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Peoples' mass revolt in Turkey

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by Max O.
 
The mass revolt began with a sit-in in Istanbul's Gezi Park on the edge of Taksim Square, where some seventy odd protesters gathered on May 27 to prevent the destruction of one of the last-remaining green spaces and its transformation into a shopping mall.
 
What started out as a demand to preserve a small section of Istanbul and a citizen's right to their city, mushroomed into a full blown rebellion across major cities in Turkey. 
 
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP's (Justice and Development Party) provocative act of sending in bull-dozers to rip up the trees in Gezi Park and the aggressive deployment of riot police, assaulting crowds with enormous amounts of gas, water, and rubber bullets has sparked a prairie fire.
 
Reports indicate this people's resistance has spread to more than 60 cities and provinces, bringing several million people onto the streets in a widespread protest against the ruling AKP government.
 
Coordinated with the anti-government demonstrations are two major union strikes. One by the confederation of public sector workers which went out on strike in early June, the other being the metal workers’ union who went out at the end of June. These were political strikes against the actions of the government.
 
As the uprising has spread, it has had a punishing effect on capitalist operations in the country. Turkey's stock market trading fell by 10% following the uprising, it also affected the important gas deals with neighbouring countries and the government cautioned that the protest had cost the economy 70 million Turkish lira (28 million Euros).
 
Back in 2002, when the AKP won government, Erdogan was seen as a potential reformer for both the Islamic and liberal constituencies who would block the Turkish military's dominance over the country.
 
However his pro-Islamic policies haven't ruffled the military's secular-chauvinist intrusions into society. The military have staged four coups since the Second World War, crushed Kurdish and workers struggles and are the real power in Turkey. The common denominator for both is to bring capitalism in Turkey up to-date through the implementation of neo-liberal economic policies and improving the alliance with the United States.
 
Neo-liberal economic policies expand under the AKP, Erdogan government
The so-called neo-liberal success story has seen a huge privatisation program similar to the West. 
 
Prior to 2003 the state implementation of privatisations approached $380 million per year; from Erdogan's time in government this has leapt to a devastating $6 billion per year. 
 
What has this meant for the peoples of Turkey? Unfortunately, Turkey has the worst quality of life within the OECD. A Ministry of Family and Social Policies study, in 2011, illustrated how enormous the income gap was in the country. 
 
The bottom 60% makes less than $35 per day.  Only 1.2% of the total population make $3,000 or more per month. With figures like this one can imagine how bad it is for the bottom 10%.
 
As a consequence ordinary people's debt and unemployment has soared. An economist, Mustafa Sonmez observed: "In 2003 there were 2.4 million people with consumer credit debts.  By the end of 2012, however, the number of people who owe consumer credit debts to the banks reached 13.2 million." 
 
OECD figures on Turkey point to the fact that female unemployment has doubled in ten years, there are 3.5 million Turkish and Kurdish child labourers (half of whom have discontinued their schooling) and workers are working harder and longer than their counterparts in any other OECD country. 
 
The country's Occupation, Health and Safety record fares no better. It ranks top in the number of workplace accidents (in effect industrial murders) in Europe, killing 12,686 in the last 12 years.
 
The mass media in Turkey, similar to the West, likes to highlight the fact that the number of millionaires in Turkey has risen from less than 10,000 to over 50,000 in just 10 years as an example of growth and stability in the economy! What is growth for the rich is misery for the worker. 
 
Capitalism and repression
It is these deep economic wounds inflicted by capitalism in Turkey that has been the catalyst for people’s willingness to clash with the police out in the streets.
 
The recent peoples' revolts that have erupted around the world, such as in Greece, Spain, Egypt and the US Occupy movement are not only a renunciation of the ruling governments but against the current political system in its entirety. 
 
These so-called representative parliamentary democracies only implement the will of finance capital and the trans-national corporations. Increasingly these uprisings are consciously denouncing capitalism and its offspring imperialism. The prevailing capitalist system is under a cloud of indictment.
 
This economic misfortune for workers in Turkey is the bottom of the iceberg that is in large part inflaming the current uprising. Within the revolt that has been going on in Turkey however there are a wide range of influences - from Kemalist chauvinists to trade unionists, revolutionary movements and ordinary people. 
 
Kemalism as Kemal Ataturk's (founder of the Turkish Republic) ideology is called, is a reactionary vision of secular unity encompassing Western capitalist modernisation and the oppression of the Kurds and other minorities. The CHP, Republican People's Party which is the main parliamentary opposition party, considers itself Ataturk's heir.
 
Time will tell who takes the lead and how far the rebellion will progress.

 

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