I was interviewed by PressTV on a new bill that could give local authorities the right to ‘stop public spaces from being turned into no-go areas’. It would simplify the process for local authorities to ban protests and clear encampments such as Brian…
finally found an organic way to integrate ‘YOLO’ into my vocabulary:
Why didn’t we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15 of this year? Why didn’t we just all go down to the City of London, Wall Street, or Frankfurt and have the party of our lifetime? After all you only live once. YOLO.
In recent weeks I’ve had a number of odd discussions, both in person and online, in which comrades have conflated the People’s Assembly and Left Unity as essentially being the same thing, or two aspects of the same thing.
On the face of it this is odd. The stated aims of the two projects are entirely dissimilar. The People’s Assembly aims to pull together unions, campaigns and activists to mount a broad-based opposition to the government’s austerity project; Left Unity aims to pull together political activists to the left of Labour to create a new political vehicle.
To add your name to this statement email email@example.com
The SWP’s National Committee met on Sunday 7 July 2013 and voted by 26-6 to suspend four comrades and make wider moves to shut down any organised opposition to the party leadership. This move is a smokescreen. It is a…
“There’s always this “tear gas”. During the events our friends would look at us and ask us why we were teary-eyed. Was it because of the tear gas? “No,” we would say, “our eyes are teary, because the taxes we pay are being returned to us for the first time!”— Interview with RedHack Collective on HalkTV
“The greek government announced it is closing down national public television and radio, ERT. Already workers and journalists are in turmoil. Just yesterday the privatisation of natural gas collapsed, as the Russians withdrew from the process (a move widely perceived as imposed on the greek government by the EU). There is now an one billion euros hole in the budget of 2013. The greek stock market is facing a crash for a second day in a row.”— from a friend in Greece
“Hundreds of thousands in Taksim today again. A group of nationalists -including members of the fascist party- have tried to attack Kurdish people attending the meeting. They were driven back by the Kurdish youth. Turkish socialists have set up a human chain around thousands of Kurds -all together they’re chanting “Long live the brotherhood of the peoples” in Turkish and Kurdish. No pasaran!”— from a friend in Istanbul
“Mubarak, we are human beings. We are not immortal. We will die one day, and we will be questioned for the things that we left behind. The important thing is to leave behind sweet memories. We are for our people. When we die the imam will not pray for the prime minister or for the president, but he will pray for a human being. It is up to you to deserve good prayers or curses. You should listen to the demands of the people and be conscious of the people and their rightful demands.”—Erdogan during the Egyptian revolution in 2011:
Paul LeBlanc’s speech at the Dangerous Ideas Festival last weekend raised a number of interesting questions about Leninism, organisation, and what it means to talk about a revolutionary vanguard in contemporary society. This is an attempt to think through some aspects of these questions in light…
The uprisings, demonstrations and strikes across Turkey have a mass character with different political forces trying to win immediate leadership on the ground as well as ideological leadership. All mass movements are characterised by this feature. The more a movement is able to articulate people’s angers, frustrations, desires and anxieties the more different actors will try to capitalise, recruit and, most importantly, lead that mass movement into a certain direction.
In the case of Turkey, we witness how groups such as Greenpeace, WWF, Kemalists of the CHP, fascists of the MHP, trade unionists, anarchists, socialists, Kurdish groups, pissed-off anti-capitalist youths. Football ultras, Christians, practicing Muslims, and Alavi are part of building and sustaining the movement. Thus, the movement that erupted onto to the streets lays bare all contradictions of Turkish society as a whole. While some report that the AKP is the only force not present in the protests there are letters from a AKP supporter tells us otherwise. The strikes happening today and tomorrow will also mobilise traditional AKP voters against the Erdogan/Gul government.
With this in mind, it is possible to understand the various strategies, political standpoints and mobilising aims of the various actors within the disparate yet insurrectionary movement—from lobbyists and large non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the right wing (often very close or even part of the ruling class structures of the state) through to the more radical NGOs of the centre ground and the left wing, consisting of socialists, anarchists, autonomists and others who would loosely consider themselves “revolutionaries”. All these forces have acted, sometimes working together, sometimes against each other for many years to develop what we witness on the streets today.
Social movements are always heterogeneous, full of debate and also an arena of class struggle. NGOs (i.e. Greenpeace, WWF) or parties such as CHP are part of the institutional apparatus that do not challenge the hegemony of the ruling class ideology but rather enshrine it and contribute to the marginalisation of dissenting (yet majoritarian) voices. Like in every movement, there will be parties (official/unofficial) that want to see the destruction of the existing form of political and economic power and the replacement of direct power by subaltern and oppressed classes. The success of the movement will to a part depend on the parties’ proposals in the movement.
I would argue that the working class is the decisive agent in the struggle in Turkey. By extension, they are the key agent in the struggle for social transformation on a broader basis, including that sought by the anti-capitalist youths and the football Ultras. Recent years (TEKEL strike) and weeks has shown the Turkish working classes’ ability (i.e. Turkish Airlines and now KESK and DISK) to mobilise huge resistance. The call for a general strike represents a massive escalation. But this is long way from overthrowing capitalism.
The fact that the Turkish working class has entered the mass movement five days into the the struggle against Erdogan and his government is not a recipe for regime change. Yet, it can lay the material foundation for a society based on collective ‘emancipated’ labour and can, more immediately, expose the Kemalist CHP who has nothing but contempt for its own people. This was shown by the ULUSAL news correspondent who muttered ‘too bad that no one was killed’ forgetting the microphone had been left on. The strikes can create the kind of popular collective consciousness that the movement so desperately needs. It can also marginalise political factions such as the nationalists.
The appearance of Turkish flags on the demonstrations scares many in Europe and North America. It also scares many on the left in Turkey. Rightly so. While Turkish flags do point toward a strong nationalistic and Kemalist presence, we cannot simply decry that the protests are dominated by these forces. The reappearance of national flags on demonstrations in Santiago de Chile, Lisbon, Portugal, Athens, Greece and Cairo, Egypt actually highlight the anti-neoliberal character of these revolts.
As neoliberalism erodes citizens’ basic rights and operates on a supra-national level through supra-national institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, EU and the WTO, protesters will make use of symbols of national sovereignty and independence to articulate their anti-neoliberalism. This remains particularly true in the light of the complicity of national bourgeoisies with the austerity regime. On another level, the Turkish flag is a symbol of secularism and Kemalism. While secularism appears to be an issue amongst the bloggers who want to drink their booze in public parks after midnight (which you can’t even do in the UK) it is far less an issue on the ground and in the streets from what I can tell.
The Erdogan government has only been able to mobilise workers and the poor behind its government as it cloaked neoliberal policies in a traditional cultural-Islamic language - haven’t we heard that before? Christianity has been mobilised to legitimise the epiphenomena of neoliberal policy making, such as so-called ‘humanitarian intervention’ in the EU and US, in much the same way that Erdogan and Gul have deployed Islamic rhetoric to cover their own policies of social destruction.
Turkey’s rapid growth and implementation of neoliberal policies has only been possible because of its repressive measures against individuals (i.e. journalists etc) as well as different collectives (i.e. ethnic and religious minorities, Communists, trade unionists). Colin Barker argues that: “movements represent a kind of collective focusing of attention and energy on transforming, more or less, the parameters of a specific question, in opposition to other forces: dominant or subaltern classes, parties, movements, states etc” (Barker 2006: 15). In other words, 'in other words, this movement can dictate the agenda of Turkish politics, break the confines that different political actors have been trapped in and achieve what ‘normal’ political procedures would never dream of.
From now on, different classes will articulate their political strategies through – or, in relation to – the movement. Only if the radical and anticapitalist left acts through the movement can it turn the mass movement from an arena of class struggle into a tool of class struggle. In order to do so, it has to develop and formulate a strategy and alliances based on building a counter-hegemonic alternative fit to lead Turkish society as a whole. The Peace Square in Taksim was a start.
The collective learning process which all of Turkish society is undergoing at the moment has changed the parameters of Turkish politics - the question is whether the parameters will be changed once and for all.
Interview with Ozan Tekin: Turkish protesters reject neo-liberalism not Islamism
"In 1997, mass protests led by the left against the “deep state” were used by the military to force the Islamist government of the time to resign. There are some groups who are trying to do that now – their presence is a growing threat for the mass movement. It splits and weakens us. But they have not so far succeeded in hijacking the movement.
This is a serious ideological struggle we need to win. We are against this government not because it is Islamic, but because it is conservative and neo-liberal. It is a legitimate, elected government and therefore we do not want it to be overthrown by unelected armed forces. We want it to be overthrown by the mass movement of the people.”
“Okay so here my chronological summary of the day:
- the students at Ege University went to the warden (rektörlük) and demanded that they do not have to attend exams in the next days. Success: They don’t have to provide doctor’s notice
-Ege University’s sociology department is in a boycott and joins the general strike. First they said Wednesday, but now it’s actually tomorrow as far as I have heard from my friend Lülüfer Körükmez.
- We went at 7 pm to the demonstrations at Gündogdu Square in Kordon. We were previously told on the phone by a friend who works in the private sector that all streets in the centre of Izmir would be blocked by the police and that it would be super dangerous to go there etc. BUT: that wasn’t true. OUR CONCLUSION: RUMOURS LIKE THIS ARE SPREAD SO THAT PEOPLE DON’T DARE TO GO TO THE PROTESTS.
- This was the first day that worker’s organisations, unions, and many more institutions joined the protest and it was a HUGE demo…”—From a friend in Izmir:
“Sitting at Mecidiyekoy metrobus station - didn’t see a single police car between here and Taksim (they wouldn’t dare to be honest) and the city has never been this chilled…”— from a friend in Istanbul
“For Gramsci, the revolutionary movement failed because it organised around immediate economic interests (which he called ‘corporatism’) without drawing in other oppressed and exploited groups in a fight for a new society. He refers to Lenin’s example because this is exactly what Lenin argued, for instance, in What is to be Done?:
The awareness of the worker masses cannot be a genuine class awareness if the workers do not learn … to observe each of the other social classes in all the manifestations of their intellectual, moral and political life – if they do not learn to apply in practice a materialist analysis and a materialist evaluation of all sides of the activity and life of all classes, strata and groups of the population. He who focuses the attention, powers of observation and awareness of the worker class exclusively or even primarily on itself is no social democrat [i.e. revolutionary socialist]: the self-knowledge of the working class is inextricably tied to full clarity in its conceptions of the mutual relations of all classes of present-day society … as they are worked out via experience of political life.
The ideal of the social democrat should … be a people’s tribune who can respond to each and every manifestation of abuse of power and oppression, wherever it occurs, whatever stratum or class it concerns, who can generalise all these manifestations into one big picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation, who is able to use each small affair to set before everybody his socialist convictions and his democratic demands and to explain to each and all the world-historical significance of the liberation struggle of the proletariat.”—
- By Chris Harman, Gramsci, the Prison Notebooks & Philosophy (2007)
Communism doesn’t lay in some distant absent future. Today’s forms of struggle are immanently communistic and represent a small yet significant step toward dual power. Only when we start to recognise this can we start act through the movements (rather than standing on the sidelines) and win people to the idea that another world is possible, and socialism from below is necessary. This video shows that struggle creates a popular collective consciousness and at the same time lays the material foundation for a society based on collective ‘emancipated’ labour.
“Turkey has the most journalists in jail after the whole world combined ….. they have the media hostage…Erdogan hasnt brought turkey a long way, dont forget massacres he has commited against kurds, support for fsa rebels and support for assad before the uprising, he does anything at will.. there is a lot more but i cant be bothered your colours are obvious if i copy and paste what you just wrote people would think it something david cameron would say or what mubarak supporters would have said ! if you think they are a minority it just goes to show how badly the media is being control… i find people like you funny your the type to go on about corrupt media and not being able to have democractic means and how leaders support israel but as soon as a leader says allah u akbar You becoem the oppressor and you looks pass the fact that Erdogan is a big U.S., SAUDIA AND ISRAELI ally ! and has put American Missiles faciing Iran in my village with out the peoples permission. Tha is what you need to understand!”— from a Kurdish friend (unedited) to another another guy on my facebook
“True observation Mark. I agree with this as a quick thoughts. Seeing Erdogan is a fascist is a big illusion but also a dictator. This resistance has a very different dynamics inside from socialist to young, from LGBTT to nationalists, from students to workers and muslims. And everybody has varied slogans against government and demand varied things. It is true that main opposition is trying to hijack it in some areas but they can’t dominate the moment. There is a big solidarity in the streets to keep this struggle as people’s own struggle. Now students are mobilising in the universities to take an action in many cities and a general strike can change the atmosphere of resistance as becoming a part of working class struggle.”— from another friend in Istanbul
some very very quick thoughts on issues related to Occupy Gezi
Some thoughts on #occupyGezi
These are some quick thoughts on a few issues related to the #OccupyGezi protests.
This is not Occupy!
The strugggle in Turkey is marked by a strong sense of insurrectionism. Police are chased away by the mass of protesters. They are demobilised as protesters steal their riot gear and use it against the police.
Barricades in Besiktas show the forms of struggle chosen by protesters are immanently communistic and represent a step toward dual power.
Labelling this uprising ‘Occupy-style’ or whatever misses the point that the protesters are not occupying public spaces symbolically but with revolutionary force.
KESK and DISK Trade union federations are very likely to call a general strike against Erdogan. This would represent a massive escalation - only four days into the struggle.
In the context of the TEKEL strike (sold out by the bureaucracy in 2009), the Turkish Airline strikes and a number of local an sectional strikes the possibility for cross-pollination and unity between anti-capitalist inusrrectionist youths and workers is very likely.
The trade union federation KESK announced a two-day general strike for June 4-5. This can lay the organic basis for an insurrectionary movement.
Erdogan = a fascist?
Many placards say ‘Erdogan = fascist’, a banner on the solidarity demonstration in London read the same and several of my facebook friends have called Erdogan a fascist. This is mistaken!
This is a problem for the ascendant movement is to cut itself off from those AKP voters such as TEKEL strikers, Turkish Airline strikers and other workers who form part of the traditional base of the AKP and by no means are fascist.
In most personal writings on blogs, facebook and youtube there’s an argument about individual freedoms. Turkey’s rapid growth and implementation of neoliberal policies has only been possible because of its repressive measures against the individual as well as the collective. Cloaked in a traditional cultural-Islamic language doesn’t amount to anything else than the attack on the right to abortion, or the illegality of marijuana in the so-called West.
Labelling Erdogan a fascist puts the movement on a slippery slope. Historic movements such as the German student movement of 1968 which theorized the return of fascism isolated themselves from the mass of workers and ended up going underground and resorted to the gun once the movement receded.
We need to distinguish between fascist-oid or fascistic methods of repression which are commonly used across democracies and fascism as the destruction of all forms of workers’ democracy and independent civil society. While the freedom of workers to organise and journalists to report is severely limited, Erdogan’s Turkey is far from being fascist.
International newspapers such as the Guardian and NY Time talk about Erdogan as a dictator due to the high levels of repression. Let’s not forget that the summer uprisings in London, 2011 were similarly repressed by a Conservative government. Let’s not forget how American cops smashed up the Occupy protests across the United States. Let’s not forget how Blockupy activists in Germany were kettled this weekend and the police openly admit that it was their plan to do so.
Turkish national flags
One comrade on twitter argued that the appearance of Turkish flags must be condemned.
While Turkish flags do point toward a strong nationalistic and Kemalist presence, we cannot simply decry that the protests are dominated by these forces.
We have seen the reappearance of national flags on demonstrations from Santiago de Chile, Lisbon, Portugal, Athens, Greece and Cairo, Egypt to today’s protests across Turkey.
As neoliberalism erodes citizens’ basic rights and operates on a supra-national level through supra-national institutions such as the IMF, World Bank, EU and the WTO protesters will make use of symbols of national sovereignty and independence to articulate their anti-neoliberalism. While misplaced, for many people the Turkish flag is just that.
While Kemalist factions are part of the protests on the ground it is doubtful that their leaderships like what they are seeing. Indeed, an ULUSAL (station of Kemalist İşçi Partisi) news correspondent said ‘too bad no one was killed’ in front of rolling cameras forgetting the microphone was switched on.
This highlights their very hatred of the masses.
The role of (Social) Media
The media blackout shows to what extent the Turkish state still relies on the method of repression to maintain its hegemony,
During the height of the protests on Sunday, NTV showed a documentary on penguins. Newspaper magazines talk about scandals of the telenovela and soap opera stars rather than the protests.
In the Turkish example, social media has replaced the mainstream media as the main form of information about the protests. But it also serves activists as a space of dissidence where they can discuss and deliberate with their friends and families about the protests, the nature of the regime etc.
Whether twitter is being used for on the ground co-ordination between activist cadres is unknown to me.
Perhaps these two quotes give a sense of what the Turkish regime thinks about the use of social media
Abdullah Gul (President): “We have seen how important social media is to politics in the Arab Spring” (2011)
Tayyip Erdogan (Prime Minister): “To me, social media is the worst menace to society.” (2013)
“Erdogan made yet another inconsistent, incoherent and absurd speech. He threatened firms who would attempt to cease advertising deals with the corrupt media, threatened the people, and said he was holding his supporters back (as a favour to all of us, I guess). His intention is to clearly provoke the people and then release his dogs - sorry, cops - on us with even stronger force. Well he can bring it on, because the Turkish people are awake and ready for the fight. He stepped on our nerves badly. As long as he remains his stupid, narcissistic, and egoistic self, the anti-government protests and clashes will not end. He ignited a fire within all of us that we wrongly assumed was not there. He will never take a step back and apologize - he is a sick man. We should hold our heads up and continue fighting our cause. It is pointless arguing or fighting with idiots.”— a friend in Istanbul