MADRID — On the front lines of the world’s May Day protests this year, along with the traditional chants, banners and marches, a gamut of emotions flowed through the crowds: Anger. Fear. Elation. Despair.

With Europe’s unemployed denouncing austerity measures, Asia’s laborers demanding higher salaries and U.S. protesters condemning Wall Street, Tuesday’s demonstrations by hundreds of thousands were less a celebration of workers’ rights than a furious venting over spending cuts, tax hikes and soaring unemployment.

The protests came just days ahead of key elections in Greece and France, whose leaders have acutely felt popular anger over policies many feel are strangling hopes of economic recovery. The rallies reflected pessimism in Spain, dealing with a fragile economy that is in the cross-hairs of Europe’s debt crisis.

Yet optimism and national pride emerged, too. More than 100,000 turned out in Russia for May Day rallies that celebrated Vladimir Putin’s government. And tens of thousands of workers rallied with joy in France, hoping this would be the last week of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative leadership.

About 50 members of Occupy London brought tents and camping supplies to move into a square that houses the London Stock Exchange. There were no immediate reports of arrests.

Under a gray Madrid sky that reflected the national mood, Adriana Jaime came to march. She speaks three languages and has a master’s degree as a translator, but works for what she said was peanuts in a university research project that’s been cut from three years to three months due to a lack of funds.

“I am here because there is no future for the young people of this country,” Jaime, 25, said as marchers carried black-and-white placards with the word NO and a pair of red scissors.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is trying to cut a bloated deficit, restore investor confidence in Spain’s public finances, lower its 24.4 percent jobless rate, and fend off fears the country will soon need a bailout like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

But civil servant Ana Lopez argued that the government is doing nothing to help workers and that the economic crisis is benefiting only banks.

“Money does not fly away. It just changes hands, and now it is with the banks,” the 44-year-old Lopez said. “And the politicians are puppets of the banks.”

In France, tens of thousands of workers, leftists and union leaders marked May Day with glee, hoping that a presidential runoff vote Sunday will put a Socialist – Francois Hollande – at the helm for the first time since 1988. Many voters fear Sarkozy will erode France’s welfare and worker protections, and see him as too friendly with the rich.

“Sarkozy has allowed himself for too long to manhandle the lower classes,” Dante Leonardi, 24, said in Paris. “Today we must show … that we want him to leave.”

Hollande has promised high taxes on the rich.