Approfondimenti politiciCobasIn EvidenzaINTERNATIONAL

[INTERNATIONALISM] May Day 2024 in the world

Millions of workers in the streets

for higher wages

and against genocide in Gaza

Let’s be frank, as is our custom: May Day 2024 will not go down in history. After all, we are, internationally, in a transition phase that is not short and terribly bumpy, from the sinking of the old workers’ movement, heir to Stalinism and social democracy, linked to an era of the overall forceful development of capitalism and subordinated to it, to the rebirth of a new revolutionary proletarian movement in the midst of a crisis of the international capitalist order, of devastating inter-capitalist, economic and military conflicts, and of an aggression of global capital against the working and living conditions of the exploited and oppressed masses, which is generalised, albeit of highly differentiated intensity. At present, we can only see small embryos being formed and linked together of a new proletarian movement.

However, on this May Day as well, many millions of workers took to the streets all over the world, united, albeit in very different contexts, by the desire to defend their livelihoods, starting with the demand for an increase in wages, slashed everywhere by the double- and triple-digit inflation of recent years, and putting back on the agenda the reduction of working hours for equal pay, the historic demand that started the international day of struggle for the 8-hour day back on May 1st, 1890.

And in almost all the marches and rallies on May Day 2024, the most combative and conscious workers, but also many students, shouted – this was the most significant political aspect – their support for the Palestinian people, and often for the Palestinian resistance, against the ongoing genocide in Gaza, for a Palestine free from Zionist and Western colonial oppression. The Palestinian cause has thus been taken up as a universal cause of struggle not only against the Israeli extermination machine, but also against the entire machine of global capitalist domination that still has its (increasingly shaky) backbone in the USA and the Western bloc.

Wherever there are organisations with a clear anti-capitalist and internationalist orientation – such as those that signed the international appeals proposed by TIR and SI Cobas ‘Workers of the world against wars, war preparations and the war economy’ (see here)- people have gone further, and demonstrated not only for Palestine, but against all the wars of capital, from Ukraine to the African wars, against the participation of their governments in them, against rearmament plans everywhere, and  – crucially for the present and the future – with no illusions towards the anti-Western camp of the ascendant capitalist powers, not less structurally anti-proletarian. Thus, from Japan to India and Nepal, from Turkey to Greece, from Germany and Portugal to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, with significant initiatives also in the United States, France, the Congo, Serbia, Croatia, Russia and Azerbaijan, proletarians and youth took to the streets (or – where it was impossible to do so – in virtual squares and illegally) with the same watchwords within the same revolutionary perspective. These are only the first steps on a path of reorganisation of a new proletarian movement composed of wage-earners of all races and nationalities, and capable of catalysing around itself all forms of rebellion against the capitalist monster with a liberatory content to channel them towards social revolution. A path that must be urgently undertaken and pursued if we are to prevent tens and hundreds of millions of proletarians, today the object of increasingly unbridled exploitation, from being thrown tomorrow as cannon fodder on the battlefields for the interests of their exploiters. Ukraine teaches!

Even with the above limitations, the images of the May Day parades around the world, in the variety of their colours and languages, return to us an increasingly vast international proletariat, whose centre of gravity has long since shifted to the “South of the World” – first of all to Asia, but also to Latin America and increasingly to Africa – where we see masses of young and combative workers, protagonists of most of the struggles of this decade and the future. Struggles that, we are certain, will inspire and at the same time urge a more decisive resurgence in the class movement in the western metropolises as well, as has already become visible for years, first and foremost in the United States.

In what follows we provide a partial account of May Day 2024 around the world (for Italy see here and here).

Turkey: Erdogan denies Taksim Street to workers in Istanbul

Turkey is one of the countries where the May Day tradition is most deeply felt by the mass of workers. May Day 1976, when hundreds of thousands of workers gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, marked the revival of the labour movement after the military coup of 1971. The following year, another oceanic demonstration was suppressed with army intervention as snipers fired into the crowd. Years of fascist attacks on the leaders of the labour movement followed, paving the way for the 1980 military coup that threw tens of thousands of trade union and political activists in jail. May Day has been a thermometer of the state of the labour and anti-capitalist movement ever since. The Erdogan government, which forms a bloc with Islamist forces and fascist organisations, has been preventing workers’ processions from reaching the historic Taksim Square for years. Once again this year it deployed a wall of thousands of policemen who, with tear gas, water cannons and batons, blocked the procession of tens of thousands of people trying to move from Saraçhane Park towards Taksim, arresting more than 200 people. The comrades of UID-DER denounce the cowardice of the leaders of the major trade unions and of the Kemalist republican party CHP who, after stating their determination to reach Taksim, in the face of the policemen thought it best to flee.


In Ankara and several other cities in Turkey, Izmir, Batman (in Kurdistan), Edirne, Antalya, Kayseri there were well-attended May Day marches, in which the wage issue was raised, given the very strong erosion of wages in the face of a 70% inflation. We quote from UID-DER the demands made in the Ankara demonstration:

DİSK’s regional representative for Central Anatolia, Birgül Kaya, drew attention to the tax robbery, the fact that workers are condemned to a minimum wage that is below the hunger line, the fact that the needs of pensioners are ignored, the fact that severance payments are coveted, and the housing problem.

Kaya made the following demands:

  • All wages, especially the minimum wage, must be increased and the lowest pension must be raised to at least the minimum wage.
  • Put an end to all forms of precarious work and secure employment for all.
  • Increases in electricity, water, gas and internet bills must be cancelled, and bills must be exempt from all taxes.
  • All obstacles to freedom of association, which is a constitutional right, must be removed.
  • Privatisation of public goods and services must be abandoned: in particular, education, transport and health must be provided free of charge by the state.
  • The ways and means for claiming rights, such as joining a trade union or going on strike, must be free.
  • Violence, harassment and rape against women must end, and gender inequality must be eliminated.
  • Measures must be taken urgently to protect against child labour and to eliminate child abuse.
  • The Istanbul Convention and ILO Convention No. 190 against violence and harassment in the workplace must be implemented immediately.
  • We strongly condemn the attacks against civilians in Gaza! We stand by the Palestinian people who resist!

In France more than 200,000 workers took to the streets all over the country according to the trade unions (121,000 according to the police); in Paris the police give 18,000 participants, against the 50,000 declared by the trade unions. Here part of the demonstration was for Palestine, and there were clashes with the police, who made 45 arrests.

In Berlin where there was a march of about 12,000 demonstrators, the police harshly attacked the pro-Palestine demonstrators, with numerous arrests. The police also attacked a procession for a ‘Revolutionary May Day’ in Stuttgart, with 167 arrests, while in the official trade union demonstration, the DGB leaders were abandoned in the Market Square by the mass of IG Metall and Ver.Di members, who continued their demonstration. Other demonstrations took place in major cities, including in Hamburg, with about 15,000 participants in four different marches.

In Japan, the media reported 10,000 demonstrators in Tokyo. Here too, for the first time in decades, inflation forced the issue of wages. The comrades of the Doro Chiba railwaymen’s union, who on 28 April had taken part in a demonstration together with the students of Zengakuren against Japan’s rearmament and the Japan-US military axis against China, and in support of Palestine, demonstrated again on May Day for Palestine and against the revision of the Constitution and the Kishida government’s rearmament plans, chanting the following slogans

“Immediate stop to the massacre in Gaza! Stop the war in Ukraine immediately! Prevent the war of aggression against China! Down with the Kishida administration!” “Stop the repression of the anti-war struggle, stop the repression of trade unions!”.

Members of several striking trade unions spoke at the May Day Assembly: “The hospital workers recounted their struggle against the management claiming ‘labour productivity’ also in the field of medical and nursing care and denounced the Israeli bombing of Gaza hospitals. […] At the same time, all May Day participants expressed their heartfelt solidarity with the brave US students occupying campuses for the liberation of Palestine, their fists raised against the rainy sky.”

A large and combative demonstration was held in Seoul (South Korea) organised by the KCTU union against the anti-worker policies of the Yoon Suk Yeol government.


Workers’ demonstration also in Taipei (Taiwan), in defence of wages and against a law restricting workers’ rights. No news from China (except on the tourism aspects of May Day). Evidently the government of Xi Jinping, an expression of the ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ (did you say socialism??), does not tolerate independent workers’ demonstrations – in Hong Kong demonstrations were officially forbidden.

In Manila, Philippines, the police intervened to prevent the march from approaching the presidential palace. Here too, workers were protesting against the failure to adjust wages to inflation.


In Jakarta, Indonesia, some 50,000 workers marched in one of the largest demonstrations in recent years to demand the repeal of the ‘omnibus law’ ‘for job creation’ that abolishes many workers’ achievements and rights.


In India, where strong economic growth also means accelerated growth of the working class, demonstrations were held in major cities, organised by trade unions linked to left-wing parties.

May Day in Puducherry (Tamil Nadu, India)

Thousands of workers also demonstrated in Bangladesh (garment women workers) and Pakistan (Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Quetta, Peshawar) demanding wage increases, and better conditions and rights in the workplace. In the photos available to us there is always a front row protagonism of women workers – we point this out to those who continue to nurture a colonial and sexist attitude towards the Asian proletariat at the same time.

May Day in Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Lahore (Pakistan) garment workers.

Also in Sri Lanka tens of thousands of workers demonstrated against the worsening of their conditions following the deepening economic crisis.

Turning to the Middle East, in Lebanon and Iraq (both of which have been hit by devastating economic crises for years, especially Lebanon) demonstrations were held in defence of wages and jobs, and of course for Palestine. In Iran, the best organised workers celebrated May Day clandestinely, to escape repression. Some of these small rallies included a protest against the death sentence to the brave rapper Toomaj Salehi.

In Africa, May Day also saw numerous demonstrations. In Nigeria, the main demand of the demonstrators was the adjustment of the minimum wage to the price increase (up 33% in 12 months). A demonstration was also held in Dakar, Senegal, characterised by expectations from the new government – which we are afraid will be disappointed.


In South Africa the May Day demonstrations had a strong characterisation in support of the Palestinian people. On Sunday President Cyril Ramaphosa, a former trade union leader turned big capitalist, was forced to interrupt his bombastic May Day speech by the protest of striking miners. When you say the wonderful world of the BRICS….

Rallies have been held in most of the countries of the African continent, where alongside a still minority but expanding ‘regular’ working class a vast informal proletariat is growing and crowding into the mega-cities where it offers its labour power for any activity and fields of odd jobs. This young proletariat will make its voice heard ever louder, in the factories and in the streets of the Dark Continent, against the multinationals and the subordinate, but no less greedy local bosses, and against the governments that represent them.

Particularly significant was May Day in Argentina, where opposition to Milei’s anti-worker policies filled the streets. Thousands of workers, including those from the combative rubber union SUTNA, followed the columns of the Partido Obrero and Polo Obrero, among the promoters of an anti-capitalist appeal signed with us, and gave the demonstration an anti-capitalist and internationalist character, in support of the Palestinian resistance and against both camps at war in Ukraine. However, there was no shortage of ambiguity in the movement on the streets, with the largest trade union, the Peronist CGT, taking to the streets while negotiating with the ultra-reactionary government ‘concessions’ towards the new anti-worker laws in exchange for the non-abolition of compulsory payment of union dues by workers. Here too the trade unions confirm their growing integration into the state and their increasing distancing from an effective defence of the working and living conditions of workers and wage earners.

In Chile, where the hopes raised by the election to the presidency of Gabriel Boric, who declared he would interpret the demands of the workers’ and popular uprising of 2019-2020, were soon dashed due to his policy of compromise with the same capitalist interests that had inspired the right-wing, the demonstration organised by the ‘classist’ trade union UTC, with around 1,500 people, was attacked and dispersed by carabineros with tear gas and water cannons, while Boric spoke at the rally of the pro-government trade union CUT.

In Brazil, according to the information given by Esquerda Diario, the May Day demonstrations in many cities (Campinas, Belo Orizonte, Brasilia) saw the convergence of an opposition union like Conlutas, with pro-government unions and parties (CUT, CTB and even the yellow union UGT and PDT), under the direction of the Trotskyist organisation PSTU. An indicator that Lula’s electoral victory against Bolsonaro was matched by an ebb and accommodation of the class opposition.

In Venezuela, the police repressed every attempt of the various opposition movements, concentrated in Plaza Venezuela, to march out into the city, against the Maduro government’s policy of maintaining the minimum wage at $4 per month, plus $30 in bonuses with no impact on social benefits, holidays, contributions – such starvation wages have forced millions of workers to emigrate with their families. Here too we verify the fact that a government aligned against the US, in the camp of Russia, China (and Iran) is no less anti-worker than pro-gringos governments. And we are talking of the very founding country of ’21st century socialism’…

Concluding this rapid and certainly incomplete review of May Day in the world, we see this year again this tradition of the international workers’ movement involving growing masses of workers especially in the more recently industrialised countries, in Asia, Africa and Latin America, in contrast to the generally much more limited and institutionalised demonstrations in western countries, where the integration of trade unions into the state apparatuses and capitalist logics has certainly reached its highest historical level. The growth in the weight that the proletariat of the ‘coloured’ continents has on the occasion of May Day, compared to the western countries, reflects the numerical growth of the world proletariat. According to the ILO, wage workers increased from 1.187 billion in 2000 to 1.779 billion in 2022 (+50%), from 46% to 52.3% of all employed persons. A figure that indicates the decreasing but still significant weight of the self-employed, especially peasants, in the world’s countryside – although there has certainly been no lack of great struggles of the poor peasants, especially in Asia (again, in India in particular). In spite of this impressive numerical growth, however, the vast majority of employees are not organised in trade unions (the rate of unionisation varies from less than 1 in 20 in several Latin American countries, to a maximum of 50% in the case of Belgium), and in a large number of situations they live individually their relationship of exploitation under the boss: this is why struggles, and above all political movements of protest, have and will have a fundamental political importance, so that this enormous mass can organise itself and feel and be a class for itself.

The geographical expansion of the May Day demonstrations, and the likely increase also in the number of workers taking part – although they remain a small minority compared to their total numbers to date – does not in itself constitute an increase in the anti-capitalist and internationalist awareness of the proletariat in the world. As we have also seen in these short notes, in the vast majority of countries the demonstrations put forward economic demands, mainly aimed at the recovery of wage levels eroded by inflation, they express opposition to government measures attacking acquired rights and the freedom to organise and strike, and much more rarely make the demand for a reduction in working hours, which was at the origin of May Day 134 years ago – and even when they do, we are not yet at the re-emergence of the goal of the ‘emancipation of labour’, the end of its submission to capital, the abolition of capitalist exploitation. To date, in the majority of cases, claims in defence of wages and acquired rights remain within this relationship of subordination, they do not pose the question of the economic, social and political power of capital.

The most politically significant aspect of this May Day in the world was expressed, at the mass level, by the protest against the genocide in Gaza and the strong support for the struggle of the Palestinian people, in most cases against the support to Israel by their respective governments. Certainly, a step forward politically and in terms of internationalism, even if the outrage against the massacre and oppression in Palestine has rarely extended to the other no less bloody wars of capital going on in Ukraine, Sudan, Congo and elsewhere. It was only where anti-capitalist and internationalist political organisations were present in the May Day demonstrations that a clear and firm opposition was expressed against all the wars of capital, the ongoing arms race and the war economy, and with it the need to form an international and internationalist organised ‘proletarian camp’ against the imperialist blocs, starting with the fight against the ‘enemy at home’, against all the governments of the bosses. It is in this direction that, as we said in the opening lines of this report, we worked as TIR, in collaboration with the SI Cobas, so that on May Day more or less large groups of workers would take to the streets all over the world with the same watchwords. After 24 February, May Day marked a step in this direction, with the presence of internationalist positions in some twenty countries, although we are aware that we are only at the beginning, as only small minorities of workers have joined these positions. We consider it a positive fact that several organisations with a presence in the real movement have begun to collaborate at the international level, and this encourages us to multiply our efforts to root anti-capitalist and internationalist positions in Italy and internationally.