This AWTWNS news packet for 26 June 2013 contains two articles. They may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as they are credited.
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– Seeking how to resist
– “It all started with a tree” – statement by the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist)
Turkey: seeking how to resist
26 June 2013. A World to Win News Service. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to crush resistance have continued with early morning police raids on the homes of 20 people accused of “terrorism” for participating in demonstrations in Ankara. These arrests occurred amid anger in that city over the release of a policeman who shot and killed a young demonstrator at close range.
In Istanbul, protesters forcibly driven out of Gezi Park are holding night-time forums to discuss what to do in parks throughout the city. At nine o’clock every evening, people stop whatever they are doing and make noise for fifteen minutes in solidarity with the movement and each other. They lean out of their apartment windows to bang on pots and pans, chant and whistle. In many cafes and restaurants, customers bang their tea glasses.
The movement that began with the defence of Gezi Park against redevelopment plans in late May has struck a deep chord among the youth and others in many cities throughout Turkey, with women often in the front ranks. Now the main demand is for Erdogan to resign.
The situation took a turn on the night of 15 June when the authorities attempted to put an end to the protests by sheer force, thus revealing the nature of the state Erdogan leads. Tightly closed ranks of thousands of police from all over the country, with their shields tilted above their heads, lined up like phalanxes of ancient Roman soldiers, moved through the park. The authorities changed the composition of their hi-tech sprays and gasses used against protesters. Not only do eyes sting horribly but people vomit and their flesh sometimes shows the marks of first degree chemical burns. Most people were not prepared for such an onslaught. Although they held their ground for more hours than seemed possible, eventually they were driven out.
Erdogan’s claims that the protesters in their multitudes were all “terrorists” or at least manipulated by “terrorism” had fallen flat. When he called for mothers to come to Gezi Park and get their children, hundreds of mothers came to form a protective human chain around the park. The association of lawyers held a demonstration to demand the release of their colleagues jailed for defending protesters, and the doctors’ and dentists’ association did the same to defend the medical personnel targeted by the police, beaten and jailed for taking care of the wounded.
Erdogan called huge rallies in Ankara and Istanbul to prove that his support is still strong. He tried to set his social base on fire with religion and a sense that he and they are victims of unnamed enemies, implicitly “the West” and Westernized people in Turkey who want to prevent Turkey’s rise.
For the past three decades giant changes have swept Turkey as part of the quickened pace of globalization. The intensification of capitalist development has meant new capitalists want their share of the state power and the loot. This same process of development has also led to dislocation of millions of peasants and subsistence farmers, driven to bankruptcy and pushed into the shantytowns or migration abroad. This process of upheaval has been reflected in a nostalgia for the traditional ideas, morals and culture.
The AKP was propelled into power as an expression of these drives and contradictions toward, on the one hand, an increased modern capitalist development and, on the other hand, the promotion of traditional values and religious ideology – its “politics of piety”. The AKP represents the unashamed defence and practice of free market capitalism and exploitation, working hand in hand with imperialism. Yet their claim to power, their ideological cohesion and their appeal to a section of the people is increasingly rooted in religious ideology (Islam) and its yearning for a traditional way of life that is being undercut by the very workings of the world capitalist system that the AKP is salivating over.
In today’s world, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, these two conflicting but interdependent drives are shaping political events and posing reactionary alternatives, contending with each other, and fuelling reactionary violence and manipulation. Aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, Somalia, the imperialist “war on terrorism”, the ongoing confrontation with Islamic Republic of Iran – all of this is marked by this same dynamic. The so-called Turkish Model was touted as an example of mitigating and harmonizing unbridled capitalist, imperialist-dependent development with a reactionary Islamic political regime. Erdogan is caught between these two irreconcilable poles. His arrogance is caused by the conviction that he is the only one that can hold this explosive contradiction together, and ultimately the Western powers and Turkey’s ruling class as a whole will have to accept that.
The regime has made efforts to peel off some of the more established middle class people who make up an important base of support for the movement in the streets, both by making promises (such as not to tear down Gezi Park without a court process and possibly a referendum) and brutality and arrests. His reign of terror has given some protesters pause, but is also an important factor in spreading a disbelief in the regime’s legitimacy.
The core of this movement remains in a resistance mood. Sometimes it is expressed in a solemn way like the ”standing man” in Taksim Square, and in mass pledges to never give up made to honour those killed by the police. Sometimes it is in defiant jokes, like the chanting of “Bring on the pepper gas” as night falls. “This is just the beginning,” another chant goes, with an increasingly realistic assessment that what is beginning is going to be dangerous and difficult.
Most importantly, there is a questioning, not only about what to do but what to fight for, what kind of world we have and what kind we want.
This report drew on analysis in “A Spring Thunder Resonating Far And Wide” by Ishak Baran, Revolution newspaper no. 308, www.revcom.us in English and Turkish.
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“It all started with a tree”
– statement by the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist)
26 June 2013. A World to Win News Service. Following are edited excerpts from a statement by the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) on 2 June. The full statement is available in English as well as Farsi at www.cpimlm.com.
A popular slogan is Turkey is this: “Hey, lamp – it all started with a tree! Did you get it?”
The lamp is the symbol of the governing party (the AKP under the leadership of Erdogan), but during this party’s decade-long reign it has been synonymous with stupidity and cultural backwardness. The word “tree” is an allusion to the great movement of the last few days started by small number of environmental activists opposing the transformation of Gezi Park (located adjacent to Taksim Square in Istanbul) into a commercial centre but it is also a reference to Adam and Eve meant to ridicule the sexual taboos wrapped in rotten religious rituals by AKP regime.
It is clear that the Erdogan regime is facing an important political crisis. In addition to the destruction of the environment and Taksim Square, much deeper factors have been involved in the formation of this political crisis. The-step-by-step implementation of Islamic measures, such as restrictions on Caesarean births and abortion, forbidding alcohol consumption at certain hours and kissing in public all have caused anger among the masses and provoked their outpouring on to the streets.
The Turkish regime wants to rally its Islamic social base and turn them to an ideological force, but by doing so it has isolated itself from a large section of the population. Turkey’s involvement in the Syria crisis and its support for reactionary Islamic oppositions and preparations for military adventures in the Middle East, and the project of turning Turkey into a so-called “21st-century Ottoman Empire” are factors that have expanded the scope of people’s anger with the AKP regime.
Apart from ideological and political factors, the fragility of the Turkey’s economic development model is also feeding the current crisis. None of the AKP regime’s economic policies have resulted in sustainable economic development. In the past ten years, the world capitalist system has more deeply penetrated the Turkish economy than any other period in its history.
The AKP regime is not only isolated among sections of people, but also, with the appearance of the effects of their adventurist regional foreign policy and doubts about the sustainability of their economic policies, discontent amongst bourgeois strata has also been increased.
The sudden appearance of this anti-regime movement in Turkey is the most important event in the Middle East. This movement can destroy all the calculations made by the imperialists and regional reactionaries once again. The White House and the U.S. embassy in Turkey are following events closely and keeping in close contact with the Turkish prime minister and the country’s other parliamentary parties.
The enemy’s main policy is to marginalise the masses to maximum degree so that they would have no voice in charting the path and determining the aims of this movement. The enemy knows that to achieve this, they have to stop the goals and expectation of the masses from going beyond electoral and parliamentary democracy, and channel this movement into the path of bartering among parties loyal to the state, such as the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and other parliamentary parties. The prime minister’s speeches, foreign policy statements by the U.S. and the discourse of the parliamentary parties in Turkey is all about “parliamentary democracy”, “the ballot box”, the need for negotiations between parliamentary parties and so forth.
The media broadcast the news of the movement with images and speeches in line with the above policy. For example, the prime minister in his speeches emphasises that “in a democracy protests must be conducted through parliament and voting.” The mayor of Istanbul says this movement has proved that we have to “consult” people in doing anything. The official media basically report the slogans and flags of parliamentary parties, while the barricades and fighting with police, basically carried out by leftist activists and anti-regime revolutionary parties, with the participation of non-organised masses, get almost no coverage.
The Workers Party of Kurdistan (PKK) and its leader Abdullah Ocalan did not support this movement until 2 June, despite the 1 June demonstration in the town of Amed (Diyarbakir, Kurdistan) with the slogan of “Media, why are you keeping silent?”
None of the bourgeois parties can ignore this movement and its future. All of them, including the ruling party, are following a dual policy towards it: containing the aims, expectations and demands of the movement and stopping it from turning into a movement with the aim of overthrowing the system, on the one hand, and on the other using it as a bargaining chip against each other for a bigger share of power and further consolidate the state.
The states in the region are closely following events in Turkey. The Iranian foreign ministry issued a statement expressing the hope for a “peaceful resolution”. There is no doubt that Islamic Republic of Iran is happy to see the Turkish government dragged into a political crisis. But on the other hand they know that a further radicalisation and spreading of the movement, with no Islamic content but with a secular and left tendency, will no doubt affect the masses in Iran.
The Islamic regime in Egypt led by Mohammed Morsi is extremely worried, since it presented the AKP government as a model and are concerned about the fate of the “godfather” of moderate Islam in the Middle East and what effects developments in Turkey may have on the future of the other regimes in the region.
The reactionary opposition in Syria, engaged in heavy fighting with the Syrian army and Hezbollah from Lebanon, had put all their hopes on the Turkish regime’s ability to persuade the Nato armies and the U.S. to launch a military intervention in Syria and finish off the Assad regime. Now even Erdogan knows that this rhetoric is a burst bubble, at least for until he can restore political stability at home.
There is an intensely felt necessity that what started in the Middle East as the “Arab Spring” take a great leap in Turkey. In order for that to happen and qualitatively effect the mass protest movements throughout the Middle East and the world, a thorough critique of the dominant system in the Middle East is required: the nature of the states and the ruling political and social formations in these countries, including the nature of “electoral democracy”; the nature of the contradictions between Islamism and imperialism; and the importance of the expansion of religious patriarchy and the oppression of women through the integration of religion and the state in the reproduction of oppressive and exploitative formations dependent on world capitalist system.
This question must be put forward: why did Tahrir Square in Cairo turn into a square where women are raped? We have to ask: why were the people’s sacrifices in Egypt and Tunisia deposited into the accounts of Islamist parties?
Communist revolutionaries in Turkey must call for international solidarity with all oppressed nations in the Middle East, and the central point of this declaration should be that the peace negotiations between the Turkish and Kurdish bourgeoisies cannot lead to the liberation of the Kurdish people. They can only lead to the participation of Kurdish bourgeois-feudals in the ruling system, which can only mean a hell of oppression, religious patriarchy, the intensification of the oppression of women and poverty for the majority of the masses.
This movement should pay particular attention to confronting the regime on the main points of its agenda: the destruction of revolutionary forces through pulling them into the parliamentary sewer; turning Turkey into a gendarme of U.S. imperialism and the European Union in the Middle East with the chauvinist slogans about the restoration of the Ottoman Empire; the integration of religion into the state and the intensification of patriarchy and misogyny within the framework of further opening Turkey to capitalist globalisation. It is impossible to confront this regime without addressing these questions.
The issue that this movement cannot afford to ignore is communism, the communist outlook and programme. Taking this outlook and programme to the people in this movement is a huge challenge for the revolutionary communists, but without fearlessly putting forward this outlook and programme, the particular struggle against this regime cannot be carried forward boldly.
The existence of various bourgeoisie parties in this movement is a source of illusions and lowering the goals, but on the other hand this situation can be used to expose the nature and programme of other class forces. Lack of attention to the programme and slogans of other parties under the pretext of preserving unity can only lead to the strengthening of the goals and programmes of those parties among the mass of people.
This movement has brought a blast of fresh air to Turkey and all over the Middle East, but it also has very serious political limitations. Through small and large leaps it must overcome these limitations, and through those steps persist and develop. We have to understand that the limitations, although real, are conditional and relative and not absolute. These limitations can be transformed through conscious engagement. The tasks of the revolutionary communists are to constantly push at these limits and do their utmost to the maximum possible degree to transform them: through agitation and propaganda, slogans, the radicalisation of general declarations, organising discussions and debates at night over the nature of the parliamentary path, the possibility of radically changing society, the situation in the Middle East and internationalist duties, the importance of struggle against patriarchy and the integration of religion into the state, exposing the nature and prospects of “peace” between the Turkish state and the Kurdish movement, and so on.
Through this we can speed up the situation and be prepared for unexpected developments. A change in the existing position of a movement cannot be the result of the intervention of a vanguard force alone, but that intervention can be a determining factor in changing the movement’s predominant framework. This intervention, combined with other factors, can affect the overall prospects for a movement and lead to a qualitative change. But it is impossible to predict how the sum of these prospects would develop. In general, we have to follow what Lenin formulated: that communist consciousness, the communist outlook and methodology, cannot develop among the masses spontaneously.
It can be already said that there are two pathways for the current movement: either going deep into the swamp of the parliamentary stupidity propagated by the ruling party and other state-endorsed parties and the international and Turkish media, or building a movement for radically changing society. Building the second path is a task facing the left and communist youths in Turkey. Now the question is: what has to be done to build such a movement? How can communists take part in the current movement without tailing its spontaneity and shape the future through this?
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