A Workers’ May Day in Turkey

On May Day tens of thousands of workers in many towns and cities across Turkey voiced their demands and anger against capital and the AKP government, as a manifestation of undying tradition of May Day despite all repression and bans. However in Istanbul, the heartland of the working class in Turkey, workers were once again deprived of a May Day celebration. The AKP government applied an undeclared marshal law in Istanbul making the city look like under police siege. The excuses offered by the government for the ban (possible safety and public transport issues, etc.) were realised by exactly what it did to suppress a demonstration in and around Taksim. In its effort to prevent people entering Taksim it brought the traffic into a complete standstill in the most crowded and central parts of Istanbul.

On the face of it DISK (Confederation of Revolutionary Workers Unions) and KESK (Confederation of Public Employees Unions) bureaucracy were pushing for a rally in Taksim. But in reality they did nothing for a showdown with the government.

Knowing very well that DISK and KESK bureaucracy will not do any real preparation for Taksim, UID-DER was prepared for the possibility that there might not be a May Day rally in Istanbul. And UID-DER’s local branch in Gebze, a big industrial town near Istanbul, organised a May Day rally in Gebze together with EMEP (Labour Party). Some other left parties and civil organisations joined the rally as well. Among the workers in the rally there were striking leather and port workers.

During the march from the gathering point to the square where the rally was to be held there was a minivan accompanying the marching contingents furnished as a mobile sound system for music and speeches. Many working class songs and marches were played from the minivan and the main theme of the speeches was the significance and importance of May Day in relation with the problems of the working class. It was constantly emphasized that there is no way out other than the way of struggle.

UID-DER had carried out a campaign for months in the run-up to May Day with the main slogan “Higher wages, lower work hours!” This campaign was at the same time part of the preparation work for May Day. In UID-DER contingent there were workers from a number of industries such as metal industry, petro-chemical industry, leather production, textile, education, heath service and so on. Workers’ spouses and children joined the contingent as well.

On the front lines of UID-DER contingent was UID-DER Women’s Committee with its banner “Working Women in the Front Lines of Struggle!” Some housewives and woman workers formed this part of the contingent. They carried many placards expressing their demands such as “Equal pay for equal work”, “Nursery for every workplace”, “Longer maternity and nursing leave”, “No night shift”, “Stop violence and harassment against women!”

As a meaningful sign of international struggle of the working class a sub-contingent of Iranian migrant and refugee workers with their own banner followed the Women’s Committee’s sub-contingent. They voiced their demands focused particularly on the release of those combative workers in prison in Iran, who have been put under every pressure by the mullah regime.

Streets of Gebze were rocked by the slogans chanted by the vibrant UID-DER column which was received with great sympathy. The main slogans chanted by the contingent were: “Long live May Day, Long Live Organised Struggle”, “Long Live May Day, Long Live Socialism”, “All workers of the world, unite”, “We will bring down the capitalist system, we will build a classless society”, “No imperialist wars”, “Crisis-War-Unemployment, Solution is workers’ power”, “Long live unity of workers, fraternity of peoples”.

UID-DER’s disciplined and vibrant workers’ contingent had a strong impact on workers in Gebze and they expressed their liking with praising words.

Workers in UID-DER ranks together with their class brothers/sisters voiced their anger against bosses and their determination for struggle. They felt that they were not individual workers but part of a big class and that by means of struggle it was possible not only to achieve certain rights but also to change the world.

When the marching contingents reached the square they were received by May Day March and the Internationale played from the stage. Speakers from the stage called for struggle against work accidents, sub-contracting, imperialist wars and other attacks. Slogans were chanted in unison. The demands expressed in the slogans and the worker songs and marches performed by UID-DER’s Music Band echoed not only in the square but also in the streets of Gebze. Songs of struggle were sung all together, and workers in the square danced the Halay (a popular folk dance). Workers in the square from all ages thanked UID-DER for the organisation of the rally.

The May Day rally organised in Gebze was a good example of a workers mass meeting as it was marked by conscious and combative workers, and not by the union bureaucracy. Speeches, demands, discipline, spirit all reflected clearly the independent class interests of the working class. Many workers who were prevented from voicing their demands and fighting for them because of the effect of bourgeois ideological oppression are getting conscious and beginning to fight thanks to the work of UID-DER. UID-DER marches forward, struggle grows!

23 May 2014