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On Side Of Turkish Workers

The Militant, Vol. 60, no. 3, 22 January 1996

Following Turkey’s December 24 elections, a flurry of worried editorials appeared in the big-business press decrying the first-place showing by the Welfare Party, described by the bourgeois media as the party of Islamic fundamentalism. The ruling classes with large stakes and investments in Turkey, especially in Germany and the United States, fear the greater instability the elections and recent large labor mobilizations signaled.

Sticking to protocol, Turkey’s president invited Welfare Party leader Necmettin Erbakan to form a coalition government. But the ruling class in Turkey has made it clear it prefers a coalition with the main capitalist parties that have ruled up to now.

Tansu Ciller, who resigned as prime minister after the elections, and her True Path Party, immediately began scurrying to put together a governing coalition with the other major conservative group, the Motherland Party, and whoever else they can get to make up the requisite number of votes in parliament. Ciller and company are posing as the defenders of a secular Turkey. But the main concern of the capitalist parties in Turkey is defending their capacity to impose the austerity measures that are already taking a heavy toll on the working class.

The biggest blow to Ankara’s ability to proceed apace came from the mass strike mobilizations that began in September, forcing the government to agree to wage hikes and sparking the current crisis facing the capitalists. In the face of the organized labor resistance the ruling parties split over how far and fast they could push to impose the demands of imperialist investors and the International Monetary Fund. The crisis in Turkey is the product of the imperialist domination of that nation in a world marked by capitalist depression. More instability is on the horizon as the rulers there are forced to provoke further polarization and resistance by their drive to protect their profit system and satisfy their masters in Washington and Bonn.

The events in Turkey are being watched closely by the imperialists in Germany and the United States as they vie for domination of the country’s markets and strategic military bases. Turkey has massive trade with Germany, and Bonn pushed heavily to incorporate Ankara into the European customs union for one reason alone: to rake off still more of the surplus value produced by working people there.

Because of the large Turkish immigrant population, among them many Kurds, Germany is directly impacted by events in Turkey. From the ceaseless assaults by Ankara’s army on the oppressed Kurdish nationality to the impact of the U.S.-led war drive in the Balkans, Germany will continue to feel the vibrations of any upheaval in the region.

For the U.S. government, with its control of the NATO military bases sprawled throughout the country, Turkey is also strategically located. It shares a border with the Soviet Union, has been key to operations in the Middle East like the U.S. bombing raids against northern Iraq during the Persian Gulf War, and is a gateway to the Asian continent for U.S. imperialism. Washington counts on its massive armed presence, and its frequent backing of Ankara’s military campaigns against the Kurdish people, as a gigantic chip to weigh in on the side of greater U.S. domination in the region.

Turkey provides evidence that the tensions between imperialist powers seeking to shore up their flagging economies will only increase, particularly as workers and peasants repeatedly disrupt the plans of the rulers. The question of who will take top place in the imperialist feeding chain when it comes to Turkey also becomes more important as NATO’s drive toward war against Yugoslavia escalates.

These are the considerations of the sharks of Wall Street and the Bundesbank alike, in their sudden concern for defending western values in Turkey. The working class throughout the world should be wary when the boss class starts trying to convince us to help them defend their idea of democracy somewhere. There is a long history in Turkey of military coups and bloody repression, including under recent civilian rule with the frequent use of martial law, restrictions on democratic rights, and arrest and torture of trade union militants and other political activists.

As the capitalist economic crisis causes the stability of country after country to crumble, there will be a greater tendency to rely on harsher methods, rule by decree, and Bonapartist regimes. The rulers of Algeria, backed by French imperialism, responded to the widespread resentment among working people to their austerity policies, which was registered by the elections four years ago, by declaring martial law and sparking a bloody civil war. Amid the warnings about the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism, the capitalist press speculates about the possibility that the military in Turkey will step in if things get out of hand from the rulers’ point of view. Washington and Bonn both have a sordid history of supporting crackdowns on the labor movement in order to protect their interests.

Working-class fighters should be alert for any move to close down the space our class has in Turkey to resist the drive against their standard of living and democratic rights. Working people around the world should oppose any attempts to crack down on democratic rights—whether under the guise of combating terrorism or Islamic fundamentalism, or under the banner of protecting stability.

The stability the ruling classes are interested in comes on the backs of the workers and farmers. We look forward to the shake-ups of the capitalist system that the resistance by the toilers has begun to usher.

As in many other countries, the Turkish working class will likely find its chance, through its struggles, to take power out of the hands of the local landlords and capitalists, put an end to imperialist domination of their country, and join the fight for a socialist world. Working people and youth the world over should stand with our brothers and sisters in Turkey at every turning point in this battle.