To celebrate May Day, hundreds of millions of workers across the world took to the streets and raised their voices against exploitation and repression by capitalist system and for unity, solidarity and struggle. This year’s celebration in Gebze, a worker’s town, was much more massive and vibrant than recent years. Many unions from around neighbouring towns such as Istanbul and Kocaeli joined with the unions in Gebze. UID-DER was also present with its massive, enthusiastic, disciplined and red column.
While May Day celebrations were held all around Turkey, in Istanbul there was severe police terror. AKP government once again banned Taksim Square for May Day demonstrations, attacking unions and democratic mass organisations, thus blocking workers’ use of one of the most basic democratic rights. The government’s excuse was that any demonstration would “block the traffic”, but the end result was exactly a complete paralysis of the traffic in Istanbul, which belied governments excuse. It has become the fear of the AKP government to face a vigorous, massive May Day demonstration involving hundreds of thousands of workers, which would bolster workers in general. The AKP government has stepped up repression, bans, and plots to suppress violently any opposition and especially to prevent a revival of the workers movement.
Workers’ voice echoed in Gebze
Through the streets of Gebze, which is an important industrial town with hundreds of factories, strong voices of workers echoed in workers’ songs. Gathering at early hours of the day workers turned Gebze into a place of feast. This year unions followed the example of UID-DER which played a leading role in organising a May Day demonstration in Gebze last year. Criticising their unions for their not joining the May Day demonstration last year in Gebze, workers pressed their unions for them to organise a May Day demonstration in Gebze this year. All major unions in Gebze took part in the demonstration which is organised by the Platform of Gebze Union Branches composed of Gebze branches of many national unions. All these unions refused to obey their confederations’ decisions about May Day celebrations. Particularly the biggest confederations, Türk-İş and Hak-İş, had decided to organise single rallies in Zonguldak and Konya respectively.
Through the streets of Gebze, which is one of the biggest heartlands of industry with hundreds of factories, strong voices of workers echoed in workers’ songs. Gathering at early hours of the day workers turned Gebze into a place of feast. This year unions followed the example of UID-DER which played a leading role in organising a May Day demonstration in Gebze last year. Criticising their unions for their not joining the May Day demonstration last year in Gebze, workers pressed their unions for them to organise a May Day demonstration in Gebze this year. All major unions in Gebze took part in the demonstration which is organised by the Platform of Gebze Union Branches composed of Gebze branches of many national unions. All these unions refused to obey their confederations’ decisions about May Day celebrations. Particularly the biggest confederations, Turk-İş and Hak-İş, had decided to organise single rallies in Zonguldak and Konya on a national level.
UID-DER enthusiasm in Gebze
UID-DER’s impressive presence has left its stamp on the May Day rally in Gebze. With its vigour, strong voice, solid image, workers’ discipline UID-DER column saluted all columns marching by. UID-DER had its own programme which lasted from the first gathering point to the square where the rally was held.
UID-DER workers arrived early in the morning the gathering point where the march would start. It carried out its May Day programme which was full of working class fighting spirit. Workers contingents of unions and other organisations were saluted by the UID-DER’s mobile platform set up on the top of a van. This mobile platform was the centre of whole programme which included songs, poems, speeches, slogans. All union columns greeted UID-DER when they pass by the standing UID-DER column at the beginning of the march. From the mobile platform UID-DER kept extending its voice to all union columns and others throughout the march.
The banners carried in UID-DER column read “Stop Low Wages, Long Work Hours, Sub-contracting,” Forward to the organised struggle against Presidential System, Authoritarianism, Warmongering,” “Capitalism at a dead end, solution workers power,” “Workers of all countries, unite”. On the front lines of UID-DER contingent was UID-DER Women’s Committee with its banner “Working Women in the Front Lines of Struggle!” This year the banners that read “Free Shahrouk Zamani” and “Iranian workers are not alone” were carried by Iranian and Syrian workers in UID-DER column. International solidarity was again one of the strongest points of emphasis in UID-DER column. Never losing their tempo, UID-DER workers vibrantly chanted slogans expressing their position against capitalist exploitation, imperialist wars, mounting repression and bans as well as long work hours, low wages, the system of sub-contracting, work “accidents”.
UID-DER column which involved woman workers, youth and children as well was a centre of interest throughout the whole march. Many workers approached to know and meet UID-DER. And many others joined UID-DER column when they saw the enthusiasm and workers’ discipline in gathering place. They accompanied the slogans, “We will bring down the capitalist system, we will build a classless society”, “Long Live May Day, Long Live Socialism”, “All workers of the world, unite” and they entered the square chanting the slogan “UID-DER marches forward, struggle grows!”
After all columns entered the square the programme started with a minute of silence in memory of the workers and fighters who lost their lives in class struggle. It is followed by the speech given by Süleyman Akyüz (Chair of the Gebze branch of Petrochemical Workers Union) in the name of the Platform of Gebze Union Branches. He pointed out the sub-contracting system and so-called flexible work, strike bans, injustices faced by woman workers, and the need to mount the struggle against all these problems. He said, “One cannot speak of labour and democracy when more than 10.000 metal workers are denied the right to go on strike. This country is run like a company and we do not want to live under such conditions like slaves. We want to be equal citizens of democratic country. Social peace and calm would come through democratization. Urgent steps have to be taken for a free-minded and pluralist democracy, and the constitution must be amended for a full democracy with all its ensuing institutions and rules.”
The programme continued with music. UID-DER music band also took stage and fired up the audience after UID-DER representative made an initial speech. Workers in the square were carried away by workers’ songs and formed Halay circles. At the end, UID-DER workers did not get loosened their discipline and formed their contingent again to march back to the gathering point with chanting of slogans.