The strategic defeat of Recep Tayyib Erdogan

Savran, Sungur

Publisher:  RedMed
Date Written:  16/06/2015
Year Published:  2015  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX19800

The author examines the causes of historic electoral defeat of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party AKP. The author emphasises the two recent events: The Gezi rebellion in Istanbul and the Kobane defence in Western Kurdistan. The author asks and attempts to answer "the reason why was that this defeat had taken so long to be registered in action even permitting Erdogan to climb to the presidency of the republic in August 2014."



The resounding defeat of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP at the polls in the 7th June general elections in Turkey brings out into the open a loss of political clout on the part of Erdogan as a result of the successive blows he received in the last two years at the hand of the masses and, partly, his erstwhile partners.

Two years ago almost to the day, the masses descended on the streets all over Turkey to demand the resignation of the Erdogan government, who was then prime minister, protesting not only the project of the demolition of the Gezi Park in the very centre of Istanbul with the purpose of building a shopping mall, but even more importantly against the wholesale suppression of freedoms and sectarian war-mongering in Syria.

Only one year after the popular rebellion triggered by Gezi, in October 2014, it was the turn of the Kurds to rise up in what is called a serhildan in Kurdish, the counterpart of an intifada. The triggering factor this time was the events in Rojava, Syrian or Western Kurdistan, which had gained autonomy in 2012 from the Baath regime. Kobane, one of its three cantons, was attacked by the ISIL, the organisation that declared the makeshift Islamic State in parts of Syria and Iraq under the self-appointed Caliph al Baghdadi.

Two popular rebellions within an interval of one year should be sufficient grounds to worry any political leader. However, history held more in store for Erdogan. The missing actor in all this was the working class. Sections of this class were heavily represented in Gezi, but did not put forth class demands with methods peculiar to the proletariat. Gezi was thus an intra-class popular movement that did not bear a proletarian imprint. Between Gezi and the Kobane serhildan, in May 2014, there was the Soma tragedy, a massacre that goes under the name of a "work-related accident" in a mining area in the Aegean region, in which 301 workers lost their lives. This brought the class question forcefully on the agenda. The callous manner in which Erdogan and his government handled the whole affair has added to popular anger. But more important is the ongoing struggle in the metallurgical industry. The government had banned a lawful strike of 15 thousand metalworkers in January this year, under the ludicrous pretext of "national security". However, the metalworkers came back with a vengeance, staging this time a wildcat strike that brought tens of thousands of workers into struggle from mid-May on, right on the eve of the election.

Fortunately for us all, this is not the only reality that Turkey presents. To understand what kind of period Turkey is going through, just look at the facts: a people’s rebellion in the western half of the country in 2013, a people’s rebellion in the eastern half of the country in 2014, a massive wildcat strike movement of metalworkers, still continuing, in 2015. What more can history bring together to make possible a breakthrough that would carry the working masses and the oppressed to power? When that happens, we will look back and say, "Well burrowed, old mole!"

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