being that the left do not understand the values of work. Although the president needs some of Marine Le Pen's far-right voters to back him, their issues are not what voters say matter the most. Overwhelmingly their priority is the economy and jobs.
The Occupy movement in San Francisco called for global protests against economic inequality. It said: "This May Day we look forward to seeing strong, powerful picket lines, unlike anything the Golden Gate Bridge bosses have seen before." The movement has called for. The movement gained international attention with the Occupy Wall Street protest last September but has struggled to maintain its profile as its supporters began to be evicted from public squares across the US. An Occupy statement said: "The Occupy Movement has called for A Day Without the 99% on May 1st, 2012," referring to its slogan that the wealthy 1% rules over a powerless 99%. Its main rally was be in New York in the afternoon rush hour.
The main May Day rally in Spain took place in the capital, Madrid, while Portugal's labor unions will rally in the afternoon. Marches have taken place across crisis-hit Spain and Portugal while Russian leaders joined marchers in Moscow. France, one of the eurozone's strongest states, and Greece, its weakest, both hold crucial elections this Sunday.
In Portugal, the country's two main labor unions expect tens of thousands of workers to join rallies in the capital Lisbon and other main cities. The 700,000-strong CGTP union, which refused to sign a pact on labor market reforms required by a 78-billion euro EU/IMF bailout earlier this year, holds its demonstrations under the slogan "Against exploitation and impoverishment, for a policy change!". The UGT union, which had signed the reform pact with the government, takes its supporters to the streets to demand "Growth and Jobs, Social Justice". Rallies in Lisbon begin at 1330 GMT. Portugal is implementing tough austerity measures, which have deepened its recession and pushed unemployment to all-time high levels of around 15 percent. Spain's unions have also called on their members to rally against labour market reforms.
In Russia, nationalists, communists and opponents of incoming president Vladimir Putin all held separate rallies in the former communist state. Putin and outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev made a rare joint public appearance on the streets of Moscow, leading more than 100,000 people in a Soviet-style "Holiday of Labour and Spring" march.
Asia saw marches for better working conditions and the Occupy movement is planning events in North America. Rallies took place across Asia. In Hong Kong, about 5,000 workers marched demanding a rise in the minimum wage. In Jakarta, Indonesia, more than 9,000 workers marched to the state palace calling for better pay and job protection. In Manila, the Philippines, some 8,000 workers rallied near the Malacanang palace to call for pay increases
Mayday demonstrations have displayed yet again the popular frustration and discontentment towards the ruling regimes and political parties. Similar demonstrations a couple of centuries ago resulted in bloody revolutions in Europe, effecting regime as well as systemic changes.
The rallies and strike come against a backdrop of growing frustration towards austerity that more fiscally conservative northern euro zone members say is necessary to bring deficits down to meet EU limits and end the debt crisis.
There may be less of the traditional violence, since minds are focused on general elections in Europe, when many Greeks and French are expected to vent their anger against the austerity measures.
The crude message of the people on May Day is a stern warning to the regime to perform or perish.
This a strong popular warning against the rulers and leaders to speedily correct their nonperformance and work for people's real welfare.
Regimes must change to cater for the needs of the people, before it is too late for them to do so.......
د. عبد راف
Col Dr. Abdul Ruff, Specialist on State Terrorism; Educationalist;Chancellor-Founder of Centor for International Affairs(CIA); Independent Analyst-columnist;Chronicler of Foreign occupations & Freedom movements(Palestine,Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc); Anti-Muslimism and anti-Islamism are more dangerous than "terrorism" Anti-Islamic forces & terrorists are using criminal elements for terrorizing the world and they in disguise are harming genuine interests of ordinary Muslims. Global media today, even in Muslim nations, are controlled by CIA & other anti-Islamic agencies.Former university Teacher;/website:abdulruff.wordpress.com/ 91-9961868309/91-9961868309