Since Bloody May Day of 1977, when 37 people were killed after unknown assailants opened fire on the crowd during May 1 demonstrations, May 1 has always been anticipated with fear and worries. However, the declaration of May Day as an official holiday, the opening up of Taksim Square to celebrations in 2009 and two years of peaceful demonstrations have for the most part turned those fears into excitement.
Sabah’s Nazlı Ilıcak points out that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) was the one that opened Taksim Square to May 1 celebrations after having declared May 1 a holiday, provided an increased standard of living for laborers and significantly improved health services. Yet some people still shouted “AKP: enemy of labor! Enemy of the people!” at Tuesday’s demonstrations. Ilıcak says that it is a fact that laborers in our country still have many problems and according to a report by the Social Security Institution (SGK) only 922,000 of 10,350,000 insured laborers are members of a trade union. But the AK Party is not the only one to blame for this situation, she says.
Star’s Cemil Ertem is also critical of the nationalist slogans and tone used during Tuesday’s demonstrations, arguing that using such a national day to protest against the government and allowing agitation by anti-government groups takes away from the significance of the day. After all, this day should be focused on improving laborers’ conditions in the country and enabling their problems and demands to be heard. He says that according to a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the rate of unemployment in the world will increase to 6.2 percent in 2013 and there will be about 80 million unemployed people. This means that the financial crisis the world is undergoing now is not limited to financial problems and will turn into a social problem with all those unemployed people. This is why May 1 was a great opportunity to discuss the measures, if there are any, against unemployment and the need for new organizations and trade unions. The biggest need in Turkey now is for steps to be taken towards having a single voice representing all trade unions, argues Ertem.
Radikal’s Koray Çalışkan points to the wide diversity of people who gathered for these celebrations. This shows the broad support for laborers in our country as well as strengthening the social ties between different groups of people. Hearing slogans chanted in Turkish, Armenian, Kurdish and Arabic during the demonstrations was very meaningful, according to the columnist.