UİD-DER was in Istanbul and Gebze in May 1

The most important thing with this year’s May 1 events in Turkey is the failure to organise a united mass demonstration in Istanbul due to disputes over venue. This meant wasting an opportunity to show a powerful working class response against crisis, unemployment and war in a massive and united way. Türk-İş, the biggest workers’ confederation, celebrated May 1 with a mass meeting in Kadıköy. DİSK and KESK, on the other hand, had announced they would make the celebration in Taksim. However, like the past years, they could not make this mass celebration and finally made a commemoration for a limited time with a “reasonable number” of people whom the police gave permission.

Kadıköy: “Crisis, War, Unemployment! The Only Solution: Workers Power!”

The mass demonstration in Kadıköy held with a turnout of 15000 workers began as two marching columns starting from different points, one from Tepe Nautilus and the other from Numune hospital. At the Numune hospital column were Türk-İş affiliate unions: Tes-İş, Türk Metal, TGS, Koop-İş, Yol-İş, Petrol-İş, Kristal-İş, Deri-İş, Tez-Koop-İş, Harb-İş, Belediye-İş, TÜMTİS, Selüloz-İş, Haber-İş, Basın-İş, Çimse-İş, Tarım-İş, Teksif, Eğitim-İş, Liman-İş, Demiryol-İş, Tek Gıda-İş, Toleyis, TDS. And from the Tepe Nautilus side there marched UİD-DER, EMEP (Party of Labour), Workers’ Fraternity Party (İşçi Kardeşliği Partisi), Köz and İşçi Cephesi

Although hundreds of thousands workers were sacked, Türk-İş unions could not secure a turnout of as many workers as there should be. Yol-İş, Harb-İş and Tes-İş were more massive in comparison to other unions. In our conversations with the metal workers from Türk-Metal Union column during the meeting, workers expressed their protests against the union. They said the funds collected from them were transferred to supporters of coup d’etat attempts and added that their union did not own them. They stated they are against workers being forced to cry out slogans in favour of the current president of the union, Mustafa Özbek (who is under arrest due to involvement in coup attempts against government), and being provoked against other workers. In the Türk-İş side, enthusiasm of leather workers (Deri-İş) and their march with slogans was remarkable. After entering the square, Deri-İş had slogans protesting Türk-İş. As a response against “We are Where Türk-iş is” slogan of Türk-Metal, Deri-İş reacted with the slogan: “Türk-İş! Wake up from your slumber, own the resistance!”

UİD-DER column, gathered at Tepe Nautilus, grabbed attention with its mass, discipline and enthusiasm. While the UİD-DER banner situated at the front of our column, there were also other banners behind it: “International Will Save the Humanity!”, “Make the Bosses Pay the Bill of the Crisis!”, “Long Live Militant Class Unionism!”, “Long Live the Struggle of the Workers of the World Against Capitalism!”, “Long Live May 1!”, “Raise the Flag of Struggle Against Capitalist Exploitation and Imperialist Wars!”

Our children were in the front of the column carrying the banner “Long Live May 1!” Behind them were workers from different sectors with their overalls and work uniforms. Enthusiasm and discipline of UİD-DER were observed with interest by both the marching workers and bystanders. While many people approached and asked what "UİD-DER" stands for and when it was founded, dozens of people came along and joined the column. Central slogans of our column were the following: “Long Live May 1” both in Turkish and Kurdish, “Long Live May1, Long Live Socialism!”, “UİD-DER Marches Forward, Struggle Grows!”, “Hunger, War, Fascism! This is Capitalism!”, “Crisis, War, Unemployment! The Only Solution: Workers Power!”, “Workers of all countries, Unite!”, “We Shall Bring down the Capitalist System and Build a Classless Society!”, “Down with nationalism! We are Internationalists!”, “Stop all persecutions in political and union front!”, “Persecutions cannot frustrate us!”, “Job for all, Shorten the workday!”, “Make the bosses pay the bill of the crisis!”, “All Peoples would unite if they rule themselves!”, “Freedom for Kurds!” both in Turkish and Kurdish.

The slogan “Crisis, War, Unemployment! The Only Solution: Workers Power!” was pointing the kind of struggle against capitalism that should be carried on. Furthermore, slogans of “Freedom for Kurds” in Turkish and Kurdish and “We are Internationalists, not Nationalists” of UİD-DER were very meaningful. Emphasizing the necessity of supporting the oppressed Kurdish people UİD-DER brought the internationalist spirit of the working class to the Kadıköy square. Furthermore, monthly bulletin of our association, Workers’ Solidarity, was distributed in the square and reached out to many workers.

Apart from the Chairman of Türk-İş Confederation, one of the striking workers from the second biggest media group Atv-Sabah and also striking woman worker from Desa (a leather company) Emine Arslan spoke and the rally ended with a concert. UİD-DER, who entered the square as a well disciplined column, left the square likewise and kept on marching with the slogans until the point where the march started.

State terror in Taksim

Those people who wanted to hold a meeting in Taksim Square gathered early in the morning in Mecidiyeköy, Şişli, Pangaltı and other spots in order to be able to start a march towards Taksim Square. As the previous years police paralysed the traffic in the European side of Istanbul this year. Subway and tramways did not operate. The police zealous to prevent DİSK and other groups from gathering attacked the crowd both in Mecidiyeköy and Pangaltı. Meanwhile a group of 500 people gathered at DİSK premises and the group began marching towards Pangaltı which included union officials and parliamentarians from Europe. It was obvious that neither DİSK nor KESK had made any serious preparation to carry workers to Taksim.

DİSK column stopped when they arrived Pangaltı and union officials declared they would not continue marching unless the groups that gathered in neighbouring streets allowed to join the column. A small part of the crowd managed to join the DİSK column. DİSK officials and police began bargaining. Possibly reckoning that “a reasonable number” have been attained, DİSK gave start to the march at about 11 AM, without waiting some other socialist groups and DİSK members who were not allowed by the police to reach the column.

Small additions went on during the march and the number of the mass reached around 4000. Taksim Square were stepped in under police siege and the slogans “Here is Taksim, here is May 1”, “Mayday Martyrs are immortal”, “Long Live May 1!” were cried out. While a “reasonable number of people” were allowed to Taksim, many left groupings were attacked brutally and kept away by the police. The commemoration held under these conditions in Taksim was terminated at 13:30.

Gebze: “Make the Bosses Pay the Bill of the Crisis!”

There was a May 1 rally in Gebze too. The rally organised by the League of Unions started in front of the Municipality building. Besides union columns, ÖDP, EMEP and UİD-DER columns were present. While it was observed that unions could not secure a massive participation, it was also observed that workers from Birleşik Metal-İş (United Metal Workers Union) and Petrol-İş (Petrochemical Workers Union) constituted majority of the union columns. Distinctive as being the most massive column of all, UİD-DER column was remarkable with its discipline and enthusiasm. In Gebze, where the crisis hit the workers exceedingly, the slogan “Make the bosses pay the bill of the crisis!” was the most frequent one during the march. Throughout the whole march which ended in Gebze Square, UİD-DER was centre of a great interest. While our column was passing by, labourers who gathered in the streets supported us with applause. Also UİD-DER’s bulletin, Workers’ Solidarity, was distributed among workers. Following the speeches from the platform, meeting ended with halays.

3 May 2009