Sunday, 2 May 2010

Carnivals and war on International Workers Day

In Liverpool, May Day was a rather peaceful affair. The Merseyside May Day Festival went off without a hitch. Stall holders from the Liverpool Solidarity Federation, Liverpool Antifascists, Workers' Liberty, the Anarchist Federation enjoyed sun and warmth, with the rain holding off until after the event finished at 9pm.

At the same time, 500 trade unionists and workers marched, led by the always-brilliant Liverpool Irish Patriots republican flute band from the docks into the City Centre.

The stage hosted some brilliant musical acts, as well as myself and a couple of other people going onto a "picketers' platform" to talk about recent struggles we'd been involved in, the fight that was coming, and the need for working class people to take action for themselves - independent of trade union bureaucrats who collaborate with the bosses.

In London, the May Day Carnival had a slightly higher tempo. As well as a march and rally, and a battle bus which urged people not to vote, they hung effigies of Brown, Clegg, Cameron, and Griffin. Papier-maché heads of Blair, Mandelson, and Brown went on pikes with the label "class traitor." Their message was the same as ours: No War but Class War!

In Greece, however, that was not just a slogan.

According to LibCom's Taxikipali;
Labour May the 1st (May Day) is a day for token trade union parades in greece, but the IMF related austerity measures that have cast their long shadow on the country made sure no one was expecting a peaceful demonstration today.

Four different demos had been called in Athens, reflecting existing class and political differences. One by PAME, the Communist Party controlled trade union umbrella, gathered at Syntagma square and marched to the American embassy. A second, by GSEE, the private sector trade union umbrella controled by the ruling Socialist Party, staged a protest concert in Klafthmonos square. A third, by the Radical Left Coalition and extreme-left groups gathered at Victoria square and marched to the Ministry of Labour. And the forth, by anarchists and autonomous grassroots unions, gathered outside the Archaeological Museum and marched to the Parliament.

The first signs of unrest appeared when the anarchist-autonomous march numbering around 4,000 people reached Klafthmonos square chanting slogans against GSEE like "Scum, filth, union-bosses" and attacked the concert scene with red and black paint interrupting the performances. Upon reaching the Parliament and attempting to march towards the EU offices, the protesters were confronted by riot police forces and clashes broke out. Protesters attacked the prestigious ruling class hotel "Great Britain" with the clashes spreading across Panepistimiou street where banks and shops came under attack. Reaching Propylea, protesters torched a State TV van, and closed against the ex-president of the Parliament who happened to be on Korai square. The senior PASOK politician took refuge to a cafe while heckled and was rescued by strong police forces. At the same time, the General State Accountancy came under attack by protesters. The march proceeded towards Omonoia square where upon meeting up with the march of the extreme left returning from the Ministry of Labour it came under brutal attack by motorised police forces. In the battle that ensued many protesters were injured and many more detained, while hundreds of protesters took to a barricaded retreat into Exarcheia and the Polytechnic from which more clashes ensued. As a result of the clashes some 10 people are reported arrested (with people gathered outside the National Police Headquarters demanding their liberation), and two men are reported as injured, one with serious cranial wounds. Meanwhile, journalists are accusing the police as not allowing them to film, and one journalist was reported as being detained. The police claims seven of its officers were injured.

At the same time, more limited clashes erupted in the May Day protest march in Salonica with many banks and shops attacked. Protest marches also took place in many smaller cities and towns like Heraclion, Patras, Rethimnon, Corinth and Ioannina. 
Al Jazeera reported similar clashes in Germany, where workers also blocked a planned march by fascists trying to hijack the day as their own.

This is just the beginning.The class war will only intensify in the months to come, and workers need to ensure that we are not on the losing side as the bosses deploy "austerity measures" not just in Greece but across the world with the aim of making us pay for their crimes.

As I said yesterday on the picketers' platform, we cannot delegate the fight to others. We cannot join an organisation and expect others to act for us. If we want to defend our jobs, our livelihoods, and our public services, then we have to do it ourselves.