Saturday 3 May 2014

May Day celebrates solidarity across borders as polticians, trades unionists and citizens take to the streets

The banners and flags of dozens of trades unions and community groups made a colourful display as hundreds of marchers snaked down Union Street in Aberdeen to celebrate International Workers Day, and to call for solidarity across borders.

Shoppers again stopped to watch and applaud, as the Guarana Drummers led the march from the West End to a rally at the Castlegate.

Organised by the ATUC, the march was joined by Dame Anne Begg, MP and Frank Doran, MP, and MSPs Lewis Macdonald and Richard Baker, as well as a number of Labour Councillors from Aberdeen City's administration.

At the Castlegate, speakers spoke passionately against the austerity measures of this UK Government which have hit ordinary people the hardest with cuts to welfare and poverty pay whilst the richest increase their wealth by £190 billion.

Click here to see more photos on Picasa
Click here to see more photos on Picasa (Aberdeenshire UNISON pics)

The Rally was chaired by ATUC President Alan Robertson. He thanked that marchers for turning out in such numbers, and called for a minute's silence in memory of Anne McGuire, the teacher in Leeds stabbed by a pupil, and for the Head Teacher in Aberdeen who lost her life last week in a car accident.

Ian Tasker
Bringing greetings from the STUC Ian Tasker thanked the ATUC for supporting their wider work. He slammed austerity which "has not just failed in the UK, it has failed across Europe.

"The reality is that despite what Government economists tell us, working class people continue to pay the price for the spivs and speculators."

He promised that the STUC will continue to ask questions of both campaigns on how they will deliver social justice after September 18th.

"We will work with our local TUCs and affiliated unions to oppose austerity and cuts to welfare and promote the Living Wage as a means of addressing poverty and financial hardship.

"We will campaign for better employment protection and rights at work ... and we will fight for a fair tax and benefits system that supports workers on low and average incomes and punishes tax evaders and avoiders."

Anne Begg
Echoing Ian, Dame Anne Begg also slammed the policies of the UK coalition government, which has impacted most on the most vulnerable.

"What unites us should not be about geography," said Anne, "It should be about the common struggles that we all face."

Barney Crockett
Councillor Barney Crockett, Leader of Aberdeen City Council reminded us that Aberdeen has always shown solidarity with other people facing persecution.

"Aberdeen presbytery was to the fore in the fight against slavery," he said, and members of the ATUC fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War and other conflicts.

"We need to keep our international links strong," said Barney.

Sean McVey
The shadow of the forthcoming referendum was never very far away, as Sean McVey of the Radical Independence Campaign called for a fairer and more just Scotland through independence.

"Let's celebrate International Workers Day and solidarity across borders whether it be with working class people in England Ireland or Wales or those in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan. ... Our influence knows no borders, it knows no limitations. It is delivered not with guns and bombs and planes...but through solidarity, cooperation, mutual respect and in pursuit of the collective good," he said, calling for a yes vote in the referendum for a "chance to create a better society."

Richard Baker
In an impassioned response, Richard Baker, MSP told those gathered that we should "fight for socialism and against nationalism."

"It is about bringing people together, not tearing them apart," said Richard. He shared the socialist ideals and would continue to fight for them for all those living in the UK and beyond. "We are better together," he said, and called for "a race to the top for our people."

Fiona Napier
Fiona Napier, of the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, issued a call to action to the rally, as she described the appalling conditions imposed on Palestinian workers in the occupied West Bank, those facing discrimination in Israel itself, "or, harshest of all, those enduring the barbaric, inhumane blockade of Gaza."

"We should be fighting tooth and nail to preserve our worker rights and claw back those we've lost - but we should also be fighting for the millions of workers around the world unable to fight these same battles."

She called on all those gathered to oppose the Wood Group's involvement in Israel, where they profit "from the dispossession and oppression of Palestinians," by signing the petition calling on the Wood Group to end their involvement and joining the SPSC demonstration at the Wood Group AGM on May 14th.

Tommy Campbell
The Rally was brought to a moving close by Tommy Campbell of UNITE, who recited the poem, Invictus, by William Ernest Healey, written in 1875.

"Nelson Mandela, Madiba, was inspired by this poem, and had it written on a scrap of paper in his prison cell where he was incarcerated for 27 years on Robben Island," said Tommy.


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be,
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.