Despite brazen claims of having reined in Turkey’s economic woes, Erdoğan continues to preside over unemployment, poverty and runaway inflation at the expense of the masses. Time for a new approach.
“We wrote the book on economics,” claimed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the Turkish lira crashed to historic lows. As he would have you believe, the interest lobby – a shadowy economic bogeyman of international conspirators invented by AKP – has been repelled. Prices have been reined in, exports have increased and the economy is flourishing. Praise be to God, abundance reigns across the land!
Like every fascist demagogue in history, Erdoğan can never be wrong. If the country faces problems, they are the machinations of outside actors and saboteurs. If opposition is repressed, the instigators are terrorist-sympathisers and enemies of the state. And if the people suffer and want, then there are necessary sacrifices to be made. The simplest facts are turned upside down with a gesture, and all that is solid melts into air.
But let’s take a look at Turkey’s economy, in which the fantasist-in-chief claims to have written his book, in all its concreteness in the cold light of day.
The most superficial of glances will catch the shameless splendour of the Palace regime: the courtier politicians fattening up on regime handouts, the greasy-palmed bureaucrats pocketing three and five salaries apiece, ministers and their children setting up company after shell company; altogether a sordid merry-go-round of nepotism, bribery and corruption.
Meanwhile, unemployment and costs of living have become a waking nightmare for the poor. They face shortages in sugar and medicine; price hikes across the board, from bread and cheese to rent and gasoline. The official inflation rate, even as distorted by Palace statisticians, is 20% – the real rate is more like 40. Wages continue to slide, with 16 million people living below the poverty line and a third of the population unable to meet their most essential needs.
Palace figures on unemployment hover around 12 percent. Real unemployment is more than twice that, and still higher for women and youth – unaffected by so-called economic growth. Thousands of workers each month are sacked under Code 29, without severance or unemployment benefit, for such malicious and unethical conduct as attempting to unionise. Small tradesmen and peasants, trapped in usurers’ nets and dragged into bankruptcy, are joining the ranks of unemployed day after day.
Increasingly desperate, more and more are borrowing to survive. Credit card spending is up by a third in 2021 alone. The number of borrowers is 25 million, 20% of whom cannot service their debts. Caught in quicksand, indebted and underemployed, countless workers are being driven to suicide.
The economy of Erdoğan’s book increases profits for the exploiters and misery for everyone else. Accordingly, discontent is growing. The threat of eroding voter support is now so serious that Erdoğan has trained his sights on the electoral system itself, hinting at his dissatisfaction with the simple majority vote. Even once-staunch allies are gearing up to desert him, with MHP’s Devlet Bahçeli – a vital support in AKP’s governing bloc – taking care to emphasise that he is not technically in power after all.
This reality has compelled the fantasist-in-chief to devise some quick bread-and-circus fixes to delay the meltdown and shore up his base, from money-printing to pompous bridge-opening ceremonies. Regulations have been imposed to curb inflation and allay the currency collapse; entreaties made to Arab emirs for financial support; and the floodgates opened for black market money to be laundered with lira.
Meanwhile, fascism’s contemptible sycophants and hangers-on make grand claims about raising the minimum wage, expanding retirement rights and hiring public workers. Religious overtures promise a place in heaven in exchange for your vote, while nationalist war-drums beat for the coming invasion. Antifascists, trade unionists, even bourgeois oppositionists are subjected to increasing state terror and intimidation. The regime thinks it can kill the longing for a humane and dignified life that blossoms in the hearts of all workers and oppressed – empty promises, beatings and threats are all just tools in the belt.
And what of the opposition Nation Alliance, voice of capitalists dissatisfied with the regime? Despite cynical calls to “get rid of Erdoğan by voting for us,” its remedies all adhere to the same market rules. CHP’s economic programme consists of controlling inflation by raising interest rates and reducing consumption – in other words, swallowing the bitter pill of IMF austerity and throwing workers under the bus.
Looking behind the flowery words of so-called opposition to the field of action, the true face of demagogy is clear. While railing against poverty and unemployment, 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.
The devastating unemployment and poverty, the unbearable cost of living, the parasitism, exploitation and corruption – there is only one true remedy: socialism.
On November 7th, Communists greeted the 104th anniversary of the October Revolution, which opened a new historical era in the working class struggle for peace, land and bread. Now, they embark on a flurry of political work to convince the masses that a humane and dignified life is possible only under socialism; that the solution to our litany of social, political and economic woes is to overthrow the big capitalists and their fascist Palace state once and for all.
Communists will harness the growing discontent and capture the hearts of workers and oppressed on the basis of their most urgent demands. Through home and workplace meetings, women’s breakfasts, concerts for unemployed youth and panels on union rights, we will lead them to organise in the ranks of the Party. By joining them in mass demonstrations against price hikes, in stealing pots and pans, in bill-burnings in front of gas and electricity companies and actions against dismissals – we will bring workers forward as leaders of the struggle for a dignified life.
We will demand a new economics, where the people’s needs are met and the work is done for all. We will burn Erdoğan’s book and write our own!