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Alpagut Workers: “We Are the Ones Who Produce, We Are the Ones Who Will Take Power”

The history of the working class is replete with experiences of past struggles. Today, if we want to proceed and succeed in strikes and resistances, we must look back at our past struggles and learn from them. And we must stand up against the bosses in a stronger, determined, conscious and organised manner. When we look at our struggle history, we see how the organised workers turned the slogan “We Are the Ones Who Produce, We Are the Ones Who Will Take Power!” into reality at the factories where they created their own grassroots organisations. Undoubtedly, the most important of these experiences is the self-management experience of 786 workers in Alpagut Lignite Enterprises in 1969.


The history of the working class is replete with experiences of past struggles. Today, if we want to proceed and succeed in strikes and resistances, we must look back at our past struggles and learn from them. And we must stand up against the bosses in a stronger, determined, conscious and organised manner. When we look at our struggle history, we see how the organised workers turned the slogan “We Are the Ones Who Produce, We Are the Ones Who Will Take Power!” into reality at the factories where they created their own grassroots organisations. Undoubtedly, the most important of these experiences is the self-management experience of 786 workers in Alpagut Lignite Enterprises in 1969.

In June 1969, Alpagut workers held a meeting at the factory. They were demanding wage increases, measures for occupational safety and payment of wages that were 73 days overdue. They applied to their trade union but received no response. They would have to fight to get their rights. Because the branch chairman of the trade union, Mehmet Kocatüfek, was also the regional director of the Alpagut Lignite Enterprises. Thus, the trade union administration turned a deaf ear to workers’ demands.  They collaborated with bosses and undermined workers’ struggle. The bureaucrats of the trade union were telling Alpagut boss that workers would be repulsed within a short span of time. But the 786 determined miners took action on June 16, 1969 as the chant resounded through Alpagut mines, “occupy”.

First, the workers formed the Workers’ General Assembly. They made a division of labour by choosing a workers’ council that would manage the production and that could be re-elected by the assembly when necessary. They reorganised the production process through a working order comprised of three 8-hour shifts. Despite the expectation that they would shirk and get lazy, workers extracted far more coal than they had ever done before. Closing ranks against the organised workers, major employers boycotted the workers by refusing to purchase coal from them. However, by selling coal to small businesses directly and at reasonable prices through the sales committees they formed, Alpagut workers reached a profit rate of 50%. Alpagut Lignite Enterprises, which had been making loss under the control of the employers, became profitable under workers’ control.  Within a few weeks, the workers increased the production volume by 50% while the daily sales revenue rose from 8,000 liras to 40,000 liras. Hitting the panic button, the employers appealed to the governor to put an end to the ongoing process. The workers responded to their class enemies as follows: “The actual state continues. All the negotiations will be made in Alpagut Lignite Enterprises.” This glorious resistance, which lasted 35 days, is a representative example of struggle, which was written in golden letters in the history and which shows us that workers are not only able to produce but also to manage successfully.

The Derby factory occupation where 1,200 workers took part… The glorious resistance of workers at Kavel Cable Factory which brought the recognition of the right to strike… Having been escalated by workers from various factories such as Demir Döküm, Sungurlar Kazan, Günterm, class struggle reached a historical peak with the successful self-management experience of Alpagut workers. This success spread to other factories, escalating the struggle further. This was followed by successive factory occupations at Horoz Çivi, Gamak, Değirmen Köy, Turhanlar, Göllüce, Atalan, Bafa, Gıslavet and Bossa.  In 1970, the workers rose as one and created the Great Workers’ Resistance of 15-16 June. This tradition of struggle created in those years continues to provide guidance to the new generations of the working class.

Despite the many years that have since passed, the rulers of the capitalist system of exploitation did not succeed in breaking the link of working class struggle between the past and present for all their efforts. In 2015, metal workers mounted the struggle in the industrial basins. Coming out in their thousands against the bureaucratic mentality in trade unions, barriers to rank and file involvement in decision making, low wages, and occupational accidents, they added another link to the chain and became a part of this struggle tradition. In order to have their demands met, they shut down the production and refused to leave their factories. As today’s worker generations, we must further escalate the struggle by learning from past struggles. When they are imbued with this belief and join the fight, workers can move the class struggle forward and establish a link between the tradition and the future. Hail to those who built workers’ self-management in Alpagut! Hail to those who organise step by step to move those experiences forward!

2 Kasım 2016






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