May Day: 70,000 turn out in Istanbul

Some 70,000 people gathered in Istanbul May 1 to protest the privatization process, the threat of a U.S. attack against Iraq and the Sharon government’s attacks against the Palestinian people. The demonstration, organized by the trade unions, drew participation of many political parties and organizations, including the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), the Labor Party (EMEP) and others.

In the period leading up to May Day, police took draconian measures to try to stop the protest. Some 320 TKP members were jailed during the preparations, and, before the demonstration itself, police and gendarmes held back buses of demonstrators for many hours.

… And Russian protesters emphasize workers’ rights
Thousands marked May Day in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad), under the theme, “Jobs, Wages, Social Guarantees.” For the first time in a decade, trade unions and Communists worked together to organize the event.

Speakers protested against poverty, abuse of rights, land sales and rising municipal electricity and heating fees. They demanded abolition of the flat tax and passage of a Labor Code in the workers’ interests.

Demonstrators marched on the streets of every settlement in the Central Russian Tula Region. Most marched under the slogans of the Communist Party and the trade unions. Demands included workers’ rights and an end to mass poverty.

In Moscow, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in two rallies – one sponsored by the trade unions with participation of the United Russia party, and the other by the Communist Party.

… And rally across Australia
Trade unionists and their supporters gathered May 1 in cities across Australia to protest the government’s across-the-board privatization drive and anti-union measures, including its inquiry into the building trades. Other issues included the brutal treatment of refugees in the country’s detention centers, the desperate struggle of workers aboard the CSL Yarra to keep their jobs and the outrages suffered by the Palestinian people.

Marches and rallies were held in Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Wollongong, Melbourne and other cities.

Iceland town councils declare N-free zones
Iceland’s pacifist organization Campaign against Military Bases announced last week that after an 18-month campaign, more than 60 out of 105 towns and councils in Iceland have declared nuclear-free zones. Among these are four of the largest cities – the capital, Reykjavik, and the cities of Kopavogur, Hafnarfjordur and Akureyri.

The Campaign said some 83 percent of the population now lives in nuclear-weapon-free zones. “Our hope is that this will increase pressure on the Icelandic government to demand certification from foreign governments that their ships entering Icelandic harbors do not carry such mass destruction weapons,” said Campaign spokesperson Stefan Palsson.

The campaign continues; organizers say they hope the elections this month will play a positive role in efforts to win nuclear-free zones affecting 90 percent and more of the population.

Argentina’s people fight crisis with assemblies
As economic crisis deepens in Argentina, residents of the capital city of Buenos Aires are fighting back with neighborhood assemblies whose main focus is unemployment, widespread hunger and inability of families to buy food, and the crisis faced by public hospitals. These associations successfully pressured the Edesur power company to consider a 180-day suspension of power cutoffs for slow payment of bills, and are demanding discount electricity rates for the jobless.

Assemblies have organized community purchases of food at reduced prices and volunteer brigades to reconnect homes when electricity, gas or water are cut off for non-payment. Other projects include community vegetable gardens and a neighborhood bank where people can put their savings to keep them out of the financial system.

However, activists in the assemblies have become targets of sharp criticism from the government and violence by the traditional parties. Undaunted, many assembly members see the new formations eventually taking on tasks the government cannot carry out effectively, and becoming forums that take up “the issues of democracy.”