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Proletarian issue 55 (August 2013)
Turkish workers set a militant example
After 22 days of inspirational struggle and sacrifice by the Turkish masses, the protest movement which began with the struggle over Gezi Park continues to move forward, and future clashes seem inevitable.
The legal wrangling over the future of Gezi Park in the centre of Istanbul continues. The latest decision by Istanbul’s sixth administrative court to lift the obstacles to redevelopment of the area, which had been upheld by a lower court on 6 June in the wake of the massive protest movement, appears to give the go-ahead to the Istanbul metropolitan municipality to press ahead with demolition work.

The struggle goes on

Despite this, a report in Hurriyet states that “according to a lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the case, the court ruling has no legal basis and a redevelopment plan cannot be implemented in any way. Can Atalay said the plan opening Gezi Park for construction had already been cancelled by the Istanbul First Administrative Court and the regional court’s verdict was therefore not valid. ‘They cannot drive a nail in Gezi Park, it will stay as a park,’ Atalay said.” (22 July 2013)

Whether Mr Atalay’s remarks will have much standing in an AKP-dominated courtroom remains to be seen, but they certainly send a defiant message that the struggle is far from over. And it’s quite clear that with ongoing attempts to reoccupy the park the government would be wise not to press ahead with such plans any time soon.

On 7 July in Kadikoy (an area in central Istanbul located on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus), a mass meeting called by Turkey’s progressive media (which played such a heroic part in breaking the corporate capitalist media’s blackout) packed the ferry area with a 300,000-strong crowd that stretched up the hill and overflowed into the adjoining streets.

Called by Odatv, Sol Gazetesi (Communist Party) Ulusal Kanal, Cem TV, Halk TV, Cem Radyo, Yön Radyo, Yurt Gazetesi and Aydinlik Gazetesi, this gathering brought together a wide range of the Turkish opposition, who are able to unite on the basis of a common stand against the policies of the Erdogan AKP government. The platform invited representatives of the striking Turkish Airlines workers and also Kozova textile workers, who had joined after not being paid for many weeks.

In all, Turkey’s trade unions contributed three days of strike activity to the protest movement, and used the withdrawal of their labour power as a political act – something that all our trade-union leaders should take note of if they are serious about representing the democratic demands of their members to protect their civil liberties and conditions of employment!

Arrests and brutality

The public prosecutor announced towards the end of July that 715 people had been arrested in connection with the Istanbul protests alone. Muammer Guler, the interior minister, issued a statement on the same day which chose to warn police over the future use of force against protestors rather than take the opportunity to condemn and harangue activists (no doubt he must have been itching to do the latter!)

In his statement, Guler also made plain that the police had a responsibility to arrest those members of the public who might come out to attack protestors with knives, machetes and bats. This was a clear reference to the case of Sabri Celebi who was caught on camera rampaging through the streets attacking unarmed female demonstrators with a machete. What a brave man.

Celebi’s bravery was caught on camera and uploaded to YouTube by other activists and eventually he was arrested. Being rather approving of such fascistic behaviour, however, the local police – no doubt with the approval of Erdogan’s thugs lower down the greasy pole – released Celebi, who subsequently ‘disappeared’ and is rumoured to have left the country.

Readers who wish to view the grisly attack can do so online: haber.sol.org.tr/devlet-ve-siyaset/palali-saldirganlar-serbest-birakildi-haberi-75952

The scale of the violence that was unleashed upon the protestors, and the way in which known AKP supporters and other extremists and right-wing fascists were allowed to join the police on the street to battle protestors, is only now beginning to be revealed.

The Turkish left newspaper SoL has done much to document this violence and a timeline of events is accessible from their website with links to YouTube footage of police violence. As more and more individuals are released from jails and tell their horrifying stories to the progressive Turkish press the scale of police brutality and details about the conditions in which protestors were kept after arrest are gradually seeing the light of day.

Mucella Yapici, the head of the local chamber of architecture, who had become a leading member of the Taksim Solidarity Platform that helped coordinate the demonstrations, made the following statement after her release: “I was undressed by police, they bent me over, and they made me cough. I am 62-years-old. I was searched naked. I was harassed. I saw young girls being abused ...”

Revolutionary and anti-imperialist implications of the uprising

That the protests were able to mobilise a broad section of Turkish society and included professional women like Mucella Yapici is a testament to the vitality and strength of the progressive movement in Turkey, whose actions are a thousand times more revolutionary than those of our own ‘professional’ classes, who tend to be tied to the Trotskyite organisations like carts to donkeys.

Ms Yapici is certainly not in the mould of a revolutionary lifestylist dreaming of her confrontation with the police by night and designing her next radical tattoo by day. In a country where the communist scene is firmly in the Marxist-Leninist tradition, and where cadres know the value of sacrifice and action, people like Ms Yapici will always be brought into the fray of revolutionary class struggle.

The revolutionary potential of the Turkish movement is there for all to see, and it is no surprise that it comes in a country where the politics of resistance is not dominated by social-democratic parties and Trotskyite counter-revolutionary fronts. In the defence of their basic bourgeois freedoms and democratic liberties, the Turkish protesters have illustrated quite ably what a demonstration actually looks like!

It certainly isn’t a march to Trafalgar Square then back to a r-r-r-revolutionary cafe for a discussion about why Syria’s Assad is a menace to the world or why China is a threat to Africa!

The role that was played by the TKP (Communist Party) and others in Turkey when they organised protests against the stationing of patriot missiles and other weapons for use in the planned war on Syria looks to have back-fired spectacularly on Erdogan and his puppet-masters. In the June issue of Lalkar the following, insightful analysis of this situation was made,

It will be remembered that the crushing of the demo in Gezi Park was preceded by earlier demos against Turkey’s support for anti-Assad rebels. When the bombs went off in Reyhanli, nobody believed Ankara’s laughable assertion that Assad’s forces were responsible. And everybody understood that it was Erdogan’s insistence on stirring up trouble in Syria that spawned such outrages.

On the very day of the explosions, when the human cost in both Turkish and Syrian lives was still being counted, a spontaneous demonstration in Reyhanli marched to the foreign ministry to demand the head, not of Assad, but of Erdogan. Another protest occurred in Ankara itself.

Erdogan’s espousal of the counter-revolution in Syria has won him few friends in his own country. A poll conducted by Kadir Has University of Istanbul, in 26 Turkish cities with 1,000 persons, between 26 December 2012 and 6 January 2013, found that only 11.4 percent of respondents wanted Turkey to ‘support opposition forces’ and 65.3 percent did not think a massive refugee wave would justify military intervention. Indeed, 79 percent responded that nothing short of a direct threat against Turkey would justify military intervention.

Animosity towards Erdogan’s Syrian policy threatens to bring together many of the forces which had previously been divided and picked off one by one. Where is Turkey’s national dignity if she is to be reduced to no more than a crude tool of imperialist policy in the Middle East? Where is Turkey’s secular tradition if her foreign policy is to be tailored to the needs of islamist rebels dedicated to the jihadist overthrow of Syria’s own secular state?

The urgent arrival of such burning questions has confronted the government with the horrendous possibility of seeing all its enemies – Kemalist, socialist and democratic – out on the street in a common front of resistance, unravelling all Erdogan’s worst efforts to keep his critics divided amongst themselves.

It may have seemed to Erdogan a couple of years ago that he could pull off a cheap foreign-policy coup by offering Turkey’s services to the counter-revolution in Syria, backing what his imperialist masters confidently assured him would prove to be the winning side and paving the way for a much-touted ‘post-Assad future’, in which Ankara (and in particular the islamist AKP) would have a greatly inflated role in the Middle East.

Two years on, with the rebels and their backers retreating and splitting whilst the Syrian army advances in firm defence of the country’s sovereignty, he might be forgiven for entertaining doubts. It is Ankara that has conspired to destabilise Turkey’s progressive and anti-imperialist neighbour. In so doing, however, it has destabilised Turkey itself, threatening to bring the whole house down around Erdogan’s ears.

The future holds great hope

It is our opinion that whist the movement in Britain still lacks the necessary ingredients for a real fight-back, the example of Gezi Park, just like the example being set by the workers of Greece and Spain, will begin to plant in the heads of advanced workers here in Britain the seeds of the future conduct of our resistance.

With each passing day, not only are social-democratic traditions and habits being constantly undermined by the material conditions of existence of great numbers of British workers, but the forms of organisation and the fighting spirit of the working masses elsewhere will begin to infect the British worker’s psyche, despite the best efforts of the Labour party and its Trot hangers-on.
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