Apparently, upward of 100,000 Russians, many waving signs in support of President Vladimir Putin and the Russian annexation of Crimea, flooded Red Square today for the nation’s annual May Day parade. It was the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union that the parade was held there, and Putin used the occasion to revive a pro-militarily stance redolent of the Cold War when the parade was used to impress Russians and intimidate America’s allies in western Europe.
Attendants in Red Square waved United Russia party flags–Putin’s political party–and cheered as Putin awarded “Hero of Labor” medals to exceptional workers, a prize Putin started to once again distribute last year but that had not been given since the fall of the Soviet Union, according to Reuters. Reuters also noted that Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told Russian television that the high rate of attendance was a clear sign that Russia was growing in strength and patriotism was on the rise: “There is a patriotic uplift and a good mood in the country.” His comments came just weeks after Russia used military units to orchestrate a referendum in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea and annex the strategic peninsula, an illegal move not recognized by the U.S. or the nations of the European Union.
Attendees brought signs with various political messages, and many were positive nods to the annexation of Crimea. Some read, “Crimea is Russia–Welcome Home,” “Putin is Right,” and “Let’s Vacation in Crimea.” Other signs were less friendly, such as this one, which The Guardian translates as saying, “Darwin was wrong. A big-eared black monkey is trying to rule the world,” an apparent reference to President Barack Obama.
Numerous Twitter feeds are showing pictures of overtly racist marchers who are apparently part of the parade and are not being turned away by the authorities. Given that official Russia propaganda used in the Crimea operations used Nazi symbolism to smear the pro-independence authorities in Kiev, this juxtaposition of Marxist ideology and racism adds a new dimension to the workers’ celebration.
The Moscow parade follows the news that the Ukrainian government has officially lost control of the eastern part of the nation. In Donetsk, the BBC notes that those attending May Day celebrations were rallying around almost exclusively Russian flags, with no sight of the Ukrainian blue and yellow.
May Day is a major holiday in the other remaining socialist and communist countries, a day to celebrate the working class and the symbolism of Marxist revolution. In China, May Day is a holiday on which travel companies see major revenue boosts; Xinhua reports that ten million Chinese used the national railway system to get away for the weekend. For other countries, parades are more customary. In Cuba, where there is little left to celebrate, the communist government is parading out its healthcare workers at the front of Thursday’s march through Havana. The start of May Day festivities follows the announcement that Cuba can no longer pay many of its healthcare workers and will lay off approximately 100,000 government employees in the coming months.
In Cuba’s ally state of Venezuela, both the leftist government and right-wing opposition are planning rallies for May 1. After President Nicolás Maduro announced a 30% raise in the minimum wage this week, the socialist government is planning a massive rally in Caracas. Many are concerned that the rally will turn to violence, as opposition supporters and student leaders rallying against the Maduro government are planning a counter-rally to demand justice from the regime.
Some May Day rallies around the world have already seen violence. In Cambodia, opposition leaders used the annual May Day parade as an opportunity to speak against the government to the massive crowds, calling for higher wages and more safeguards for workers. The government rapidly cracked down on that activity. Similarly, in Istanbul, Turkey, riot police used water cannons and tear gas to protect themselves from violent leftist protesters, as the government had banned any assemblies on May 1.
Since Communism’s founder, Karl Marx, was himself an Ashkenazi Jew, the overt opening of the May Day parade to racist groups is all the more significant.