May Day calls and clashes in a Year of Genocide, by Owei Lakemfa

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THE streets of the world exploded on Wednesday as workers and students, marchers and protesters, sent May Day calls and, in several cities, clashes erupted over local needs and international concerns.

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The streets of France, Greece, United States, Chile, Cuba and several cities around the globe, quaked over the Gaza War.

In Nigeria where abysmally low wages, fuel scarcity, a drowning currency and a run-away inflation ruled the waves, the primary international concern for the world-wide protests, was expressly stated. The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, and the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, made a joint declaration about the on-going genocide in the Palestine: “The UN mechanisms have unfortunately become undertakers and not life savers or peace-making.”

Echoing the universal calls on Workers day, the twin labour centres stated unequivocally: “ War does not benefit workers and the masses. It is mainly workers and the people that die in wars! These wars are therefore not for the protection of the people of the world and neither in our interests. It is purely driven by those who profit from wars- the bourgeoisies either in the West or in the East. We call for global peace and cessation of hostilities so that the killing of men and women and the massive suffering will end.”

This message of Nigerian trade unions was re-echoed in German cities with a youth in Berlin carrying the message: “The rich want war — the youth want a future.” Christening the 2024 May Day as “Revolutionary”, German workers displayed solidarity symbols with Palestinians and protested against Israeli violation of Palestinians right to life.

In Greece, thousands of workers marched through Athens bearing twin demands: pay rises that would bring wages to average European standards, and against the war in Palestine. They massed on the Greek parliament waving Palestinian flags, singing solidarity songs and letting balloons fly.

In the United Kingdom, workers marched on the Trade Department in London and blockaded arms factories in Lancashire, Wales and Scotland, demanding that arms export licences to Israel should be revoked. There were pickets at Barclays and BNY Mellon banks in Manchester for investing in Ebit System. The company produces 85 per cent of the land and air munitions used by the Israeli military. Members of the Palestine Action group which initiated the picketing said: “We will not tolerate genocide profiteers on our streets.”

In Cuba, the people practically emptied into the streets of Havana, at the foot of the giant statue of Jose Marti, the prophet of the South American independence movement. The Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, ICAP, stated at the rally: “We demand an end to genocide in Gaza, and Cuba’s removal from the false list of countries that sponsor terrorism.”

These twin demands resonated in some countries. In Nigeria, for instance, where Cuban Ambassador Miriam Morales Palmero on behalf of the international community addressed the May Day rally in Abuja, the Nigerian unions declared: “The economic embargo placed on the nation by the US is an unacceptable punishment for the citizens of Cuba as it seeks to restrict their ability to access the basic necessities of life. The US as the bastion of democratic expressions ought to show leadership in this direction so that the people of Cuba can breathe.”

Clashes broke out in some French cities. In Paris, the clashes led to a number of injuries. The victims included a dozen policemen. The workers led by the labour confederation, CGT, protested for better cost of living, reform of unemployment benefits and, against the genocide in Palestine.

Early morning May Day, pro-Israeli protesters launched attacks on the pro-Palestinian encampment on the University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA, campus in an effort to overrun it.

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On the eve of May Day, protesters set up barricades in Santiago, Chile and three persons were wounded by gunfire. On this, progressive President Gabriel Boric regretted: “We are normalising violence, we cannot allow criminal gangs to take over the streets of our country.” His words appeared to have sunk in as there were no untoward incidents during the May Day activities organised by the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, CUT.

In Istanbul, where thousands took on security forces with 210 persons detained, the protests were over inflation, demands for higher wages, labour rights and for a free Palestine.

The pro-worker Bolivian President, Luis Arce, who joined the workers march, announced a 5.8 per cent wage increase in the country.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former leader of the labour centre, CUT, announced tax cuts for the poor. He told Brazilians: “In our country, there will be no tax breaks to favour the richest, but to those who work and live off their wages.”

In Lebanon, the workers marched against the economic crises which had also involved banks insolvency, and against the genocide in the Palestine. The crowds poured into the streets of Sri Lanka, a country that declared bankruptcy two years ago. The protests mainly focused on rising prices, especially of electricity and higher taxes.

Some of the largest pro-Palestinians rallies on May Day took place in South Africa. Supporters of the ruling African National Congress, ANC, organised solidarity marches in the streets before heading to the Athlone Stadium where they joined the May Day rally hosted by party ally and, the largest labour centre, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU. President Cyril Ramaphosa , the country’s President and former scribe of the Mine Workers union, told the rally: “You as workers, need to join this fight to fight for those who are oppressed around the world. And today as South Africa, we have stood up for the rights of those in other parts of the world (who) are currently being subjected to torture, to violence and genocide.” He added: “And that is why as a country and yes, as an alliance, we have stood firm in our support for the people of Palestine. And that is why we say ‘we want Palestine to be free’.”

COSATU President, Zingiswa Losi, declared: “We are here standing in support of our government, of our movement, in support of the Palestinian cause. Our freedom, comrades, is not complete until the people of Palestine are free and they are liberated.”

Alongside Palestine, was the support for the people of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic better known as Western Sahara. Large portions of the country are occupied by Morocco in an attempt to recolonise the former Spanish colony. The Nigeria trade unions declared: “Humanity remains in bondage as long as the United Nations continues to allow the aberration by Morocco to continue.”

The strident 2024 May Day calls will continue, so long as portions of the human race face extinction.


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