May Day in Turkey

May Day was celebrated in many cities and towns of Turkey. Despite the intimidation of the government in the run up to May Day, workers in Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, Mersin, Zonguldak, Gebze, Diyarbakır, Tekirdağ, Antep, Manisa, Muğla, Rize, Kars, Karabük, Hakkari, Bingöl, Bitlis and many others, there were hundreds of thousands of workers in total taking part in the demonstrations. In all demonstrations workers, together with their families, protested against the attacks of capital and the government, and put forward their demands. Not only workers but all sorts of opposition movements participated in the demonstrations feeling themselves at home in May Day.

However the government banned the May Day demonstration in Istanbul, which would certainly be the biggest one. To prevent any demonstration in Istanbul the government implemented an undeclared marshal law and turned Istanbul into a dead city. The government transferred thousands of cops from other provinces to Istanbul resulting in a police presence of more than 30.000 on May 1 in Istanbul. Most of these police forces were around Taksim in order not to allow any people to go in Taksim Square. Many main roads were blocked and central public transport means were stopped early in the morning, which brought almost the whole life in the city to a halt. Many people tried to go to Taksim Square, but they were severely attacked by the police resulting in hundreds of people being injured.

Vibrant May Day in Gebze

One of the most working-class celebrations throughout Turkey was the one in Gebze, an industrial town near Istanbul, with various industries including metal and chemical industries. There the demonstration had been jointly called by local trade-unions. There were more than ten thousand workers in the demonstration.

Workers together with their spouses and children experienced a vibrant May Day demonstration. Many workers’ contingents carried banners indicating their factories. Throughout the speeches all wildcat strikes around Gebze were read out and the working-class character of Gebze was clearly underlined. It was also emphasized that to have a May Day demonstration in Gebze is very significant. Apart from condemning the massacre against workers in May Day 1977, banning of Taksim Square for workers to hold their May Day celebrations was also condemned.

A Massive, Vibrant, Disciplined UID-DER Column

UID-DER took part in the May Day demonstration in Gebze. UID-DER’s central theme in this year’s preparations for May Day was its campaign on work accidents. Workers in UID-DER formed a massive, disciplined red column. There were workers from various industries with their families and even with their newborn babies in UID-DER column. Slogans chanted by UID-DER column rocked Gebze streets.

There were banners in UID-DER column that carried slogans such as: “Workers of all lands, unite”, “Stop unjust and imperialist wars/ Lift bans on union and political activity”, “Work accidents are not destiny, stop workers dying of work accidents”. Besides these banners there were also many placards expressing various demands of the working class.

On the front part of the column there was UID-DER Women’s Committee carrying the banner “Working Women are on the forefront of the struggle”. Housewives and worker women formed this part of the column. Among the placards they carried were: “Equal pay for equal work”, “Nursery for every workplace”, “Ban night shift”, “We don’t want our children die in wars”, “Stop violence and harassment”.

To point out work accidents, part of the workers in UID-DER column were especially marched behind the banner of UID-DER Workers’ Health and Work Safety Committee. They carried placards exposing the mounting work accidents in Turkey, and ensuing results such as fatalities and injuries, at the same time expressing demands over these work accidents.

UID-DER column was also a place for working-class internationalism. Apart from enthusiastic internationalist slogans chanted frequently, there was another significant manifestation of internationalism. Immigrant and refugee Iranian workers participated in UID-DER column to express their problems and demands with their own banners. In their banners, written in Farsi, they gave messages of internationalism and solidarity, like for instance “Workers of all lands, unite” and “Iranian workers are not alone/Iranian Workers Solidarity Network”. They also carried the pictures of workers’ leaders imprisoned in Iran. They protested the mullah regime in Iran that imprisoned those workers who conduct union and political struggle.

Throughout the whole march workers in UID-DER column never stopped chanting slogans, singing songs of struggle and dancing the Halay. They were boosted by songs, poems and speeches made from the top of a van equipped for the demonstration.

Throughout the speeches made from the van many issues were addressed such as sub-contracted work, low wages, long working hours, UID-DER campaigns, international solidarity, demands of the Kurdish people, importance of getting organised and so on.

Among the slogans chanted were: “Long live May Day, long live Socialism”, “UID-DER marches forward, struggle advances”, “Workers die, capital grows/ Down with the rule of capital”, “Jobs for all, shorter working day”, “Long live international solidarity”, “Freedom for Kurds (in Turkish and Kurdish)”, “Free education, free health service”, “Lift bans on union and political activity”, “We will bring down capitalist system, and build a classless world”, “We are in factories, we are in farms/ Our hands create life”, “Millions suffer from hunger, millions are jobless, this is your capitalist system”.

UID-DER column did not stop chanting slogans, singing at the end of march when the square was reached. Many workers around expressed that they liked the vibrancy and discipline of the UID-DER column. The end of the speeches and music in the square was not the end of May Day for UID-DER column for it stayed in the square and kept singing songs of fight. Finally UID-DER marched the whole route back to the place where the march had started, keeping the same working-class discipline.

5 May 2013