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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

May Day IWD 2023: Red Review #96 -- International Left and Labour News

With news from Austria, Colombia, Cuba, Belgium, Italy, Uruguay, the USA, Canada, Sudan, Latvia, Vietnam and from May Day rallies and with May Day statements from around the world.

Scene from a May Day rally held by the People's Liberation Front party in Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Image via Twitter

April 23:

In Austria, like in other countries, the multiple crises of capitalism have led to an increase in instability, speed of events and polarisation. It is hard to keep up with events these days.

With the country’s nine million inhabitants facing inflation running above the European Union’s average, the cost of living crisis has added to a deep loss in trust in the established parties. One result is that the Communist Party (KPÖ), seemingly out of the blue, won 11.7% in the April 23 regional elections in Salzburg, landing them four seats in a regional parliament. In the previous election, five years ago, the KPÖ got just over 1,000 votes (O.4%).

At the same time, there is the deep crisis of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), reflected in its current leadership referendum, which runs until May 10th. Meanwhile the right wing populism of the far right Freedom Party (FPÖ) saw it gain votes in regional election after regional election, and the party is now on top, with nearly 30% in national opinion polls.

April 24:

The "Working Group of the São Paulo Forum met in Bogotá on April 13, 14 and 15, 2023, celebrating the electoral victory and the first advances of the Historical Pact government, of President Gustavo Petro and Vice President Francia Márquez". The São Paulo Forum is a formation of left-wing political parties and other organizations primarily from the Caribbean and Latin America that was launched by the Workers' Party of Brazil in 1990 after a call by Lula and Fidel Castro.

It now consists of "123 member parties from 27 countries that gather for an annual meeting, and a Working Group with representatives from 16 countries that meets periodically."

The Working Group issued a Final Declaration on April 24 that we republish here in full due to its importance.

On Monday, April 24, the Belgian city of Liege became the latest city in Europe to join the boycott of Israel. The city council of Liege decided to suspend its relations with the Israeli authorities, accusing them of running a regime of “apartheid, colonization and military occupation.”

The majority of the city council voted for the resolution, which called for the suspension of ties with Israel until its “apartheid regime” puts an “end to the system of violations of the rights of the Palestinian people and fully respects the obligations imposed by international law and various United Nations resolutions.”

Acknowledging the facts of Nakba (mass displacement of Palestinians) and Palestinians’ right to return, the resolution lists all major violations of international laws committed by Israel and calls for implementing a national boycott of all Israeli goods and services produced in the occupied territories.

The resolution was introduced by the Workers Party of Belgium (PTB) and supported by the Socialist Party and the Green Party in the Liege city council. A large number of civil society members kept a vigil outside the council building while the resolution was being voted on.

April 25:

On Tuesday, April 25, communist parties and various other anti-fascist youth-student groups and trade unions organized events to mark the Liberation Day in Italy, commemorating the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the country from fascism and the victory of the resistance against Nazi Germany during World War II.

On Monday and Tuesday, progressive groups marched in various cities to pay tribute to the fallen heroes of the Italian resistance. They also denounced the anti-worker and pro-imperialist policies of the incumbent right-wing government led by Giorgia Meloni.

On Monday evening, working class sections in Turin took out a procession in the city, which was met with force from the police. Anti-fascist sections in Turin protested the police repression. They also countered people trying to march with NATO flags to support Italy’s participation in the war in Ukraine.

On Tuesday, April 25, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez reported that the third round of the peace talks between the Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group would begin in Havana, Cuba, on May 2.

“We will host from May 2, with the traditional willingness and impartiality of Cuba as guarantor and alternative venue, the celebration in Havana of the Third Round of the Peace Negotiating Table between the Colombian government and the ELN,” wrote Rodríguez in a tweet.

For its part, Colombia’s High Commissioner for Peace reiterated the government’s “willingness to move forward in the process” and thanked Cuba for its “invaluable support for peace in Colombia” in a message on Twitter.

In turn, the ELN said that in the upcoming round, the delegations would work to reach agreements on three topics: “participation of civil society, bilateral ceasefire, and humanitarian actions and dynamics.”

On Tuesday, April 25, under the banner of “Another reform is possible, don’t let them steal your future,” workers from various sectors observed a 24-hour national strike in Uruguay against a pension reform promoted by the right-wing government of President Luis Lacalle Pou.

In the capital of Montevideo, thousands of citizens, including members of various trade unions and social organizations, organized a massive demonstration outside the Legislative Palace, as the Chamber of Deputies voted to approve the pension reform bill. With flags, posters, drums, and bugles, the crowd expressed its rejection of the reform, which has been termed “anti-people” and “regressive” by union leaders.

The pension reform bill raises the retirement age from 60 to 65 years, eliminates early retirement benefits under the current social security system, increases benefits for the private Pension Savings Fund Administrators (AFAP), reduces pensions for widows and people with disabilities, and shortens terms for collecting pensions.

April 26:

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has announced the formal recognition of six Indigenous reservations, fulfilling a campaign promise to reverse the policy of his far-right predecessor Jair Bolsonaro.

The reservations on Friday were the first to be effectively recognised by the government since 2016 because one recognition in 2018 was overturned by a court.

April 27:

As fighting continues in Sudan 31 Communist and Workers' parties have signed a joint statement initiated by the Sudanese Communist Party strongly condemning "the continuing bloody war between the military rulers in Sudan, which has resulted in hundreds of innocent civilians killed and thousands wounded."

The World Peace Council has also issued a statement.

We republish both here in full.

An intense three-day strike by educators in Latvia, led by the Latvian Education and Science Workers’ Trade Union (LIZDA), forced the coalition government headed by Krisjanis Karins to increase their wages. LIZDA organized a major protest march in the Latvian capital of Riga on April 24 and went on a three-day strike until April 27.

Subsequently, in a meeting with the union leadership on April 25, government authorities in principle agreed to increase teachers’ pay, with additional funding of EUR 4.168 million (USD 4.59 million). On April 26, an emergency meeting of the cabinet approved the agreement for additional funds for the wage hike.

Even though the teachers resumed work on April 27, LIZDA leadership has stated that they will review the situation in May by considering the status of the allocation of funds to local authorities to raise wages. Based on that assessment, they will decide on whether to continue protests.

Ride-hailing and food-delivery workers from 15 countries rallied at San Francisco International Airport and Uber headquarters Thursday to demand better treatment from gig platforms. The demonstration came on the last day of the gathering of the nascent International Congress of Gig Workers.

“What we say is, if you conquer your labor rights in Argentina, we’ll leave Argentina and go to Paraguay, and go to another country. We must chase them in every corner of the world,” said Emilse, a motorcycle delivery worker who flew in from Argentina and was one of the organizers of the International Congress hosted by SEIU Local 721.

The new international group kicked off a week of organizing on Monday with protests in Los Angeles before coming up to San Francisco on Thursday.

April 28:

In a statement issued on 28th April, the Secretariat of the World Peace Council (WPC) stresses out:

The WPC expresses its strong condemnation to the recent statement of US President Biden in which he openly threatens the DPR of Korea to end its existence. The escalation of threats and sanctions comes along with military drills of the USA with its allies from the region around the Korean Peninsula, with sanctions and coercive, unilateral illegal actions against the sovereignty of the DPRK and its people.

The USA has never given up its strategy to deploy tens of thousands troops in South Korea, a Missile Defense Shield (THAAD) and heavy weaponry which, together with the 7th US Fleet in the Pacific Ocean, constitute the main threat to peace and security in the region. The imperialist plans of the US and its allies with the “Quadrilateral Cooperation” and the “AUKUS” are proof for the offensive plans towards the region.

The World Peace Council defends the right of every country to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and supports the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula along with our firm position for the abolition of all nuclear weapons worldwide.

April 29:

April 30:

The victory of April 30, 1975 not only affirms the sound leadership of the Party in directing the revolutionary war, but also reflects the undaunted spirit of Vietnamese people in fighting foreign invaders. The victory ended the rule of old and new colonialism over a century in the country, opening a new era of peace and independence and moving toward socialism.

May 1:

Dhaka on historic May Day

Several workers’ groups organise rallies and marches in Dhaka to mark International Workers' Day on Monday, May 1, 2023.

Trade unions, as well as communist and leftist political parties, organized rallies across Europe on May Day, highlighting the issue of the cost of living crisis generated by imperialist war and profiteering by multinational companies. The resilience of the working class against repression and anti-worker policies was on display, especially in France and the UK, where governments have launched a full-fledged assault on the working class.

International Workers’ Day celebrations were held in different countries of the West Asia and North Africa region on Monday, May 1, with trade unions and left parties organizing mass demonstrations. Marking the day, workers raised slogans of unity and revolution against capitalist exploitation.

May Day, International Day of Unity, Struggle and Solidarity of the Working Class was celebrated with mass rallies in dozens of cities across Turkey. The economic crisis, poor working conditions and the presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on 14 May dominated the rallies.

As May Day marks the commemoration of historic labor struggles across the world, it also serves as a day for trade unions and organizations to mobilize to address the most pressing socio-economic problems confronting the working class.

For the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), this International Workers’ Day is being marked “against the backdrop of increasing poverty, inequality, and unemployment of the masses” in South Africa.

While the country has officially marked 29 years of freedom under the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC), NUMSA has condemned the government for “entrenching the power of the capitalist elite, instead of dismantling the colonial and apartheid structure of the economy.”

Thousands of Greek workers, mainly from various leftist parties and trade unions, rallied in the capital Athens to mark May Day.

While the main body of the demonstration was made up of the major trade union PAME and the Greek Communist Party (KKE), other leftist parties, including main opposition SYRIZA and former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis’ MeRA25 party and PASOK-KINAL, also took part, along with numerous other associations, rights groups, and unions.

A demonstration in the central Syntagma Square started with Greek poet Vassilis Kolovos reading out Don’t Speak, a poem by late Turkish writer Aziz Nesin.

Speaking at the rally, KKE General Secretary Dimitris Koutsoumpas and PAME senior official George Perros decried the worsening living conditions of the working class amid the cost of living crisis and called for a more united struggle of the workers.

The participation of French trade union representatives was noteworthy. Delivering a speech at the square, French trade unionist Olivier Mato emphasized the need for a pan-European struggle of the working class.

Also on Monday, tram and metro workers as well as maritime workers, including ship crews and port employees, are on a 24-hour strike.

There were also other demonstrations marking May Day in various other cities across Greece, including Patra, Thessaloniki, Larissa, and Heraklion.​​​​​​​

Chants of “When I say union, you say power! Union! Power!” rang out through the city streets as more than 5000 unionists marched from Belmore Park to Hyde Park calling for “justice”, “a better future” and to “show the bosses we mean business” on May 1 for May Day.

The rally was led by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) and the Plumbers and Pipe Trades Employees Union.

Contingents from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, National Tertiary Education Union, Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, United Workers Union and the Independent Teachers Association were prominent, as well as APHEDA Workers for Climate Action and Sydney Anti-AUKUS Coalition.

Cuban Ambassador Tanieris Dieguez told a packed May Day Toast to the Cuban Revolution at the Maritime Union of Australia offices that the day is a “moment of national unity” despite the “many challenges”.

“May 1 is a moment of national unity in Cuba, as we celebrate the many achievements of our revolution — despite the many challenges facing us, largely because of the illegal US blockade lasting more than 60 years.”

Strike action continues across the country for 35,000 members at Canada Revenue Agency May 1 as negotiations resume with a new mandate from CRA to reach a fair contract.

Use our picket line finder to find the strike location nearest to you.

To date, we have successfully resolved some issues related to hours of work and information to be provided to PSAC so that the union can communicate and engage with the membership more easily and effectively. This is progress that we have realized so far because of the strike.

On May Day, custodial and maintenance workers at Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) begin the third week of their historic strike. Their union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 233 is marking the day with an unprecedented call for workers across the province to begin a full “donor boycott” against their employer until a fair contract is settled.

“Because of TMU’s reckless hard line in bargaining, we have to question the university’s fundamental values. Clearly, they are behaving in a way that is anti-worker and anti-equality, and the people and organizations tying themselves to this institution as donors need to take a hard look in the mirror. How is TMU’s terrible treatment of workers reflecting on them and their brands?” asked CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn. “We are calling on all donors, alumni, and other sponsors of TMU and its programs to suspend all current or future financial support until such time as this strike is resolved.”

CUPE is making a direct appeal to all current and prospective donors to the University to suspend their financial support.

May 2:

Thousands of film and television writers will go on strike after negotiations for better working conditions with main studios and streamers failed to find an agreement.

The strike will start on Tuesday, Writers Guild of America (WGA), a writers union, said late on Monday, adding that the decision took place after six weeks of negotiations with Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Disney, among others.

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