The name of the disaster is capitalism - only proletarian class solidarity can save us!

Printer-friendly version

We publish here a statement by some comrades in Turkey on the earthquake which has hit Turkey and Syria. We salute the comrades’ rapid response to these awful events, in which the official death toll has already passed 21,000 and is likely to climb much higher, including those who survived the initial quake but now face hunger, cold and disease. As the statement shows, this “natural” disaster has been made far more deadly by the callous demands of capitalist profit and competition, which has obliged people to live in totally inadequate, flimsy housing.  The particularly catastrophic effects of the recent earthquake illustrates the accentuation of the bourgeoise’s contempt for the lives and suffering of the working class and the oppressed today in the period where the capitalist mode of production is decomposing in every respect. In particular, the fact that this disaster is taking place in the middle of a theatre of imperialist war is considerably worsening its impact. The epicentre of the quake was in Maraş, in the mainly Kurdish region long subject to the conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish nationalists. In northern Syria, a large number of the victims are refugees who have tried to take shelter from the murderous war in Syria, and who were already living in hellish conditions, exacerbated by the Assad regime’s deliberate bombing of hospitals in cities like Aleppo. The ongoing confrontation between warring capitalist factions in the region will also act as a political and material barrier to the already meagre rescue efforts.

However we want to point out two problems in the text, which the comrades have acknowledged. The first is the title, which should rather have been something like: “Turkey: The name of the disaster is capitalism – only its overthrow can spare humanity from such suffering”. And the following phrase is also not correct: “Already, around the world, workers and search and rescue teams are showing solidarity to help the survivors. This solidarity, as one of the greatest weapons of the proletariat, is a vital necessity”. In fact, with the exception of the first few days, the emergency services dispatched to the spot have been professional bodies.



It is not yet possible to know exactly to what extent the destructive effects of the earthquake that took place in Maraş (February 6, 2023), which also struck neighboring provinces and Syria. Already, the media states that more than ten thousand buildings have been destroyed, thousands of people have died under the rubble, and tens of thousands of people have been injured. Communication with some cities has been cut off since the last two days. Roads, bridges, airports were destroyed. It is reported that a fire broke out in the Iskenderun port. Electricity, water and natural gas connections are cut off in many areas. Those who survived the earthquake are now struggling with hunger and cold under harsh winter conditions. There is also very grave news from the earthquake zones in Syria, which has been under the military occupation of Turkey.

Two major earthquakes in a row are certainly unusual. However, contrary to the claims of the ruling class and its parties, this does not mean that the destruction caused by earthquakes is normal. The sickening calls for "national unity" by both the opposition and the ruling capitalist parties cannot hide the fact that everyone knows: capitalism and the state are the main culprits of this destruction.

1- We know that the proletariat, as a class, will show all kinds of solidarity in action with those who became homeless, injured and lost their relatives in the earthquake areas. Hundreds of mine workers have already volunteered to participate in search and rescue efforts in the earthquake zone. Already, around the world, workers and search and rescue teams are showing solidarity to help the survivors. This solidarity, as one of the greatest weapons of the proletariat, is a vital necessity. The proletarians have no one to trust but each other. We can only expect emancipation through our own class, through unity, not from the ruling class and its state.

2- The past earthquake experiences in Turkey are proof of the destructive and deadly effects of urbanisation that has developed with the aim of the social reproduction of capital. The only reason for quake-incompatible construction, people being squeezed into multi-storey buildings and densely populated cities in earthquake zones, is to meet the abundant and cheap labor needs of the capital. After the Gölcük and Düzce earthquakes that took place 20 years ago (in the Marmara region), this earthquake once again demonstrates the shallowness of all the "measures" taken by the state and the crocodile tears shed by the ruling class. This earthquake and its effects are already painfully proving that the main reason for the existence of the state is not to protect the poor and proletarian population, but to protect the interests of the national capital.

3- So why doesn't capitalism build a permanent and solid infrastructure, even though disasters regularly and systematically destroy its own production infrastructure? Because under capitalism, buildings, roads, dams, ports, in short, infrastructure investment in general, is not built with permanence or human needs in mind. In capitalism, all infrastructure investments, whether made by the state or private companies, are built with the aim of profitability and the continuation of the wage labour system. Dense populations are squeezed into uninhabitable cities. Even if there is no earthquake, unhealthy concrete buildings that can last for 100 years at the most fill cities and rural areas. The terrible capitalist urbanisation of the last 40 years has turned cities and even villages across Turkey into such concrete tombs. The capitalist system based on the production of surplus value can only be sustained by employing as much living labor as possible, i.e. proletarians, and keeping fixed capital investments, i.e. infrastructure, to a minimum. In capitalism, construction is a continuous activity, the permanence of the building, its harmony with the environment, and its response to human needs, are wholly ignored. This is the rule in advanced western capitalism as well as in the weaker capitalisms of Africa and Asia. The sole social goal of capital and its states is to perpetuate the exploitation of an ever-increasing number of proletarians.

4- The capitalist order is not in a position to even come up with solutions that can reproduce its own order of exploitation. In the face of “natural” disasters, capital is not only reckless but also helpless. We see this helplessness even in the lack of coordination of aid organizations under the control of nation states and the incapacity of the state in emergency aid distribution. We see this not only in countries like Turkey, where decaying capitalism has been more deeply affected, but also in countries at the heart of capitalism, such as Germany, which was helpless in the face of floods two years ago, or the USA, whose roads and bridges collapsed in floods due to neglect of infrastructure investments.

5- The fact that some sections of the bourgeois opposition find the state "inadequate" to "help" earthquake victims presents a deceptive perspective on the nature of the state. The state is not an aid agency. The state is the collective apparatus of violence of a minority exploiting class. The state protects the interests of capital. Certainly, since the reign of chaos in a disaster area will both show the weakness of the ruling class and hinder the reproduction of capital itself, the state will be forced to organise a minimum level of "aid". But it seems that the state is incapable of even providing this minimum aid. Whatever the state's intervention in the disaster, its main function is to rein in the proletariat and compete with other capitalist countries in the interests of its own national capital. The state is the ideological and physical machinery aiding capital accumulation, the guardian of conditions that push workers into deadly concrete coffin houses and leave them defenseless in the face of disasters.

6- There is nothing “natural” about the epidemics, famines and wars that we have experienced in recent years and whose effects are felt worldwide. Although the moment of an earthquake cannot be predicted before they happen, earthquake fault lines and possible magnitudes can be predicted with certainty. The main agent responsible for all these disasters is capitalism and nation states, the entire existing ruling class, which organises society around the extraction of surplus value and wage labour, which deepens militarist-nationalist competition, and threatens the existence and future of humanity. As capitalism continues to dominate, as humanity continues to remain divided into nation-states and classes, these catastrophes will continue to happen, getting deadlier, more destructive and more frequent. This is the clearest indication of the exhaustion of capitalism. All over the world, ruling classes are pushing humanity into wars, terrible and uninhabitable cities, hunger and famine, a gigantic global climate crisis.

The earthquake that took place in and around Maraş is the last concrete and painful proof that the ruling class has no positive future to offer humanity. But this should not lead us to pessimism. The solidarity that our class showed and will show in this earthquake should give us hope. Disasters are devastating not because they have no solution, but because our class, the proletariat, does not yet have the self-confidence to change the world and save humanity from the scourge of capital. The resources of humanity and the earth are sufficient to build permanent, secure dwellings and settlements that will protect us from disasters. The path towards this will open once the proletariat, the only force that can mobilise the world’s resources for liberation, develops its confidence in itself and engages in a worldwide struggle to seize power from the corrupt capitalist class.


A group of internationalist communists from Turkey


Earthquake hits Turkey and Syria