Socialist Worker

We showed there is an alternative

Issue No. 1746

What we think

Despite the efforts of 6,000 police

We showed there is an alternative

THE POLICE deliberately set out to cause violence and criminalise protesters on Tuesday's May day demonstrations. Some of the press focused on the smashing of shop windows. But nonetheless thousands of demonstrators succeeded in getting across the message that we live in a global system that breeds poverty and injustice, that capitalism both screws the poor in the third world and ordinary people in the first world.

The media was forced to put a debate about capitalism-how it works and whether there is an alternative to it-at the centre of national news. That shows it is right to protest. The police had colluded with newspaper bosses to attack all those who are sick of the rotten system we live in.

Sir John Stevens, chief of the Metropolitan Police, "dined with a succession of newspaper executives" two months ago, according to the Observer, where they planned their hysterical campaign against this year's May Day protests. The millionaire-owned press dutifully printed the stories, spiced with their own lies.

The police and the press wanted to create a climate of fear. They wanted to prevent any serious protest against big business.

Instead thousands not only stood up against the intimidation and the hysteria, they showed thousands more across the country that there is an alternative to capitalism.

Ordinary people can unite together to fight for a better world-one that is based on need, not capitalism's mad chase for profit, a world built on cooperation, not competition and private greed.


All our rights won through struggle

TONY BLAIR rushed to condemn the demonstrators, calling their protests a "spurious cause". Lord Toby Harris, the New Labour lickspittle who chairs the London police authority, even said the police would be justified in using rubber bullets against protesters on May Day.

London mayor Ken Livingstone backed the police. So too did his adviser Lee Jasper. Jasper, a longtime critic of the police, called for the summary arrest of protesters. These politicians echoed the police line that May Day fell outside the "legitimate right to protest".

But the establishment and their supporters have attacked EVERY protest movement as "illegitimate"-from the suffragettes to pickets during the miners' strike and the revolt against the poll tax. Time and again the state has resorted to institutionalised violence to defend the system.

But time and again ordinary people have refused to be cowed. The few rights we have today are precisely because previous generations of trade unionists and activists have refused to be intimidated, and have fought for those rights. And the power of ordinary people can go further-it can build a better society and future for us all.


May Day history

MAY DAY is a day when workers all over the world have traditionally celebrated their struggle and international solidarity. They have been repeatedly attacked by the police and the media.

  • 1886: May Day began in the United States when hundreds of thousands of workers struck and demonstrated as part of their struggle for an eight-hour working day.

In Haymarket in Chicago police savagely repressed demonstrators. They framed and hanged four leaders of the workers' movement for a bomb explosion. The heroism of the "Haymarket Martyrs" would be remembered around the world on May Day.

  • 1916: During the First World War 55,000 metal workers marched on 1 May in Berlin to free leading socialist Karl Liebknecht, shouting, "Down with the government, down with the war."
  • 1943: People suffering horrific Nazi repression in the Warsaw Ghetto rose up and celebrated May Day during their rising, singing the socialist song the "Internationale".
  • 1973: Over two million workers in Britain struck against Tory Edward Heath's attack on the trade unions. Thousands took part in marches around Britain.
  • 1974: Half a million workers in Portugal celebrated the overthrow of a 50-year dictatorship in a May Day march in Lisbon.
  • 1976: Tens of thousands of workers in Spain took to the streets to celebrate the impending death of fascist dictator Franco.
  • 1977: Over 500,000 marched in Istanbul, Turkey, defying police repression. Police opened fire, killing 37 demonstrators.
  • 1979: Workers across Iran celebrated their revolution against the Shah's repressive regime on May Day marches.
  • 1982: Tens of thousands marched in support of Solidarity in Poland, despite the movement's repression in 1981.
  • 2000: Marches across the world included 100,000 in Vienna in Austria, tens of thousands in Turkey, hundreds of thousands in Japan, and 10,000 in Ecuador.

Scare story

THE 100,000 marchers in London in October 1968 against the barbarism of the Vietnam War were also targets of scare stories about "violent demonstrators". Times correspondent Brian Cashinella warned of a plot to seize the bastions of state power by a handful of anarchists.

The day before the march the People newspaper rang a leading manufacturer to ask if there had been exceptionally high sales of oven foam cleaner. They wanted an antidote against this supposed "weapon".

The Sunday Express bleated, "This is not primarily an anti Vietnam War demonstration. It is a cold and deliberate exercise in violence by evil men using the young and gullible for their own ends."


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News
Sat 5 May 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1746
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