Hundreds of thousands of workers across Europe mobilized on May Day to demand more political muscle in the face of global capitalism, as clashes with police marred some rallies.
In Germany, more than 500,000 trade union activists hit the streets across the country on Sunday to demand more jobs and a roll-back of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's tough new labor market reforms.
Irate workers pelted eggs at the leader of Schroeder's Social Democrats, Franz Muentefering, in the western city of Duisburg, while labor leaders demanded government action to check corporate power.
"It is a sheer mockery that companies can send factories abroad and write it off on their German taxes," German Trade Union Federation leader Michael Sommer said.
"If that is in line with EU guidelines than they must be changed," he said, calling for uniform tax and subsidy policies across the 25-nation bloc.
French workers marched in a string of May Day demonstrations, with their divisions over the EU constitution overshadowing their common concerns about jobs, salaries and a cancelled bank holiday.
At least four marches were held in Paris, reflecting the inability of trade unions to overcome their disparate opinions on the European constitution, the contentious subject of a May 29 referendum.
Instead, workers focused on the center-right government's unpopular decision to turn Pentecost Monday, which this year falls on May 16, into a normal working day in order to raise funds for the elderly and handicapped.
"Don't touch my day off," read a banner carried by workers at the head of a 2,500-strong cortege from the Christian CFTC union, while members of Force Ouvriere demanded, "Increase salaries, not working hours".
In his first Sunday angelus address from his apartment window, Pope Benedict XVI issued a call for workers' rights to be respected, saying solidarity, justice and peace were the pillars of the human family.
"I hope that the young, especially, will not want for work, and that working conditions will be ever more respectful of the dignity of the human person," the 78-year-old pope told more than 50,000 pilgrims in St Peter's Square.
In Russia, tens of thousands of people from across the political spectrum flooded onto the streets for May Day as the nation marked the Soviet-era Labor holiday which coincides this year with Orthodox Easter.
Some 20,000 trade unionists marched in Moscow demanding the minimum wage be raised. In St. Petersburg, demonstrators of the city's liberal Coalition of Citizens' Protest scuffled with police who arrested five members as they tried to enter Palace Square.
Turkish riot police detained at least 47 people who rallied in a venue despite an official ban to mark May Day in the country's biggest city Istanbul.
Police swooped down on three different protests in the downtown Taksim square on the city's European side after the demonstrators ignored orders to disperse.
Some protestors tried to resist arrest by hitting officers with sticks and police retaliated with tear gas and truncheons, the report said.
In Berlin, three police officers were injured and 65 people detained in overnight clashes between stone-throwing hooligans and authorities.
In violence that has become a fixture of May Day since the late 1980s, scuffles broke out in the eastern districts of Friedrichshain and Prenzlauer Berg as far-left youths also set garbage cans ablaze and built bonfires on neighborhood streets.
Meanwhile former and latter-day communists in Ukraine, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic came out in force to blast the impact of free wheeling capitalism on their countries.
Tens of thousands of protestors turned out in Vienna to assail Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel's economic policies and demand his resignation.
Social Democrat leader Alfred Gusenbauer accused the government of "aggravating social inequality and unemployment".
Some 4,000 demonstrators marched through the Swiss financial capital Zurich and called for the defense of public services and a fairer distribution of wealth.
"Today, the class struggle targets the fact that bosses are overpaid," said Christian Levrat, president of the communications trade union.
© Copyright 2005 AFP