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May Day in Turkey: UID-DER was there!

May Days have a different meaning in Turkey than many other countries. The huge May Day rally in 1977 organised by the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DISK) in Taksim Square (Istanbul) was joined by 500.000 workers and resulted in the massacre of 36 people by the volley fire of the counter-guerilla units. The capitalists’ state banned Taksim Square for especially the working masses since 1979 and applied a rabid terror to enforce this ban, while allowing any other kind of events to take place in Taksim. And after the fascist coup of 12th September 1980 the regime did not allow any commemoration of May Day anywhere until the beginning of 90’s. However, despite this ban revolutionaries and vanguard workers kept pouring into the squares without hesitating to risk their lives and gave martyrs again and again. That is why May Days in Turkey acquired a special meaning of calling the bourgeoisie to account by the working class and revolutionaries in relation to the May Day martyrs and above all the 1977 massacre.

This year’s May Day has been especially significant as this year is the 30th anniversary of the 1977 massacre. Thus DISK has announced that this year’s May Day demonstration needed to be held in Taksim in order to commemorate the May Day martyrs, and asked permission from the government. But the government refused and announced that it would not allow any rally to take place in Taksim. But despite this statement of the government, DISK announced it would insist on holding the May Day rally in Taksim. Thus a tension over the rally has begun several weeks before May Day.

Although DISK kept its position over Taksim, it did not conduct an adequate work of organising necessitated by the confrontation. On the other hand, the biggest labour confederation, the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (Turk-Is), announced that it would celebrate May Day in Kadikoy (Istanbul). Thus a situation of complete confusion occurred and a divide arose from the standpoint of workers’ massive attendance. As a result, this year’s May Day was encountered with an extreme disunity because of both the competitive calculations of the union bureaucracies that usurped the unions and fascistic state terror.

From the night before the 1st of May state forces turned the city into an open air prison in the name of preventing demonstrators from arriving Taksim. Therefore thousands of demonstrators including workers could go to neither Taksim nor Kadikoy. It was an undeclared martial law in Istanbul. The police stopped the buses carrying the demonstrators, ship lines were cancelled, whole traffic came to a standstill. There were clashes between the police and various revolutionary groups who tried to march towards Taksim. The police attacked demonstrators with teargas, truncheons and armoured vehicles. Clashes and chaos continued all day in a lot of places all over Istanbul.

On the other hand, the confusion created by the union bureaucracy and the atmosphere of state terror before the May Day limited the attendance to the Kadıkoy rally as well.

Our Association, UID-DER (the Association of International Workers’ Solidarity), was in Kadıkoy rally. This May Day was especially significant for us for it was the first May Day that UID-DER could join. UID-DER was founded in June last year. But before it commemorates its first year it has already managed to open six offices in different working class neighbourhoods and the attendance of workers to its activities has grown palpably month by month.

Since its foundation UID-DER has organised diverse activities in all its local offices almost every week and continues to do it: seminars on the problems of the working class, films, theatre plays, diverse courses aimed at workers (theatre, guitar, painting etc), a soccer tournament, etc. Moreover, making surveys through home visits by UID-DER members in working class districts enable a lot of direct contacts to be established with workers. Thanks to this work many workers take part in the activities of the Association and become permanent elements of the organised work of UID-DER.

The UID-DER workers has started an intense work two months ago in order to secure a mass presence of the Association in this year’s May Day demonstration. The theatre branch of UID-DER, formed of member workers, staged an impressive play that tells the story of the emergence of May Day. This play was staged in every district where we have a local office with a cast of 40 persons and aroused a great interest in those districts. And those workers who attended the activities like this also took part enthusiastically in the UID-DER contingent in the May Day rally.

Apart from our big banner which carried the name and logo of our Association, other banners that carry our slogans, red flags and red aprons for stewards, etc, were products of our intense work for weeks. Member workers, some of whom worked 12 hours a day, some in night shifts, worked zealously day and night to carry out preparations. Also UID-DER’s May Day leaflets were distributed by member workers across neighbourhoods, local bazaar places and factory entrances. Furthermore, worker units of UID-DER put up May Day posters across working class districts despite police repression.

The disciplined and vibrant presence of UID-DER in this year’s May Day demonstration was a result of this patient, determined and insistent work. UID-DER will continue its march forward by its ever growing membership with workers from diverse industries and its fight will grow. The gleam in the eyes of around 700 workers who gathered under the banner of UID-DER in May Day, their dynamism and determined stance have proven the rightfulness of the trust in fight.

When the workers of UID-DER started their march towards Kadıkoy square with their red flags and slogans chanted with their powerful voices, they received support with applause from labourers who watched the march from sidelines. And there were many people who asked for joining and joined the UID-DER contingent.

During their march and until the end of the rally they chanted slogans which emphasize the need to raise the organised struggle of the working class against fascism, putschists, racism, chauvinism, capitalism, imperialism and the imperialist war. Along with other revolutionary workers in the square they protested the collaborationist and hypocritical attitude of the Turk-Is bureaucracy. They exposed the union bureaucrats who did not carry out work in the workplaces and arranged the rally without any preparing work just to save face. In the end the UID-DER workers left the square in a disciplined way without dispersing the contingent just as the way it had arrived.

UID-DER believes all the gains lost by our class can be won through raising the independent and organised power of the working class and works for it. It is clear that this work is a long term one requiring patience and determination. The revolutionary workers who consider revolutionary Marxism the only way out for the emancipation of the working class and adopt internationalism as their prime principle, will carry on the fight with the consciousness of the need to unite the struggle waged by the working class across the world.

Long Live the International Unity of Struggle of the Working Class!

UID-DER (Turkey)


May Day 2007 Photo gallery
12 Mayıs 2007

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