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May Day 2018: Hundreds of Thousands Say NO to Exploitation and State of Emergency

May Day, the working class’s international day of unity, struggle and solidarity, was enthusiastically celebrated in a number of towns across Turkey. Despite the state of emergency, which has been made the normal mode of government since 2016, despite heavy repression, and bans and restrictions on fundamental democratic rights, hundreds of thousands of workers flooded in streets and squares of towns. Workers, youth, women shouted out their rage against exploitation, oppression and state repression materialised in the perpetuated state of emergency. In dozens of cities and towns such as Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Hatay, Adana, Gebze, Bursa, Diyarbakir, Mersin masses of workers raised their voice against the state of emergency, executive decrees, bans on union and political rights, on press freedom, imperialist wars, low wages, the all-pervasive system of outsourcing, precarious work, incredibly high levels of fatal work accidents, privatisation, banning of strikes by government decrees, violence against women, and plundering of urban areas.

The rally in Maltepe, Istanbul, was participated by hundreds of thousands. After 6 years of no mass rally Istanbul was again scene to a united, massive May Day celebration. The rally was organised by DISK (Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions), KESK (Confederation of Public Employees’ Unions), TMMOB (Turkish Association of Engineers and Architects’ Chambers) and TTB (Turkish Medical Association) with the main slogans “Let’s Go to May Day to Democracy, for Better Days”, “Before Elections, There is May Day! There are Millions bigger than One-Man!” With the participation of some unions from Türk-İş (Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions), political parties, democratic mass organisations, the Maltepe rally revealed the immense potentials of dissent against government.

The march started from 3 different points and all columns reflected a very vibrant mood with enthusiastic shouting out of slogans. Slogans of immense variety were heard, most of which centred around government repression. There was a clear sense of self-confidence and a fighting spirit in protestors.

After the march a moment of silence was held in memory of working-class martyrs we lost in the past May Days. Then DISK choir took on the stage and sang songs such as May Day March, Internationale. After energizing songs, Arzu Çerkezoğlu (General Secretary of DISK), Mehmet Bozgeyik (KESK Co-chair), Emin Korkmaz (TMMOB Board Chair) and Raşit Tükel (TTB Chair) gave their speeches. They protested the hasty move by the government of snap elections, which is pushed through with anti-democratic measures, gross infringements of the rights of collective bargaining, organising and political activity, bans on strikes, reactionary repression and anti-working-class impositions in the spheres of health system and education, dismissals from profession. They said, “we are not alone, not hopeless, not desperate,” and that “we will not let warmongering, reaction, nationalism, polarisation, lynch culture rule over this historical soil of mixture of peoples and cultures.” They also underlined that “this years’ May Day celebration is a strong stand against the impositions of the one-man regime.”

After the speeches, Genco Erkal, a famous actor, recited poems of fight by Nazim Hikmet, the great Turkish communist poet. Another famous actor, Rutkay Aziz, also recited a poem by Nazim about war and peace. Many songs and dancing the Halay followed. This was the end of the celebration in Maltepe. The rally has shown that the May Day tradition in this land cannot be wiped out, and that this day of struggle created by the working class has become a platform for all social dissent.

1 May 2018