May 1 marked the 125th anniversary of the Haymarket riot (which occurred on May 4, 1886, in Chicago) and International Workers’ Day. Marches and rallies in solidarity with working-class movements were organized across the United States and around the world to commemorate the day and to voice the current demands of the working class.
In the United States, demonstrations were organized around the country to defend immigrants’ and workers’ rights. Despite increasing attacks on unions, public sector workers, and immigrants in the past year, the turnout for May Day marches was in many places lower this year than in 2010. In part, this reflects a temporary downturn in the immigrant rights movement after the partial injunction against SB 1070, a significant galvanizing factor in 2010.
A significant development this year was the AFL-CIO’s official endorsement of May Day marches around the U.S. Richard Trumpka, the president of the AFL-CIO, spoke at the May 1 rally in Milwaukee, where tens of thousands of people gathered. Other significant marches occurred in Salem (4000), L.A. (3000), San Jose (2000), Chicago (1500), Madison (1500), New York City (1000+), and Hartford (1000+). Demonstrations of 1000 or less also took place in Tucson, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Louisville, Philadelphia, and other cities across the United States.
Huge demonstrations also occurred around the world to commemorate May 1. Massive demonstrations in support of workers’ rights occurred in Buenos Aires (500,000), Germany (400,000+), Istanbul (200,000), Cuba (hundreds of thousands), Paris (125,000), Vienna (100,000), Guatemala City (50,000), and Seoul (50,000). Demonstrations in the thousands also took place in the Philippines, Taiwan, Spain, and Moscow.
For the first time in decades, thousands marched in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and unions in Iraq defied authorities by marching in Baghdad and Basra.
The massive amounts of workers who poured into streets to demand their rights around the world on May 1 demonstrates the growing strength of the working-class movement in the face of the economic and political crisis, and continued solidarity with the ongoing Arab revolutions and workers’ struggles across the globe.
> The article above was written by Lisa Luinenberg and first appeared in the June 2011 print edition of Socialist Action newspaper.