by Y. Fikret Kayali
The Renault autoworkers in Bursa, Turkey, halted production on May 15. Tofaş workers, who produce Fiat cars, stopped working the following day. The wildcat strikes spread to six other factories in the metal sector in Bursa.
Several other factory workers in Bursa, Kocaeli, Ankara, and Sakarya either went on strike or protested against their employers. More than 20,000 workers have taken strike action, and the Renault workers are still not back to work as this paper goes to press.
The Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office initiated a “corruption and bribery operation” on December 17. About one week later, the Ministers of Economics, the Interior, and Urban Development all resigned after their sons were arrested. Events accelerated at a dizzying pace. Prime Minister Erdogan fired seven other ministers. The chief prosecutor was taken off the case. Hundreds of police officers were removed from their posts. Although Erdogan claims that the scandal was a foreign plot, and blames the “interests-rate lobby” for trying to harm Turkey, many see the unfolding drama as a civil war between his AKP (Justice and Development Party) and the Gulenists.
The Gulen Movement is a global Islamist network led by Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who lives inself-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, USA. The Gulenists were among the strongest political groups that had supported the AKP since it came to power in 2002. They joined forces with the AKP to prosecute secularist generals, and hundreds of other alleged coup plotters since 2007. Not only the top military officials, but also many innocent journalists and politicians were arrested on the basis of “fabricated evidence, secret witnesses and flights of investigative fancy”–thanks to the Gulenists’ infiltration of the judiciary and police. Such undemocratic underpinnings sustained the corrupt neo-liberal economy. This meant unprecedented profits for domestic and foreign financial capitalists and their conglomerates on the one hand, dispossession and pauperization for workers and peasants on the other.
As previously reported, numerous protests spread across Turkey after the Turkish police brutally attacked protesters in Taksim Gezi Park in summer of 2013. The popular upheaval against the authoritarian government and its neo-liberal policies had a working class character. Nevertheless, the revolt lacked political leadership and a clear political perspective. Revolutionary spirit was on the wane, but anger generated by the corruption scandal has revived it. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets on December 29. Although the number of protestors were less than in the summer, the masses proved to be as committed and determined as before.
The conflict within the ruling bloc continues as we go to press. Political instability is only one of the fears of the Turkish capitalists. The Turkish economy is heading into a crisis. Turkey’s gargantuan current account deficit worsens against the backdrop of US Federal Reserve’s decision to end its loose monetary policy–thanks to which the Turkish economy recovered from the severe hit it took from the global recession in2008 and 2009. Moreover, Turkey’s aggressive foreign policy failed in the Middle East where the popularity of its government and capitalists has crumbled. This further limits Turkish capitalism’s room for maneuver because it had high hopes for economic activism in Middle Eastern markets. In short, the exploiters are not able to “live and rule in the old way” anymore. And popular demands for change resonate to the core of the Turkish economy.
The CHP (Republican People’s Party), the main opposition, has now replaced its Kemalist-secularist rhetoric with a social democratic phraseology in order to absorb democratic demands. It seeks the support of pro-imperialist and pro-Zionist Gulenists to replace the AKP, and it strengthens its ties with the big business.
The Kurdish movement missed yet another great opportunity. Its leaders’ lukewarm opposition to the corruption scandals shows that it doesn’t want to risk the so-called “peace process” that it initiated with the AKP elites behind close doors. Its reluctance to join forces with Gulenists and CHP against the AKP is understandable, since these two political forces have always been obstacles to any democratic solution to the Kurdish question. The Kurdish people do not need another tragedy to see that their national struggle has nothing to gain from capitalists and their political parties.
The Left is still fragmented and lacks the ability to organize public dissent, although its ideas are enjoying a revival.
Intense warfare within Turkey’s ruling bloc is a sign of escalating conflicts between the capitalist class fractions as the Turkish economy hurtles towards a crisis. It also shows that imperialists are not sure whether they should bet on Erdogan or Gulenists. Imperialists employ zigzagging political tactics while their room for maneuver is narrowing in the context of the escalating crisis of imperialism in the Middle East. Needed is American and Canadian workers’ solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Turkey. Our slogan should be “Imperialist Hands off Middle East!”
The key task is building an independent working class party in Turkey. The cracks in the ruling capitalist bloc can be utilized by the working class and its allies, such as the Kurdish movement, only if an independent course of working class action is pursued. The political situation in Turkey demonstrates a crisis of political leadership. Although the masses withdraw their support from the existing bourgeois political parties, in the absence of a realistic revolutionary alternative, new pro-capitalist pseudo alternatives flourish to channel the people’s anger against the corrupt system that is based on private ownership of the means of production. Socialist Action is forging ties with revolutionary parties in Turkey, and elsewhere, which aim to overthrow the rotten capitalist disorder. — By Y. Fikret Kayali
– Toronto Socialist Action Presents –
Before he was falsely convicted of murdering a policeman in 1981 and sentenced to die, Mumia Abu-Jamal was a gifted journalist and brilliant writer. Now after more than 30 years in prison and despite attempts to silence him, Mumia is not only still alive but continuing to report, educate, provoke and inspire. This documentary film is an inspiring portrait of America’s most famous political prisoner. Through prison interviews, archival footage, and dramatic readings, and aided by a potent chorus of voices including Cornel West, Alice Walker, Dick Gregory, Angela Davis, Amy Goodman and others, this riveting film explores Mumia’s life before, during and after Death Row. Guest speaker is Norman ‘Otis’ Richmond, producer/host of Saturday Morning Live Radio Regent, Producer/Host of Diasporic Music on Uhuru Radio, and columnist for Burning Spear newspaper. SA’s Elizabeth Byce will present an update on the Lynne Stewart case.
1945 was a pivotal year in British history. The unity that carried Britain through the war allied to the bitter memories of the inter-war years led to a vision of a better society. The spirit of the age was to be our brother’s and our sister’s keeper. Director Ken Loach has used film from Britain’s regional and national archives, alongside sound recordings and contemporary interviews, to create a rich political and social narrative. “The achievements of the ’45 Labour government have largely been written out of our history. From near economic collapse we took leading industries into public ownership and established the Welfare State. Leading off the discussion will be Toronto SA member Valerie Lamb, who grew up in England in the 1940s and 50s, and Barry Weisleder, Canada editor of SA newspaper.
English subtitles. “Ekümenopolis: Ucu olmayan sehir” (original title). This documentary tells the story of Istanbul and other Mega-Cities on a neo-liberal course to destruction. From demolished shantytowns to the tops of skyscrapers, from real estate investors to urban opposition, the film will take us on a long journey in this city without limits. It provides the background information to the ongoing massive protests in Turkey, which began to contest the urban development plan for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park. The guest speakers are: Yasin Kaya, PhD. candidate at York U., member of CUPE Local 3903, and member of Socialist Action, who spent the summer in Turkey. Elif Genc is a York U Master’s degree graduate in Interdisicplinary Studies. Her thesis focused on Turkish politics and the Kurdish social movement. She is an activist in the “Supporters of Taksim Gezi Park Movement in Toronto” and the Gezi solidarity network.
A documentary film exploring conditions inside the Attawapiskat First Nation, which in October 2011 declared a state of emergency due to health and safety concerns over a lack of housing and infrastructure, and remained in the public spotlight during the Idle No More protests.
Where do multinationals pay taxes and how much? Gaining insight from international tax experts, The Tax Free Tour takes a look at tax havens, the people who live there and the routes along which tax is avoided globally. This film is an economic thriller mapping the systemic risk for governments and the ruling class alike. Is this the price we have to pay for globalized capitalism? Leading off the discussion will be David Langille who teaches public policy at York University and the University of Toronto and is treasurer of Canadians for Tax Fairness.
An investigative and powerfully emotional documentary about the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the US military, the institutions that perpetuate and cover up its existence, and its profound personal and social consequences.
In the past 40 years, the War on Drugs has accounted for 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer, and destroyed impoverished communities at home and abroad. The war on drugs has never been about drugs. From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, a penetrating look inside America’s criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy.
Each of the films in this series will be preceded by a brief introduction, and will be followed by a commentary, and an open floor discussion period.
OISE, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor Street West, Room 2-214
at St. George Subway Station. Everyone Welcome. $4 donation requested.