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Turkey: the fight goes on!

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In recent months, particularly in recent weeks, the country has been politicised and tensions within the population have been increasing. There are several reasons for this; the devastating earthquake of 6 February, which claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people, but also exposed the corruption and nepotism of the government; the inflation rate, which reached as much as 80% in October 2022; the increasingly precarious situation of the working class, and a deeply racist debate about the circumstances and role of millions of refugees and Kurds.

Nevertheless, Erdogan won the presidential elections in the second round. Undoubtedly, he benefited from the state monopoly over the media such as television, control of the state apparatus and repression of the opposition, especially the Kurdish HDP, which is threatened with banning and hundreds of whose members are in prison. But his opponent, the Kemalist Turkish nationalist Kılıçdaroğlu, himself promised a reactionary, capitalist and racist policy that would not have represented an alternative to Erdogan.

Two camps, but two reactionary camps
The election has undoubtedly divided people into two camps, those who continue to support Erdogan and those who spoke out in favour of Kılıçdaroğlu because they saw him as an alternative to the Bonapartist regime of Erdoğan. However, the fact that this was a choice between plague and cholera and that Kılıçdaroğlu cannot represent an alternative for the workers, Kurds, refugees and other oppressed people has become increasingly clear in the last two weeks.

In the first round of voting, the two candidates were joined by a third: Sinan Oğan, a right-winger known for nationalist and racist, sexist and misogynistic statements, received 5%. In the run-off election, he tried to stage himself as a "kingmaker". In any case, both candidates vied for his votes. This is one of the reasons why the past two weeks have been marked by racist statements with Kılıçdaroğlu in particular focusing his election propaganda on deporting up to 2 million refugees within 2 years. At the same time, he hardly said a word about inflation and Erdogan's capitalist economic policy. Rather, he accused refugees of "stealing" jobs and that is the only reason why the working class is doing so badly.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's racist remarks are reminiscent of the NPD and the AfD. It is clear that Erdogan does not take a better position in this regard. He uses the refugees as a pawn against the EU. Large parts of the money that reaches Turkey under the terms of the reactionary refugee deal does not even reach the camps and those affected, and ultimately Erdogan also pursues the goal of sending many back. However, he claims that he will not do so until the necessary conditions have been created. This means that Assad will be recognised as a dictator again and relations with Syria will also be normalised again – and that at the expense of not only the refugees, but above all the Kurds in Rojava.

Parliamentary elections
In the end, Erdoğan's AKP won again with 35.61% in the elections to the 600-member National Assembly. However, the AKP lost 6.95% of the vote compared to the 2018 elections. These figures also make it clear that the AKP is no longer receiving the popular support it used to. Its base is crumbling, and many supporters are no longer behind the party. Nevertheless, it can get a total of 49.47% with the electoral alliance "People's Alliance", with which it also ran for election. The AKP is running in alliance with the fascist MHP. Of the 318 seats of the People's Alliance, the MHP holds 50 seats.

The Republican People's Party, CHP, which is considered by many to be the alternative to the AKP, won 25.33% of the vote in the parliamentary elections and also appeared in an electoral alliance with 5 other parties, the "Alliance of the Nation" also known as the "Table of Six". This includes the IYI party, which is Islamic, conservative and right-wing, and has a total of 213 seats.

The fact that this electoral alliance has no interest in re-establishing truly democratic conditions in Turkey, bringing about an improvement for the working class or standing up for the rights of the oppressed minorities is already shown by the bourgeois character of the CHP, its historical betrayal of the working class, but its position on the Kurds and refugees is also extremely reactionary.

Result of HDP and YSP
The left-petty-bourgeois People's Democratic Party, HDP, which fights for the rights of women, LGBTI, Kurds and refugees, achieved its worst result in parliamentary elections since its founding. It ran under the name of the Yeşil Sol Party (YSP) to avoid possible illegalisation. The YSP received only 8.82%. Thus, the HDP lost 2.68% of the vote compared to the 2018 elections. With the electoral alliance "Work and Freedom", 5 other smaller left-wing parties competed in the elections within the framework of the YSP, among which the best-known, the newly founded TİP (Workers' Party of Turkey), won 1.73% with its own lists, because in the electoral alliance itself all parties could also compete with their own names and lists.

The fact that the YSP lost votes in this ballot also testifies to its tactical mistakes, which it decided even before the election: no joint appearance of its own presidential candidate and thus the open or indirect support of the CHP candidate Kılıçdaroğlu and the false belief that it is only necessary to focus on a few seats in parliament, as well as mayors and other posts. However, we must not forget that the election campaign of the Alliance for Work and Freedom took place under massive repression, including the imprisonment and intimidation of many activists and election workers.

And the Kurds?
They have completely lost in this election. Because there was no presidential candidate from the YSP, they could hardly give their demands any public weight or gain any hearing. In any case, it is clear that, for the CHP, the Kurds are just voting fodder, otherwise it relies on nationalism and. In 2015, for example, the CHP positioned itself against peace negotiations and criticised Erdogan and the AKP from the right. It supported many of Turkey's attacks on Rojava.

With the YSP and several revolutionary and communist groups calling for support for Kılıçdaroğlu, the CHP's presidential candidate, the mass of Kurdish votes disappeared amongst those of the reactionary, nationalist and bourgeois masses of the CHP. However, the policy of the lesser of two evils did not work out: Erdoğan won the election on 28 May and begins his third term as president. This strengthened the nationalist consciousness of AKP supporters, which now feels confirmed once again. And in his very first speech, Erdogan agitated against the imprisoned HDP chairman Selahattin Demirtaş and spoke of the Greater Turkish Empire, which he would like to push further during this term of office.

In his first speech after the elections, Kılıçdaroğlu presented himself as a "true democrat", behind whom women and young people in particular seem to stand, only to reaffirm his racist attitude towards the refugees in the very next sentences. Right at the beginning of his speech, he made racist comments and announced: "When millions of refugees came and you became a second-class people, I could not remain silent." There was no longer any talk of the Kurds, it seemed as if they were forgotten, unimportant or not worth mentioning. It was cities, especially those from the Kurdish region, where Kılıçdaroğlu was often elected with an overwhelming majority.

Kaybettik (We lost) or Mücadeleye devam (We keep fighting)?
While many celebrated Erdoğan's victory on May 28 with Turkish flags, another part of the population was dejected. Liberal and bourgeois forces, but also a large part of the left, campaigned for a possible victory of "democracy" under Kılıçdaroğlu. For a while, this gave many the impression that "better times" were imminent: Erdoğan and the AKP had taken care of themselves, they would leave. In their place, there would be better times with more democratic participation, more rights for parliament and a stronger economy.

Even if it is perfectly understandable that people long for better times, that they are fed up with the authoritarian regime, the CHP has never been an alternative. A bourgeois, nationalist party that continues to act in the interests of the capitalist class has no interest in enforcing real improvements. And the global economic situation and deep economic crisis in Turkey (inflation, depreciation of the currency) alone would not have given Kılıçdaroğlu the opportunity to carry out reforms in the first place. Rather, his government would also have massively attacked the working class in order to make the profit economy float again.

We must therefore not succumb to the sense of defeat – kaybettik – but our motto must be: "Mücadelemis devam etmeli" – Our struggle must continue! Because what would have been necessary, and what is still necessary, is to use the highly politicised situation in Turkey to mobilise the workers and oppressed now for their interests, for the building of a mass movement against the crisis, against racism, against the regime. Voter turnout was over 80%, but hardly any organisation has shown a third way of organising and mobilising, even though the situation requires it.

It is necessary that the Turkish left now enters into a united front in which it unites all militant and progressive sections of society, and tries to mobilise the trade unions, the left parties, the Kurds, the environmental and women's movements together. We need demands for better working conditions and a sliding scale of wages, for the expropriation of big companies and banks under workers' control. This is the only way to combat inflation and the accompanying economic crisis.

To achieve this, trade unions in Turkey must begin to expand their membership and degree of organization, to build action committees in factories and neighborhoods in order to become mass organs of the workers. Revolutionaries must stand up for a program of action of the working class that represents the rights and demands of all oppressed minorities, first and foremost the Kurds and Arabs and all refugees! Such a united front must be based on mass assemblies and action committees in the factories and neighbourhoods, as well as on united self-defence against repression.

It is a tall order, but the regime cannot be overthrown by another nationalist and bourgeois candidate, but only by the working class and the oppressed themselves—and this requires the building of a new, revolutionary workers' party that operates independently of all wings of the ruling class.