It is a fact that the electoral victory of Erdogan has given constitutional legitimacy to his Bonapartist political project and strengthened his repressive political power. However, in the near future he will have to face  three important challenges.

Atakan Çiftçi

July 11, 2018

 The victors in the June 24 elections were Erdogan and his party, AKP (Justice and Development Party) in Turkey.  Erdogan won the presidential elections in the first round, gaining 52.5% of the votes in an election in which he claimed almost 90% of eligible voters voted.  In the parliamentary elections, People’s Alliance, established by Erdogan’s AKP and ultra-nationalist MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) won the absolute majority in the National Assembly, obtaining 53.5% of the popular vote. On the other hand, the pro-Kurdish party HDP (People’s Democratic Party), despite all the repression and criminalization campaign against it, obtained 11.7%  of the votes of the electorate and became the third largest party in the parliament. Also, in the presidential elections, HDP’s candidate Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been in prison for one and a half years without having been sentenced by any court, received 8.4% of the popular vote.

It is obvious that the election process was totally antidemocratic and unjust. The June 24 snap elections took place under the state of emergency conditions. The opposition was neither given the time to get prepared nor received freedom of expression. Erdogan and his party have used all the advantages of being a government party, using all the state resources in order to win the elections and to prolong their repressive and corrupt power. Nevertheless, we should acknowledge the fact that an important part of working class is still voting for Erdogan and the People’s Alliance.

After the exhausting 16 years of AKP power, how can we, as socialists, explain this fact?

First, “the false polarizations” that cover class contradictions have always been in the service of Erdogan and his party. Cultural polarizations such as “Secularism versus Conservatism” or the division between the Turkish and the Kurdish working class through Turkish chauvinism and the oppression of Kurdish people have become useful for the AKP government in order to cover or legitimize its anti-worker and oppressive policies.

Secondly, the political and organizational orientations of the main bourgeois opposition party, CHP (People’s Republican Party) and  of the leftist HDP, which has a petty bourgeois political programme crystallized in the class collaborationist conception of “democratic republic”, were not powerful enough to attract large working-class sectors that have been still under the influence of AKP or MHP.   In fact, the People’s Republican Party and the People’s Democratic Party have pursued an electoralist and populist discourse and orientation against the Erdogan government which was not convincing for those popular sectors. On the one hand, they created an illusion amongst the middle classes, which hate the Erdogan government, that they can overthrow this dictatorial regime only through elections, without the necessity of a popular mobilization. And on the other hand, they could not become a real political alternative in the eyes of the poor popular sectors that are still supporting Erdogan.  They were not raising anti-capitalist slogans such as the non-payment of foreign debts or expropriation of banks to be able to respond to the social and economic needs of the working people, because they did not want to scare the bourgeoisie and the imperial powers.

Thus, this impotent policy of the opposition has created a deception amongst the middle classes that an exit would not be possible from this dictatorial regime.  Nor could they achieve the rupture of the popular sectors from Erdogan and the People’s Alliance.

It is a fact that the electoral victory of Erdogan has given constitutional legitimacy to his Bonapartist political project and strengthened his repressive political power. However, in the near future he will have to face  three important challenges.

First, he does not have the political support of the half of the people. Like the constitutional referendum of 2017 which had foreseen the transformation of the parliamentary system of Turkey to a presidential system, during the elections of June 24, 2018, half of the people voted against his repressive political orientation. This will create a problem of popular legitimacy during his presidency.

Secondly, the economic situation is at the edge of a huge crisis. The total foreign debt of the country has reached 450 billion dollars, more than half of the GDP, whose convertibility has become much more difficult after the harsh devaluation of the Turkish Lira in recent months.   At the same time, the inflation rate has reached 15% and despite the economic growth of 7% in 2017, the unemployment rate did not fall under 10%. All the economic indications show that the new government will have to apply a painful austerity plan that would trigger the mobilizations of the working masses which have been under the influence the AKP government.

And finally, 11.7% of popular vote that HDP has obtained show that despite the brutal oppressive policies against the Kurdish people for three years,  and a strong criminalization campaign against HDP, Kurdish people have not surrendered.  They rejected the oppressive policies of the government by voting for the HDP.   These results show that there would not be any “solution” to the Kurdish issue through oppressive policies.  The Erdogan government will have to deal with this fact in the upcoming period.

For the socialist left, the election process was not very promising. A unified workers’ alliance, that would bring together socialist parties and working-class organizations in order to make visible working class politics and to overcome “false polarizations” that the bourgeois parties provoke, could not be established. The main reason for this is that the grand majority of the socialist left has a popular frontist orientation or a conception of revolution by stages. Instead of promoting an independent, socialist perspective, they offer an alliance of all “democratic sectors” which includes the bourgeois parties which in fact are never willing to have a rupture from the repressive regime of Erdogan. This point should be the main lesson to be taken from the June 24 elections for the socialist Left of Turkey. Instead of dreaming illusionary “democratic fronts” against the repressive regime of Erdogan, when we are at the edge of a huge economic crisis, it is time for promoting a real working-class alternative and building a socialist alliance in order to exit from the capitalist and repressive regime of Erdogan.

After all, even though the repressive character of the regime has strengthened, the working class has not had a historical defeat. Although the democratic space has narrowed; trade unions, working class organizations and the socialist left do still exist. Antidemocratic policies and austerity plans of the new government will inevitably trigger new mobilizations of the working class and the oppressed sectors. The socialist left should get prepared for the upcoming struggles promoting a real political alternative before the popular masses.

Against the repressive policies of the regime, in addition to defending the  democratic rights of all the exploited and oppressed masses, the slogan of the Constituent Assembly should be raised in order to exit from the repressive presidential system. Moreover, in the midst of a huge economic crisis in the near future, transitional slogans from capitalism to socialism such as non-payment of the foreign debt, workers’ control in the working places or expropriation of the banks and big industries would transform to urgent and popular demands of the popular masses.  The socialist left should give priority to explain the importance of these demands during the political activities amongst the popular masses. The tasks of the socialists are not easy under the present political conjuncture but our responsibilities are also much heavier now. That’s why building unity of actions and united revolutionary fronts are much more important than before.