From the new July-August 2013 issue of News & Letters:
Events in Turkey appeared spontaneous, but are a continuation of a long history. It was not the psychology of Prime Minister Erdogan that created opposition, but the institutionalized fascism within a “deep state.”
Turkey is capitalist, but not like Europe, the U.S., or Canada. It did not have a series of bourgeois revolutions. Capitalism in Turkey was installed top-down by colonialist rule. Independence gained by the anti-colonial movement did not achieve concrete freedoms, it created neo-colonialism: native capitalists dependent on imperialism in metropolitan capitalist countries through finances, production systems, etc. Accumulation in Turkey is not just for the native capitalists, it has to be shared with the metro-capitalists.
During capitalist crises the military intervenes to clamp down any unrest. When the crisis abates, the military may step down, but it is not bourgeois democracy that takes power, it is institutionalized civil repression. The U.S. is moving in this direction also. This is the way it is becoming a Third World country.
In the 1980s the U.S. decided they would prefer a moderate Islam to rule in Middle East countries. Previous rule was established by race/ethnicity. It did not allow huge sections of the population to be accepted, creating opposition. Erdogan came to power as part of the change into “moderate Islam.”
ARMENIAN GENOCIDE, KURDS’ OPPRESSION
Since the 1920s Turkey has not been secular. In the Ottoman Empire, the nascent capitalist class was Armenian. When the Ottoman Empire crumbled, Armenians became the scapegoats. Modern Turkey was founded on that genocide. Then the Greeks were kicked out. At the time the Kurds, as fellow Muslims, were Turkey’s allies. Then Kurds, too, became “externalized”: their language was banned, their communities abused by authorities. The unsolvable problem in Turkey now is the Kurds.
It was a Kurdish parliamentarian who put his body in front of the bulldozers that came to uproot the trees in the only–tiny–park left in Istanbul, to turn it into a shopping mall. He started talking about concrete freedom.
That first day, there were about 25 mostly environmentalists; the following day, hundreds; in a few days, hundreds of thousands.
It became possible to talk about every topic that had been taboo. Not just about Kurds, or Armenians, but women. A man who came to the square with his wife started beating her, as was usual. He was stopped, somewhat violently, by others there. He could not understand: “This is my wife, I love her and I beat her! What’s it to you?”
THE LEAP IN HUMAN RELATIONS
Human relations in the square leaped ahead 20 years in those few days. No one can sell anything in the plaza. Any resources that come in–food, water, blankets–have to be shared. When the police attacked with gas and firepower, there are photographs of a Kurdish youth running hand-in-hand with a Turkish youth. This would have been unthinkable a couple months ago!
People living near the square put up signs in windows: “If you’re running from the police, my apartment is a safe haven, ring unit 6.” In makeshift clinics in local hotels, doctors have organized medical aid to those injured by police, since the police do not allow ambulances to transport the wounded and instead of taking them to hospitals, they detain and arrest the wounded. A general strike has been called for.
Of course we want democracy. But calls for abstract democracy do not challenge the system. That leads only to political solutions. Real change can come only through a people’s revolution. Democracy cannot be the goal, it can only be a step towards the changes we need.
–Activist from Turkey