May Day 3
72763.2240 at compuserve.com
Thu May 2 09:17:30 MDT 1996
By Frederic Niel
PARIS, May 1 (Reuter) - Major French unions snubbed each other by staging
separate May Day rallies in Paris, highlighting divisions six months after the
most serious labour unrest in France in a decade.
In some provincial cities, unions presented a more united front as tens of
thousands of people marched to demand higher wages, shorter working hours and
rejection of welfare reforms by Prime Minister Alain Juppe's centre-right
In Paris, the Communist-led CGT, which led 24 days of public sector
strikes in late 1995 with the non-partisan Force Ouvriere (FO) union, mounted
one of the biggest marches -- 30,000 people took part according to the union,
13,500 according to police.
But the FO held a rally at its headquarters in Paris while the
pro-Socialist CFDT organised a party at the Vincennes park in the suburbs.
``I imagine that if all organisations had contributed to this
demonstration, we would certainly have the starting point for a very strong
popular movement,'' said Louis Viannet, head of the CGT, at his march. ``I
regret that this is not the case.''
He said the unions' problem was not to recreate the crippling strikes of
November and December but to enable ``the social movement to find a form of
expression that will let it be heard by the government.''
FO leader Marc Blondel said: ``Now we have to mobilise (workers) again to
continue. The important thing is to agree on the demand... For a major
mobilisation, we must agree on the objective.''
Juppe defused last year's strikes by making concessions, notably to rail
workers and on pensions.
But he has bulldozed through decrees to safeguard the core of reforms to
the welfare system which funds health care, family allowances and pensions.
Blondel said divisions between the unions, for instance about how to push
for reductions of working hours, were hindering a common front against the
He played down the fact that FO had not sought to join other unions on May
Day, telling France Info radio that his union had staged its own rallies for
Nicole Notat, head of the CFDT who did not call for an all-out strike in
1995, said May Day was becoming ``more and more the chance to have a party
than to have union actions like we have every other day of the year.''
By Peter Henderson
MOSCOW (Reuter) - Thousands of marchers turned traditional Russian May Day
celebrations into rallies of support for rival candidates in next month's
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, still ahead in most opinion polls,
gathered with about 10,000 supporters at a statue of Karl Marx, and President
Boris Yeltsin danced a jig with a woman in traditional dress.
Ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, sporting a bright red tunic,
declared that it was high time Russians took a more rugged approach to their
It was Zyuganov who attracted by far the biggest crowd.
``Last May Day we said we needed to change the parliament. Now they are
gone,'' said Zyuganov, 51, in reference to his party's big gains in a
December parliamentary election.
He said supporters should stand together against hostile media and
``provocateurs'' who threatened free elections.
``The media are in the president's pocket,'' he said.
In St. Petersburg, Russia's second biggest city, as many as 35,000
Communist supporters marched down Nevsky Prospekt under red flags and
It was the fifth year since the Communist Party fell from power and
Russia abandoned the traditional march-past at the Red Square mausoleum of
Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin. Now Communists seem close to reclaiming power
in democratic voting.
Yeltsin told a smaller rally of trade unionists on the other side of
Moscow that democratic forces should unite for the June 16 presidential vote.
``We have come together at this rally to support a radical change for
Russia. We must win the election to confirm we are going the right way and we
will win,'' he said.
But the crowd of several thousand was shrinking in the rain by the time
Yeltsin, 65, spoke.
``I suppose my union will support Yeltsin because we want stability.
Personally, I don't like Yeltsin or Zyuganov,'' said 29-year-old Oleg Fomin.
Zyuganov's campaign has played heavily on nostalgia for the years before
the Soviet Union collapsed and on the hardships which have resulted from
economic reform under Yeltsin.
``I was never a communist, I fought against communism,'' said 62-year-old
Anatoly Prokhorov, in Moscow. ``But now I support them more than these new
made me a beggar.''
He had voted for Yeltsin three times -- but not again.
Zhirinovsky told a crowd of about 200 supporters near the Karl Marx
statue after the Communists had left that Russians were simply too nice.
``Today we must fight against one thing, and this is the goodness in the
Russian character,'' the flamboyant Zhirinovsky, placed fourth or fifth in
If he won, he vowed, he would stop Moscow's 16-month fight against rebels
in the North Caucasus region of Chechnya by July.
``We must not feel sorry for anyone, not those in the Caucasus mountains,
nor sitting in these hotels, nor sitting at magazines and newspapers pouring
mud on the Russian people,'' he said, pointing at two nearby hotels where
Few policemen watched over the president's rally, but at least 16 dark
green trucks filled with camouflaged special forces troops stood guard near
the Communist demonstration.
Yeltsin ordered tighter security across the country for the holiday
fearing possible attacks by Chechen guerrillas.
In 1993, dozens were injured in May Day clashes, but on Wednesday both
rallies were good-humored.
The day was observed through much of the former Soviet Union.
In the Belarussian capital, Minsk, a trade union protest for better
economic conditions attracted about 20,000 people and about 7,000
nationalists protested the pro-Russian policies of President Alexander
In the Ukrainian capital Kiev, up to 5,000 Communists and 3,000
nationalists, some in uniform, held separate rallies.
Pro-Communist feeling also spilled over into the Armenian capital
Yerevan, where up to 3,000 people waving red Soviet flags demanded the
By Dan Trotta
MEXICO CITY, May 1 (Reuter) - Angry workers jeered Mexican President
Ernesto Zedillo on Wednesday as thousands filled Mexico City's streets to
protest against an economic crisis and Zedillo's inability to end it.
Hundreds of unionized workers whistled in derision at Zedillo as he
arrived at the pro-government Labour Congress in Mexico City to mark Labour
Pro-government union federations had cancelled plans for traditional May
Day marches for the second consecutive year, fearing they might be disrupted
by protests from the more than one million Mexicans who have lost their jobs
since a December 1994 peso devaluation.
But on Wednesday tens of thousands of independent union workers massed in
the capital's giant Zocalo square to defy the government, chanting
anti-Zedillo slogans and waving homemade banners demanding pay hikes.
Leftist protesters burned American flags outside the U.S. Embassy, and
elsewhere burned an effigy of 96-year-old pro-government union boss Fidel
Velazquez, a living symbol of organised labour's decades-old support for the
``To hell with this evil government,'' one protester said as he
spray-painted slogans supporting Mayan Indian Zapatista rebels in southern
Mexico on the walls of downtown buildings.
Zapatista sympathisers also took over a radio station in San Cristobal de
las Casas, Chiapas, without incident on Wednesday to broadcast a statement
>from Zapatista leader Marcos denoucing Zedillo's free-market economic
Witnesses estimated the Mexico City crowd at slightly more than 50,000 --
below the 150,000 hoped for by organisers.
``This is a time of change. Unions in Mexico can no longer function the
way they have in the past. They need to win the respect of the workers,''
Francisco Hernandez Juarez, head of Mexico's powerful telephone workers'
union, told reporters.
Hernandez' union boycotted last years' protests at the governments'
request, but was one of a handful of traditional unions that turned out this
Hundreds of police, some clad in riot gear, patrolled nearby streets to
keep an eye on the workers. Two television reporters were punched and clubbed
with wooden sticks by protesters, but there were no other reports of violence.
Zedillo tried to warm his cold reception at the Labour Congress by
promising that the worst of the crisis was over.
``We are about to take the road to recovery,'' Zedillo said.
But the young Yale-trained economist made it clear he would not bow to
populist pressures to raise the minimum wage and spark inflation just as the
economy is stabilising after tumbling nearly seven percent last year.
``Workers and the government know that we must not confuse the beginning
of a recovery with the immediate and automatic recovery of what we have
lost,'' he said.
Some official union leaders pressed their demands for a minimum wage
increase anyway, pressured by growing unease within the ranks of organised
``We need some breathing room, Mr. President ... today's wages buy only
part of a basic basket of goods,'' Hector Valdez, head of the Public Service
Zedillo imposed a strict economic policy following his December 1994
devaluation of the peso. While the plan has cut inflation, it led to soaring
interest rates and growing unemployment that has just recently begun to taper
Since the devalution, workers' wages have fallen 39 percent in real
terms, according to a study by Mexico's National Autonomous University.
By Reuters Millions of workers throughout the world marked May Day
Wednesday with parades, rallies, slogans, rock concerts, protests and
In Istanbul, Turkey, where the most serious bloodshed occured, two people
were killed in clashes between security forces and leftists after police tried
to search crowds gathering for the official May Day rally.
Doctors said the two killed and two others who were injured had gunshot
In Moscow, thousands of marchers turned the traditional Labor Day holiday
into mass rival rallies of support for President Boris Yeltsin and his
communist challenger in next month's elections, Gennady Zyuganov.
In Havana, a crowd officially estimated at one million marched through
Revolution Square, and President Fidel Castro vowed Cuba would never dump
socialism while in waters off the island's shores a flotilla of exiles
protested Castro's rule.
In Mexico City, angry workers jeered President Ernesto Zedillo as
thousands of others filled the streets to protest an economic crisis and
Zedillo's inability to end it. Thousands of police, some in riot gear, were
mobilized but there were no early reports of trouble.
There was trouble on the streets of Beijing when Chinese police broke up a
May Day rally and detained several people after clothes vendors took to
thestreets protesting the alleged seizure of their goods by the authorities.
In east Berlin police wielding batons fought with stone-throwing rioters
as a 10,000-strong radical leftist May Day parade turned violent. At least 18
officers were injured. Elsewhere tens of thousands of union members rallied
against government plans which they say will hit the needy without achieving
the aim of creating jobs.
Several hundred far rightists, most with shaven heads, marched through
Berlin streets in an anti-foreigner dwmonstration, chanting ``German jobs for
In the fashionable streets of Zurich, Switzerland, rioters battled police
as ``anti-capitalist'' sentiment brought baoken windows and burning cars.
At least five people were injured when Sri Lankan police fired tear gas
and baton-charged members of a political party defying a government ban on
parades because of a separatist Tamil guerrilla rebellion on the Indian Ocean
In Belgium, teachers in a two-month feud over funding cuts pelted
ministers with eggs and tomatoes while Spanish unions organized rallies
demanding a cut in unemployment.
In Italy, tens of thousands of marchers also called for more jobs, while
Rome celebrated the holiday with a huge, open-air, 14-hour rock concert
attended by over 300,000 people in an enormous square next to San Giovanni
French unions, still split after a crippling 24-day public sector strike
in 1995, the most serious labor unrest in France for a decade, marked the day
with separate marches.
The far-right National Front party staged its own march through Paris,
while 200 people gathered by the River Seine as a tribute to a Moroccan
drowned by skinheads on the fringes of last year's march by the
In Austria, far-right politician Joerg Haider said there were too many
foreigners working in the country while in Greece, 5,000 demonstrators rallied
against the socialist government's ongoing austerity policy.
In Warsaw, young rightists, wearing old communist-style clothes and
holding up red banners in a mocking nod to the communist past, flung
fireworks to disrupt a May Day march by Poland's ruling leftist parties.
British miners' leader Arthur Scargill used Labor Day to launch his
hard-left Socialist Labor Party (SLP), declaring war on opposition leader
Tony Blair's new-look, centrist Labor Party.
At the Vatican, Pope John Paul asked Roman Catholics to pray for the
world's workers but told them not to forget the unemployed.
Other Europeans celebrated May Day, initially a celebration of Spring
which became international Labor Day with the rise of the Labor movement in
19th century Europe, in the old-fashioned way, by using the holiday to have
In Britain, Oxford University students kept up their light-hearted
tradition of plunging 10 feet off Magdalen Bridge into the Cherwell River
after a night of drinking and dancing.
``This really puts hairs on your chest, I tell you,'' said history
student Tomaso Nelly. ``My hangover's gone already.''
By Robert Woodward
LONDON, May 1 (Reuter) - British mine union chief Arthur Scargill
launched a hard-left socialist party on May Day, declaring war on opposition
leader Tony Blair's new-look, centrist Labour Party.
Scargill said on Wednesday his Socialist Labour Party (SLP) would
contestthe next election on a platform of full employment, withdrawal from the
European Union, abolishing the monarchy and restoring the health and education
services to what he called their former glories.
``We recognise no fundamental difference between the (ruling)
Conservative Party, ``new Labour' or the Liberal Democrats,'' Scargill told a
``All three political parties support capitalism and the free market,
support the European Union and support some form of stakeholding economy.''
Scargill, a Marxist whose influence has waned since a year-long miners'
strike ended in failure in the mid-1980s, left the Labour Party last year
after Blair engineered the dropping of its commitment to state ownership of
``I have never felt so free in my life as when I resigned,'' said
Scargill, a Labour member for 33 years.
Saying his opinion of Blair was unrepeatable, Scargill called on
left-wing Labour members of parliament to defect to him.
``The choice is one for you and you alone, but thank God I'm no longer in
that position,'' said Scargill. ``It is impossible to stand and fight inside
``new Labour'... We are the only socialist party capable of winning mass
In a warm-up exercise the SLP contested a parliamentary by-election in
February, winning 5.4 percent of the votes cast in a poll where Labour won
more than 70 percent.
The SLP will hold its first party conference this weekend which will be
attended by delegates from left-wing French, Italian and Spanish parties.
It initially aimed to have 5,000 members by May 1998 but Scargill said
membership was exceeding his wildest expectations.
To achieve full employment the SLP proposes a statutory four-day working
week, cancellation of all non-essential overtime and voluntary retirement at
55 on full pay. The retirement age for men is 65 at present and 60 for women.
The news conference showed Scargill had changed little since the 1984/5
miners' strike, when he was faced down by then-prime minister Margaret
Thatcher and her Conservative government.
Defeat for his National Union of Mineworkers ushered in huge job losses in
the coal mining industry and cut Scargill's influence in the Labour movement.
He dominated Wednesday's proceedings, indulging in bombastic monologues
but showing a sly sense of humour. ``Get your application forms afterwards,''
he told journalists at the start of the conference.
The SLP has already decided to put up seven candidates at the next
election, due to be held by May 1997, including one in Blair's own
constituency of Sedgefield. Scargill has not yet decided whether to stand
himself at the election.
E-mail from: Jonathan E. Flanders, 02-May-1996
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