Peoples of Turkey stand on the verge of repelling the most perennial and comprehensive attempt at dictatorship in the history of Turkey -that operates through the intertwined usage of legitimate and illegitimate means, based on both coercion and consent.
The 1st of May celebrations in the eve of the historic elections of 2023 will spread the message of the working classes across Turkey and Kurdistan for bringing Erdoğan’s allaturca “one-man-regime” down to lead the country out of the multiple crises that reinforce each other. Working classes have paid the heaviest price for the ongoing dirty war on Kurds, for the poverty and inequality compounded by the perfect storm of COVID 19 pandemic and by the mismanagement of the cost-of-living crisis that followed, as well as the human and material losses of devastating 6 February earthquakes aggravated by the regime’s pathetic corruption and incompetence. It is high time for the call for united action of the peoples to close “the gates of hell” and clear the way towards open struggle for a social and democratic republic.
Back in November 2020, I argued: “Turkey’s crisis is so great that it will compel Erdoğan to go off the rails. His regime is caught off guard by the crisis. Now, the question is what and how the opposition will do. Will they shake up the Erdoğan regime? Will they line up on a common political course and mode of action that will leave him no other option but to accept calling an election he is bound to lose? Does the opposition have the similar courage and perseverance displayed by the people? These are the questions that are really awaiting an answer. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) says, ‘We are here.’ Now it is time to hear what the other opposition factions have to say.”
With a fortunate turn of events, Erdoğan was indeed left with no political option other than “calling an election that he is bound to lose”. Turkey, unless interrupted by some exceptional turmoil, is about to enter a period in which the Erdoğan regime, already devoid of the popular consent it once had, can finally be stripped-off of its armour of ‘legitimacy’ that has provided great leverage for the ruling AKP in pushing Turkey towards fascism. So, the elections will mark the beginning of the political validation of this transition.
Among the dynamics of opposition, a quite common perspective overwhelms to imagine this transition as Turkey’s “return to normal”. It could be deemed reasonable to admit that this perspective has some validity at first glance as Turkey has been living under an “abnormal” regime since almost 2015, However, the main opposition Nation Alliance is seeking the “normal” in “establishing a regime through which society can emerge without falling into internal conflict from a political stalemate that they themselves contributed in one way or another to its creation, and which would ultimately blow up the state as such.”
However, getting rid of this straitjacket would only be the beginning for the masses who, as a means to eliminate the attempted dictatorship, stood in line against Erdoğan in the 14 May presidential elections, especially for the part represented by the HDP/Green Left Party. For them, it is not “normal” living naked and without an identity as much as living in a straitjacket, either. For all the social forces that will break free from the grip of this dictatorship, the transition will not be complete unless it leads to the construction of a new order, not the restoration of the old, this is quite clear. After 14 May, everything will have to be renewed for all segments of society whose development has been blocked by the regime. Change in Turkey will not happen just because an election is held in May, but rather because the already changing society will elevate its preferences on the political arena through these elections. This is how we prepare ourselves for great historical transformations, this is how we build our expectations – we are on the brink of a great turning point in history.
On the threshold of the centenary of the Republic, three main forces will remain on the Turkish political scene: First, even though it would be defeated and destroyed, the agent of the dictatorial attempt that we left behind: the alliance between fascism and political Islam which has risen in the hands of the capitalist powers with their aim of restoration of the pre-1923 Sultanate. Second, the urban upper- and middle-class coalition, positioned behind the Nation Alliance, embodying the revival of the parliamentary regime that existed prior to the 1980 military coup. Third, the alliance of oppressed classes headed by the working class, the oppressed nationalities headed by the Kurds and oppressed genders headed by women in the process of formation since 2007, for a labour-oriented social and democratic republic based on democratic self-rule.
The fact that the second and third forces are objectively aligned on the same direction for 14 May elections is not the negation of the phenomenon of an ongoing struggle among all forces concerned but rather a confirmation. The tactics of “marching separately and striking together” systematically implemented by the forces centred around the HDP in the 2017 referendum, 2018 General Elections, and 2019 local elections, will inevitably take on a new and different direction after 14 May, to re-establish a dialectics of opposition and government that will reshape the process.
The historical interest of the Green Left/HDP-led Labour and Freedom Alliance lies neither in restoring the Sultanate, nor confining itself in the parliamentary status quo; neither in predatory and lucrative capitalism, nor in “rational” and “regulated”; neither in the Atlantic bloc nor in the Eurasian; neither in the “brotherhood” of Islam, nor in the “citizenship” based on Turkishness; and neither in the ancient nor the modern patterns of patriarchy.
The 14 May tactic of the third pole is a rejection of fascism and a step towards the struggle for a new democratic order that includes the right to open political struggle in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-class society for the realisation of the interests of all those oppressed, ignored and excluded by the old order.
It is useful to keep Engel’s interpretation of history in mind: “History is made in such a way that the final result always arises from conflicts between many individual wills, of which each in turn has been made what it is by a host of particular conditions of life. Thus, there are innumerable intersecting forces, an infinite series of parallelograms of forces which give rise to one resultant — the historical event. This may again itself be viewed as the product of a power which works as a whole unconsciously and without volition. For what each individual wills is obstructed by everyone else, and what emerges is something that no one willed. […]”
And that is why when one morning the dictatorship attacked the Kurdish and revolutionary forces pursuing their own free future at dawn, when it drove a wedge between them and the forces preparing to settle in the parliamentary status quo, we are not surprised that the latter has been acting as if nothing happened, even as if a future problem was being prevented today.
This alone surely does not change the Labour and Freedom Alliance’s 14 May tactic that arises out of the perception of objective conditions, but it necessitates the preparations for raising the banner of a social and democratic republic to the heights that it can be seen from everywhere.
* Ertuğrul Kürkçü is the current Honorary President of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Honorary Associate of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). He spent 14 years as a prisoner between 1972-1986 for his political activism in Turkey. He is also member of Progressive International Council.