About the upcoming elections in Turkey
The upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in Turkey will certainly be an important turning point, because the election results will create a new balance of power for both the ruling bourgeois cliques and the working people, the Kurdish people and all the oppressed. What will be the defining trends of this process? What kind of Turkey do the programs of the ruling classes envisage? What is the political character of the promises of a „restoration“ of the presidential regime to a parliamentary system? We will address these questions in this article.
How is the crisis in Turkey to be defined?
Both the ruling front and the working-class left speak of Turkey experiencing a "crisis of the century," some speak of a "crisis of neoliberalism," others of a crisis of the accumulation model or multiple crises. On this basis, the May 14 elections are seen as a threshold that will either deepen the crisis or open the door to a solution.
Turkey is a country with a capitalist social form that has been ruled for (at least) 43 years continuously by a fascist regime as a form of state, i.e. political freedom (freedom of speech, action and organization) has been abolished by state terror. As for its position in the imperialist hierarchy, it is also a financial-economic colony. The ruling class, the Turkish bourgeoisie, keeps Kurdistan under colonial yoke. The "crisis" refers to all these areas, because they are all interrelated and mutually conditioned at different levels.
On the economic level, the prolonged stagnation in the phase of imperialist globalization of capitalism since the world economic crisis of 2007/8 must be taken into account. Not all countries are affected by the stagnation to the same extent, which is why the contradictions created by Turkey‘s role in the global division of labor of production and its colonial status have to be considered. The crisis must be considered from the point of view of the dynamics of contradictions between the two blocs of the Turkish bourgeoisie. In terms of the history of the Turkish bourgeoisie, the crisis cannot be understood independently of the cracks in the colonialist soil on which the regime was built. These cracks are the result of the resistance and the achievements of the Kurdish people.
However, it is the political structure in which all these roles and relations are abstracted and centralized at the highest level. The state, i.e. the fascist regime, is at the center of all the related issues. Therefore, the current crisis is the crisis of the bourgeois-fascist regime, which is not capable of dealing with all the existing crises or impending crises. More precisely, there is a regime crisis in Turkey. What role the May 14 elections will play in overcoming the regime crisis is related to whether the nature of the regime will change, not who is at its head. And it is clear that the character of the regime will not change as it passes from one bourgeois clique to another.
There is an ongoing discussion among the ruling forces about restoring the parliamentary system in Turkey to lead the country out of the crisis. The National Alliance led by the CHP is pursuing an economic and political program of "restoration".
Most Turkish and Kurdish intellectuals on the left approach the National Alliance‘s promise of restoration with wishful thinking rather than scientifically. What is projected onto the bourgeois alliance is not what is, but what they wish it to be. For example, the characters and personalities of the presidential candidates are discussed rather than what class the National Alliance represents, whether the parliamentary system proposes to change the fascist nature of the regime, or whether a return to a bourgeois welfare state is even possible at this stage of capitalism. Once the "good candidate" is found, all these questions lose their importance or become secondary. Although the bourgeois opposition does not propose any meaningful democratic restoration in any of its actions or texts, it is even assumed that it does so for "tactical reasons" and that it will change once elected.
Of course, the burning desire of the masses, whose class organization and consciousness are dulled, must be taken into account. They want to get rid of Erdogan at any cost. However, such worship of spontaneous consciousness and such undermining of their own theory, history and concepts shows that these sections of the "left" forces have no consciousness of power and are part of bourgeois ideology and bourgeois opposition to the root.
However, abolition of political freedoms and colonialism are the common and existential interest of all blocs of the Turkish bourgeoisie. This is due to the late capitalization, the insufficient capital accumulation, the laws of uneven development and, at the same time, the fact that Turkey has built its national consciousness as a prison of peoples and religions. It always needs a state terror of equal magnitude to ensure the exploitation of surplus value on a scale that feeds itself and imperialism with which it collaborates. The slightest relaxation tpwards a democratic and popular direction gives space to the uprising of the working class, the Alevis and the Kurdish people. This immediately forces the regime to restore its existential character through coups, reactionary civil wars and state terror. This is the reason why the working peoples were never introduced to political freedom and never went through the school of democracy. This has not changed in the past 100 years.
In this sense, it must be understood that the expectation of democratic restoration by the National Alliance has no objective basis and that this or that bloc of the bourgeoisie in Turkey is not the vanguard of a popular democratic revolution or change, but is itself an obstacle. The two wings of the Turkish bourgeoisie are competitors in the race for power, but they are partners in the regime. Thus, the AKP government dissolved the fascist dictatorship of the National Security Council (MGK) but replaced it with the fascist dictatorship-in-chief. And now the National Alliance also claims, if it comes to power, to reproduce "parliamentary fascism," i.e., to restore a hybrid version of the MGK dictatorship. The restoration is not for the people, but for the respective rulers of capital. Every day it is shown anew that fascism cannot be overthrown without ending the rule of monopoly capital as a class that accumulates its wealth through cheap, precarious and mutually hostile labor.
This is not a prediction, but something that can be clearly seen from the sordid record of the components of the bourgeois opposition alliance and their basic texts. There is not a single substantive promise in their documents for political freedom, for the national-collective rights of the Kurdish people and for an increase of welfare. The fight against "terrorism" and the war are to continue uninterrupted, trade union rights remain at the level of the 1980 coup constitution, impoverishment and deprivation continue in a new mode of accumulation to ensure Turkey‘s „competitive advantage.“ The National Alliance‘s bourgeois reform program in this form is even far behind the bourgeois reform program of fascist chief Erdogan in 2002.
There is only one way to transform the regime crisis into a democratic and popular future, and that is to turn it into a confrontation between the front of the rulers, which includes all blocs of the Turkish bourgeoisie, and the front of the oppressed, which consists of the working class of Turkey and the Kurdish people, and to realize the anti-imperialist, anti-fascist, anti-colonialist, gender-liberating democratic revolution by overthrowing the fascist regime.
Turkey‘s role in the global division of labor
In the imperialist division of labor of production, in other words, in the "global value and supply chains," processes rather than commodities are produced. Within these processes, the role of Turkish capitalism is to assemble the debt and capital goods borrowed from the imperialist countries, as well as the raw materials and high-tech intermediate products imported from other financial-economic colonies, with its own cheap labor and export them to the imperialist countries. Since there are too many countries willing to play this role and too few buyers, it must sell its goods below their value, i.e., cede the lion‘s share of the surplus value it produces to imperialism. To gain the upper hand in the competition, Turkish capitalism tries to lower its price even further and increase the volume of exports by buying high-priced capital goods and increasing the productivity of labor or making labor even cheaper. This „race to the bottom“ is profitable for the domestic bourgeoisie in the expansion phase of capitalism because it enables it to open up imperialist markets. However, in the last 15 years, during which capitalism has not recovered from recession and both financial capital flows and world trade have slowed, this race has become unsustainably destructive in its usual course.
Even if one cannot speak of an economic crisis in Turkey today in the sense of "academic economics", it is the effort to postpone this crisis that makes the transfer of wealth between classes unbearable and exacerbates the contradictions between classes.
Capitalist China has undoubtedly benefited most from this imperialist division of labor in production over the last 30 years. Originally a storehouse of cheap labor for imperialism, China has been able to effectively and tyrannically use this surplus value, small in proportion but enormous in quantity, to rise into the high-tech upper links of the division of labor in production, thanks to the centralized state apparatus it inherited from the previous state form. This has gone so far that it now has its own monopolies and is looking for countries with cheap labor to move its production to. In addition, China is the world‘s largest lender and exports a huge amount of capital. China‘s labor is not so cheap anymore. It is not only a supplier but also a direct competitor of EU/US imperialism in many markets. This leads to a reduction in the surplus value that the EU/US monopolies take from the world proletariat. This is the economic basis for the gap between EU/US imperialism and Chinese imperialism today. The closing of ranks of the military imperialist and world energy lord Russia with China against the EU/US hegemony also intensifies the imperialist rivalry.
Both rival wings of the Turkish bourgeoisie are trying to exploit these sharpening contradictions between the imperialists against the looming crisis that capitalist stagnation threatens them with. The Turkish bourgeoisie is looking for cheap production sites geographically close to the West to replenish its supply chains, and China is looking for cheap production sites geographically close to the West to gain access to EU and U.S. markets. One of the wings of the Turkish bourgeoisie, organized in the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TUSIAD), and its direct political representative, the bourgeois opposition, claim that this new role can be played through a mode of accumulation centered on high-tech industrial production. This goes so far that even the people‘s struggle for democracy is reduced in this mentality to a choice between "construction industry" and "technology".
It is obvious how the fascist chief uses the state as an apparatus of selective-collective accumulation to bring the other wing of the bourgeoisie, the capitalist bloc represented by him, into the position of monopoly capital as quickly as possible, and how the interests of the builders can bring nothing but more misery and catastrophe to the working class and the oppressed.
However, this is not enough to make the restoration promises of the opposition bloc (National Alliance/TUSIAD) economically valid. Promising a technological leap of Turkish capitalism and an increase in prosperity while the law of falling profit rates cannot be stopped, global investment, employment, productivity and trade are steadily declining and the expectation of a new global crisis is so high is illusory.
Moreover, contrary to propaganda, what the opposition bloc is proposing is not a leap into the high-cost, high-wage, high-tech links of global production chains. In order to avoid falling behind in global competition, this bloc wants to technically modernize its role in the existing division of labor in production, i.e., to increase its productivity by importing new capital goods, thus making labor cheaper. To the extent that the "skilled labor force" for the use of the new machines grows, unemployment will rise.
For this, the IMF will be called upon with an austerity agreement and public tenders and incentives will flow to this bloc. The central bank will become „independent,“ which means that finance capital will regain its privilege as a high-interest-rate profiteer. Perhaps inflation would decline, but in return millions would not have enough income to spend. The war industry, occupation and expansionism as common interests of the two blocs of the bourgeoisie will of course not abate.
For all this, this program will require a bourgeois state apparatus at least as tyrannical as Erdogan‘s. It is impossible to understand how this kind of accumulation, which we can briefly call "reinforced neoliberalism", will open the door to distributive justice and a "left restoration" in politics.
What does the working class expect and how should the working-class left movement prepare for this situation?
The conditions for the post-election period will be created to the extent that we attack today‘s conditions. But the expectations of the reformist left forces in the bourgeois restoration do not prepare this attack, they even marginalize this possibility. They justify this by saying that "the masses are not ready yet" and that forces within the masses must first be gathered again through a retreat. So when will the masses be ready according to this view? Of course, when the level of organization and action rises spontaneously, through system inherent struggles and cumulatively to a certain level. But there is a naive inconsistency in this understanding. Unlike bourgeois democracies, isn‘t fascism a form of the state that is used in response to this spontaneous, inherent and cumulative development of mass struggle itself? If we do not anticipate a fundamental change in this form itself, if we even anticipate an increase in state terror, how are the masses to achieve the desired degree of movement/organization?
The program of the National Alliance for a bourgeois change is even behind the program of the fascist chief Erdogan for a bourgeois change in 2002. If even this temporary relaxation on the part of the regime did not lead to a mass mobilization of these left forces then, why and how can the future power of the National Alliance make this mobilization possible? Moreover, capitalism is now in a phase of endless stagnation, not expansion as it was then, so the material conditions for the possibility of social bribery no longer exist.
Or let us look at the consequences of the June 7, 2015 elections, in which the Peoples‘ Democratic Party (HDP) ousted the AKP from the majority and the one-party government for the first time. In the war process that started with the Suruç massacre on July 20, 2015, as a result of the electoral victory of the oppressed, did the security measures and the „withdrawal tactics“ that were applied from a certain point bring the desired level of action and organization? Not at all. Did this orientation, which falls far short of the self-defense and self-governmant claims of the period after the June 7, 2015 elections, advance the struggle?
The struggle of the oppressed in Turkey and Kurdistan has not come about through the possibilities and spaces opened by this or that wing of the bourgeoisie, but „in spite of“ the bourgeoisie, and it was the struggles themselves that opened these possibilities and spaces. Therefore, what will make the masses "ready" today cannot consist in exposing themselves in the hope of the possibility of a so-called restoration. The revolutionary-democratic, socialist forces must therefore seek the solution not on the most backward ground, namely economism, reformism, pacifism and parliamentarism, but in the organized mass struggle and revolutionary vanguard violence against fascism. Not wanting to fight does not protect from being beaten. There is no other way than to learn to fight, to fight in an organized way and to fight as broad masses.