May Day 2002 Report from Turkey

This a report from Turkey on the May Day celebrations. Despite intimidation from the state, and the fact that May 1 was a working day, the demonstrations in many cities were larger than in previous years.

Working class May Day banner of struggle is rising high!

As in most places in the world, May Day was celebrated with enthusiasm in Turkey. Compared with to the recent years, the attendance, particularly in Istanbul, was observed to be greater. About 100,000 workers attended the rally in Istanbul which was also participated by various socialist and left parties, and left groups alongside the unions that are affiliates of Turk-Iş, DISK, KESK and Hak-Iş. Despite the totally negative structure of the rally "square" that kills both the enthusiasm of the masses and the influence of the platform, the participants kept their enthusiasm alive and chanting their slogans until the end of the rally.

The government banned all the demonstrations and press statements particularly in the provinces such as Diyarbakir, Siirt, Mersin that are heavily populated by Kurdish people. Thousands of people were arrested a few days before May Day in many cities and towns including Ankara.

Yet alongside Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, in many cities and towns big mass rallies of May Day celebrations took place. In these demonstrations attended by tens of thousands of people, anti-imperialist, anti-IMF, anti-fascist, anti-war slogans alongside the slogans that damn the massacre carried out by Israel in Palestine were dominant. Workers shouted that the bosses must pay the bill of the crisis, not the workers. And they called for an internationalist resistance against global assaults.

As a matter of fact, a far greater attendance to May Day in Turkey would be expected when the depth of the present crisis, dismissal of millions of workers and the anger of working class against this taken into account. However there are various reasons for the lower attendance compared to the potential.

As it happens every year, again bourgeoisie began to terrorise the people a few days before May Day. Televisions broadcast again and again the scenes of clashes from past May Days. The police exercised pressure on private bus companies to prevent them from carrying the workers to the rally, delivering a threatening written message to bus companies. All these terrorising activities were effective to a considerable extent in preventing tens of thousands of people who had actually become alerted because of the crisis and filled with anti-government sentiments from attending the rally.

Another factor was that May 1 was a working day (May 1 is not an official holiday in Turkey). In such a period of crisis in which the dismissals are in full swing, a worker who is absent from work especially in a day like May Day is quite likely to be dismissed - of course, if there is not a sufficient organisation of workers in the workplace.

Besides, we must remind the fact that there is a secret consensus between the union bureaucracy and the government to prevent masses from carrying out big demonstrations. Thus, as it happens every year the union bureaucracy again did no preparatory work before May Day and avoided to get masses poured into the squares.

However, besides all these negative factors, the militant anti-capitalist mood and the enthusiasm of the workers for struggle indicate a very significant revolutionary potential for the future. Moreover, the leap forward in the consciousness of workers who were in the columns of union branches wherein Marxists carry out work is very important. In short, despite all the efforts of bourgeoisie to obstruct, May Day still continues to frighten the bourgeoisie. Just like throughout the world, we believe that the rightful fear of the bourgeoisie from working class will grow also in Turkey. The future belongs to the working class who fights for a world in which there is no exploitation and classes.

All workers of the world, unite!

Long live May Day, the day of unity, struggle and solidarity of workers of the world!