Turkey: Nation or Class?

Article by NWBCW Turkey.

Due to the capitalist crisis, living conditions are getting worse and worse in Turkey, just like in the rest of the world. With the increasing cost of living, it has become impossible to pay the rent, provide adequate nutrition or socialise. This situation also adversely affects working conditions. Many people have to leave their homes before sunrise and return home after sunset, living without even seeing the sun. At the same time, we hear of children dying of hunger, and people committing suicide because of their debts. In this rather grim picture, it is the struggles of the working class that gives us hope. Only the working class will save the world from this capitalist hell.

And workers are beginning to respond. Earlier in the year, we saw a serious wave of strikes in Turkey. And even if there is fewer of them at this time of year, strikes and struggles still continue. Last month, workers of Yeşim Textile company (4,500 workers) in Bursa went on strike for their demands for improved wages and working conditions. At the beginning of this month, Vivo Tech workers halted production due to the sacking of some of their workmates. The workers ended their protest when they were promised that all workers would be reemployed, but were then fired en masse, so they resumed their resistance. Pulver Chemical workers are also on strike to demand union membership. Eczacıbaşı Esan Madencilik workers also resisted against their dismissal and after winning their struggle returned to work. Resistance continues in many places.

The Bekaert Strike and the Unions

The strike that caught our eye the most was that of Bekaert workers. In Kocaeli, Bekaert workers failed to reach an agreement with the bosses, and the Birlesik Metal-İş union announced the workers' decision to go on strike on Tuesday, 13 December. A ban was issued before the strike could even begin. The strike was postponed for 60 days on the grounds that it was "threatening national security" with the President's decree being issued at 3am on the day of the strike. Despite this decree, the workers started a strike with the slogan "there is no peace for the bosses when the workers are hungry" and they are still on strike.

The Birlesik Metal-İş union affiliated with DİSK, which has no relation to its revolutionary title(1), emphasised that Erdoğan’s postponement decree was against the Constitution and the international agreements signed by Turkey, and stated that they had filed a lawsuit at the Council of State. This only goes to show once again that the unions cannot think outside the legal frameworks even in the best of cases, and how much they have become part of the system. They fulfil their duty to ensure their loyalty to the system whilst at most just offering a few crumbs to the workers.

While supporting the working class in all kinds of struggles, we need to recognise that the unions have become a basic tool of capitalism to protect itself and that the only revolutionary alternative that history has shown is the workers' councils. These self-organised formations, not only outside of the unions but also against them, will inevitably be incompatible with the system, combining the struggles of different sectors of the class and uniting economic and political struggles.

"National Security"

Erdoğan’s ban on strikes under the pretext of delaying them because they "threaten national security" poses the question of "nation or class?" It is an old antagonism. This decision confirms that nationalism has always been, and always will be, used as a tool to prevent class struggle. The narrative that the national interests must take precedence over the interests of the workers is a very old bourgeois lie. National interests are always those of capital, not of workers. As Marx said, “workers have no country.”

With the increasing threat of generalised war, this justification will be used more frequently to suppress workers' struggles, as in wars in the past, and class division will be sought by saying that those who resist it are traitors. The fact that it is already being used here shows that the ideological preparations for such war are already underway.

Their War or Class War

Capitalism, unable to find a solution to its crises, has already been playing the nationalist card for a long time. As war spreads, nationalism will be presented more and more often as a means to divide the working class. At this point, a choice awaits our class that we must overcome: "nation or class?" As workers scattered all over the world, we must accept that we have common interests as the exploited who produce the wealth of the world. This also means that we are the only class who can bring down this system. The working class has no homeland, but it has the power to organise. What will defeat this system is the power of our class. By refusing to be the victims of wars, economic crises, and the bosses, we must expand the international struggle and disrupt the capitalist game that brings us misery. We have a world to save.

NWBCW Turkey
26 December 2022

Translator’s Notes:

(1) DISK stands for Türkiye Devrimci İşçi Sendikaları Konfederasyonu which translates as the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions of Turkey but in English it translates “Devrimci” as “progressive” on its website.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022