On Saturday 8th of June, a rally was organised in Trafalgar Square by the Turkish community of London in solidarity with the revolutionary process that is currently taking place in Turkey. This was part of a series of smaller rallies that were called every day this past week. Comrades from Socialist Appeal have participated throughout the week.
The general mood was very dynamic and positive. Present was around 2000 people, most of them Londoners of Turkish origin. The age-range was extremely varied but there was a noticeable majority of youth, and in particular of young women, who were leading the chants. In terms of political affiliations, the Turkish and Kurdish communist groups and associate Left groups were in the majority, then the Liberals, Kemalists, and Nationalists. Members of the Alevi religious group also had a strong presence.
The rally consisted of a cycle of shouted slogans calling for the resignation of Erdogan and the overthrow of the State, alongside the playing of traditional Turkish music and socialist chants. There were a number of creative placards including one featuring marching penguins – a reference to the fact that the main Turkish news station aired a documentary about penguins in place of any coverage of the protests on the first night that the Turkish masses began to move.
The rally in the Square was planned to be followed by a march to Parliament and then a return to the Square to finish off the rally. By 16:00 the majority of demonstrators began to move in that direction. The first demonstrators to return to the Square were almost entirely liberals and Kemalist types. Around 30 minutes later, the rest of the demonstrators poured back into the Square from Parliament. It was around this point, near the end, that the police began to step-in. They claimed this was because the demonstration was meant to end, and the Square be cleared, by 18:00, but it may also have had to do with the fact that the demonstration had split into two sides that were shouting slogans at each other.
Broadly speaking on the one side were the assorted communist, socialist and leftist groups, whilst on the other side stood the liberals, Kemalists and nationalists. We of course immediately moved our stall to the communist side! There's no doubt that this dynamic was simply a microcosm of what must actually be happening in the movement in Turkey.
While at first the Turkish masses in general are out on the streets, like all revolutionary situations, the movement will polarise further and further along class lines as some elements dropout and/or turn over to the side of reaction as the revolutionary situation escalates and begins to challenge the very basis of capitalism. This same process has been seen in the Arab Revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt over the past two years. What is needed is a conscious revolutionary socialist leadership in Turkey to give a direction and a clear expression to those who are drawing radical conclusions.
It is safe to say that we had saturated the crowd with our leaflets, advertising our public meeting on the situation in Turkey [tonight at 6pm in SOAS]. More than once a person came up to me to re-confirm the date/time/location of our meeting, which shows the interest we generated, and many bought copies of the Socialist Appeal paper.
There will likely be more solidarity rallies such as these in the coming period as the situation in Turkey matures and the prospects for revolutionary change ripen. Socialist Appeal will continue to support these demonstrations and show solidarity for the revolutionary workers and youth struggling in this tremendous mass movement in Turkey.