This year’s May Day - a major event for the international working class movement - took place in the context of growing class struggle everywhere, which is also seeing rising interest for Marxist ideas. This was reported by all the sections of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), who participated in May Day events in dozens of countries. Here we provide reports and photos of the interventions of our comrades around the world.
In Indonesia, the comrades of Militan participated in May Day events in three cities, Jakarta, Surabaya and Yogyakarta. The comrades managed to sell around 100 copies of their paper and reported that there were many people who approached them to discuss the ideas of Marxism showing an interest in joining a revolutionary organisation.
On May Day in Mexico City, the IMT comrades of Izquierda Socialista participated in the events organised by the “official” trade unions (Congreso del Trabajo - CT) as well as those organised by the independent unions (Nueva Central de Trabajadores - NCT) and the (Union Nacional de Trabajadores - UNT).
At the meeting of the official unions, a group of comrades set up a tent and a stall from 7am. They were there defending the ideas of trade union democracy, workers’ rights and the ideas of Socialism. The stall was full of with pamphlets, books, leaflets, papers and a banner of the Juventudes Marxistas [Marxist Youth].
Despite the dire state of the official unions, they still have influence amongst a number of workers in the metropolitan area. Their meeting was organised with trade union leaders making participation of the members obligatory. In spite of all this, there are workers in the official unions who are questioning their situation, who are looking for ways to defend their class interests and who are also seek political alternatives. The IMT comrades had a successful intervention in this meeting and sold more than 20 papers, a small but significant amount considering the conditions.
At 10am the independent unions began marches from three different points. The UNT - whose main bases are among the Telephone workers’ union and the student movement at UNAM - set off from Hemiciclo a Juárez along with the miners’ union. The majority of the student unions marched from the Monument of the Revolution, while the NCT and teachers’ union (CNTE) marched from Angel de la Independencia. At all of these points of departure groups of IMT comrades intervened, raising more than $1000 by selling papers, other material or via donations.
Our comrades were in high demand as speakers in meetings around the city. A group of police workers approached us because they wanted to organise and defend their labour rights. We were also invited to a meeting of communists calling for communist unity. A professor from UNAM asked us present a book on the centenary of the Russian Revolution which we will publish in the next few months through our publication house, Centro de Estudios Socialistas Carlos Marx.
Mexico - Pachuca, Hidalgo
The IMT comrades in Hidalgo, participated in May Day events along with the new forces who have joined our organisation in the recent mobilisations against increased gas prices which were introduced at the beginning of the year.
Hidalgo state is renowned for the large influence the state exercises over local organisations here, which for the most part function as an organised arm to mobilise for voting, or as a repressive force against the local attempts of people to organise independently.
May Day saw two rallies in Hidalgo. The first, organised by the officialist union, SNTE, was quite large with approximately 4000 people. The money which the union wastes on incentives, merchandising such as t-shirts and caps, and live music, etc., completely undermines the struggle which May Day stands for and turns it into a day of vulgar partying.
The second event was much smaller, with around 800 people taking part. It was organised by the democratic unions and CNTE, SME and the telephone workers’ union all participated in it. In this meeting the main slogans were for the repeal of the structural austerity reforms, against state repression and intimidation of fighting organisations and for the unity of the abovementioned unions.
The comrades of the IMT had a very good reception at these events with many people buying our papers, pamphlets and books. Our paper, and other printed material, was very attractive to the organised Hidalgo workers, who in spite of the adverse conditions and of being in a minority, the organised workers in Hidalgo showed a very strong fighting spirit.
Mexico - The Puebla proletariat raises its fist
In the city of Puebla around 10,000 workers took part in the main May Day event. Independent unions and social organisations came together with the UNT in the march. This was very significant. The march was headed by the Volkswagen workers and the main state industries followed by the telephone workers. There were blocks of workers from CNTE, SUNTUAP, sacked public sector workers, people from the town of Jalapa who have organised a sit-down protest for the past two months and the 28 October Popular Union of Street Vendors, just to name a few. One of the main demands of the march was freedom for the political prisoners of Puebla.
The IMT was also present in this mobilisation. We sold dozens of papers along with many pamphlets and books published by Centro de Estudios Socialistas Carlos Marx. We spoke with many left union activists, members of social organisations, Morena militants - who are waging an internal struggle against the bureaucracy and infiltrators, to change the organisation into a fighting organisation - and university youth who are interested in the ideas of Marxism. Some of these comrades have been following the IMT for years while others are just getting introduced to us and our ideas.
Puebla is a very important state with thousands of university students and a strong working class with great traditions of struggle. It is necessary to create a cadre organisation linked to the youth and workers’ organisations. We invite our readers in Hidalgo and Puebla to join the IMT, and help us build a socialist alternative for the working class.
May Day in Brazil was preceded, by the 28 April general strike. The strike was against the counter-reforms put forward by the Temer government which, with the support of the majority of the National Congress [Parliament], is pre-emptively attacking workers’ rights. The strike was supported by workers in important sectors, such as public transport, banking, postal services, oil, civil servants, metal industry etc. The strike left all the major cities empty during that day. Esquerda Marxista (EM) and Libertate e Luta - a youth organisation set up by EM - participated actively in the massive protests which took place on 28 April in more than 240 cities in spite of the call by the trade union leaders for the workers to “stay at home”. In Sao Paulo, the organisers reported more than 70,000 people on the streets. In the two main cities of the state of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis and Joinville, activists of EM were at the head of the marches and the protests.
The main trade union federations did not use the success of the general strike to build for the May Day events. Thus May Day events were smaller than the ones three days earlier and no May Day events were organised. In Rio de Janeiro, a joint event was only called two days after the police repression which took place on the 28th. The activists of EM participated in the events of both days and sold their paper Foice&Martelo in the events as well as discussing with many youth and workers who want to get involved in revolutionary politics. The EM comrades were marching under the banner “Down with Temer and the National Congress”. They were calling for a National Workers’ Assembly to organise, expand and unify the struggles in order to defeat the attacks against the rights which the working class conquered in the past.
In Austria, Social Democracy has been in a coalition government with the conservatives for 10 years. Many activists are clinging on to the new right reformist leader, because he has brought the party slightly better numbers in the polls than the previous one. The state of the left is quite bad after it accepted the logic of the “lesser evil” in regards to the presidential election last year. All of this was reflected on the mood of the demonstrations on May Day, traditionally quite an exact barometer of the mood in the workers movement. As opposed to many other countries this year, the mood in the May Day events in Austria was quite apolitical and not at all enthusiastic.
The speeches of the leaders reflected their orientation towards maintaining the coalition and class collaboration with the conservatives and employers and lacked any clear demand or program for the working class. TUC leader Erich Foglar for example called for “a compromise” on the question of working hours, where the industrialists demand a complete deregulation, only offering an 11 hour break between the end of one and the beginning of the next workday.
The IMT in Austria, der “Funke”, participated in all the events in Vienna, Linz, Graz and Bregenz with Blocks and speeches on demonstrations, Bookstalls, papersales and the gathering of donations for our yearly marxist school, the “Pfingstseminar”. In the prevailing conditions, this was only possible through the enthusiasm of the mainly young comrades for the revolutionary ideas of marxism and the will to build. We managed to sell 333 papers, and collected more than 5000 euros in donations and sale of books and papers.
In the afternoon we held our traditional barbeques (where the weather allowed it) or participated in parties of the movement in places such as Graz, where our comraes participated in the regional Communist Party festival.
The mood and the moral of the Marxists in Austria is high, this was reflected in all the interventions and the excellent results.
In Russia our comrades participated in the St Petersburg May Day march with our own block under a banner saying “Vremya menyat’ mir!” (Now is the time to change the world!). The comrades also sold a series of books and copies of their paper.
In Italy, as in recent years, the biggest demonstrations were on 25th April, the day of liberation from the nazi-fascists in 1945. The comrades of Rivoluzione took an active part in the events in a number of towns and cities. In Milan and Parma the comrades organised their own blocks on the marches. These were very successful.
In Modena, faced with the refusal of the Democratic Party and the Trade Unions to organise a demo on the day of the liberation, we took the initiative to call for a march anyway. Some 250-300 anti-fascists, workers and youth marched with us!
On several occasions on 25th April, the Democratic Party (DP) revealed its true face. We have to remember that this party is the so called “heir” of the Italian Communist Party, the party of the workers and youth who gave their lives during the resistance in WWII for a better world, free from fascism and (they believed) from capitalism. In Rome the Democratic Party refused to march in the traditional demo called by the National Association of Italian Partisans (ANPI, the official organisation of the resistance movement) because it included movements and organisations that support the Palestinian struggle! The PD has adopted a strong pro-Israel stance over the past years.
In Reggio Emilia the PD leaders, organisers of a big event to commemorate the 25th of April attended by thousands of people, called the police to remove our stall!
In Milan, where traditionally the biggest demo takes place every year, the Democratic Party took to the streets, not with the traditional red banners, but with blue banners with yellow stars, the flag of the European Union! On its large big banner at the front of the march you could read; “We, european patriots”!
If one considers the hatred towards the European Union that exists amongst the working masses, you can really see how the PD has become the party of law and order and of the ruling class.
Throughout Italy on 25th of April our comrades sold around 650 copies of our paper, Rivoluzione, and we collected more than 1,500 euros of donations for the IMT fighting fund.
Mayday has lost its importance in the eyes of many workers and especially the youth. The leaders of the trade unions are to blame for this, as they have removed the real meaning of May Day and transformed it into a “festival” with music, drinking and no political content, while at the same time they accept every counter-reform the bosses have been pushing in the workplaces.
Only in a few, but important cities, like Turin, is May Day still an important event for the workers and their families. But this year, unfortunately, the demos were disrupted by torrential rain in most parts of northern Italy.Nevertheless,we were able to sell around 250 copies of Rivoluzione all over the country.
The Day of Liberation and May Day were a good anticipations of the months to come, where we are going to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution, defending the ideas and the legacy of the Bolsheviks and, more importantly, building the IMT in Italy.
This year saw a record attendance at the May Day demonstrations of the Left Party in Sweden: 7500 in Gothenburg, 12,500 in Stockholm, 4000 in Malmö and 1500 in Umeå among others. The Swedish section of the IMT, Revolution, intervened in demonstrations in Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö, Umeå and Helsingborg. They sold the most recent issue of their paper Revolution, which had a front page with a big clenched fist and the slogan ”Fight for socialism” and in smaller letters “against racism and the instigations against refugees”.
This radical message got a very good response from an increasingly radicalized layer looking for a revolutionary way out. A record number of sellers sold a record of 490 copies of the paper, and almost all areas not only met but surpassed their targets. The editorial of the paper called for revolutionary internationalism and explained the need to fight racist border controls within the perspective of building a united struggle against the capitalist system.
In all larger cities, the Left Party demonstration was by far the largest, and much larger than those organized by the ruling Social Democratic party. This was a show of strength for the radicalized workers and youth, most of whom were not members of any political party or group. Meanwhile, we saw the Left Party leader Sjöstedt being more critical of the Social Democratic government than probably on any previous occasion since his election in 2012. This reflects a need to show independence in the run-up to the election year next year, and is in line with the more radical line he usually likes to display every May Day.
In Umeå and Helsingborg, Revolution were given the opportunity to speak at the Left Party rallies. In their speeches, the comrades explained that a socialist revolution is not only possible, but absolutely necessary. Our ideas got an excellent reception everywhere, especially among the youth, and many said they want to get organized. This will be followed up by a series of public meetings on “Sweden needs a revolution” and “What is socialism?”
The Swedish section of the IMT has passed another milestone, and is quickly becoming a much more visible and recognized tendency within the Swedish labour movement and youth.
The comrades of the Revolutionary Socialists began May Day morning with a meeting on "Revolutionary May Day". The meeting was attended by about 30 people who heard Andreas Nørgård from the Marxist Students, two students, Mads and Mikkel, who had participated in a three week long sit-in in their campus, and Marie Frederiksen, editor of Revolution.
After the meeting, those present marched with our flags to Blågårds Plads were the Unity List and Socialist Youth Front - the two main left organisations in Denmark - had their May Day rally and where we had a stall. After the rally, everyone marched to Fælledparken, the traditional place of May Day celebrations in Copenhagen and the meeting place for all other marches through the city.
The event is organised by LO ( the main Trade Union Confederation) and the three workers’ parties. All unions and left wing organisations participate in this event, which drew tens of thousands this year. The official agenda was quite dull, with the same "usual" speeches we hear every year.
However, this year, a group of angry workers interrupted the president of the LO when she was speaking. They were dissatisfied with the latest collective bargaining agreement, which among other things allows for an increase of the working week from 37 to 42 hours.
Our comrades had two stalls at this event where we sold dozens of books on Marxist theory, hundreds of papers and spoke to many people who were looking for radical ways out of the dead-end society finds itself in.
The Dutch marxists of Vonk were present at the May Day march and rally in Amsterdam. The first of May is not a holiday in the Netherlands. For decades there have been no national celebrations either. However, since 2015, under pressure from the rank-and-file activists of the union federation FNV, the national May Day celebrations have been back in Amsterdam.
The Dutch marxists were present with revolutionary slogans in the march, which started at the JD Meijerplein, next to the Dock Worker statue (the memorial of the February Strike of 1941 against the deportation of Jews) and ended at Museum Square.
They were also present with a stall at the Museum Square, where they sold €140 of revolutionary literature.
Der Funke/L’étincelle, the Swiss section of the IMT, intervened in twelve different cities, in both the French and the German speaking regions of Switzerland and thanks to the Italian comrades of Rivoluzione we also intervened in the Italian speaking Ticino, sending a group from Milan up to Bellinzona. The comrades sold papers and manned bookstalls in all the interventions, where we noticed a growing mood of anger. Many people were eager to engage in debates on the most pressing political problems of Swiss and international politics.
The articles in our paper were on international topics, but also the nature of the working class in Switzerland. These gave rise to many debates and discussions with people on the marches.
Immigrant workers (a big part of them without the right to vote) make up a large part of the politically organized working class and of the activists in the unions. Thus they are an important feature of May Day celebrations. The important presence of Turkish and Kurdish organizations is a traditional feature of the first of May festivals and marches in Switzerland.
Because of the structure of the Swiss economy, a lot of industry and consequently many May Day marches, are in regions with small towns and villages. But this year we also had a good presence in these areas, most noteworthy in the region of Aargau where we participated with a bookstall and in the more rural region of Thurgau, where we organized a large pre-May Day party together with the Socialist Youth.
In the main cities of Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern the marches were not very large because of the terrible weather and cold. But as this is the fourth year in a row of rainy May Day marches, we were well equipped and could thus still sell our newspaper very well and have lots of good discussions with all the different generations of marchers – especially with the youth.
This year, the May Day demonstrations in France had a special character given the context of the presidential elections. In total 280,000 demonstrators gathered in different cities across the country. But this year the protests were more politicized and militant than in previous years, as shown by the political protests, particularly those of France Insoumise. This reveals the change in the political arena and the emergence of a massive force with a radical left-wing program.
The IMT comrades of Revolution participated with paper sellers and stalls on the demonstrations of the four main cities of the country, Marseille, Paris, Lyon and Toulouse. The comrades published a special issue of their paper, published specifically to respond to the situation after the first round of the presidential elections. Our class position of not supporting any of the capitalist candidates resonated very well with those present and we had a record sale of 250 papers as well as meeting many people who wanted to join a revolutionary organisation.
The Canadian IMT comrades of Fightback took the opportunity to launch a nationwide Socialist student organisation - La Riposte socialiste étudiante - Socialist Fightback Students. The comrades also participated in May Day demos in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton. While the demos themselves were relatively small, IMT comrades were praised as being some of the youngest and most vibrant present. Special banners were designed and the comrades also organized May Day parties where there was widespread discussion of the issues of the day. Students and workers’ solidarity is vital for the socialist struggle!
Now past the 100-day mark into the "Trump era", the mood at May Day rallies and marches across the US was markedly militant and our comrades got an excellent reception in the cities where we intervened.
In New York City, comrades sold more papers, books, booklets and theoretical journals than at any May Day in the past - an indication of the unprecedented thirst for Marxist theory, especially among the youth. Several comrades addressed a May Day rally and numerous comrades were interviewed by local and national media, including Reuters and Fox, where they happily reported the significant increase in socialism's appeal in the US. In a few cities our comrades helped to plan the May Day rallies/marches, and in both St Louis and Louisville, Kentucky, comrades addressed the rallies from the steps of City Hall, to make the case for international socialist revolution.
In Newark, New Jersey, a city which usually doesn't have big May Day events, there was a large turnout of high school youth. Our comrades came prepared, and we were the only ones to set up a table with papers and literature, which was well received. Comrades also intervened in marches in Philadelphia, Seattle, Madison, and Los Angeles, where we sold out of our stock of Socialist Appeals. Some regions were affected by extreme weather conditions on May Day: Pittsburgh was placed under tornado warning, and in Minneapolis the weather was at freezing temperature with rain and snow. But this did not stop the comrades from intervening, and they succeeded in meeting a good number of young contacts, who had braved the elements to march in the rain and snow. It is clear we are working in a new epoch!
In El Salvador, the comrades of the El Militante BPJ, had an excellent response on the main May Day March selling more than 1000 copies of their paper defending the ideas of Marxism in the workers’ movement.
Comrades from "Lucha de Clases" (Class Struggle), the Venezuelan section of the IMT, participated in the huge Caracas May Day March. We gathered at Agua Salud, one of three meeting points, in 23 de Enero and Catia neighbourhood and proceeded towards Bolivar Avenue in the centre of Caracas, where the final rally was to take place.
The banners and slogans of the comrades - calling for the nationalisation of the banks and the expropriation of the capitalists - caught the attention of many workers present who took pictures and joined us in shouting the slogans.
Arriving in Bolivar Avenue, we found that it was already packed by a huge crowd from end to end (about 1.5 km). This was the first time since 2011 that the working class had gathered here and it was able to fill it despite the renewed offensive of the right wing and imperialism.