Between the Devil and the deep blue sea

Under AKP or CHP, Turkey’s working class has no place in the economic policies of any of capitalism’s warring factions.

Amid the chaos of a spiralling lira, disgruntled monopolists and the growing lament of protesting workers – (geçinemiyoruz – “we can’t get along”) – fascist-in-chief Erdogan has announced his unorthodox plan to rescue Turkey’s economy from the crisis his own policies have caused. The new financial package includes tax cuts and cheap corporate credit, compensation payments for exporters squeezed by devaluation, and insurance on lira deposits against swings in the exchange rate – crowned by a central bank initiative to spend billions of dollars on shoring up the beleaguered currency. 

Make no mistake – this is a bailout. To insulate Turkish business against an increasingly expensive dollar, huge sums of money will be printed at the expense of inflation and rising costs for the masses. 

It is also an embarrassing reversal for the regime, which has slashed interest rates 4 times since September. Having failed to shore up the Istanbul stock exchange, Turkey’s financiers have succeeded in forcing Erdogan’s hand. The policy of insurance on the lira is effectively a rate rise by the back door – allowing for the compensation of fixed-rate lira deposits where currency devaluation exceeds the interest rate offered by the banks. If the dollar were to rally 30% on the lira, a depositor at a bank with an annual rate of just 14% would be compensated for the difference.

Here’s the hitch – it won’t be financial institutions footing the bill, but the Treasury. The taxpayer will be forced to bail out depositors in lieu of the banks, keeping credit cheap while appeasing the cash-rich. The biggest beneficiaries will be those with the biggest deposits – Erdogan and his cronies among them. While ostensibly buckling to conventional wisdom on interest rates, these concessions offer no long-term economic solution or respite for consumers. Erdogan is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and then robbing both to pay himself.

His description of the minimum wage hike included in the package as a “record increase” is no less fraudulent. With inflation in excess of 60%, the real minimum wage has actually fallen by $113 – from $380 a month in January 2021 to $275. The hike was just another cut. The vortex of cheap labour and rising costs keeps on spinning.

The Association of Independent Industrialists and Businessmen (MÜSİAD) have given their full support to the new package, so long as credit keeps flowing. MÜSİAD capitalists are the direct supporters of Erdogan’s fascist-Islamist regime, represented politically by the AKP-MHP coalition. They operate mainly in the domestic market, borrowing in lira rather than dollars, and are fully dependent on cheap loans – hence Erdogan’s obsession with low interest rates.

Meanwhile, the Association of Turkish Industry and Business (TÜSİAD) is furious. This pro-EU section of the Turkish bourgeoisie, represented chiefly by the CHP opposition and Nation Alliance, are close collaborators with the world monopolies and have much more financial clout. They make big profits in high-interest speculative capital, and they borrow in dollars. Inflation and low rates are killing them.

There is scarce middle ground here. Current conflicts in the high echelons of Turkish politics represent conflicts of interests within the bourgeoisie itself, over the distribution of political and economic support for capitalist factions with opposing aims. With CHP in opposition and AKP enforcing its interests through open state terror, TÜSİAD globalists are being cut out.

But under AKP or CHP, TÜSİAD or MÜSİAD – Turkey’s working class has no place in the economic policies of any of capitalism’s warring factions.

CHP’s Kılıçdaroğlu has paid lip service to the inadequacy of the wage hike, but failed to declare his own constituents’ interest in cheap labour. Indeed, CHP’s proposed fiscal and monetary alternative, a policy of swallowing what we have described in previous editorials as “the bitter pill of IMF austerity”, would only make the situation worse – reining in inflation by cutting domestic consumption and hiking interest rates so high that workers would have to multiply credit card debt to survive.

In short, the opposition’s main criticism is that the regime is improperly applying the rules of the free market – revealing the chasm between their desire for profitable monetary conditions and the simple desperation of the masses for humane and dignified lives. The results of CHP’s proposed return to neoliberal norms are known all too well – low wages and unemployment, insecure work, union-busting, outsourcing and the erosion of public services. Must we reiterate CHP’s attitude towards industrial action in their own constituencies? 

“CHP did not hesitate to impose 0% raises on workers, whose wages had fallen by half in real terms, at the bargaining table in their municipality of Bakırköy – one of Turkey’s wealthiest districts. They did not hesitate to call on fascist police dogs to besiege their strike tent, and to occupy Freedom Square to prevent solidarity demonstrations. This education is fresh in our trade unionists’ minds.” (Closing the book on fascist economics, Atilim 24/11/21)

Forced to choose between AKP fascism and the CHP alternative, the masses are caught between the Devil and the deep. And as conditions reach breaking point, agitation is growing for a more radical solution.

Industrial action in the metal industry to keep wages in line with inflation; the struggle to raise public sector pensions; campaigns for unemployment benefits and a universal basic income; calls to cut tax on skyrocketing household utility bills, restrain rents, cancel farmers’ debts, support small tradesmen and end arbitrary Code 19 layoffs; for free education, healthcare and public transport – these myriad demands have gained a striking political character pointing to one basic necessity: the Palace must be overthrown.

The workers’ dream of a humane and dignified life can never be realised by early elections or a strengthened parliament; not by IMF-style shock therapy or market reforms; nor by crushing austerity and bailouts for the rich. All roads lead to revolution – the deadlock of contradictions can only be resolved by the complete destruction of Erdogan’s fascist dictatorship.

To stand a chance against the regime, revolutionaries must dispense with any lasting faith in the bourgeois-liberal reform programme and expose CHP as an enemy of the people. By joining the workers’ concrete struggles, standing shoulder to shoulder on picket lines, bill-burnings and demonstrations, and capturing hearts and minds on the basis of their most urgent demands – the united antifascist front must achieve hegemony of opposition and break the paralysis of appeasement and fear. 

It must fight violence with violence, win power on its own terms, and bring the masses forward as leaders of the struggle for a life worth living.