Iraq: Iraqi communists marked May Day for the first time in many decades, marching in central Baghdad under giant banners calling for security, democracy and peace in their country. The demonstration, which started in historic Fardus Square, drew many hundreds of men, women and children who wore red scarves bearing the hammer and sickle emblem and proudly waved red flags.

In its May Day statement Iraq’s Workers Democratic Trade Union Movement expressed confidence that democracy will triumph in Iraq. It stressed, however, that “while foreign forces still occupy our beloved country, it is difficult to build democracy.” The Union called on the occupying forces to “transfer power to the people of Iraq and allow them to set up an interim, broadly-based patriotic and democratic coalition government” leading to “free and fair elections under the direct control of the UN.”

Cuba: One million people massed in Havana’s Jose Marti Revolution Square heard President Fidel Castro say, “We do not want Cuban or U.S. blood to be shed in a war, we do not want an incalculable number of lives of persons who could be friends lost in any battle. But,” he continued, “never did a people have such sacred things to defend, or such profound convictions for which to fight.”

Speaking to a crowd, which also heard from trade union leaders, students and academics from Uruguay, Germany, Spain, the U.S., Mexico and other countries, the Cuban president stated his profound conviction that ideas can do more than weapons, however sophisticated and powerful. “Let us say it like Che when he bade us farewell: ‘Ever onwards to victory!’” he declared to tumultuous applause.

Rev. Lucius Walker of the U.S. organization Pastors for Peace called recent Bush administration actions toward Cuba the worst provocation in history by a U.S. administration. “But I come to state that you are loved, you are respected, you are appreciated and you are supported” by the millions of U.S. citizens opposed to the Bush administration’s hostility, provocation and violation of diplomatic norms, he said.

Israel: Many thousands of Arab and Jewish marchers joined together for impressive May Day demonstrations. In Nazareth, the northern city with the largest Arab Palestinian population in Israel, thousands participated in the demonstration called by the communist-led Hadash Front. In Tel Aviv, the Socialist Trade Union youth organization, the Communist Party and Youth League and several left movements brought demonstrators together for a march through the city’s main streets.

Greece: The All-Workers Militant Front (PAME) organized demonstrations with participation of hundreds of trade unions, youth and student associations and peasant organizations in some 60 communities including Athens, Thessaloniki, Pireaus and Patra.

In Athens tens of thousands gathered at Pedion of Areos Square and marched to a big demonstration in front of the U.S. embassy, to protest the government’s plans to slash social welfare and insurance systems, and to declare their solidarity with socialist Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Palestinian and Iraqi people.

The delegation of the Communist Party of Greece was headed by General Secretary Aleka Paparigha. Also participating was Honorary Chairman Harilaos Florakis.

Brazil: Some 1.2 million workers took to the streets of Sao Paolo to celebrate the election of former metal workers and union leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as president of Brazil.

“On May 1, 1980, I could not participate because I was in prison,” Lula said from the pulpit of a church outside Sao Paulo near the industrial area where he had worked. “For the next 23 years, I came with others to this mass,” he said.

Japan: Hundreds of thousands of union workers rallied to call for more jobs in face of severe unemployment, and to protest the Japanese government’s move to review the constitutional ban on war. Rallies were organized at nearly 400 locations throughout Japan by the three national labor federations, Zenroren, Rengo and the National Trade Council (Zenrokyo). Zenroren demonstrators brought together some 334,000 people at rallies around the country. In addition to economic issues, its demonstrations took aim at the government’s war contingency bills and a measure to revise the Labor Standards Law – now before the national legislature.

Compiled by Marilyn Bechtel, who can be reached at

Hans Lebrecht contributed to this article.