Should the wind meet the wave

In order to present a real threat to fascism and light the way to a general strike, workers’ struggles around urgent concrete demands such as liveable wages and the recognition of trade union rights must be integrated with the current movement of resistance against soaring energy costs.

From Marmaris to Doğubayazıt, Silvan to Kemalpaşa, Antep to Gümüşhane, Mardin to Urfa, İzmir to Antalya and Istanbul, February has thus far been distinguished by a gale of protest which swept across the land as households reckoned with another hike in the price of electricity. 

As monthly bills climbed into the thousands of liras and families faced three-day power-outs in the middle of the black winter – workers marched. As a poor mother tried to warm her baby with water boiled on the stove even as the frozen corpses of her neglected elders were carried from their homes – protests warmed and lit the streets as people burned their energy bills en masse.

Even fraudulent Palace statistics have inflation at 48%, which would have seen the 50% minimum wage hike and 25% in pensions all but melted away. The real figure, as calculated by the Inflation Research Group, is closer to 115%. The gust of spontaneous action points to the potential of the struggles against such unbearable conditions.

Meanwhile, a wave of workers’ resistance beginning in January failed to subside – sweeping through the industrial centres of Kocaeli and Istanbul to wash over the textile basin of Antep, the ports of Hopa, the factories, construction sites and hospitals of Ankara, İzmir and many more besides, in strikes, demonstrations and workplace occupations. Soaring costs of living, as they related to the demand for higher wages, came again to the fore. Just as the first electricity protest breathed life into five more, worker actions in one company, city or industry rippled through the rest.

This interaction was particularly striking in the case of the Trendyol courier workers, whose collective resistance and rapid gains set a practical example that spurred the whole industry. Likewise, the hosiery workers in one establishment winning a raise provided leverage for the workers of many others. The desire and demand for a humane and dignified life, expressed in the workers’ concrete demands of “Raise our wages” and “Grant the right to unionise” and in the protestors’“Reverse the price hike” are only growing.

That these two great parallel forces continue to gather despite the bombardment of state terror and psychological warfare by the fascist regime is a testament to the times – so much so that fresh possibilities have emerged to show that the bourgeois opposition and trade union bureaucracy line could well be overcome. The CHP policy of keeping the masses tied to the ballot box and off the streets could not prevent thousands of workers marching and striking; nor could the members of Çimsataş’ Birleşik metal union be dissuaded from downing tools by the opportunistic signing off of their collaborator leadership on a real terms wage cut.

It cannot, of course, be taken for granted that these two current resistance trends will grow in sufficient breadth and intensity to overcome the Palace on their own – although predictions by wealthy MÜSİAD capitalist (see editorial Between the Devil and the deep blue sea, December 31 2021) and Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati that “inflation will peak in April,” suggest that the meteorological conditions for a rising storm will remain favourable into the spring. Undoubtedly, as demonstrators and striking workers face up against brutal police attacks, new sparks will be lit in the school of self-experience; it should become increasingly clear that strikebreaking and democratic repression are two cheeks of the same fascist arse.

However, it remains essential to direct political and organising attention to developing the coalescence of workers and oppressed in their respective resistances and demands for humane and dignified lives, be it the recognition of trade union and democratic rights or the demand for cheaper power, into a combined movement and mass antifascist consciousness. Combative unions in all sectors, farmer cooperatives and democratic mass organisations must shoulder this burden of turning juxtapositions into fighting coalitions, establishing platforms in workplaces and neighbourhoods, forming joint campaigns and congresses at local and regional levels.

This process must be conveyed through a language of vanguard action targeting the main symbols of the fascist power – marches on police barriers, mass delinquency on bills, occupations of power firms and Palace ministries. Only then can the reactive, spontaneous slogans of “Erdogan resign” and “Vote out this government” develop into a real programme of destroying the whole fascist apparatus.

Should the wind meet the wave, a mighty tempest might scatter seeds of resistance wide and forge clear the path to a general strike. The revolutionary had best get her armbands on.