Big strike movement accompanies elections in Turkey

Turkish auto strike, workers

Turkey is going through a period that brings together an electoral process and a big strike movement with a great potential of leaving its imprint on the future of the country. General elections are taking place on Sunday, 7th June. The decisive question in those elections is whether the HDP, People’s Democracy Party, controlled by the Kurdish movement with the support of a series of Turkish socialist parties and groups of different stripes, is going to attain the electoral threshold of 10 per cent required of a party in order to take any seats in parliament. If it does, it will probably have between 60 and 70 seats in a parliament of 550, as its strength is heavily concentrated in the Kurdish region. If it fails to reach that level, on the other hand, the AKP of now-president Tayyip Erdoğan will take all those seats, as the other parties are practically non-existent in the Kurdish region. The HDP hovers precisely around the 10 per cent level in the polls, so the whole country will be holding its breath on the day of the elections.

In a certain sense, the fate of Tayyip Erdoğan hinges on the results and, consequently, the near future of Turkey also, as Erdoğan has come to be the decisive factor in Turkish politics. It will be remembered that Erdoğan was able to weather the Gezi uprising in summer 2013 and the gigantic corruption scandal in December of that same year to win the municipal elections of March 2014 and the presidential election of August in that same year. However, it is now becoming clear to all that in the process he has lost a lot of feathers. The AKP itself is now shaken by internal dissension and the mass support behind the party is visibly eroding. So Erdoğan’s plans to cast an executive presidency for himself seem to be at a dead end. However, the wheels of fortune may once again work in his favour: with the HDP below the required 10 per cent Erdoğan may wield the number of seats necessary for constitutional revision. There is no doubt that serious vote-rigging will take place this Sunday, as was the case in the March elections, which may bring Erdoğan the result sought for. There is also no doubt that there will be very strong contestation of the results, with a lot of claims of rigged elections, should the HDP remain below the 10 per cent threshold, one that may turn into another round of rebellion at least in the Kurdish region.

Despite all the rigging, the HDP will, in all probability, comfortably surpass the threshold. The electorate is keenly aware that the HDP is the key to a defeat of Erdoğan and the AKP. Many Kemalists, a good part of the Alevi community, and others traditionally CHP (centre-left) supporters will grudgingly vote for the HDP. The mass media of the Westernising bourgeoisie support the HDP as well. Even the organs of the international bourgeoisie have come out in outspoken fashion against Erdoğan. A late May editorial in the New York Times even called forth invectives from Erdoğan himself. More explicitly, the Economist, mouthpiece of the London City, stated squarely in its editorial, in characteristic humorous fashion, “Turks should vote Kurd”! 

Parallel to the electoral process, another development of immense significance has gripped Turkey: since mid-May, in one factory after another, in what appears to be an unstoppable movement, metalworkers in their tens of thousands have resorted to a wildcat strike in order to quash the yellow gangster union that was painstakingly built by the military regime of the early 1980s in order to keep the commanding heights of class struggle under the control of the bourgeoisie. Giant factories such as Renault, Fiat, and Ford have been at the forefront of the movement. In some factories the work stoppage lasted for more than ten days with partial occupation. In some, such as the two sites of Ford, it is still going on. The movement has been partially victorious, with the guaranteeing of full trade union freedom to the workers, renunciation of punitive layoffs on the part of the bosses, and some pay raise. The movement has inspired the rest of the working class. Already petroleum workers have staged radical action, with partial factory occupation, and have received another partial victory. This movement will, in all probability, change the chemistry of the class struggle in the medium term, despite the grave ideological and political limits in the consciousness of the workers involved and the lack of orientation on the part of the socialist movement.

So whatever the results of the elections, times will be hard for Erdoğan, the AKP and the bourgeoisie at large. We as the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (DIP) have emphasized from day one that life in Turkey after the Gezi rebellion would be different and that a downhill trip had started for Erdoğan. This conviction was further strengthened when a second popular revolt erupted in Turkish Kurdistan, with millions descending into the streets for a week in October 2014 in the face of the brutal indifference, if not vicious hostility, of Erdoğan and company to the plight of the Kurds of Kobane under siege from the barbaric ISIL. And now it is the working class movement that is on the march. Turkey is a country in the grip of a fever of social unrest. Erdoğan and the AKP are bound to lose ground as a result of this. 

The DIP is totally immersed in the metalworkers’ strike movement, in close connection with sympathisers and contacts within the factories. On the electoral front we see an HDP victory as a blow to the anti-worker, reactionary politics of Erdoğan and the AKP, hence calling for a vote for the former. The HDP is not a workers’ party, but neither is it a bourgeois party in the classical sense of the term. It is a party of national emancipation for the Kurds that has joined hands with a lot of different social movements, including socialist parties of various stripes, some ecology, the women’s movement, gays and lesbians etc. In order to defeat the AKP’s brutal anti-worker policy, we stand for a vote to the HDP. The main danger here is an alignment between the AKP and the HDP in the aftermath of the elections. Early on in the electoral process, spokespeople for the HDP opened the door to a coalition with or outside support to the AKP, if the latter cannot attain a majority in parliament. The DIP was the only force on the left that squarely challenged this, by publishing a statement calling the HDP for renunciation of any alliance with the AKP. The renunciation came immediately and repeatedly and so on this basis we call for a vote to the HDP.

However, the real struggle in the coming period will take place for the hearts and minds of the working class that is now once again on the move after a long lull since the late 1990s.

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