From Unity & Struggle No. 25, Spring/Summer 2013
The youthfulness of Turkey’s population is evident. Although since 2000 a decrease in the rate of population increase has been recorded, this tendency does not alter the existence of a particularly young population.
Today as yesterday, the leaders of Turkey consider this young population with pride, as part of the country’s wealth. The armed forces, consisting of some 700,000 young soldiers, have been presented for years to the imperialist “markets” as our ” primary exports”. The political representatives of the bourgeoisie often claim that “the main weapon of the great Turkish power, today and tomorrow, is its human strength and its young population.” They continually presume and repeat that “investing in the youth is investing for the future.”
According to the representatives of the ruling classes, with their political, academic, cultural representatives, this is something to be considered natural, real and accepted by all. This approach is considered as something positive and constructive by the great majority of society and the mass of young people. However, if we take into account the truth that they are hiding, it is not at all what they present to us.
The concepts “pride, wealth, greatness and strength,” propagated without any shame, are based entirely on the existence and continuity of the interests of the ruling classes. What they want to preserve is the future of the ruling system, to protect it completely. The youth have nothing for the future and no “wealth” in life.
The beautiful and happy days promised are only a dream, realizable only for the small minority of youth of the ruling classes. The vast majority of youth are forced into a race among themselves to be able to realize that false dream of leaping out of their social class. For most youths, it is a struggle to survive, overwhelmed by destructive and reactionary oppression, accompanied by unemployment and inhumane exploitation. Since the beginning of the Republic, the life offered to the youth by the ruling classes of the country as a bright future is nothing more than decrepitude within a vicious circle.
The youths who are opposed to the propaganda of all varieties of nationalism, of Islamic-Turkish synthesis, idealistic religious fatalism, liberalism, to all of which they are subjected, pay dearly for their audacity. In the last 50 years, all kinds of oppression have been used to docile those advanced sections of the youth who refused the false heaven, who organised and fought for sovereignty, democracy, freedom and socialism.
At the base of the policy towards the youth, with the pretext of the declining birth rate, is in reality the short- to medium-term interest of the system and its social ambitions. The future that they claim to guarantee is not a beautiful and free future for the youth, but for the system and its ruling classes.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan makes frequent calls to the families to conceive at least three children. It is clear that neither the Prime Minister nor the ruling classes that support him make these calls out of love for the parents or their children. Their aim is to transform Turkey into a country with young, able and cheap labour force. This is the truth that is hidden beneath the AKP’s electoral slogan, “Objective 2023.” One of the goals of this government of the bourgeoisie for the immediate future is to lower the value of labour power in order to compete with countries such as China and India. The Turkey led by the AKP (Justice and Development Party) is trying to become a miniature China or India in the region in the near future.
The religious younger generations that the Prime Minister and the ruling classes want to train is a youth completely resigned to the capitalist attacks, completely docile toward the system. These are their desires.
To this end they have abolished compulsory education to instead implement a system of a progressive “4 +4 +4,” that is, the boys who have already had four years of study can work in the factories, and the girls can marry.
Another major problem that profoundly affects today’s youth and the future generations is the policy of war, both inside and outside the country. The Turkish bourgeoisie and its political representatives want Turkey to become “a regional power and ensure its leadership of the region.” The ruling classes want to permanently militarize the youth of Turkey, starting with the Turkish and Kurdish youths, for their war policy.
The ruling classes of Turkey know the determining role of work as well as the energy of the Turkish and Kurdish youths for the present and future generations in terms of reproduction and organization of the economic, social, political and ideological infrastructure and superstructure. Therefore they are trying to educate the new generations as well as individuals subjected to their reactionary interests, domination and desires. But this policy does not help the Turkish and Kurdish youths. Moreover, neither Turkey nor the peoples of the region or the world need a youth educated with these ideological characteristics, neither today nor tomorrow.
What the oppressed classes and peoples of these lands need are new generations that believe in equality, peace and brotherhood in a world without repression or exploitation. What we need is a youth that really defends labour, science and all the progressive values of humanity, a youth that is willing to defend these values and fight for them. This is the interest of the youths, workers, unemployed, students and peasants of Turkish and Kurdish nationalities.
The revolutionary party of the working class, EMEP, the Labour Party, and its youth organisation, “EMEK Youth” (Labour Youth) are working to unite the youth to take up this fight.
The Emek Youth and its platform of struggle
The Emek Youth held its 6th General Conference on April 6 and 7 in Ankara, under the slogan “We demand jobs, the right to education, peace and freedom.” In preparation for the General Conference 300 local conferences were held with over 4,000 young people from the whole country taking part. During the Conference, the Emek Youth discussed the problems of struggle and organization. It renewed its leadership through democratic elections, organized from the bottom to the top.
The Conference was launched after the 6th General Congress of EMEP. This Congress, held under the slogan “Against Imperialism and War, For Jobs, Peace and Freedom” took measures for all the battlefields, such as that of the youth and their organization. The analyses and decisions, the political and tactical platform of the Congress of the Party, have guided and strengthened the struggle and organization of the Emek Youth.
In analyzing the situation in Turkey and the world, EMEP emphasized the need to attract the young people and the women to the struggle and the importance of the convergence of the struggle of the workers with that of the youths. Both the conferences of the Party and of the Youth, as in the following months, paid particular attention to these issues and made a criticism and self-criticism in various steps. This was shown in the June, 2012, internal organ of the Party, “Parti Gündemi” (Party Agenda): “[…] To make ourselves heard by many young people during this process, to unite a group of youths around our local organizations, to renovate the leadership of Emek Youth through democratic elections, as well as the participation of new members; all this is important, but not enough!”
The application of these possibilities, as was evident at the Conference of the Youth, is not the sole responsibility of the youths, nor does the end of the period of the conferences mean that the responsibility of the Party towards the youths is over. Quite the contrary, the Party organizations must take on new tasks and discuss how best to promote these possibilities to advance the work of our youth organization.
What do the slogans mean?
The 6th Congress of EMEP appealed to the working class and oppressed masses to unite “against war and imperialism,” emphasizing three main demands: “Jobs, Peace and Freedom.” The Emek Youth for its part adapted its tactics to the slogan “Let Us Unite for Jobs, Peace and Freedom!”
We have briefly discussed the political situation in Turkey and its impact on youth. Starting with the above-mentioned slogans we will more thoroughly analyze the platform of struggle that the Party and the Emek Youth are trying to organize to meet the main attacks of capital that are further aggravating the situation of the youth.
The struggle to prevent the youth from being dragged into war
The AKP is a party in the service of the bourgeoisie and has been elected into the government three times in the last 11 years. It presents itself as “democratic conservative” and its head does not lose any occasion to proclaim that it will make Turkey a “regional power.” In total collaboration with the United States and Western imperialism, the government is trying to carry out its wish to be the regional power, using for some time the “model of moderate Islam.” During this period, the slogan used by the government was that of “zero problems with our neighbouring countries.” Since 2007, the situation began to change, and today there is not one neighbouring country with which Turkey has no arguments.
The AKP government, which readily agrees to propagate “the model of moderate Islam” in the region, like the Trojan horse, that the U.S. wants to export, is trying to take advantage of the revolts in the region to implement this plan. And as events have not developed as they wanted, now Turkey is abandoning its role of the Trojan horse to act as a faithful ally of the United States and NATO in the region.
In order to control Iran and Russia, and in collaboration with the U.S., Turkey has installed an anti-missile shield in the eastern town of Kurecik. Recently, referring to the Syrian issue, Prime Minister Erdogan stated that Turkey is belligerent: “Syria is now an internal problem of ours. We can not remain indifferent.” The military concentrations on the border, the mobilization orders sent to the hospitals, the haven in the camps in Turkey for militants linked to organizations like Al Qaeda before their shipments to Syria, the violent reactions to the proclamation of autonomy of the Kurds in Syria considered as a danger, are elements that show that Turkey is rapidly sliding into the quagmire of war in the Middle East.
EMEP believes that Syria’s future must be decided by its own people, and opposes to any form of foreign intervention.
Turkey’s populations are generally against U.S. imperialism and its warmongering policies in the region. Earlier, the large anti-imperialist demonstrations against the occupation of Iraq resulted in Turkey’s parliament rejecting a war authorization. Aware of the popular opposition to the war, the government, using its media, launched a campaign of disinformation and war propaganda. This propaganda directed against Bashar Assad and Syria was also intended to incite hatred against the Alevis in Syria.
According to the government, this is the first reason to prepare for war, while the second reason is the proclamation of autonomy by the Kurds in Syria. This, the government believes, poses a danger for Turkey with a population of 20 million Kurds who demand the right to speak their own language and autonomy with a social statute. The government has responded to these demands with oppression and violence bordering on a civil war against the Kurds. In this war that has been going on for 30 years, some 50,000 people, mostly young, have died.
The tension with neighbouring countries is increasing the internal tensions and Turkey is susceptible to all kinds of provocations. The reality is that the position taken by Turkey against Syria is really disastrous. The government is like a poker player who cannot control the situation. In the city of Hatay, on the Syrian border, there lives a large number of Arab Alevis who are suffering discontent parallel with the increased tension. The tension between Sunnis and Alevis is growing throughout the country. Furthermore, racism, nationalism and chauvinism are provoked by the state, as well as a campaign of harassment against the Kurds. This is leading Turkish workers and youth to a belligerent situation. The youths are the main target of this reactionary campaign.
In this context one of the main subjects around which the youth is organized is war. The revolutionary party of the workers and Emek Youth are intensifying their struggle around this and they attach particular importance to propaganda, agitation and a protest campaign. Another aspect of the fight against imperialism and war is the need to fight against their ideological and cultural aspects. In order for the youths to accept the war policy, the AKP government is trying to impose the theory of “neo-Ottomanism,” going well beyond the most right-wing nationalists concerning the “Turkish-Islamic synthesis”.
Currently in Turkey we find many people who are against imperialism and war. However, the government disinformation and propaganda can create confusion among the youths, weakening their fight. Many of them who claim that they are defending their national interests, who call themselves leftists, social-democrats or even communists, are caught up in this bewilderment. These groups, unable to consistently defend the right to self-determination of the Kurdish people, often abstain when it comes to consolidating the front against war, and they find themselves supporting the government and the State. Some organizations that claim to be of the radical “left” swerve voluntarily to the right, rejecting the demand for peace, as if it were demeaning, and curiously counterpose that demand to one of “revolutionary war”.
We can state that now in Turkey, under these conditions to claim to be against imperialism and war does not mean much. For that opposition, if it is not linked to a consistent struggle of the working class and oppressed peoples for a genuine democracy, quickly loses its bearings. In that sense, Emek Youth is completely different from other political currents among the youth, and it never separates the fight against the war from the struggle for independence, democracy and socialism.
The struggle for “peace and freedom”
We have briefly seen the implications of Turkey’s foreign adventures on the country itself. We will now pause to consider the importance for the youth of peace linked to the Kurdish question.
The uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East also concern the Kurds. After the first imperialist war of redivision, the Kurds were divided among four countries whose borders had been drawn by the imperialists about 100 years ago. Thus the Kurds were condemned to live without a state. Currently, the Kurds are a people with a population of about 40 million, divided among the territories of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. The largest part of this population is located in Turkey, numbering 15 to 20 million. The status won by the Kurds in Syria and Iraq as well the winds of independence blowing in the region also concerns the Kurds in Turkey.
The Kurdish liberation movement initiated numerous insurgencies in the past and they were all fiercely repressed. This movement took on a particular importance in the mid-1980s. Today millions of Kurds are united around common national demands. The BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) represents the Kurds in the Turkish parliament and has a parliamentary group. In the Kurdish cities, more than 90 mayoralties are headed by the BDP.
The AKP, which came to power with promises of “change,” “democratization” and “democratic opening,” also made a number of promises to resolve the Kurdish question. Those promises aroused great interest among the Kurdish and Turkish workers. Today no one believes in them. The repressive apparatus of the State, in the hands of the AKP, has returned to its attacks against the Kurdish people. Tens of thousands of Kurds have been imprisoned, and hundreds of youths, both among the PKK guerrillas and among the Turkish army have died in armed clashes. They have gone home in coffins, both in the East (the Kurdish cities) and the West (the Turkish cities).
While Turkish and Kurdish youths are killed daily in the armed clashes, the demands for jobs, bread and education are hidden by the shadow of war. Racism and chauvinism are being spread by a fascist State campaign. In the streets, the schools, the big cities, on the job, Kurdish youths have been lynched. In this context, Emek Youth is developing its struggle against racism and chauvinism, continually explaining how to deal with the Kurdish question. It is conducting sensitivity campaigns in the Western cities, and it is particularly concerned with organizing the young students in associations, clubs and institutes. In this period Emek has consolidated and established itself both in numbers and in influence among the Kurdish youths. Everywhere one hears the cry: “As long as the Kurdish youth are not free, neither will the Turkish youth be.” Emek Youth has appealed for the unity of the youths of any origin against the capitalist system. It constantly explains the vital problem of a democratic resolution of the Kurdish question, to win the urgent economic and political demands of the youths.
During this period, EMEP, BDP and other democratic organizations of the left formed an alliance to create an electoral bloc, which shortly after took the name “Democratic Congress of the Peoples” (HDK). Currently HDK is in the process of becoming a Party, in order to participate collectively in the coming elections. Emek Youth has addressed the broad masses of youths to explain the importance of HDK. While working to win the broad masses of youth for the struggle for peace, fraternity and democracy, Emek Youth has been strongly involved in strengthening the youth organization of HDK. Emek Youth has made a priority of the ideological struggle against all forms of nationalism, whether of the right or the “left.”
The struggle for “the right to jobs and education”
The 2008 economic crisis that broke out in the U.S. and spread across the world has led the workers and youths to demonstrate in the streets. Despite repression and arrests, “Occupy Wall Street” has retaken the streets to mark the first anniversary of its movement. The great imperialist powers are placing the burden of the crisis onto the backs of the peoples of Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, etc. In these countries, hundreds of thousands of youths have occupied the plazas for months. From Germany to France, UK to Italy, all of Europe has been plunged into important actions by the workers and youths. The Arab uprisings that began in the Maghreb spread to the Middle East with the slogan “Jobs, bread and freedom”. The Arab youths and those of other regions have taken to the streets by the millions against unemployment and the lack of a future.
It was impossible for the Turkish youth not to be influenced by these events. The youth in Turkey has carried out protest actions against private education, increased tuition and against irregularities in examinations.
During these actions, the professors and academics have struggled against the AKP’s attempts to control the universities. Without forgetting the students who have confronted the police, the university students who demand equal opportunities, the temporary teachers who demand their seats, the dental students have seen their future career in the air, the science students have seen their subsidies withdrawn, the drama students have had to fight against the privatization of public theatres. They have all taken part in the struggle. The Kurdish youths have carried out actions demanding an education in their mother tongue, and the Alevi youths have carried out numerous actions demanding a “genuinely secular education.”
Among the workers in small and large factories, workshops and enterprises who demand their rights, there is a significant presence of youths. When possible, these youths with no union, without job security, with the lowest wages and harshest working conditions, have rebelled against their bosses. Also many youths have participated and put forward their problems in the meetings organized by the party of the working class (EMEP). Though the impact of their actions are not as important as those of Europe, we must emphasize the struggle of the youths in Turkey. The Prime Minister accuses the youths who demand their rights of being marginal. He also threatens them that he will bring the youths of AKP out into the street. There are now 771 students in prison, some sentenced to 15 years in prison for having displayed a banner demanding free education. Among these youths is Eren Yurt, a member of the National Committee of Emek Youth. Yurt’s “crime” is that he took part in the Kurdish national festival Newroz and that he supported the Kurds.
All these youth activities have been at the local level, at the time when the AKP intensified its propaganda, saying that “the crisis has not affected us.” The Prime Minister and his economic institutions have shown the situation in the country, affected by the crisis, and they have launched the slogan “Turkey is rising up”. But the increase in Turkey’s wealth is due to the policy of privatization and exploitation carried out after the crisis of 2011. While the rich multiplied their wealth, the millions of workers and youths are called upon to make greater sacrifices. When the imperialists worldwide advocate austerity policies to get out of the crisis, in Turkey austerity has taken the name of “continued stability”.
This is a period in which the rights of the youths have receded more than ever. With the support of a significant part of the population, thanks to words like “stability,” “change,” etc., the AKP, as a party in the service of capital, has quickly had laws passed by Parliament against the rights of the workers. These rights have been gradually dismantled, and trade union rights and freedoms have been rolled back. These attacks were synonymous with the attacks on the youths as they will mainly follow the path of their parents, to become workers, but may not be as “lucky”. Explaining that these attacks of capital against the workers are actually attacks on the youth, EMEP and Emek Youth are trying to unite the working class with the young workers. The Party is trying to put on the agenda of the unions the question of young workers and it says that one has to use new forms of organization in the unions to unionize the youths.
Emek Youth is explaining to the youths the importance of unions. It is working to unify the youth organizations. These are new steps, but the coming actions will be achieved in this way.
Where does the strength of the AKP come from to manipulate the people with its slogan “We will not stop, we will continue on our way”? It is clear that it is not faced with a united movement of the workers and youth. The objective reality now is one of division and disorganization but this is a temporary situation. The government is taking advantage of this, and is slowly squeezing the rights of the youths and waging a big campaign.
Let us look at the different attacks of the government against the youths this past year:
• Turkey is beginning to implement the Plan Bologna which has already been implemented in many European countries. The government thinks that by eliminating the tuition fees it can gain support of the youth in the next election. The truth is that this elimination does not mean the end of payment for education. It is just another step towards the implementation of the Bologna Plan. By withdrawing from the universities, the government is forcing them to finance themselves. The administration of the universities depends on private enterprises and the student card is practically becoming a bank card.
• Millions of students who have difficulties with housing and do not have the financial means are condemned to accept the services of religious sects.
• The AKP government, which had announced that it would amend the fascist constitution of the September 1980 military coup, has brought together youth assemblies, leaving millions of youths outside them. The aim was to show that AKP had broken with the coup leaders, but the measures taken by capital based on the coup are now continuing with AKP.
• While subjects like philosophy and sociology will disappear, idealist subjects such as theology are included, and are booming thanks to the government. Conferences and exhibitions on the theory of evolution are prohibited, while the State is organizing activities against these theories and against science.
• By saying that one youth out of four is unemployed, the government and the capitalist organization are taking advantage of this to create a cheap and flexible work force. They do this in the name of “reducing unemployment.” The professional institutes and professional higher education are now located in industrial zones. So the modern slaves are chosen by bosses at their school desks. We could multiply the examples, but it is not necessary.
Despite these setbacks, the youths are gaining greater militancy and organization. From there, Emek Youth is working to bring together the young workers, the unemployed, students, peasants and youth of all strata in order to achieve the broadest possible platform. The objective of this work is to unite the youth with the strength of the working class and win them to the fight for socialism.
Mass struggle, mass organization and Emek Youth
Let us see what are the problems that the youths in Turkey face and what fights they are waging. How is the struggle for the organization of the masses in Turkey? What are the objectives of Emek Youth? Let us see.
When we speak of the struggle and organization of the masses there are two objectives entrusted to Emek Youth.
1. To build an organization of the masses and the struggle, in which as many youths as possible take part, on the basis of the urgent demands of the youth (economic, academic, democratic, etc.).
The last 50 years have allowed the youth movement and organizations in Turkey to acquire a great experience. The fascist military juntas have attacked and dispersed the movement and the organizations; the bourgeois governments are continuing with this policy and do not stop exerting great pressure on the youth. The most militant strata of the youth have been expelled from the university. The attacks on youth leaders aim to break the ties between the masses of youths and those leaders. In analyzing this period, we find that the governments in the service of capital and the State have won some points in that sense. Since the coup of September 12, 1980, the concept of “organization” has been presented to the youths as something to be feared, while they propose “individual freedoms” and “individualism” as a barrier against the idea of organization.
In the mid-1990s, as part of Turkey’s accession period to the European Union, student elections were held in institutions of higher education and secondary schools to promote democracy among students. The system managed to bring together the youths who managed to tear the revolutionary movement out of the Student Representative Council (SRC), while mercilessly attacking the revolutionary and democratic students.
However it was possible, as in other countries, to avoid the trap set by the State. For this it was necessary to take part in the elections organized by the SRC, to organize the mass movement within the SRC itself and to try to democratize the rhythm of the struggles. Emek Youth was launched along this road and it continues today. Several petty bourgeois organizations, which claim to be left-wing, fell into the trap of the State and boycotted the elections and the SRC. These groups persist in isolating themselves from the student masses.
Emek Youth is on the one hand waging an ideological struggle against these deviant currents and tendencies and on the other is trying to establish the foundations of a mass based struggle by taking part in youth activities.
2. As a communist organization, Emek Youth must have the flexibility and inclusiveness to attract and open the doors to all young victims of capitalism and who want to get rid of this discriminatory system.
In our country the disorder of petty-bourgeois leftism acts in a vile manner to undermine the work of organization among the youth. This activity is masked as a struggle against a “political organization of elitist youth”. Emek Youth is no elitist organization. It is a communist youth organization that takes in all youths who rebel against the current system. Emek Youth is at the same time a school for socialism, but no young person who wants to enter Emek has to pass a test on socialism. They will learn what socialism is in that school. And the youths who finish this school continue their struggle in the Party. Therefore Emek Youth cannot and should not imitate the Party as an organization.
In this sense, Emek Youth is radically different from the petty-bourgeois organizations. However, the traditional disorders and habits of the leftist movement continue to show some manifestations in our youth organisation. Thus, a characteristic of Emek Youth is to regularly practice criticism and self-criticism for its actions in order to draw the appropriate lessons from its mistakes.
The bulletin “Party Agenda,” published after the 6th Conference of the Party, addresses this problem of narrowness with the following example:
“One of the criteria for the success of the Youth Conference has been the number of participants. One will better understand this question with some figures: Nationwide, 4,000 youths participated in the conference of Emek Youth. And in the last three youth encampments, more than 6,000 youths attended […] And while 4,000 youths took part in the conferences, in the different blocks of Emek Youth in the May Day demonstrations, or on May 6, this number was multiplied 3 or 4 times, which shows that there is undoubtedly some organizational narrowness.”
Therefore, Emek Youth must, on the one hand, call on broad strata of youths to take part in the struggle for the demands at the same time as they form their mass organizations; and on the other hand, it must orient the struggle of their youths for political power, that is, to fight for the revolution and socialism. At the same time, Emek Youth is firmly fighting any conception of sectarianism or narrowness in its organization.
The daily newspaper and the youth
The working class of Turkey currently has a weapon that allows it to carry out a daily struggle against capital: the newspaper created in 1995 that has existed for 18 years. The proletarian party EMEP is working to establish unity among the advanced workers, the honest trade unionists, workers’ representatives and factory workers. The paper plays an essential role in this task. It had an important role in the success of numerous strikes and in national and international solidarity. In the state monopoly spirits and tobacco Tekel, Antep Textile and Telecom strikes in recent years, the workers were able to consolidate their solidarity through the newspaper. The messages sent by the workers and published in the newspaper were an important source of solidarity. In recent years, along with the newspaper a popular television network has been created and this has expanded the possibilities of struggle.
Undoubtedly the existence of a daily paper is of great importance both for the workers and for the youths. Emek Youth is reaching out to the masses of youths through a supplement of the newspaper fortnightly, which is also its central organ..
Like the Party of the working class, the youth organization evaluates and discusses how to increase the influence of the newspaper and its better utilization for the struggle. Undoubtedly, one of the best criteria to measure the progress of the Party is the degree that the newspaper is used and distributed.
At the 6th Conference of Emek Youth it was emphatically recorded and stated that it is “no longer possible to carry out daily political work with a youth journal that comes out fortnightly”. Since then, the work of distributing the daily in the usual places of concentration (enterprises, schools and neighbourhoods) has increased.
Emek Youth, at its 6th Conference, has called on its members to be aware of the international experience of the working class struggle and insisted that all its members should arm themselves ideologically, and draw on the experience of the Party, the works of Marxism-Leninism and the publications of the Party.
The international communist movement continues to light the way for Emek Youth, made up of young people of all nationalities in Turkey.