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May Day calls and clashes in a year of genocide, by Owei Lakemfa

The streets of the world exploded on Wednesday as workers and students, marchers and demonstrators sent out May Day calls, and clashes broke out in several cities over local needs and international concerns.

The streets of France, Greece, the United States, Chile, Cuba and several cities around the world were shaking because of the Gaza war.

In Nigeria, where terribly low wages, fuel shortages, a drowning currency and runaway inflation were riding the waves, the main international concern for the global protests was explicitly expressed. The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) and the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) have issued a joint statement on the ongoing genocide in Palestine: “The UN mechanisms have unfortunately become undertakers and not life savers or peacemakers.”

Echoing the universal call on Labor Day, the two labor centers stated unequivocally: “War does not benefit the workers and the masses. It is mainly the workers and the people who die in wars! These wars are therefore not for the protection of the peoples of the world nor in our interests. It is purely driven by those who benefit from wars: the bourgeoisie in the West or in the East. We call for global peace and a cessation of hostilities to end the killing of men and women and the enormous suffering.”

This message from Nigerian unions was echoed in German cities, with a youth in Berlin delivering the message: “The rich want war – the young want a future.” By baptizing May Day 2024 as ‘revolutionary’, German workers showed symbols of solidarity with the Palestinians and protested against Israel’s violation of the Palestinians’ right to life.

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In Greece, thousands of workers marched through Athens with two demands: wage increases that would bring wages up to average European levels, and against the war in Palestine. They gathered in front of the Greek parliament, waving Palestinian flags, singing solidarity songs and releasing balloons.

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



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

These dual demands were echoed in some countries. In Nigeria, for example, where Cuban Ambassador Miriam Morales Palmero addressed the May Day meeting in Abuja on behalf of the international community, Nigerian trade unions declared: “The economic embargo placed on the nation by the US is an unacceptable punishment for the citizens of Cuba is trying to limit their ability to access the basic necessities of life. The US, as a bastion of democratic expressions, should show leadership in this direction so that the Cuban people can breathe.”

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

Early in the morning on May 1, pro-Israel protesters launched attacks on the pro-Palestinian encampment on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA, in an attempt to overwhelm it.

On the eve of May 1, demonstrators set up barricades in Santiago, Chile, wounding three people by gunfire. About this, progressive President Gabriel Boric lamented: “We are normalizing violence, we cannot allow criminal gangs to take over the streets of our country.” His words seemed to have sunk in, as there were no untoward incidents during the May Day activities organized by the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores, CUT.

In Istanbul, where thousands battled security forces and detained 210 people, the protests focused on inflation, demands for higher wages, labor rights and for a free Palestine.

Pro-labor Bolivian President Luis Arce, who joined the workers’ march, announced a 5.8 percent wage increase in the country.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, former leader of the labor center CUT, announced tax cuts for the poor. He told Brazilians: “In our country there will be no tax breaks in favor of the richest, but of those who work and live on their wages.”

In Lebanon, workers marched against the economic crises, which had also led to bank failures, and against the genocide in Palestine. The crowds poured into the streets of Sri Lanka, a country that went bankrupt two years ago. The protests mainly focused on rising prices, especially of electricity, and higher taxes.

Some of the largest pro-Palestinian rallies on May 1 took place in South Africa. Supporters of the ruling African National Congress, ANC, staged solidarity marches in the streets before heading to Athlone Stadium, where they took part in the May Day rally organized by party peer and largest labor centre, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU . President Cyril Ramaphosa, the country’s president and former miners’ union scribe, said at the rally: “You as workers must join this struggle to fight for those who are oppressed around the world. And today, we as South Africa have stood up for the rights of those in other parts of the world (who) are currently being subjected to torture, violence and genocide.” He added: “And that is why as a country, and yes, as an alliance, we have remained steadfast in our support for the Palestinian people. And that is why we say ‘we want Palestine to be free’.”

COSATU President Zingiswa Losi stated: “We stand here 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 liberated.”

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In addition to Palestine, there was also support for the people of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, better known as Western Sahara. Large parts of the country are occupied by Morocco in an attempt to recolonize the former Spanish colony. The Nigerian trade unions declared: “Humanity will remain in slavery as long as the United Nations continues to allow the miscarriage of Morocco to continue.”

The shrill calls until May 1, 2024 will continue as long as parts of the human race are threatened with extinction.



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