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Class Identity: Only Way to Overcome the Artificial Polarisation

Workers Solidarity Bulletin, No: 124 Editorial
The 24 June 2018 election results continue to be discussed and mentioned. Some of the discussions and conversations among the workers result in quarrels and resentments. The workers who voted for the opposition parties are enraged over the electoral victory of the one-man rule. They are angry with their fellow workers who voted for the ruling party. On the other side, many workers who voted for the ruling party puff up their chests and say, “We won the election.” Unfortunately, it is not a working-class point of view that dominates such discussions and conversations. Therefore, workers are acting like the supporters of rival football clubs. Our bulletin İşçi Dayanışması (Workers’ Solidarity), however, evaluates all social and political developments from the standpoint of the working class. Having said that, let us now examine the real winners of the election.

The 24 June 2018 election results continue to be discussed and mentioned. Some of the discussions and conversations among the workers result in quarrels and resentments. The workers who voted for the opposition parties are enraged over the electoral victory of the one-man rule. They are angry with their fellow workers who voted for the ruling party. On the other side, many workers who voted for the ruling party puff up their chests and say, “We won the election.” Unfortunately, it is not a working-class point of view that dominates such discussions and conversations. Therefore, workers are acting like the supporters of rival football clubs. Our bulletin İşçi Dayanışması (Workers’ Solidarity), however, evaluates all social and political developments from the standpoint of the working class. Having said that, let us now examine the real winners of the election.

First, let us ask: Did the workers win the election? Or did any party or a leader in favour of the workers come to power? Whether they support the ruling party or any opposition party, no worker would answer “yes” to these questions. The ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) and its leader represent the capitalist class, not the workers. We will see this more clearly in the following lines.

The one-man rule has gained an official character with its institutions and organizations. One person has gained all the reins of the state into his hands. Erdoğan, who wants to be called as ‘‘the president’’, claims that one-man rule will allow him to act quickly and overcome obstacles. And consequently, he adds, the economy and the country will grow. This rhetoric is used to justify the abolition of democratic rights. Of course, we are not against economic growth and a prospering Turkey! But, let us ask this: What will be the cost of this growth and what will fall to the workers’ share from this growth? The economy of Turkey has already been growing for many years. Turkey has been prospering. And yet, how is the wealth distributed?

On the one side, the ruling circle has become as rich as Croesus and the profits of the bosses have grown. On the other side, the living conditions of workers have become more and more unbearable. Inflation and cost of living are rising, while the purchasing power is falling. What really matters is not the nominal increase of our wages, but the amount of means of subsistence that can be purchased with those wages. With foreign currencies gaining value against the Turkish Lira, our purchasing power is falling. With each passing day, we are becoming poorer and poorer. In other words, the working class is producing all the wealth, but when it comes to the distribution of this wealth, only crumbs and toilsome lives fall to the workers’ share.

Thus, the growth of the economy does not automatically mean that the welfare of workers is growing. Unless they unite and fight on the basis of their class interests, workers cannot improve their working and living conditions. In the past, many leaders presented themselves as “savoir” and established one-man rules, just as they do today. They rallied labourers behind themselves through illusive slogans such as “Strong leader, strong country!” But, these illusions always ended in disappointment. History has repeatedly shown that those parties and leaders that represent the interests of capital cannot bring about any benefit to workers. The current state of affairs in Turkey highlights this fact once again. One fact alone speaks volumes in this respect: most of the ministers, appointed by the “president” in the aftermath of the election, are top managers from different companies. For instance, the Middle East representative of a Canadian food company has been appointed Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Would such a minister consider the interests of workers and labourers or rather think about how to pave the way for the capitalists? How about the new minister of health, who is the owner of a private hospital? Would he prevent the social insurance funds from being channelled to private hospitals or do the exact opposite?

Just after it became official, the one-man rule took away the authority of the Council of State to supervise the Social Security Institution (SGK). Why? Why do they want to draw a veil over the supervision of SGK? All our class brothers and sisters, especially those who consider themselves on the winning side, should ask themselves these questions. For the first time in Turkey’s history, the top figures of giant monopolies have become ministers without even being elected. Doesn’t this fact alone lay bare both the arbitrary nature and class character of the one-man rule? In the past, certain mechanisms used to be employed in order to mask the fact that the government protects only the interests of the capitalist class. But, the one-man rule no longer considers such mechanisms necessary.

This outlook reveals that economy and politics are inseparable. As is known, the government has a huge “troll army” at its disposal. This “troll army” aims at creating certain perceptions in society and manipulating labourers through social media. They seek to create the perception that politics has nothing to do with economy. Unfortunately, this perception is shared by workers. Yet, talking about politics means talking about economy (and vice versa). As pointed out by a working-class leader, politics is a concentrated expression of economics. Just as ice is the crystallized form of water.

Politics is based on economic interests. Therefore, the economic policies pursued by the government are not isolated from its general politics. For example, flexible working hours, contracting, private employment agencies, mandatory private pension system have all been introduced under AKP rule. Moreover, the retirement age has been raised and pensions have been reduced. Cities have been turned into sources of quick profit and nature has been plundered, just for the sake of the growth of the capital. Public utilities and unemployment fund have been put into the service of the capitalists. Barriers have been erected to prevent re-employment lawsuits. Mandatory mediation system has been introduced for employment disputes. All these practices show that the policies conducted by the AKP government do not serve the interests of the workers, but rather those of the bosses.

Let us approach the matter from this point of view: Workers rightfully want to raise their wages and improve their economic situation. But, when they go on strike to this end, they are confronted by politics. Hundreds of thousands of workers have seen their strikes banned over the last 16 years. The president has repeatedly said that they used the state of emergency as a means of banning the strikes. “We cannot let our business world be shaken”, he said. Putting ban on strikes and weakening workers in the face of the bosses are all expressions of a conscious policy which aims at protecting the bosses. Likewise, it is a deliberate policy not to control workplaces and punish the bosses while approximately 2,000 workers are killed of occupational accidents every year.

If we consider the election results from this point of view, we can see the winners and losers more clearly. But unfortunately, as a result of the policies of the government, the society and the labourers are polarised on an artificial basis. Workers act not on the basis of their class identities, but with their cultural, ethnic, religious identities. Some of the conservative workers or headscarf-wearing female workers identify themselves with the government. When the ruling AKP emerges triumphant in the elections, they consider themselves winners. Workers opposing the government, on the other side, are expressing themselves through the identities of the opposition parties due to various reasons. In the end, despite toiling and producing all wealth, the working class ends up on the losing side. Yet, if we want better working and living conditions, we must avoid falling into the trap of polarisation and buying into the lies spread by the rulers. We may be Turkish, Kurdish, Alawite, Sunnite, with or without headscarves. But first, foremost, and above all else, we are the members of the same class, that is, the working class. Therefore, we must unite around our class identity!

Workers’ Solidarity no. 124 (July 2018) Editorial

21 July 2018

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