Iron Fist in Turkey

(«Proletarian»; Nr. 13; Autumn - Winter 2016)s

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It’s enough to read just a few lines of the bourgeois press to get an idea of   what will happen after the failed coup of 15 July, «The iron fist of Erdogan after the failed coup in Turkey: I am ready to reinstate the death penalty. 8000 police officers were suspended, opponents were stripped naked and hog-tied. The European Union: If executions resume, Turkey will not enter Europe»(1).

Naturally the E.U. in which Erdogan’s Turkey has long sought membership, speaks only of «executions»; it can thus save face by maintaining ties with the repressive Turkish regime and other repressive European regimes.

The vendetta of «Sultan» Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be terrible; it’s what he swore after the events. And that’s a promise he intends to accomplish without being restricted to the Armed Forces and police who have stood against his power, but is spreading to all sectors of society. The attempted coup has certainly not surprised Western chancelleries and certainly not the American, German, English, French or Russian governments – imperialist powers have many economic, financial and political interests in Turkey and throughout the region, with the inevitable conflicts between them. They are partly forced to undergo the initiatives and maneuvers of Erdogan and are simultaneously accomplices and allies of the emergence of Turkey as a regional middle power. No imperialism that has a minimum interest in the vast region stretching from North Africa to Central Asia can ignore this country and what happens there. The fact that the Turkish state continues to bomb Kurdish cities under the pretext of combattingPKK guerrilla actions or that for years it has let fighters of the Islamic State pass through its territory, was met with purely formal protests from Western powers.

In all probability, if it had succeeded, the coup prepared for some time by some sectors of the Armed Forces, would have given Turkish policy an orientation appreciated in a very different manner by the United States and NATO (2); but the military coup plotters did not take into account, nor probably did Western imperialism,  that the bourgeois factions of which Erdogan is the representative enjoyed strong popular support: Erdogan and his Prime Minister were followed when they made the»call to the people» to «resist» and to «defend» the legitimacy of the elected president(3).The western imperialisms did not react immediately; they waited to see the results of the coup (which normally would have liquidated or imprisoned the president), before, after its failure, uttering platonic statements in defense of «stability» and support to the legitimate «democratic order» of the country.

On the night of July 15 to 16, several military detachments, particularly in Ankara and Istanbul, and guided by their officers under the command of a «leading staff» of a few generals attempted to overthrow Erdogan (4).

Their «official» motives? To restore secularism and democracy in Turkey against the growing Islamization.

Their real motives? To restore the social and political influence that the Armed Forces have always had in Turkey, but which the governments of the AKP (the ruling party) have sought to reduce. The international media has explained that the heads of the military units that participated in the coup  feared  an impending purge at one moment or another because of their hostility to Erdogan; the failure of the coup could be explained because the imminence of this operation would not have left time to the generals involved to constitute a unified operation center. In five hours the putsch fizzled out, while the soldiers who occupied the Istanbul airport refused to fire on the crowd who had gathered there after crossing the Bosphorus.

This was a struggle for power within the ruling class: bourgeois power in Turkey is not limited to the Army and the Islamist factions, including the «Gulenistes» (4) opponents of Erdogan who have some significance.

As of July 19th the purge involved 50,000 firings and 10,000 arrests. It affects not only the Army, the Police and the Judiciary, but concerns all public administrations and, of course, schools, universities and religious organizations. The possibility of reintroducing the death penalty, as requested by the AKP and numerous deputies, is a terrorist threat brandished to have a deterrent effect on fractions which have made an attempt in one way or another on the»legitimacy of the constituted power»; but that does not mean that this step will not actually be taken by the parliamentary majority who supports Erdogan.

What could the proletarians have expected from a successful coup and what can they expect after the victory of Erdogan’s supporters?

Two bourgeois factions with opposing interests clashed in a struggle for power and the proletariat had nothing to do with either of them. The secularism and democracy brandished by the military putschists are along the same bourgeois themes as religion and authoritarianism. But what is more, democracy and its political mechanisms– true modern ideological intoxication by which the bourgeoisies of all countries distract and paralyze social movements, particularly the labor movement by reducing it to impotence– are increasingly serving an inexorable political centralization of bourgeois power; This is even more evident today than it was in the past when they opened the door to fascism.

Besides an increasingly ruthless exploitation by the capitalists, proletarians now have to await the systematic restriction of «civic rights» and ever more widespread militarization of social life by the bourgeois regime. This happens not only in countries withan economic and political recent development like Turkey, but in those with a long democratic tradition as in France as well; and the pretext is obviously the same. The fight against «terrorism» internally and externally, the fight against «subversion»!

The workers have long suffered a spate of economic, social and political anti-worker attacks, imposed by all States to «fight the crisis»,  that is to say in defense of capitalist profits over a protracted period; they have the most difficulty finding the impetus for an effective fight against these measures and their consequences in terms of unemployment and lower wages because the «workers’» trade unions s are overwhelmingly collaborationist and put  the defense  of social order ahead the class interests of the proletariat. The situations where political and trade union collaborationism has driven down the proletarians  in France and in Turkey, in Italy as in Egypt, are tragically negative. Their immediate future is determined by capitalist objectives because the trade union and political organizations that deal with proletarian interests drown them instead in the interests of national capitalism.

Certainly as long as bourgeois power is capable of ensuring the country’s workers an income slightly above basic survival and maintain at least a layer of the proletariat under more favorable conditions than those of the mass, the ruling class can rest on an important material basis for influencing the proletarians. But the economic crises that are inseparable from the functioning of capitalism, the internal contrasts between bourgeois factions and external contrasts with the bourgeoisies of other countries, the struggle of imperialist competition, always more lurid and violent, are themselves material factors  that tend sooner or later to turn social contrasts into oppositions between antagonistic classes, between the bourgeois and the proletarian class, inevitably polarizing the social antagonisms that have existed in capitalist society since its birth.

It will not be easy for the proletariat, in Turkey, iin the very «civilized» Europe or elsewhere, to engage in the path of class struggle, the only way to open the prospect of a future without exploitation, without oppression, without coups or wars.

This will not be the result of a general «awareness» by the proletarians who «choose» not to trust democracy, or «social peace» in the «supreme interest of the country»in the»fatherland» or any «cultural identity» taken as an historical and eternal rationale for»the people»; it will not be the result of a progressive and gradual development of «democracy» through which the «people» could would make its»will» felt, through street demonstrations or the ballot box, against all existing financial, political and military powers, put bluntly – against bourgeois power.

The class struggle is determined by the explosion of the contradictions of capitalist society, which set all social strata in motion in an inexorable and confused manner causing them to come into collision; in this social turmoil there necessarily emerge the forces that materially and historically represent the two determinanttendencies: the forces of social conservatism against the forces of the social revolution, the bourgeois forces against those of the proletariat.

The proletariat will learn and learn over once again to fight for itself, for its own class interests, because it will be forced to fight against its total subservience to capitalist power, against the violence, exploitation and oppression of the bourgeoisie which holds it under its yoke; it will recognize the need to fight so as not to be turned into cannon fodder whenever inter-bourgeois and inter-imperialist rivalries evolve from economic violence intowarring violence.

All this will not happen by spontaneous generation, under the stimulation of conspiratorial organizations or by a gradual and peaceful classist organization of the proletariat. Even this necessary classist reorganization will be the result of a hard struggle against pacifist and democratic habits «inoculated» by opportunistic organizations, against the illusions of the «one big night» where the rebelling workers could get rid of the dictatorship of servitude in the wink of an eye, or a «direct democracy» which would allow the spontaneity of the masses to find the orientation for the struggle.

The history of the labor movement teaches that the class interests around which the proletariat organized their forces are not the heritage of the masses as such, nor of their spontaneity. The proletarian class interests are defined by the history of many years of labor struggles and the history of its union and political organizations, a history of which only the  class political party – because it does not let dictate its orientation by the contingency of the ebb and flow of struggles, their victories and their defeats – was able to take stock and condense it in its theses and its program and has the task of reintroducing into the proletarian ranks the struggle against contingentism, movementism and spontaneitism , all the opportunist deviations which, given the ideological and material bourgeois pressure are constantly reborn in the proletariat.

Even though the signs of recovery of the proletarian class struggle have not yet manifested, either in the countries hit by crises and war as the Middle East or in those still somewhat prosperous as in Europe or North America, in the economic sub-terrain the factors of a crisis that according to the bourgeois themselves, looks disastrous, reviving the specter of a third world war, accumulate ever more acutely. The only force that can impede this global conflict, or who can fight it and stop it, as occurred in 1917, at the time of the Russian revolution, is the proletariat lead by its class party.

There is no alternative: war or revolution, bourgeois and imperialist dictatorship or dictatorship of the proletariat. History knows no half measures.


July, 19th 2016



(1) See Il Corriere della Sera, 07/19/2016

(2) We must not forget that there are 24 NATO bases in Turkey, the most important, that of Incirlik, comprises 5,000 US soldiers; on these bases are positioned more than 100 tactical nuclear bombs. The strategic position of Turkey for control of the eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Middle East is a given.

(3) The success of Erdogan relies on clear economic results: «In 13 years Erdogan revolutionized the country. He creates a new urban middle class which adores him. The average income per person under him has risen from $2,000 per year to $11,000. If you do not understand that, you cannot understand how he survived the coup. « Il Corriere della Sera, 07/18/2016.

(4) «The putschists are not an isolated group, as it was said by judging on the speed with which they were arrested. Quite the contrary. We find among them the commanders of the Second and Third Army deployed along Syria, the most important border and most unstable country which includes the Incirlik air base, from where US jets and their allies NATO bombed the positions of the Islamic State. The site also found that operate specialized commandos from helicopters, personnel of the police and gendarmerie, the tank battalions, entire squadrons of aircraft. «The problem was that all the forces that make up the best part of our army lacked a unified command and a political leader who can speak to the nation outside the military language. They are like ghosts of the past» explainedOrhanBursah, Hurriyet newspaper commentator. «They thought it was enough to capture the Chief of Staff Gen. HulusiAkar and force him to make a public statement to the nation in their favor to win consensus. But they went a bit too fast. Akar, already in their hands before Friday midnight, refused to cooperate. And other commanders of the Army responded with force. The most important among them is the General UmitDudar, chief responsible for Istanbul, who ordered the armed resistance».

(5) The imam Fethullal Gulen, resident for years in the US, representing an Islamist faction which was at first an ally and then opponent of Erdogan, is considered by him as the «brain» of the coup.



International Communist Party


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