Turkey: The cure for state terror isn't democracy

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baboon
Turkey: The cure for state terror isn't democracy
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Turkey: The cure for state terror isn't democracy. The discussion was initiated by baboon.
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baboon
worth waiting for

Excellent text and outline of the specifics and general nature of the Turkish revolt. It is situated, that is the tendencies involved, within the overall international situation jof social movements developing these past few years, both with their strengths and weaknesses. I'm pleased that some aspects of our discussion here was on the right track and the text from the Turkish comrades deepens these bringing in the questions of the line-up of the bourgeoisie and great detail on all the factions involved. As in other movements of a similar nature, even when faced with democratic repression, the dangers of illusions in democracy come to the fore. Despite its weakness - and we should underline the general strength of the trade unions - the proletarian element, against ideas of a "middle-class movement" (also being peddled in Brazil), is clearly brought out by the text. It's a very clear reference point.

For all the reasons given in the text I agree that this is a historic movement and part of this is the proximity of this tendency towards open proletarian struggle - with all the weaknesses outlined in the text - to the imperialist war in Syria. The two tendencies are very much opposed.

jk1921
Provacative Paragraph

After reading the first few section of the text, I was thinking about making another comment reiterating the need to develop a better understanding of the nature of the "social revolts" we have witnessed since 2011 and about how those offered so far have been rather unsatisfactory. Then, I read this paragraph:

"On the other hand, the fact that workplace-based participation didn't outweigh the tendency of workers to go to the demonstrations individually was among the significant weaknesses of the movement. But this too was typical of the movements in other countries, where the primacy of the revolt on the street has been a practical expression of the need to overcome the social dispersal created by the existing conditions of capitalist production and crisis – in particular, the weight of unemployment and precarious employment. But these same conditions, coupled with the immense ideological assaults of the ruling class, have also made it difficult for the working class to see itself as a class and tends to reinforce the protesters’ notion that they are essentially a mass of individual citizens, legitimate members of the ‘national’ community, and not a class. Such is the contradictory path towards the proletariat re-constituting itself as a class, but there is no doubt that these movements are a step along this path."

Here in a concise and provacative statement is a very powerful sociological analysis of the nature of these social movemeents, explaining their weaknesses as a practical result of objective conditions, rather than mere ideological mystification or "wrong thinking." What do other comrades think about this analysis? For me, this paragraph is very important. It demands further development, but here we have the beginnings of an attempt to understand these movements as phenomena correpsonding to the conditions of the labour process in this era of capitalism that goes beyond some of the more ideological explanations for the difficulties in struggle we have tended to put forward in the past.

I am not sure about the idea of the "proletairat re-constituting itself as a class" through these movements. I am not sure what this means. Isn't the proletairat "constituted" by capital? Isn't the objective conditions this paragraph idetitfies: mass unemployment, precarious employment, lack of clear class identity, dispersal from sites of production, etc. what constitutes the proletariat today, or at least the sectors of it that have animated these movements (the younger generations)?

I was also a little confused by the use of the term "masses" throughout the text. In what sense was this a movement of the masses? We have been told in the media that the vast majority of the Turkish population did not support this movement. It was a minoritarian movement and that Erdogan and the Turkish state has retained boad legitimacy throughout these protests? What about this?

I think that our analysis of these social movements has, from the beginning, been hampered by a certain lack of precision in how we are conceiving their social nature and their broader relationship to the proletariat. Many times, it reads as if we are saying, "These movements belong to the proletariat, are a function of the proletariat's resistance to the attacks," but, then in the next sentence, we turn around and criticize them for not "linking up with the proletariat." We need a bit more clarity here. Do we really mean that they are not linking up with the class based economic struggle of the proletariat at the point of production?

Anyway, very good job.

 

jk1921
The more I think about it,

The more I think about it, the real beauty in the way the comrades have analyzed the situation is that it situates the attraction to democratic ideology in the objective experience of the sectors of the working class that animate these movements. It avoids the facile explanation that they are simply being misled, tricked, bamboozled, victims of manipulation and maneouvers, etc. but at the same time preserves the concept of ideology, by pointing out that however the sociological experience of these workers enables an attraction to the idea of democray--it still fails to express their overall class interests; it is still "false consciousness" and needs to be exposed, by communists, as such. I'll have to think more about this, but it seems to me the comrades might be onto something here.

Still, the connection of these social movements to point of production workers' struggles still seems rather forced here, i.e. these are the first steps in a process that will eventually lead to the mass strikes we are all expecting and are comfortable with. Could it not be the case that they are harbingers of new forms of struggle that correspond to new objective, sociological conditions? I mean we aren't expecting mass unemployment and precariousness to be reversed are we?

Redacted
Re:

jk192 wrote:
Still, the connection of these social movements to point of production workers' struggles still seems rather forced here

Great piece. But I noticed this and was a bit distracted by it as well.

Fred
Excellent piece. I noticed

Excellent piece. I noticed and liked this bit, though I've done a little editing. 

Quote:
...masses that have perhaps never participated in a demonstration or walked together with people that share their views, and participated a struggle that was defined as apolitical, have been politicized...The movement made a difference with the foundation of free soup kitchens, free libraries, treatment centers for the injured by voluntary health workers and common living space in which anyone could come and stay... To make up for the street lamps being turned off during the clashes, people turned on the lamps of the houses; there was free provision of medication by the pharmacies: these were important details of the movement. The young generation of participants that clashed with police responded to the attacks by using the language of music and humor. This resulted in attracting people’s sympathy. Named in the state’s language as marginal the ‘chapulers’ have been embraced even by people that did not get involved directly with the movement.

 

Discovering by walking  together with other people, that they share your views about the political situation and the need to do something, must be experienced as a great encouragement and wake-up call. So, we're not all different after all, nor the  isolated competing individuals that the bourgeoisie would have us believe, but have much in common.  And then all these marvelous free giveaways: free soup kitchens (I bet soup has never  tasted so good); free libraries (freedom to learn at last);  free treatment from volunteers (the most therapeutic of health care and almost worth being injured for); and somewhere to stay for free (the freedom to be comfortable and feel needed). It all begins to sound like communism itself; where we all care for and look after each other, not worrying about who's paying the bill,  or whether we're keeping to  some bureaucratic rules.  And then the provision of light from people's private houses  (such generosity)  and free medicare  from pharmacies must have made folk think they'd reached the kingdom of heaven on earth. At long last!  And the answer to religion. We all help  each other here on earth.     No need to  die for bliss.              

 

 

And then the younger generation  "using the language of music and humour" as a response to ugly violence from the police. What youthful wisdom there is in this response. So I am not surprised this aroused people's sympathy but would have loved to read more detail of what they did.  But that's a small complaint only in reply to a marvelous account of remarkable events. 

 

 

 

Fred
There's something about this

There's something about this which I don't quite understand. 

Quote:
Prime Minister Erdogan himself built all his ideological attacks against the movement around the axis of democracy and elections; the government authorities, though with loads of lies and manipulations, often repeated the argument that even in the countries considered most democratic, the police use violence against lawless demonstrations – on which they were not wrong. Moreover the line of trying to get democratic rights tied the hands of the masses when faced with police attacks and state terror and pacified the resistance.
 

 

So are we to take it that far from being a sign of inadequate democratic rights, police violence is actually a real indication of democracy at work?   This seems a crackpot argument even by bourgeois standards.  Similarly, the argument that whilst you are struggling for more democracy this, by its own definition, means the RULES do not allow you to resist police violence and defend yourself, because to do so  would somehow challenge and might expose the limitations of the democracy you're graciously permitted, is another carzy bourgeois manner of looking at the world.  When will we see through it? 

 

But bourgeois democracy and their elections for it are all crap anyway. All bourgeois democracy does now is establish strict limits for democratic participation, which puts any working class notions of democracy outside the law.  The hue and cry about democracy are the last fartings of a bourgeoisie for whom it is the final and desperate throw of their Machiavellian dice. We need to discover our own interests and struggle for them instead. 

 

jk1921
Yes, that is the argument of

Yes, that is the argument of the article. Democracy doesn't mean that you will get less police violence. As Erdogan said police violence against lawless protest is not incompatible with democracy. In fact, it is a perfect expression of it: Erdogan is a popularly elected President, the protestors represent only a minority of the population upset with his policies. They are trying to undo legitimate democratic results through extra-parliamentary means. Democracy actually requires repressing this movement. That is unless you want what happened in Egypt to become the norm. Well, if that is the case, if you don't like the results of the elections, just take to the streets to have them overturned. What could be more undemocratic than that? The law of the street, i.e. who can raise their partisans into the highest fever, prevails over the ballot box? The same could be said for the Wisconisn movement in 2011. It was, in effect, a movement against democracy in that it sought to oppose the will of a Governor and a legislature that were elected by popular vote just months before.

Of course, Fred is right that all of this just illustrates the absurdity of the use of the concept of "democracy" under the auspices of the bourgeoisie. This means that we have to understand these various movements in terms other than what they themselves tend to profess. Were these really struggles for democracy or something beyond?

mhou
Quote:After reading the first

Quote:
After reading the first few section of the text, I was thinking about making another comment reiterating the need to develop a better understanding of the nature of the "social revolts" we have witnessed since 2011 and about how those offered so far have been rather unsatisfactory.
I completely agree on the need to sufficiently understand (analyze and discuss) events since 2008 and particularly 2011-2012 and what it means moving forward. I don't necessarily agree that events have been unsatisfactory (or demonstrated to be qualitatively less than what should be expected).
Quote:
Here in a concise and provacative statement is a very powerful sociological analysis of the nature of these social movemeents, explaining their weaknesses as a practical result of objective conditions, rather than mere ideological mystification or "wrong thinking." What do other comrades think about this analysis? For me, this paragraph is very important. It demands further development, but here we have the beginnings of an attempt to understand these movements as phenomena correpsonding to the conditions of the labour process in this era of capitalism that goes beyond some of the more ideological explanations for the difficulties in struggle we have tended to put forward in the past.
It's an excellent starting point. I wonder about the emphasis on the workplace as opposed to geography- production has changed a great deal since 1917. Mouvement Communiste's analysis of Hungary leading up to the 1956 revolt paints a picture of heavy productive industry as the necessary breeding ground for the soviet form, particularly in a large, densley populated, urba-industrial centre. Would public sector workers occupy their workplaces, or care about continuing operation of whatever state sector they worked in? (talking specifically about low level technical, white collar, service workers, etc.). Or the mass of service sector workers in general? There are still centers of 'traditional' industrial complex's in the central capitalist nations (steel, auto, etc.), but I wonder whether it is sufficient for a revolutionary movement on similar lines as open struggle in the early to mid 20th century.

jk1921
Central

mhou wrote:

There are still centers of 'traditional' industrial complex's in the central capitalist nations (steel, auto, etc.), but I wonder whether it is sufficient for a revolutionary movement on similar lines as open struggle in the early to mid 20th century.

 

I think it is one of the central questions of our epoch. One does not need to reject the idea that class struggle is possible, or even likely, but it seems to me that we need to do more to understand the sociological basis of these various forms.

mhou
Quote:These movements all had

Quote:
These movements all had their own particular features depending on local conditions, and all of them suffered from strong illusions in ‘democracy’ as the answer to all social ills. But what was most important about them was what they expressed at the most profound level: the response of a new generation of proletarians to the deepening world crisis of the capitalist system; and for all their illusions, all their difficulties in understanding their own origins and nature, they belong to the working class and its halting, painful effort to recover an awareness of its real methods and goals.
The first paragraph of the article affirms the international nature of what has become the starting point for working-class responses to the latest manifestation of crisis. This is important, given a lot of the pessimism (and sometimes misplaced optimism) when this movement started and gathered momentum (particularly 2011). I'm not sure how to orient forms and content that originated in the US or Europe and spring up in the developing or (relatively) recently industrialized nations. Bossnapping, seen in France in the post-war period (peaking in 1968), then making a comeback since 2008- again in France- now takes place as a tactic and of similar content in China, India, etc. An article called 'On The Desperate Struggles in France' in Sic issue 1 describes the post-2008 bossnappings as attempts to maximize severance payment packages rather than as plant occupations for the purpose of stopping a company from closing the factory and thus keeping their jobs. The recent American boss being barracaded in his office by factory workers in China (after it was leaked that large swathes of the plant were being closed and re-opened in India) follows that example: demands for the greatest severence pay possible, according to one news outlet.
Quote:
"I tried to leave a day and a half ago, and there was like 60 or 70 of them here inside every entrance, and every exit was barricaded," he told US broadcaster CNN.

The dispute began after the factory shut its plastics division, he said.

Around 30 workers who were laid off were given severance packages but other workers, who had moved to another division in the factory, also demanded severance packages, he said

I'm not sure what the trajectory is, based on what has happened in the last 5 years. But it does seem reminiscent of previous internationalized struggle, and it doesn't appear that the forms developed between 2008-2011 were anomolies or social fads even though things like Occupy are no longer around the way they were 2 years ago.

mhou
In an earlier article about

In an earlier article about the Birov group in Eastern Europe, the ICC outlined points of agreement, this was one of them:

Quote:
insistence that the workers’ assemblies and eventually the workers’ councils are the instrument for the mass struggle against capitalism

http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201203/4757/declaration-revolutionary-organization-belgrade-2011

Is it fair to say that more attention to the mass demonstrations, based on geography, that express themselves in open forums, routine general assemblies and creation of subgroups-committees, is necessary today? Communist participation within general assemblies seems more straight forward than intervention during a strike or workplace based struggle.

Quote:
Nevertheless, it is a strong possibility that these forums may assume more serious roles in the near future. Furthermore, there are some ideas expressed in these forums about the setting up of workplace and neighborhood committees. The call to avoid racist, sexist, and homophobic discourse, and to commemorate the Roboski and Reyhanlı massacres, and the water treatment workers of Muğla who died from inhaling methane gas, has been expressed widely within the forums.

-(from the original article on the assemblies in Turkey)

Are there tactics which could be general for Occupy-Indignados-esque mass assemblies or ongoing demonstrations, regardless of the specificities of different regions?

Leo
Leo's picture
Turkey Updates

A protestor named Ahmet Atakan was murdered tonight in the city of Antakya by the Turkish police, having been hit in the head by a tear-gas cannister. He was in a solidarity demonstration with the recent demonstrations in Tuzlucayir in Ankara, METU* in Ankara and Okmeydani in Istanbul. The demonstrations going on in Tuzlucayir, a neighborhood of Ankara were about the construction of a joint Mosque and Cemevi (Alevi meeting house) and Alevis were protesting against being assimilated. There's also been demonstrations and clashes in METU and the 100. Yil neighborhood over the project to build some roads in that area and Dikmen, another neighborhood, also went out and clashed with the police in solidarity with these in Ankara. There's also been demonstrations and clashes in Okmeydani in Istanbul, a left-wing neighborhood, about Berkin Elvan, a sixteen year-old who is still in a coma after being shot in the head by the police with a gas canister and in other neighborhoods in solidarity with Ankara. Protests and clashes were also happening in cities like Izmir, Adana and Eskisehir. Things were heating up, and today there is a demonstration planned in the Taksim Square itself as well as various other cities. More to come.

* Middle Eastern Technical University

Leo
Leo's picture
Turkey Update (2)

I've inhaled a lot of tear gas today and just came back home. There were demonstrations in several neighborhoods in Ankara as well as Kizilay, and in more than a dozen cities, and clashes in almost all of them apparently.

Demogorgon
You be careful out there Leo.

You be careful out there Leo.

Leo
Leo's picture
Berkin Elvan, a boy who was

Berkin Elvan, a boy who was shot by the police in the head with tear gas when he was 14 years old, died today, 269 days later, at the age of 15. Berkin had left his house to buy bread when he was shot by the police.

Demonstrations have been occuring in all major Turkish cities today, some of them are sponteneous and some organized by the bourgeois left. Students in lots of universities, apparently in quite massive numbers are walking out off classes as are high school students in several cities. DISK, the leftist private sector trade-union, has declared that it will go on a strike tomorrow midday which, I expect, will be a half-a-day show thing.

I will try to give further updates on the situation.

Alf
take even more care

the general social situation is far more directly repressive than it was in 2011 and 2013, so even greater carefulness is needed

Leo
Leo's picture
Survived the day. I had

Survived the day. I had missed tear gas.

Ankara seems lost for now though the demonstrations in Ankara universities were apparently incredible, as big as it has ever been in possibly all universities, students sponteneously walking out. Students from most universities joined the central demo in Kizilay except the METU students, who tried to march from their university to Kizilay, were blocked by the cops, engaged in a battle with the police yet couldn't pass.

The central demo was attacked with an unprecedented brutality, even compared to the Gezi days. They tore all the pictures of or about Berkin they could lay hands on, the boy their fellows murdered in Istanbul. Demonstrators regrouped and were joined by those coming from work in numerous parts of the city yet most of these are as far as I know over. The police is using more advanced tactics compared to Gezi, such as chasing demonstrators to the neighborhoods they escaped into and throwing cans of tear gas into those neighborhoods.

Istanbul still stands, however. In some neighborhoods thousands demonstrated and in others the number was tens of thousands. Some of these demonstrations are still going on, there are clashes with the police in several parts of the city. There are demonstrators who are still trying to get into Taksim square.

Throughout the day, there were massive demonstrations in many cities around the country, the ones in Eskisehir, Adana, Mersin, Izmir, Antakya, Canakkale and Dersim being incredibly massive. There were wide-spread clashes in many of these cities as well. Also, there were reasonably large demonstrations in Kurdish cities such as Diyarbakir and Batman where there hadn't been demonstrations before, and there were massive demonstrations in certain cities like Erzincan and Trabzon which weren't very active during Gezi and the first of which was a tradition AKP power-house.

All in all, the demonstrations, while not as massive as Gezi had been at its most massive moment yet in Istanbul and Ankara, are certainly on the same level with the general average of the Gezi days which, if this lasts, is a promising beginning. Erdogan, feeling at his most vulnarable due to the mountains of tapes about his corrupt practices which had been published online and the mountains to be published before the local elections of the coming month, has been getting increasingly aggressive and violent, threathening to ban facebook and youtube after the elections and passing laws for tighter internet control and laws giving the Turkish Central Intelligence Agency much greater powers. The policemen attacking the demonstrators seem to reflect his mood, taking their orders from a wounded and cornered beast who, naturally, is at his most dangerous. Already, there's been demonstrators who were heavily injured by the police.

On a personal level, what amazed me the most was how the sorrow and indignation about the death of this young boy was shared by so many people, how a mood of mourning was dominant everywhere today, how so many people started their day with tears upon hearing the death of a boy who they did not know, and how they came out in numbers so massive it doubled, perhaps tripled every demonstration since Gezi. Many demonstrations had been organized in the recent months about varied subjects such as the internet ban, corruption etc. yet many were wary of their demonstrations could be used by the Gulenist cult or the opposition parties so they hadn't come out. When Berkin died, they did.

radicalchains
I would have added this to a

I would have added this to a thread on the machiavellianism of the ruling class but given there is a recent thread on Turkey with people in the country commenting I thought it relevant to post it here.

This is apparently a leaked recording of the Turkish state discussing among other things a false flag attack to be used as a pretext for further war with Syria. I don't know if the translations are correct or if indeed it is genuine. There is an English transcript in the video. If you cannot normally access YouTube you may be able to accesss it through a proxy.

http://youtu.be/OodqnMj20wc