The early Turkish socialist movement was composed primarily of intellectuals. A salient exception is Yaşar Nezihe the daughter of an unemployed municipal worker. Despite her father’s opposition, she learned to read and write. None of her three husbands supported her; she worked her entire life. Eventually she began publishing poems. Her ode celebrating May 1, 1923 appeared in the socialist weekly, Aydınlık (Light). This excerpt from her poem for May 1, 1924 shows that, although the Turkish working class was fragile and largely dispersed in small-scale enterprises, the ideals of the international socialist movement were beginning to be meaningful for some working people.
Oh workers! May Day is your day of freedomMarch forward, there’s light [Aydınlık] to lead you.The workshops are silent as though the world sleeps.The exploiters shake, in fear.Today the Red Flag spreads its inspirationOpening the path to liberation tomorrow.Don’t tire of demanding your just rights.The bourgeoisie always deceive with their lies.. . .The greatest celebration will come only when you seize your rights.What a sweet thought is liberation from exploitation!Always be united and show your strength!Don’t abandon unity if you want victory.You are no plaything in the patrons’ [bosses’] hands.Raise your head and make them bow before you.
From: Joel Beinin, Workers and Peasants in the Modern Middle East (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)