. May Day 2017 in Turkey and UID-DER | Association of International Workers' Solidarity

May Day 2017 in Turkey and UID-DER

May Day 2017 celebrations in Turkey took place under conditions of state of emergency where democratic rights are trampled upon, attacks against the working class mounted, and a one-man regime is imposed on society. But despite all repression, and the efforts of trade-union bureaucrats to hollow out the meaning of May Day, tens of thousands of workers across Turkey took to streets in almost all big cities and working class areas. The working masses voiced their anger against the government plan to abolish the severance pay, declining wages, increasing working hours, unbelievable rate of deaths caused by work accidents, banning of strikes, and suspension of basic democratic rights. This outcome was an expression of owning the working-class tradition of May Day against all odds. The ruling class has failed to erase the memory of May Day in Turkey.

The most significant working-class May Day celebration throughout Turkey this year took place in Gebze, one of the largest industrial towns located next to Istanbul. In Gebze more than a ten thousand workers, most of them unionized, largely metal and chemical industry workers participated in the rally. Central to their protest this year were the issues such as the looming attack on the right of working people to severance pay, the experience of strikes being banned by the government during the last year, and the continuation of the state of emergency which has been in place since July 15, 2016.

As some of the trade-union officials working in the transport workers union TUMTIS were arrested, the union column carried banners that read slogans such as “Trade-unionism is not a crime!” “Free our arrested union officials!” Another union Petrol-Is, which a union of oil and chemical industry workers, put emphasis on the importance being unionised in their banners and placards that, for instance, read “Union is your power, your future!” Also they voiced slogans such as “We’re not slaves, but workers, powerful with the union!” “We’ll not let them hijack our right to severance pay!”

Some other slogans on banners and placards in other union columns can be cited as “Don’t keep silent, severance pay is a right!” “Hey government, take your [severance pay] fund and stick it up your ass!” “Abolish the state of emergency, not the right to severance pay!” “There will be a day of reckoning and capital will be brought to account!” “Long live our organised struggle!” “Striking is a right, it cannot be banned!” “We’ll not be slaves to bosses!”

There were political parties and democratic mass organisations as well as unions. One of the strongest and most vigorous columns in Gebze May Day celebration was UID-DER’s, which was composed of militant workers from a wide range of industries. Front banners read “Forward to the ORGANISED STRUGGLE against the Regime of State of Emergency, One-man Regime, Warmongering!” and “STOP the Attack on Severance Pay, STOP Bans on Striking!”

UID-DER Women’s Committee contingent formed the front part of the UID-DER column. Their main slogan was “Working women, forward to the struggle!” And they voiced other slogans such as “Stop violence against women!” “Lengthen the maternity leave!” “Ban the night work!” “Nursery for all workplaces!”

There were immigrant workers in UID-DER column where the slogan “Workers of all lands, unite!” was an essential slogan reflecting UID-DER’s internationalist attitude. Iranian and Syrian workers have found a comradely place in UID-DER column to cry out their demands. They were hailed with slogans in placards such as “Immigrant workers our brothers/sisters!” “Long live international solidarity!” “Long live the fraternity of peoples!”

Workers in UID-DER column arrived from many working-class districts in groups gathered in early hours of the day at the point where the march would start. For workers in UID-DER column May Day celebration started long before the march started, with vigorously shouted slogans, enthusiastic fighting songs, speeches, and dances. This enthusiasm continued during the march, the rally and the leave. Among the slogans were “Stop imperialist war!” “Peace in the Middle East will be brought by workers!” “Crisis, war, unemployment! Solution is workers’ power!” “Workers die as capital grows! Down with capital!” “UID-DER marches ahead, the struggle grows!”

The last slogan shouted when the UID-DER column was leaving the square was “Long live revolution, long live socialism!” UID-DER column kept its discipline, vibrancy not until the end of the rally but also afterwards, since it marched back to the gathering point in an orderly manner unlike other groups, which attracted attention of the mass of bystanders as has always been the case.

11 May 2017