(The liberation of humanity will be total or it will not be)

The above is a slogan seen and chanted throughout Paris in May of 1968.  Yesterday, May Day, working people around the world took part in demonstrations to demand- among other things- better pay, benefits, working conditions, labor policies.  More to the point, May 1st of each year marks International Workers Day, in which working people the world over come out to demand a better life for themselves and to remind the capitalist bosses that we have the power, not them.  This sentiment is carried in many of the hopeful and idealistic slogans seen on the walls of Paris 40 years ago: La barricade ferme la rue mais ouvre la voie (The barricade blocks the street but opens the way), Un homme n’est pas stupide ou intelligent, il est libre ou il n’est pas (A man is not stupid or intelligent, he is free or he is not), Un seul week-end non révolutionnaire est infiniment plus sanglant qu’un mois de révolution permanente (A single nonrevolutionary weekend is infinitely more bloody than a month of permanent revolution), Nous ne voulons pas d’un monde où la certitude de ne pas mourir de faim s’échange contre le risque de mourir d’ennui (We want nothing of a world in which the certainty of not dying from hunger comes in exchange for the risk of dying from boredom), and perhaps the most famous: Soyez réalistes, demandez l’impossible (Be realistic, demand the impossible).

A mere smattering of what went on around the world during May Day 2008:

-After taking to the streets last week for more frivolous reasons when the Canadians beat the Bruins in their first round hockey playoff series, around 300 people in an anti-capitalist march clashed violently with police in Montreal early in the morning.

-In what many are describing as a chilling scene in Hamburg, Germany, a 700-person neo-nazi parade turned violent as anarchists and other leftists arrived to disrupt and drive out the nazi’s; most of the clashes were between the anarchists and the State police, who were defending the nazi’s alleged “right to assemble”.

-In Istanbul, Turkey, demonstrations quickly turned violent in the only country in Europe that does not recognize May Day as an official holiday.  May Day demonstrations there are banned entirely, which did not stop thousands from taking to the streets to protest.

Some of the 30,000 riot cops brought into Istanbul

Some of the 30,000 cops brought into Istanbul

-Hundreds of thousands of worker’s took to the streets across Indonesia, mostly in protest of proposed reforms to national labor laws.

-In Peru, over 1,000 women rallied outside the Congress to demand relief from rising food costs and scarcity.  This was accompanied by hundreds of thousands in the streets every nearly every major city throughout Latin America.

-In the U.S., May Day rallies over the past couple of years have often taken the shape of immigrants rights rallies.  In Seattle, WA thousands took to the streets demanding immigration reforms as well as an end to the war in Iraq.  The anti-war messaging came into the fold as hundreds of local dockworkers held a one day strike against the war.  In nearby Olympia, a few window were smashed and anti-capitalist graffiti left in the wake of protests there.  In fact, from Los Angeles to Boston to Washington to Chicago to Tucson to Miami immigrant rights rallies across the U.S. were the order of the day; overall participation has been estimated to be well bellow what it has been in the past, but still hundreds of thousands of people have taken part.