Revolt spreads in Turkey

By YASIN KAYA

— ANKARA — “This is just the beginning, the struggle will continue!” This is the slogan now echoing through the streets and parks of Istanbul, Ankara, and many other Turkish cities.

As we reported in last month’s Socialist Action, the anti-government riot that was a response to the police brutality against those protesting redevelopment plans for Istanbul’s Taksim Square and Gezi Park on May 31 continues to grow. The protests have spread around Turkey as millions of people protest against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s authoritarian, neo-liberal AKP (Justice and Development Party) regime.

After a fierce struggle with the police, the people forced the cops out of the square and the park. Gezi Park became a meeting and living place for some 20,000 protesters—a temporary peoples’ commune.

Riot police stormed Taksim Square and neighboring Gezi Park with water cannons and tear gas as they drove protesters out on June 15 and June 16. Erdoğan, it seemed, had hoped to end the protests as he ordered the police to attack innocent people. However, his move backfired.

As protesters evacuated the area, the movement spread to many other parks in major cities, where people meet to discuss ways to go forward. Most significantly, thousands gathered at Abbasağa Park, and currently, thousands of people gather in public parks each day at around 9 p.m. to make plans democratically for future protests and marches.

Meanwhile, one brave man, Erdem Gündüz, stood still in Taksim Square. This quickly became a new form of protest. Many join Gündüz in Taksim Square, and in many places across Turkey, standing silently still, just staring ahead. This act of civil resistance paralyzed the police. They know how to shout “Freeze, police.” But they are at a loss when it comes to suppressing “frozen” protesters.

More importantly, the street demonstrations continue. For example, hundreds of thousands gather in Istanbul, Ankara, and many other cities, denouncing the release of a police officer who many believe deliberately shot in the head Ethem Sarısülük, a 26-year-old industrial worker during the Gezi Park protests in Ankara on June 1.

As a result of these protests, cracks within the power bloc are more apparent then ever. The AKP leadership can hardly handle the rising tension between Erdoğan’s supporters and Fethullah Gülen, a religious cleric who resides in Pennsylvania. Indeed, the transformation of these tensions into a crisis, would mean a split for the AKP.

Perhaps more importantly, the AKP government is losing its international allies. As is well known, the AKP enjoyed the full support of the major imperialist rulers since coming to power in 2002. Significantly, the U.S. Barak Obama administration assigned Erdoğan a big role—to be the leader of the Greater Middle East project. That includes overthrowing the Syrian Assad regime as well as the Iranian government. Now, the U.S. and many other imperialist countries are reconsidering whether such a controversial figure as Erdoğan is really suitable for achieving that goal.

As the AKP is heading into a crisis, Erdoğan becomes even more authoritarian. He uses public funds to finance the gathering of thousands of his supporters. At the rallies he enflames his base with hate speech against the anti-government protesters.

The police arrest Twitter users, socialists, and many others. There are increasing numbers of reports of torture. Erdoğan wants to convey to the imperialist powers: “I am still the boss. Trust me. Only I am capable of doing what you want in the region.” However, if the people’s determination continues, the AKP government has no future, and that would be a huge blow to imperialist plans in the Middle East.

Although the government is heading towards a huge crisis, the popular movement still lacks leadership. Organized labour’s participation is unsatisfactory, to say the least. The protesters, especially the younger ones, do not have any faith in the political parties and their leaders. This causes them to turn away from the existing organizations. They raise demands for “horizontality,” “no party flags and banners,” and “non-partyism.” Instead of forming independent labour and youth organizations, they rely on spontaneity. A central task for all socialists is to raise awareness that only with structured people’s democratic organizations, and only with revolutionary socialist parties, can bourgeois rule be overthrown.

The protests in Turkey are imbued with an internationalist spirit. They were influenced by their sisters and brothers in Egypt and Tunisia. Now their protests inspire the ones in Brazil, and even in nearby Bosnia and Bulgaria. Another key task is to transform this internationalist sentiment into acts of concrete international solidarity.

Photo: New York City demonstration in solidarity with pro-democracy protesters in Turkey. By Tony Savino / Socialist Action.