Turkish workers give lessons in class pride

May Day, London 1995: tiny compared to demonstrations in Turkey, despite the strong Communist Party contingent

I WAS lucky enough to be the Irish representative of the Rail Maritime and Transport union on an international delegation of trade unionists to the May Day demonstrations in Turkey.

As demonstrations were taking part in all the major cities, it was decided to split the delegation up with one German, Greek, Turkish and English speaker going to each venue.

I went to Izmir, where on April 30 there was also a demonstration against the pension cuts. This was called by the left Turkish trade union centre, Turk-is. We were advised by our hosts, the Tumtis transport union, that this was a deliberate ploy by Turk-is to disrupt the illegal May 1 demonstration.

Over 60,000 people turned out on April 30 and the demonstration was good natured with traditional music and dancing to entertain the crowd. The police, armed with water cannon, machine guns, pistols and riot gear, kept a pretty low profile, but harassed the Tumtis delegation by employing stop and search tactics. At the rallying point the Turk-is bureaucrats hogged the stage, but were verbally abused by a large section of advanced workers who could smell a sell-out.

The May 1 demo, despite its illegality and falling on a working day, attracted over 20,000 in Izmir and 50,000 in Istanbul. Again demonstrators enjoyed themselves, but above all showed their class consciousness by chanting international slogans of solidarity.

The police tried to provoke the marchers by making catcalls and rude signs from the safety of their armoured cars. We were assured by our hosts that this was very mild behaviour from the pigs, who had to restrain themselves greatly because foreigners were present.

The international delegation addressed the crowd at the rally bringing them solidarity greetings from workers in various countries.

It was truly inspiring to see Turkish and Kurdish comrades turn out in such numbers. They face an oppressive state which frequently murders, tortures and makes trade unionists ‘disappear’ and still refuse to be browbeaten. Compare this to workers in Britain and Ireland who fear only the loss of a day’s leave and do not celebrate this most important of working class festivals.

The Turkish unions are an example to our own union bureaucrats, who hide behind the law. Tumtis puts it sim-ply: “Legal or illegal, if an action benefits our members, then we will take it.”

The whole delegation was touched by the hospitality we received from our impoverished hosts. Working class hospitality is good in every country, but in Turkey it is something special.

I did not truly understand the living process which is communism until I went there. With their indomitable spirits and steely determination the working class in Turkey will inevitably triumph over their oppressive military puppet government.

Steve Hedley