MOSCOW — Thousands of Muscovites jeered President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and the Soviet leadership Tuesday as traditional May Day festivities on Red Square turned into a raucous sounding board for popular discontent and hostility to Communist rule.
"Socialism? No Thanks!" and "Down With the Empire of Red Fascism" declared two signs carried by marchers across the cobblestoned expanse under the Kremlin walls. It was an incredible public display of radicalism on a red-letter day on the Soviet calendar, a holiday honoring working-class solidarity worldwide.
Shaking their fists, Soviets by the thousands shouted "Shame, shame!" or "Resign!" at Gorbachev and the other Soviet leaders assembled atop Lenin's mausoleum. Many of the dignitaries responded with stern expressions before turning their backs on the marchers and leaving the parade after only about 20 minutes.
Gorbachev's policy of \o7 glasnost, \f7 or openness, notwithstanding, Soviet television cut off its transmissions from Red Square soon after the radicals began their march, though in past years it had broadcast May Day ceremonies in full.
Elsewhere in the country, tens of thousands of Ukrainians carrying icons marched in Lvov to demand independence for their republic, and Moldavians rallied in their capital, Kishinev, to wave their newly legalized flag, a red-yellow-blue banner identical to the flag of neighboring Romania.
A former Marxist-Leninist rite, worker parades for May Day were canceled in many cities. These included Leningrad, the site of the 1917 Russian Revolution where the City Hall is now controlled by radicals and progressives, and in the three Caucasus republics--Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan--where public gatherings have often sparked unrest or violence.
In the would-be independent Baltic state of Lithuania, however, residents reported that several thousand people, predominantly ethnic Russians, staged their own May Day demonstration, complete with red flags to reaffirm their attachment to the Soviet Union.
A similar demonstration occurred in Riga, the capital of neighboring Latvia, according to United Press International. About 15,000 mainly ethnic Russian workers opposed to Latvian independence marched amid a sea of red Soviet flags in a protest organized by Interfront, a Russian nationalist group that bitterly opposes Latvian secession from the Soviet Union, UPI reported.
In Moscow, the Red Square festivities, once a severely choreographed show of proletarian support for Kremlin policy, were opened this year for the first time to all wishing to take part. Assembled by the new Moscow city government--which is dominated by progressives--and unofficial organizations, tens of thousands of demonstrators trooped onto Red Square after an officially sanctioned rally organized by Soviet labor unions.
On the viewing stand atop the red marble building where Soviet founder V. I. Lenin's body is preserved, Gorbachev and other members of the ruling Communist Party Politburo watched as the vast square filled with marchers carrying handmade posters and banners hostile to Communists or the emblems of rival political movements, including Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and the black flags of Russian anarchists.
Scores, perhaps hundreds, of marchers hoisted the red-yellow-green flags of Lithuania and signs demanding that the Soviet president lift his economic blockade of the republic that proclaimed its independence from Moscow in March.
"Today a Blockade of Lithuania, Tomorrow a Blockade of Moscow," one protester's placard predicted. Another's, directly critical of Gorbachev, read: "The Blockade of Lithuania is the Shame of the President."
Until this year, workers were compelled by their factory managements to attend the parade and even told which slogans to carry.
But on Tuesday, in a scene that seemed surreal for a May Day parade, a Russian Orthodox priest carried a giant crucifix fashioned from cardboard across Red Square. As he passed in front of the mausoleum, he halted, raised the crucifix and proclaimed in Gorbachev's direction: "Christ has risen, Mikhail Sergeyevich!"
There was brutal criticism of Communists and the results of the policies they espouse. One banner called for imprisoning the "Kremlin Ceaucescus," likening the Soviet leaders to the neo-Stalinist dictator of Romania, Nicolae Ceaucescu, and his wife, Elena, who were toppled and executed in December. Other signs called for Gorbachev and the entire Politburo to resign.
One marcher also carried a Soviet flag with the hammer and sickle cut out as a symbol of his repudiation of Soviet rule. Several banners lamented that the country where Lenin took power in November, 1917, had spent "72 Years on the Road to Nowhere."