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Heavy Police Presence Seen in Other Countries : Soviet May Day Theme: Economy

May 02, 1987|WILLIAM J. EATON | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev made his drive for perestroika, or economic reconstruction, a major theme of Friday's traditional May Day parade through Red Square.

An estimated million people, waving paper flowers and red flags, marched past Gorbachev and other top officials who watched from atop Lenin's tomb.

Elsewhere, the international workers' holiday was marked by heavy police presence in Poland, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Chile, as authorities successfully curbed attempts by opposition movements to stage major demonstrations.

Here in Moscow, a perfect spring day--the first real warm weather after a severe winter and chilly spring--added an unusually festive air to the celebration of the major Soviet holiday.

Red Square Dancing

On a lighter note that ended the ceremony, young girls in colorful tights danced to rock music, and formally dressed couples waltzed across the square.

The May Day parade once was an occasion for the Soviets to showcase their latest military hardware, but such displays have been missing for several years. On Friday, the themes of economic reconstruction and U.S. militarism predominated.

As usual, there were no speeches during the two-hour show for leading Kremlin officials and invited guests.

Stressing the economic theme, seven of the 39 slogans authorized by the Politburo urged support for perestroika, at a time when its advocates acknowledge that the pace of reform is going too slowly.

Factory workers pledged to surpass their production targets this year, and loudspeakers boomed out slogans endorsing Gorbachev's call for greater quality and higher efficiency.

Everyone's Job

A gigantic poster hanging from the side of GUM department store declared that perestroika is a job for everyone.

Despite the aura of enthusiasm, the May Day messages came in the wake of a disappointing economic report that showed Soviet workers had failed to reach production goals in the first three months of 1987.

Many slogans carried by marchers opposed President Reagan's proposed Strategic Defense Initiative, the "Star Wars" missile defense program, and urged removal of medium-range missiles from Europe as a step toward peace.

No 'Cowboy' Placards

Unlike past years, however, there were no placards lampooning Reagan as a trigger-happy cowboy.

Gorbachev, who waved frequently to the marchers, was flanked by Soviet President Andrei A. Gromyko and Premier Nikolai I. Ryzhkov. Seven other Moscow-based members of the 11-man Politburo were present. Only Ukrainian party chief Vladimir V. Shcherbitsky, who lives in Kiev, was absent.

Gorbachev's wife, Raisa, wearing a lavender coat and a wide-brimmed black hat, watched the parade from a front-row position.

Two other Soviet citizens--Cosmonauts Yuri Romanenko and Alexander Laveikin--watched from their orbiting space station, Mir, on a special television hookup.

Fireworks displays capped the May Day events Friday, but the holiday will continue today and Sunday as well.

No U.S. Observance

Although May Day is celebrated as a workers' holiday by many countries, with special emphasis by the Communist Bloc, it is not marked in the United States, which honors workers on Labor Day in September.

Other May Day observances worldwide, as reported by wire services:

In China, model workers from across the nation attended a celebration at Communist Party headquarters in Beijing, and several top leaders attended May Day events in other cities, state-run television said.

The Communist Party newspaper People's Daily said Chinese workers should devote themselves to the national effort to increase economic production and cut expenses and contribute to economic construction and the country's open-door policy.

The newspaper also called for criticism of so-called bourgeois liberalization, the embracing of Western capitalist values that is currently China's top ideological issue.

Strike in S. Africa

South Africa celebrated its first official May Day in the midst of strikes by 25,000 black transport and post office workers, the nation's longest and most widespread public-sector strike.

Police broke up meetings of black labor unions, and authorities banned 20 outdoor rallies.

In Lenaisa, an ethnic Asian township outside Johannesburg, scores of policemen carrying whips and guns broke up an indoor meeting that was to be addressed by union officials, organizers said. The government had no immediate comment.

In Havana, President Fidel Castro led half a million Cubans in a parade through the center of the capital. Castro and senior government officials marched across Revolutionary Square to a reviewing stand built in the shadow of a huge statue of the Cuban independence hero of the last century, Jose Marti.

In a short keynote address, Roberto Veiga, secretary general of the Cuban trade union movement and a member of the Communist Party Politburo, said Cuba's May Day this year was dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

Sri Lanka Protest

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