Report from Turkey: Advance the Struggle of the Working Class against Imperialist War!

The present war, in which US imperialism seeks to maintain its hegemony, is further aggravating the current contradictions in Turkey. Although the country is engulfed in a serious economic crisis, Turkey is setting out to undertake new roles in the region, playing "little brother" of the USA. The Internationalist Communists of Turkey report on anti-war movements, and send solidarity greetings from the Turkish workers.

The present war, in which US imperialism seeks to maintain its hegemony, is further aggravating the current contradictions in Turkey as a result of its geopolitical situation and socio-cultural structure. Although the country is engulfed in a serious economic crisis, Turkey is setting out to undertake new missions in the region, playing the role of the "little brother" of the USA in NATO. It is trying to be involved directly in the conduct of the war together with US, and is preparing to send troops to the hotspots.

However, to be able to take these steps in a country which is trying to get along well with the Arab states, and which has an overwhelming Muslim population, creates deep contradictions. The Turkish ruling class is determined to keep everything under its control. And this amounts to nothing but stepping up continually the severe repression which was already present.

For example, some left parties attempted to organise a big anti-war rally in Istanbul several weeks ago. But the government raised various obstacles to avert the rally. We must remember that every demonstration requires permission and if a demonstration is organised without such permission, the police has every right to attack it. And they make use of their right every time! Despite all this the rally started off. But there were thousands of policemen in the square where the rally was to be held. After the beginning of the rally they attacked the demonstrators, beat them violently with truncheons, dragged them on the floors. Many were arrested. It was quite apparent that the bourgeois government, being engaged in a war alongside the US, was prepared to attack even the smallest anti-war demo savagely.

When student groups in the universities attempt to organise anti-war demos they are stopped at the very beginning by heavy-handed police attacks. The police are always ready because they are already present in the universities. Despite its boast to be the only so-called secular and "democratic" republic of the Middle East, Turkey never ceases to deny the most elementary democratic right of the working people to demonstrate, employing repression and violence.

On the other hand, the bourgeois government, which is severely squeezed from the economic front, makes a pretence of complying with the requests of the West in favour of so-called democratisation. In reality, they are pretending to take steps along these lines in order to get financial aid from the West. This hypocritical attitude of the government has been turned into a farce. While the bourgeois parliament, amending some anti-democratic articles in the current constitution, is preparing an apparently more democratic constitution, the government - under this new "democratic" constitution - is carrying on terror against the democratic demonstrations of the workers and the progressive youth.

Just as in the case of demonstrations on the 20th Anniversary of the foundation of the Higher Education Council (YÖK) - still in being - which was established in the period of military dictatorship after the September 12, 1980 military coup, for the purpose of abolishing the autonomy of the universities, preventing the democratic acts of the academic personnel and the students, and putting the universities under state strict control.

On November 6, the university students organised demonstrations all over Turkey to protest against the Higher Education Council, anti-democratic measures against the youth, increased fees, etc. The protestors were violently dispersed, beaten by truncheons, and tear-gassed at close quarters (so that even the cops who were enjoying themselves beating the students were affected), dragged on the ground; and many were arrested.

Even the liberal bourgeois press reacted against this violence. For example, the title of the news in Radikal was "Didn't we change the constitution?" and the article went on to say: "Yesterday the police force made their first comments on the right to demonstrate and protest, which has been reinforced by the new amendments in the Constitution."

On the other hand the government's attacks on the use of any democratic right have been intensified very much in war conditions. As is well known, the hunger strikes and death fasts initiated by some political prisoners in protest against the F-type prisons were previously attacked in a bloody operation called "Back to Life". 32 people were killed in this operation, increasing the number of deaths in the death fasts to 77, and many more maimed.

A few days ago the police once more carried out a violent operation, raiding a small workers' district called Küçükarmutlu, where some people - either prisoners released on bail or relatives of the fasting prisoners - had been on a death fast. The police used gas bombs, automatic firearms, armoured vehicles and bulldozers in the raid, and a house in which some people were fasting was partly demolished by bulldozers; four were killed and ten injured, two of which are in a dangerous condition. Using the argument that the strikes are harmful to Turkey's image in Europe, the government doesn't want to allow anyone to go on a hunger strike or a death fast as a political protest. By methods like these, it wishes to bring the political prisoners and their families and other relatives who support them "back to life"!

In Turkey there is a complete deadlock and uncertainty in politics. This situation strengthens the role of the army which is already at the heart of the political life of the country. The interesting point is that there is an abyss between the contents of the showcase and reality. If you look at the showcase, Turkey is passing the laws which the EU requires and the process of converging with the EU is proceeding! But in reality, God knows what the future of Turkey's relations with the EU will be. The question of Cyprus is in a complete deadlock at the moment. The prime minister and the minister of foreign affairs have abandoned their moderate tone.

Depending on the political developments after September 11, the government now seems to be about to give up the aim of establishing good relations with the EU. But the matter is more complicated than one imagines. For a long time the Turkish bourgeoisie has been split into two wings - those who want to come closer to Europe on the one side and those who want to undertake a sub-imperialist role in the region as the aide of the American cowboys on the other side.

Now the government is portraying the problem between itself and the EU as the result of the EU's intention to accept the Greek Cypriots as the representatives of the whole island. They pretend not to know that the reality of Cyprus has been regarded in this way by the EU for the last 10 years! The Turkish minister of foreign affairs, Ismail Cem, says that the Cyprus question is not going well, and it might even be necessary to venture to break with the EU. And after that, prime minister Ecevit said: "If they force us to, we will annex Northern Cyprus." Against this wing, the pro-EU bourgeois circles are very angry and they want the government to be overthrown.

TUSIAD, the organisation of the big capitalists which played a role in the September 12 military regime - now plays the "democrat" and for the first time in its history declares that it would support the actions of the Labour Platform in which all the workers' unions take part. In short, as a result of the new contradictions and conflicts of interest between the different capitalist countries, Turkey is now being shaken to its foundations. As the representatives of American imperialism - which is the hegemonic power of world capitalism - declared: "This war will last a long time!"

In such a period of turmoil it would be absurd to attempt to predict the future development of events. But one thing is obvious for the time being: that the bourgeois government is on the side of American imperialism. Turkey's relations with the USA and NATO are going so well that institutions like the IMF and the World Bank are promising new credits as a reward!

But in reality, as a result of the ever-deepening economic crisis, the labouring masses are suffering the hell of unemployment and poverty. As a result of the last economic crisis in Turkey, the number of workers who have been dismissed in the last year is over 1.5 million. It is now definite that the Turkish economy will shrink by 8% by the end of 2001. Although there is a stagnation in the economy, the inflation rate is 90% on a yearly basis. So the Turkish economy is experiencing a second and deeper stagflation than the first one in 1994.

Desperate bourgeois economists say: "The plight of Turkey cannot be learned from the economics text-books." They are quite right. Not only the crisis of Turkish capitalism, but also the crisis into which world capitalism has been plunged at the beginning of the 21st century can only be analysed in the light of Marxism.

About one and a half centuries ago Marx explained the direction capitalism is going from an historical perspective. And he also said that in this historical march of capitalism it could solve its crises only at the expense of preparing new and deeper crises. The new millennium has opened with a deep economic crisis, unprecedented in the history of capitalism. This crisis is so obvious with the rising figures of unemployment, economic stagnation, incessant stock market crises, etc, all over the world - including advanced capitalist countries - that there is no need even to list the data.

On the other hand, the economic crises which break out in the advanced capitalist centres, and have devastating results in the weaker capitalist countries like Turkey are not local or accidental. On the contrary, they are part of the crisis of the system. They have no independent character, demanding a separate study. One can only say that they have the character of early symptoms that announce the general course of the system. The deep financial crises which caused a sudden collapse of the Turkish Lira broke out first in November 2000, and later in February 2000. These were symptoms in this sense. After that, the Turkish industrial sector plunged into an unprecedented stagnation. The crisis of the world capitalist system has concluded the meaningless debates as to whether this crisis is partial or accidental.

The trade unions are under pressure both from the workers below and from the bourgeois state which does not want to tolerate even the smallest protests because of the explosive nature of the situation. The union bureaucracy moves only reluctantly, and when it does so, tries to hold the workers back. DISK (The Confederation of Revolutionary Workers' Unions), which was a big union confederation before the military coup of 1980, has now lost its power and has become a small confederation. It was closed under the military regime and its officials and thousands of members were arrested, and KESK (Confederation of Public Employees' Unions) started a long march from several cities to Ankara. The main slogan of the march was "Against unemployment, poverty, corruption and war!" They also advanced the slogan of "Global equality, justice and peace". The workers who participated on the march and other workers from the biggest union confederation TURK-IS (although it did not participate in the preceding march towards Ankara) met in Ankara on November 9 and a rally was held with the involvement of about 30,000 workers.

The framework of union organisation in Turkey is so narrow that the initiative of workers is hampered at the outset by various prohibitions. For example, because of the restrictions in the union and labour laws, it is forbidden to set up workplace type unions. A union which does not recruit at least 10% of the workers nationally in a particular industry cannot have the right to represent the workers, etc. The civil servants' unions which have hundreds of thousands of members have neither the right to strike nor the right to conduct collective bargaining.

It is necessary to break out of this narrow framework, and in order to do this it is necessary to follow an intelligent, planned and patient way of working. Otherwise there can never be a permanent success. Under such conditions, as is always the case, the petit-bourgeois style of work, involving unplanned, hasty activities aimed at getting "showy" appearances, does not get any significant results.

The world working class is now faced with a serious economic crisis and an open war that the imperialist powers intended to spread. Harsh and decisive days of struggle are knocking at the door for the working class in Pakistan, a country which is in the line of fire of the imperialist war. In such an atmosphere, the publication of the Appeal of the Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign is very important and correct in its content.

From the standpoint of the historical interests of the Turkish working class, it is necessary to be able to establish an organisation following the example of the vanguard sections of the Pakistani working class. We must make similar efforts permanent. We believe that the Appeal of the vanguard Pakistani workers will arouse feelings of class brotherhood wherever it reaches the workers in the union branches.

In the coming period it is of crucial importance that the vanguard of the working class in different countries pay greater attention to work in the unions, organising various events, seminars, etc, all over the world, that will enlighten workers concerning the imperialist war, the economic crisis of imperialism on a world scale and the positions to be taken. The militant workers of Turkey wholeheartedly support the Appeal of their Pakistani brothers as a concrete indication of the fact that the working class is not alone in this world and that we workers must believe in the future. We send our warmest feelings of solidarity.

Long live the struggle of the workers of the world against world capitalist order!
Long live proletarian internationalism!