Turkey shifts fast to the right

Submitted by Matthew on 11 January, 2017 - 11:35

“The country is drifting step by step, under the ‘presidential system’, using the state of emergency, to one-man administration”, says Turkey’s Union for Democracy in a recent statement. “However, Turkey needs, not a one-man administration, but a participatory pluralist secular parliamentary democracy and peace”

The statement describes the widespread sackings of officials, shutting-down of TV and radio channels and newspapers and magazines, and the tens of thousands of people jailed. The state of emergency declared after the defeat of the coup attempt in July against President Erdogan’s AKP regime has been continued and intensified as repeated terrorist attacks, mostly claimed by Daesh, have hit the country.

“Amendments to the Constitution [sought by Erdogan to strengthen his rule] cannot be discussed when freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and freedom of organisation are suspended...”

The Union for Democracy statement has been published by the Turkish socialist group Marksist Tutum, with which Workers’ Liberty has had links. Tutum itself comments:

“The military coup attempt of July 15 [2016] is a crucial turning point... In a sense, it can be likened to the Reichstag fire [of February 1933] in German history. Like the Reichstag fire it has played a key role in suppressing the last remnants of bourgeois democracy and establishing an authoritarian regime based on a state of emergency and rule by decree...

“More than 100,000 public servants have been suspended and some 30,000 people arrested. With the decree issued on 2 September, 51,000 public servants were fired. Around 30,000 of them were teachers and academics. By decree they were denied any trial or appeal. With a second decree on 8 September, another 11,000 teachers were fired...

“The coup attempt was not an insignificant rebellion of a tiny group of desperate officers.

“It appeared that many officers with some of the detachments under their command were involved in the coup plot... [But] the AKP’s propaganda argument that the coup was defeated by the movement of popular masses is not true... It was not mass action that defeated the coup, but the balance of forces within the state, particularly the army. On balance, the putschists were weaker than the other side.

“This was essentially a power struggle between reactionary bourgeois forces within the state with no progressive aspect. The [regime’s] zeal to portray the Gulenists [an Islamist current formerly allied with Erdogan] as an ominous religious sect is very misleading. The Gulenists make up a huge fraction of capital with enormous international ties...

“A war has been going on since at least 2011 between these bourgeois factions on many fronts ranging from key state institutions to media, education, international relations, economy and so on. Many private schools preparing students for university entrance exams, which are key for Gulenists, have come under government attack. Many national and local TV channels, newspapers, magazines have been taken over, along with financial institutions.

“Despite all the attacks to intimidate the public, HDP [a left-wing party supporting Kurdish rights] managed to get a record 13% vote in the June 2015 election. Angered at this result, Erdogan forced a quick new election [in November] and he pressed the button for war against the Kurds... Around 200 HDP offices across Turkey came under attack from government-led fascistic mobs...

“The less than five-month period between the two [2015] elections changed the whole political climate of the country to one of rabid nationalism, warmongering, and authoritarianism. This is the main determinant of the political arena in Turkey since the spring of 2015”.

All this comes together with direct measures to raise the rate of exploitation of the working class.

“Since the start of the AKP rule we have seen the 8-hour working day removed legally. Doing overtime has become a standard for workers to compensate for the low level of monthly pay.

“With overtime work becoming the rule, the working day in practice has become 12-14 hours.

“Sub-contracting has become all-pervasive, including in the public sector. Deaths caused by work accidents have reached 1500 a year.

“The latest moves are to legalise agency work (agency workers are not allowed to unionise where they work, since they are not considered to be employed in that particular industry)... to abolish the right to severance pay... to make all workers under age 45 be part of a private pension system alongside the existing public pension system...

“In general the government tries to impose the rule that under the state of emergency there can be no strikes or any other sort of mass actions (marches, rallies and so on). Their pretext is always ‘security’.”