May 30, 2012

Sinn Féin warns Irish against EU treaty 'yes' vote

The Irish face a referendum this week on the new EU fiscal treaty. Yet another EU referendum in an Ireland now under-the-gun of austerity.

The signs are that the voters will give the edge to the German-centric austerity juggernaut, in part because the political elite has been scaring people into backing the treaty. It appears to be working. In the eyes of many the downside of voting for the EU treaty is offset by fears of what might happen if they don't. It has to do with money of course - hopes that more funds will come available in the future in addition to hopes of off-setting the costs of bailing out the banks to the tune of billions - a move that increased the burden on the taxpayer.

The Irish taxpayer has had to watch as the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (formerly Anglo Irish Bank) paid out 1.25 billion euros to unsecured creditors. All of this while the government cried poverty when it came to funding basic social services in Ireland.

The present Irish government rose to power with promises that it would impose losses on bondholders in Irish banks but caved to pressure from the European Central Bank. Deputy leader of Sinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald, expressed the disgust felt by many when she described the pay-out as "irrational and indefensible." She added “We take the view that those who take a gamble take a loss when their investments go south.”

Sinn Féin's strong opposition to the current EU fiscal treaty has seen the party get a boost in the polls. Sinn Féin is currently polling at 24% with leader Gerry Adams showing an 8-point increase in his rating - making him the most popular leader in Ireland.

 Gerry Adams getting out the word in Dublin

Writing in, Adams issued a timely note of warning that the Irish voter would do well to take under notice:
The Treaty... seeks to give significant new powers over to the European Commission and European Court of Justice to police and enforce these failed austerity policies. If passed it will further undermine our economic sovereignty.

The European Commission will get new powers to impose detailed budgetary and fiscal prescriptions on member states deemed to be in breach of the rules. This will mean they will be able to do in the future and in perpetuity exactly what the Troika is doing today.

The Treaty also gives the European Court of Justice the power to impose fines of up to €160 million on member states deemed to be in breach of its rules.

Knowing that they would have a difficulty selling this Treaty on its own merits, the Yes campaign has been dominated by negative messages. Fine Gael and Labour are trying to bully and scare people into supporting a bad Treaty.

Neo-liberal financial policies that have taken Europe to the brink aren't working. Austerity measures have negatively impacted wage-earners, pensioners and the unemployed while sparing the wealthy, banks and corporations. Even though the winds of change are blowing in Europe, changing the current order will be no easy task, especially when fears for the future drive people to vote against their own best long-term democratic interests.

Gerry Adams gives his views on Sinn Féin TV:

May 27, 2012

Marine pollution program cut by feds

News of the axing of a vital marine pollution program is just one more indicator of how Harper's Conservative government is failing Canadians on the environment front.

The Times Colonist reported on the story:

The entire DFO contaminants program nationally and regionally — including two research scientists, a chemist and four technicians at the Institute for Ocean Sciences in North Saanich — is being shut down effective April 1, 2013.

Across Canada, the government is slashing up to 75 jobs in the national contaminants program — that involves any one who works mostly in marine pollution. For about a decade Fisheries and Oceans has been trying to offload the program to Environment Canada. Instead, this week, it axed it.

Environmental toxicologist, Peter Ross, one of those impacted by the decision said “I cannot think of another industrialized nation that has completely excised marine pollution from its radar... It is with apprehension that I ponder a Canada without any research or monitoring capacity for pollution in our three oceans, or any ability to manage its impacts on commercial fish stocks, traditional foods to over 300,000 aboriginal people, and marine wildlife.”

The leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, described the loss of toxic-related research at the Institute of Ocean Sciences (IOC) as shocking and said the cuts are no longer about “streamlining but instead steamrollering.” She raised an important question about the motivations behind the move  - “We’re talking about putting oil tankers on our coastline so they close the Emergency Response office for oil spills in B.C., and move nine toxicologists?”

These cutbacks are part of an agenda that places the environment low on the list of Conservative priorities. Despite all the talk about reducing greenhouse gases by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020, they have no credible plan in place to meet this target. Similar backsliding also applies when it comes to funding for the clean-up of federal toxic sites.

Conservative policies don't serve the public interest, they primarily serve private interests and agendas. Environmental groups that challenge the Tory agenda are dismissed as a lunatic fringe and anti-Canadian. Senator Don Plett, the party's former president, is typical of the reactionary mindset. In an attack on the funding of environmentalist groups, Plett said "If environmentalists are willing to accept money from Martians, where would they draw the line on where they receive money from? Would they take money from Al Qaeda, the Hamas or the Taliban?" Bizarre stuff.

There is an argument to be made that the Tory government is the real lunatic fringe when it comes to the values Canadians care about. The Tories are pushing a radical Conservative agenda with 39% of the popular vote. Sierra Club Canada's executive director John Bennett said "All the polling we've done say that I'm representing the majority and he's (Harper) representing the lunatic fringe."

Toxic Tories

Harper government increases pollution with tar sands

May 23, 2012

100th day of protest in Quebec: Charest's tactics backfire

On May 18, in an effort to quell protest the National Assembly in Quebec passed Bill 78 - emergency legislation that includes a number of repressive measures. It's an unwise move that is showing every sign of backfiring. Léo Bureau-Blouin, president of the association of junior colleges said “We deplore that the government chose the path of repression rather than that of negotiation.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has raised serious concerns about the new law.

Bill 78 drastically limits freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly rights in Quebec.  It puts in place a number of prohibitions that are at best tenuously linked with the goal of ensuring access to postsecondary education. Even those provisions that do directly address access to educational institutions are frequently overly broad, vague and discretionary.

You can read the details of the CCLA response here.

In defending measures such as "prior notice" the Charest government claimed that similar rules exist in Toronto. This is a misleading statement. The Quebec law requires that organizers of a march of 50 or more give the authorities 8 hours prior written notice. In Toronto these conditions don't apply - protest organizers aren't required by law to get prior permission or even give notice.

The law will effectively put a chill on protest by making organizers responsible for the actions of other participants, which is ludicrous. How on earth are organizers supposed to be responsible for the conduct of individuals in a march of thousands? Participants could be required to answer for the behavior of people who may have joined the protest for other reasons.

It's not surprising that after a rise in his approval numbers Charest has seen an erosion in support. These repressive measures have further damaged the government's credibility.

In a powerful show of strength, on May 22 Quebec students kicked off the 100th day of protest with the biggest demo to date. Tens of thousands took the streets.


CLASSE spearheaded Tuesday's march, aided by Quebec's largest labour federations. The province's two other main student groups, FEUQ and FECQ, also rallied their supporters.

CLASSE said Monday it would direct members to defy BILL 78, Quebec's emergency legislation.
CLASSE spokesman Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said the special legislation goes beyond students and their tuition-hike conflict.

"We want to make the point that there are tens of thousands of citizens who are against this law who think that protesting without asking for a permit is a fundamental right... If the government wants to apply its law, it will have a lot of work to do. That is part of the objective of the protest today, to underline the fact that this law is absurd and inapplicable."

Montrealers also took to the streets outside their homes to protest the law with the use of pots and pans in what has been dubbed the "casserole movement." On Tuesday evening hundreds of citizens in Villeray, Mile-End, Petite-Patrie and the Plateau made their disapproval loudly heard by banging their kitchenware:

In addition to education-related grievances, the Quebec protests address broader issues of economic justice. This in part explains the staying power of a movement that is getting international attention with coverage by a number of the biggest media outlets in the world. CBC reports that supporters in New York and Paris staged marches in solidarity with Quebec students. Events were also organized in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver.

May 21, 2012

Racism in Israel: African asylum seekers targeted

When Israeli president Shimon Peres spoke on Holocaust Remembrance Day at Yad Vashem in 2011, he said that out of all the countries in the world Israel did the most to combat racial discrimination:

We, the Jewish people, were victims of racism, persecution and discrimination, but we never neglected the commandment to respect every person. Because every person, according to our tradition, is created in the image of God. Even in a darkened world we aspired, and will aspire to be a light unto the nations.

This is the significance of the State of Israel: To physically defend our people, and morally defend our tradition. Every citizen of Israel, regardless of religion or race knows that Israel is, and will be the most anti-racist country in the world.

Unfortunately Peres' high sounding rhetoric doesn't reflect the reality on the ground.

In January the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC) submitted a report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.The report cites Israel's harsh detention policy, discriminatory edicts by state-employed rabbis, tolerance of segregation in the school system and other problematic areas. It points out ways in which Israel ignores international obligations towards asylum seekers and enacts discriminatory policies and practices.

African migrants who make it to Israel in hopes of asylum, often after dangerous treks, encounter not just sporadic racism, but orchestrated anti-immigrant campaigns backed by rabbis and politicians. Most recently PM Binyamin Netanyahu went public with dire warnings, branding African migrants "illegal infiltrators" who threaten "the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity." Nothing less than a threat to 'the Jewish and democratic character of the country.'

This alarmist rhetoric with its hyped threat level sends a message not borne out by reports from Israeli activists familiar with the situation in Tel Aviv and elsewhere. Worse Netanyahu's rhetoric is profoundly discriminatory. It targets people already threatened with poverty, homelessness and racial discrimination. Israel claims to be a democracy and has signed on to various treaties that come with humanitarian obligations. Using security and identity issues to target African migrants is a cop out.

Israelis involved in protests have accused migrants of bringing disease and jacking up the crime rate. The attempt to conflate the immigrant presence with crime is a favorite tactic of the xenophobes who make every effort to paint Africans as criminals, even though there is little truth in the accusation. In fact the crime rate among foreigners in Israel is 2.04% - significantly lower than the 4.99% among Israelis.

Instead of Israel adding to the quality of life and human dignity of migrants, the opposite has been happening. Migrants have been restricted in the area of employment and many landlords refuse to rent to them as the result of a campaign backed by rabbis. There have been reports of assaults on the street. Molotov cocktails were thrown at the residences of Africans in south Tel Aviv.

Since it signed the refugee convention in 1949, less than 200 people have been granted refugee status in Israel - a paltry number when you consider the sanctuary offered by European nations. It's hard not to note the irony that this has occurred in a nation all too familiar with discrimination.

Far from Israel showing signs of a more inclusive approach - it is constructing a huge detention center that will hold up to 11,000 people. In the words of a human rights lawyer familiar with the project, it will be a 'prison for people from Africa.' The vast complex is being built on the grounds of the Ktzi'ot prison in the Negev desert, close to the border with Egypt.

Racist attitudes have long been directed at Arab Israelis who in some walks of life are effectively treated like second class citizens. Now African migrants have become an additional target. It makes a mockery of Shimon Peres' claim that Israel is on the front lines in the battle against racism.

The video beneath suggests that an anti-immigrant mentality is prevalent. One protestor even evokes xenophobic European attitudes - often associated with the far-right - to justify the targeting of African migrants in Israel.

May 19, 2012

Alexis Tsipras of SYRIZA: Impact of austerity on Greece 'catastrophic'

In the current eurozone crisis Greece has been unfairly cast as the "black sheep" of Europe. Greece isn't alone in being negatively impacted by neoliberal economic policies - policies that have precipitated a meltdown in the eurozone and a growing gulf between classes. It isn't a Greek crisis, it's a European crisis, a crisis of capital - Greece just happens to be the stage where the drama is presently coming into sharpest focus.

The Greece Solidarity Campaign recently met with Alexis Tsipras (leader of the left-coalition party SYRIZA) and other Greek representatives.

Tsipras described the impact of austerity on Greece as "catastrophic." He says the prescription to cure the economic crisis is "the medicine of disaster." He further likened it to "shock neoliberal measures" along the lines of a socio-political experiment.

In discussing the background to austerity in Greece the GSC learned that: ...

... 110 billion euros were lost through avoidance and evasion of tax on profits by the richest in Greece, with tax evasion by the rich on a grand scale in the last 10 years. Instead of collecting money owned by the wealthy a direct tax (VAT) of 23% has been levied, affecting the poorest most. An example of this was given: Greece has the biggest merchant fleet in the world, but the fleet owners pay less in tax that the entire immigrant population in Greece.

They described how for two and a half years the banks, bailed out in 2008, have not paid back the money that they owe the Greek people. Tsipras described the ESKRO off-shore account created outside of Greece by the Greek government, which will pay banks and other international creditors first, and whatever is left will go to meet the social needs of Greece. 40 billion Euros of capital has left Greece in the last year. 

What needs to happen in Greece?

Alexis Tsipras talked about the need for the left to create a climate of social justice and campaign for alternative policies

He said that the Government had no mandate to sign the two memoranda, and questioned their legality. He said the first job of a new Government with a popular mandate should be to renegotiate the memos, on the agreed principal that Greek society cannot take the policies of the two memos. Furthermore they felt that the key question was not in or out of the eurozone, but rather exploiting being in it to support renegotiation.

They outlined how regardless of any renegotiations their view is that there needs to be a reorganisation of social and economic structures. Key features of this include socialisation (nationalisation) of the banking system and redistribution of wealth through a radical change in the taxation system – taxing big capital not poverty. 

The video beneath features an interview up-close and personal with Alexis Tsipras. In a rather fitting touch the lead-in includes the Rolling Stones tune "Gimme Shelter." Be sure to click "cc" to get English subtitles.

May 16, 2012

Palestinian hunger strike a victory for non-violent protest


The Israeli practice of holding Palestinian prisoners in so-called "administrative detention" is a violation of international law. Prisoners are brought before military judges who determine the length of detention. This can be as much as six months and can be repeated indefinitely.

Administrative detention was a central issue driving the 28-day mass hunger strike staged by Palestinian prisoners that saw Israel make key concessions. The outcome of the strike was hailed by the Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer as "achievements of the prisoners' movement." Details on Israeli concessions from Electronic Intifada.

Palestinian politician Hanan Ashrawi welcomed the deal: "The hunger strikers' courage is magnificently inspiring, and their selflessness deeply humbling. They have truly demonstrated that non-violent resistance is an essential tool in our struggle for freedom..."

The Israeli practice of imprisoning Palestinians without charge or trial is nothing new. A Guardian article estimates that there are presently 308 Palestinians being held in administrative detention in Israeli prisons.


According to the Israeli human rights organisation, B'Tselem, about one third have been held for between six months and a year; one third have been held between one and two years; 13 have been held between two and four and a half years; and two prisoners have been held continuously for more than four and a half years.

Neither those detained nor their lawyers are informed of the accusations or evidence against them, no charges are laid and no trial is held. "Since the detainees do not know the evidence against them, they are unable to refute it," say B'Tselem.

The concessions made by Israel include limitations on the use of administrative arrest. Prisoners already in administrative detention won't have their terms renewed unless fresh evidence is brought before a military judge.

However Addameer warns that this "will not explicitly solve Israel’s lenient and problematic application of administrative detention, which as it stands is in stark violation of international law." Addameer also adds that Israel has a history of not upholding agreements with respect to prisoners.

As with many Israel-related stories the hunger strike was under-reported in Canadian corporate media. For in-depth coverage of Israeli stories reliable options that come to mind include Haaretz online, Guardian online and also some alternative media sources. Norman Finkelstein said recently during a BBC interview that many N. American Jews have fallen silent on Israel rather than 'air the dirty laundry' - the same could be said of some media outlets in Canada, a number of which appear to be journalistically handicapped by their partisan position.

In the video beneath Noam Chomsky speaks with Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow! about the Palestinian hunger strike and related issues.

More from Al Jazeera - here.

May 15, 2012

Québec student protests send a powerful message

Québec education minister Line Beauchamp has resigned. In making the announcement she said "I am resigning because I have decided I am not part of the solution." She denies that her resignation is connected with the demonstrations and "vandalism." She has been replaced as Education Minister by Michelle Courchesne.

Despite a long, arduous haul the students are showing no signs of backing down. Some critics of the student protests say that since student tuition in Québec is the lowest in Canada, the students should shut up and put up. This kneejerk response to the Québec protests fails to take into account that although the students are addressing local grievances, their protests resonate with students across Canada who are facing a worsening debt situation.

The stand of students in Québec has been applauded by the Canadian Federation of Students, and no wonder. Around 60% of Canadian students graduate with a debt load of around $27,000 for an undergraduate degree. Total student debt in Canada is a staggering $20 billion. Students are faced with fewer jobs that offer wages sufficient to pay down debt in a timely manner. They are also faced with interest rates of between 5% to 9% on student loans (depending on location) with the likelihood of an increase in interest rates in the future. Graduate students with large debt burdens have increasingly been making the decision to declare bankruptsy.

Québec students are making a stand on behalf of all who are being exploited by a system that puts profit ahead of people.

In an open letter to the Québec government the Canadian Federation of Students stated:

Students in Québec have taken it on themselves to defend the next generation's right to education. They have put their semester on the line to fight for a vision of the world where no one is excluded. They have made a convincing case, they have garnered public support, and they have presented government with several alternative solutions to the tuition fee hike.

We are dismayed that the government of Québec has continued to demonstrate contempt towards young people and bad faith in the negotiation process that it has claimed to be committed to.

The demonization of the Québec student movement in the mainstream media is predictable. Critics have been quick to jump on any evidence of violence by a small minority in order to try and discredit a movement that sends a powerful message.

The Québec protests are part of a global movement that is challenging a broken financial system, neoliberal economic policies that are increasingly out-of-touch and corruption in high places. The establishment understandably feels threatened by what it has difficulty patronizing and controlling.

Contrary to the impression created by some reports, student leaders haven't ignored or encouraged violence. On the contrary the student group CLASSE denounced "physical and deliberate acts" and condemned what it described as "unacceptable actions" by students, but also by "other people."

By contrast some commentators in the mainstream media have been calling for ramped up action against the students. Writing in the National Post, Michael Den Tandt recommends "Dispersal with massive use of tear gas; then arrest, public humiliation, and some pain." He brings up corporal punishment in Singapore as something he apparently finds commendable -  "...caning is more merciful than incarceration for an energetic young vandal on the cusp of becoming a full-fledged career criminal." He can also relate to the pillories used in the Middle Ages which he says "might not be a bad idea" and suggests that students being humiliated in this fashion should be posted on YouTube.

You don't hear similar calls for violence coming from Québec student leaders. What has been going on more to the point is a campaign of violence and intimidation directed at student demonstrators.

The video beneath shows in graphic detail the type of police tactics that have been directed against students and other citizens.

May 12, 2012

Masked protestors could be jailed under Tory MP bill


An amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada under a new private member's bill - Bill C-309 - would make it illegal for protestors to wear masks during "tumultuous demonstrations" also described by authorities as "riots" or "unlawful assemblies."

CBC reports that MP's studying the bill have doubled the proposed penalty to ten years. An excessive penalty, considering that people convicted of hardcore crime often face lesser penalties. It seems more like an attempt to put a chill on protest. Section 351 of the Criminal Code already makes it an indictable offense to wear a mask during the commission of a crime.

Most people who wear a mask to demos aren't involved in anything criminal. There are legitimate reasons for wearing a mask. Masks might be donned by people with concerns about being profiled and unjustly targeted - for example in the case of a demo against police brutality.They offer a degree of protection against chemicals and flying objects such as rubber bullets. Now that riot police are becoming increasingly militarized double layering, jockstraps and flak jackets might also be in order.

New Democrat MP Charmaine Borg makes the point that the bill “takes away an individual’s right to demonstrate anonymously. An individual is not necessarily going to commit a crime just because he or she is wearing a mask at a riot. It is reasonable to think that the person just wants to remain anonymous and protect his or her identity.”

Masking happens in a lot of different ways come to think about it. Scamming Canadian voters with robocalls and lying about it constitutes a cover up, a masking of the truth. That type of masking is a lot more threatening to the public interest than the simple act of donning a Guy Fawkes mask.

Creating a special provision banning masks is also a way to facilitate surveillance. The security apparatus uses face recognition software for indentification and tracking purposes. Masks get in the way of that agenda.

A ban on masks is open to interpretation. In Germany black bloc protestors use hoodies, ballcaps and shades. A large polo-neck style sweater rigged to cover the lower half of the face along with a ballcap and shades would definitely make identification tricky. Depending on the definition of "masking" it might be difficult to make the charge stick.

This Big Brother amendment to the Criminal Code will be challenged because it is wide open to abuse. You can see it now... peaceful protestors who are masked and in no way "tumultuous" or otherwise riot disposed will be targeted for the simple act of mask wearing. The attitude of the cops could well be seize-and-detain and sort it out later.

Give the authorities an inch and the usual experience is they'll take a mile. It's a threat to civil liberties and freedom of expression and it has to be challenged. It also begs the question - what next?

More on the mask ban here.

May 8, 2012

Finkelstein on HARDtalk: American Jews falling out of love with Israel?

Norman Finkelstein takes an unbelievable amount of flack for stating hard truths about Israel.

In a recent interview on the BBC show "HARDtalk" host Sarah Montague kept raising objections to Finkelstein's perfectly valid criticisms of Israel. Finkelstein's criticisms have been echoed by a number of other influential Jewish American commentators.

New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman when writing about Peter Beinart's book "The Crisis of Zionism" said: "Like many liberal American Jews I basically avoid thinking about where Israel is going. It seems obvious from here that the narrow-minded policies of the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national suicide – and that’s bad for Jews everywhere, not to mention the world."

Finkelstein's realism and fearlessness when it comes to calling out Israel for its nationalistic sabre rattling, war and threats-of-war is right on the mark. He refers to Israel as 'a lunatic state' and asks what other country in the world continually speculates about who they are going to attack next. When by way of comparison, he asked Montague what countries in the last ten years had been attacked by Iran she declined to answer, even when he repeated the question a few times.

It isn't at all surprising if, as Finkelstein claims, American Jews are increasingly distancing themselves from Israel in its current incarnation. A large percentage of American Jews are liberal in outlook, engaged when it comes to progressive social issues, defenders of civil rights - many are on the front lines in the fight for justice and fairness in American society. During the last presidential election close to 80% of American Jews voted for the Democratic ticket.

The tilt toward right-wing nationalism in Israel with shows of belligerence and war threats doesn't sit easily with the the political outlook and convictions of many American Jews when it comes to the way forward.

In Canada also the Jewish community is by no means monolithic in its backing of Israel's policies. In a recent Press TV video Diana Ralph of Independent Jewish Voices and others express concerns about Israel's stance on Iran:

May 4, 2012

Argentine Olympics ad raises Falklands dispute

Earlier this year - the 30th anniversary of the Falklands war - Prince William arrived on the islands for military duty. His provocative presence at a sensitive time sparked angry words in the media and union jack burning in Buenos Aries. The US actor and activist Sean Penn pointedly criticized what he characterized as British geo-political grandstanding.

A new Olympics-related ad featuring Fernando Zylberberg of the Argentine men's hockey team is likely to set off another war or words. The 90-second ad was reportedly shot by the US based Young and Rubicam advertising agency.

The ad begins with scenes of the Falklands in what looks like an early morning setting. Zylberberg appears in training gear, takes a look at a fluttering union jack and pulls a hood grimly over his head. Then he hits the road in the capital Stanley, stopping en-route to exercise outside the Globe Tavern and to do step-ups on the British war memorial. He winds up on a beach where he does push-ups and kisses the sand.

The ad closes with the words... "To compete on English soil, we train on Argentine soil."

The islanders aren't thrilled. A Falklands legislator, Ian Hansen, said the film was made without permission and demonstrates Argentina's disrespect for the islanders. On its website the government of the islands has posted a reaction to the ad. 

Zylberberg informed a Buenes Aries radio station that he took part in a March 18 marathon involving both Argentine and British veterans of the 1982 war. He said: "I spent all week running on the island... I crossed it all doing different takes. It's an incredible experience because we were surrounded by veterans."

The Argentine sports secretary, Claudio Morresi, told Reuters: "The Argentine delegation will travel to London with the conviction in their minds and hearts that the Malvinas are Argentine but all they will be going to London to do is take part in the sporting event."

In the opinion of this blogger Argentina has the stronger claim to the islands - reasons here. President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's government has been seeking negotiations but heated rhetoric and accusations of arrogance coming from both sides hasn't helped. The ad is unlikely to make communications any more congenial, but it will certainly draw attention to Argentina's claims.

More on the story from abcnews.

May 1, 2012

Urban uprisings: David Harvey in discussion with Amy Goodman

Protestors march down Broadway: May 1 2012

May 1 - international workers' day - is officially recognized in countries around the world. Even though the May 1 demonstration of solidarity was sparked by events in the United States - the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago - it has never been accorded official recognition in that nation.

In recent years May 1 has been reborn as a day of protest in the United States. This year the Occupy movement organized May Day protests across the US with thousands turning out in New York for a day of action.

As a way of marking the day I'm posting a video in which the renowned social theorist David Harvey reflects on urban uprisings. He is in discussion with Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman: