More brief notes, quotes and interviews from inside the current uprising in Turkey from Istanbul.
The situation has dramatically escalated in the last 24 hours. I am sure that no one reading this needs me to inform them of that, turn on your television, check your twitter account. But I simply can't emphasise enough how profoundly the atmosphere has shifted in light of these events, things have entered a new phase. Time is very limited, so I shall therefore briefly recount the events I witnessed with a few observations and impressions.
In the days and nights following Tuesday 11 June, the situation around Gezi Park was largely calm. Each night there were mass mobilisations around Taksim square as well as around the old police station in the Gazi quarter. Yet all the while this was coupled with a creeping build up of police forces near the park. With Erdoğan’s ultimatum to evacuate the park by June 16 concerns were high every night that the government would attack, yet day after day all remained calm. Then they attacked. On Saturday evening while trying to write another post I was alerted via SMS and Twitter that police had swamped the park in a surprise attack, the news was met all around with the a now familiar sound; people everywhere banging together pots and pans. With little further information I ran toward Taksim square via Sıraselviler Caddesi. Finding the road blocked by riot police and guarded with a water cannon I moved towards Istiklal Cd, then further to Tarlabaşı Bulvarı, at each entry point towards the park I was met with the same site; phalanx of riot police, water cannons and armoured vehicles.
Yet, everywhere I was also met with the sight of thousands upon thousands of people flooding the streets, chanting and singing, raising fists and 'v' signs. I moved back towards Istiklal which was by that point tightly packed with people. The police began firing tear gas and dowsing the crowds with high pressured water. The effect was, more than anything I have yet seen, both horrific and inspiring. Under each attack people tried to move forward, throwing back gas canisters, before finally having to retreat their skin and faces burning, but each time this occurred new crowds of people stepped forward to fill their place. This rhythm continued along Istiklal for perhaps an hour, perhaps more, I have stopped making any real attempt to document the times of attacks so generalised are they. Eventually under heavy water cannon fire and use of percussion grenades the crowd was pushed back from the Taksim square side Istiklal Cd.
By this point I had, quite accidentally, ended up very close to the front. The force and speed with which the police moved forward took me completely off guard; It was at this point that I was first hit by the water cannon, which struck me, luckily, in the middle of my back pack. The force of the water cannon very nearly knocked me flat on the ground and trying to run up Meselik Sq I again found myself at the back, turning around I could see lines of police meters behind marching up. There appears to be a much greater presence of very large policemen in full riot gear. The gas was so heavy and the combined power of percussion grenades and water cannon fire so powerful and terrifying that I genuinely feared there would be a stampede. Running through the crowds towards Sıraselviler Cd the crowd was met by another heavy line of advancing police, they were extremely close and firing gas and percussion grenades directly into the crowd. A crowd in that moment consisting of screaming running people, men and women from the very young to the very old. Throughout this whole experience I was profoundly afraid. Words simply escape me in expressing the level of terror.
Retreated along the length of Sıraselviler Cd, everywhere people were building barricades and moving steadily forward towards Taksim. The water from the water cannons induced a pronounced burning sensation, though I did not experience any actual corrosion or the kind of pain widely reported by others effected (though I assume the composition of chemicals in different water cannons varies and the effects vary based on exposure). After showering, crying and changing my clothes at a friends apartment I spent most of the evening around Sıraselviler Caddesi. I wanted initially to try to move West and then North towards Harbiye to see the crowds that had gathered from those marching in from Gazi and other areas, but once outside again that seemed recklessly stupid, so I stayed in the area.
The streets all around were again packed with people building barricades and trying to push forwards towards the square. I have two observations on this, first the tactics being used by the crowds were offensive but almost entirely non-violent, some stones were thrown, but for the most part people proceeded by erecting barricades moving forward towards the square, throwing back tear gas canisters, then retreating under water cannon and volleys of tear gas, to be replaced by more crowds of people. I was struck by what I can only describe as the incredible bravery of those around me, meeting each volley of gas and the aftermath of each percussion grenade and water cannon blast with cheers and applaud, chanting and singing. This process continued long into the night, I tried to keep my distance from the front, but I saw innumerable people being carried back suffering gas inhalation and physical injuries. Scenes like this played out across the city. Major roads were blockaded, many hundreds of thousands flooded over the Bosporus and from the suburbs of Istanbul towards the centre. All the while reports flooded in of increasing state terror, attacks on hospitals and the international hotels functioning as clinics, mass arrests and beatings.
In the calmer days between Wednesday and Saturday I have been attempting to set up some interviews. Today, that is Sunday 16th June, I interviewed a non-party aligned Kurdish journalist. I shall attempt to write up this interview in the coming days. Even as I left for the interview at around 15:00 pm people were already gathering in the streets and during the interview clashes began again nearby along Istiklal Cd. As I returned along Sıraselviler Cd huge long lines of people were tearing up the paving stones, passing them along in great lines, building barricades. I returned to my friends apartment and tried again to write a post, but massive rioting broke out again along the street. Reports, of mass mobilisations across the city are coming in, along with increasingly horrific reports of state terror. Mass arrests and AKP gangs attacking neighbourhoods with knives, reports of the military being mobilised. I wish I could write more about all of this, particularly the events of this evening, I wish I could draw a clearer analysis on events and cross reference sources, but at the moment there just isn’t the time. I shall try to edit this post again tomorrow to improve the content.
Tomorrow, Monday 17 June there will be a 24 hour general strike and yet another new phase in the situation is likely to unfold. Every day everyone I speak to asks me whether people outside know what is going on here, they ask me whether people know what they are doing. I don’t know what those abroad can do, I do not know what the best tactics to be used are. But I do know that the sight of solidarity demonstrations across Europe, the sight of Brazilian protesters raising banners and slogans in solidarity with Turkey do filter through and they embolden and enliven peoples spirit of resistence. So keep it up, do more, do it better. I don’t know what to write anymore but I do know I need to go to sleep.
thanks for taking the time to
thanks for taking the time to write these and keeping the rest of us updated on what's going on, don't really know what else to say but good luck.
Yeah, stay safe comrade.
Yeah, stay safe comrade. Thanks again for the write-ups, they're really good.
I hadn't heard about this?
And I also think we need to be careful about using the term general strike. I know the last general strike was general in the sense that two union federations called out their members. At the absolute most, it was maybe 2% of the Turkish working class who were out--not very general at all I'm afraid.
There is a 'general strike'
There is a 'general strike' today called by KESK, DİSK, and the associations. Also some of the Istanbul branches of the main union confederation are calling for a strike. http://www.kizilbayrak.net/ana-sayfa/sinif/haber/tuerk-ise-grev-cagrisi/
As to what a general strike is, I think that people in the English speaking world have this image of 1926 or whatever. Even then I suppose there was not 100% of the workforce on strike. 'General strikes' in European countries are often not general if you see what I mean.
I hear you Devrim. What
I hear you Devrim. What would interest me is if there was some sort of grassroots mobilization. I remember that Occupy tried to pull of that May Day general strike. To be honest, at no point did I think they would ever realistically pull that off, but the callout for it and the organisation that went into it was truly a bottom-up affair.
With Turkey, on the other hand, I do think there's the potential to have pull off a much wider general strike. Like I've said before, in my workplace when we thought there was going to be callout for wildcat strikes in the private sector, a majority of my workplace was prepared to get involved. And while the trade unions we spoke to were surprisingly supportive if we did want to strike, without any sort of legal protection and outside of a wider strike wave, the confidence was understandably not there.
If some activists were to put out a callout for co-ordinated wildcats and could offer some structures for co-ordination and support, well, like I said, I think there's real potential.
Quote: I remember that
There have been calls for general strikes on the social media since nearly the beginning of the whole thing. I don't think though that this sort of call out has its desired effect. Basically, young people and the left can not force the 'mass worker' part of the working class to go on strike. Yes, I think that it can increase awareness of the need for strikes, but you can't just sit down at the keyboard, and call the working class out.
There was an event in Turkey a few years ago in a place called Tuzla where the left tried to force workers on strike without even consulting them. Ask people about the details. It was horrible.
Was the call for a strike during Seattle occupy a 'truly bottom up affair' from the people involved in occupy or from workplaces? I suspect the later.
Yes, I think there is. Here we start to get into all the 'general strike' vs 'mass strike' argument, but I don't want to get into that now.
A call-out for wildcat strikes in the private sector from whom? To do that you would need an organisation on the shop floor in workplaces that just doesn't exist.
Which puts you in the same situation as other workers who may want to strike at the moment, but don't feel the confidence too, following the unions.
This is not a personally criticism. It is merely a statement of what the reality is. Workers do not have the confidence, organisation, or experience at the moment to do that, and what they are left with is following the unions.
I think that sort of confidence, organisation, and experience can only be built through struggle, and it doesn't emerge near the start of a struggle.
I think that there is a possibility of a strike wave developing in Turkey now. There is the metal workers strike coming, and there are some metal workers involved in small strikes, 'independent' of the main events, at the moment. How it develops remains to be seen.
Again which activists? The people who need to be brought into a struggle are the large workplaces. Only a huge amount of these sort of places on strike will create the confidence necessary for small workplaces such as yours to join them. The 'activists' of this movement do not have the 'structures for co-ordination and support' in these workplaces.
Sorry if that seems a bit rambling.
Quote: Also some of the
No, all of the Istanbul branches, not some. This might well prove to be much bigger than DISK, KESK etc. declaring one day general strikes - something like this is unseen in the last 20 years.
The numbers they were quoting
The numbers they were quoting on CNN Türk were 800,000.
Every resourceful Nadir.org
Every resourceful Nadir.org is translating real time info from Turkey:
Quote: The numbers they were
Which is roughly the number of people estimated to be members of all these unions. However, TMMOB has 400,000 members (engineers and architects have to be members), most of whom certainly won't be on strike.
From what I hear, today's "strike" - which was actually called "not working" rather than a strike, was much smaller compared to the one on the 5th of June.
Leo wrote: Quote: The
It is difficult to say. The numbers that they claim as members would be higher than 800,000. Of the top of my head, I would guess that together they claim well over a million KESK 250,00, DİSK I haber Gerard them claim over 400,00, TTMOB over 400,000, doctors 75,000).
So where did CNN get this figure? I will look at the papers tomorrow, but I don't really hope for much more accuracy.
Thanks again for these
Thanks again for these updates Dominic!
Quote: Yes, I think that it
Well it would obviously take a lot more than an online callout and of course you're right that it needs actual organisation, but the impression I get is that if there were actual meetings called, leafletting campaigns outside workplaces, and even some social media then things could develop.
I don't know the situation in Istanbul, but in Ankara it doesn't seem that there are any organisations oriented to promoting and supporting that sort of shopfloor action. It might be too late to build them, but if I spoke Turkish and knew a critical mass of liked-minded folks, I don't think it'd be massively hard to begin promoting the sort of public meetings that could begin to build for such actions.
I think the point Devrim is making is pretty much correct, that regardless of activists going in leafleting workplaces or having public meetings, there needs to be the confidence and organisation within workplaces themselves already. And this is what seems lacking - in Turkey as just about everywhere else unfortunately
Quote: DİSK I haber Gerard
Well, DISK claims 400,000 but it is ridiculously high. At the beginning, they admitted to having 150,000, now everyone is saying they merely have 100,000.
So, 240,000 KESK, 90,000 TTB, 400,000 TMMOB, 100,000 DISK and 20,000 TDHB which makes something like 850,000.
Devrim wrote: DİSK I haber
That is a terribly typed sentence.I meant to say I have heard them claim over 400,000. Considering I got both the number and the verb wrong it is pretty amazing that you understood it at all.I will try not to type on the phone when tired in future.
I have seen reports in newspapers today putting the joint membership of DİSK and KESK at 330,000. If KESK is about a quarter of a million (the usual figures are put at 240,000-250,000) what does that make DİSK? Historically they have claimed around 320,000. At the start of these events I heard Beko talking about 150,000, but I understood that to be not members, but people they could pull out. The highest I saw was over 400,000, which I think we are agreed is unbelievable.
It seems it is not only Tayip who has problems with numbers.
Which sort of works out. Except that everybody (presumably even CNN Türk journalists) knows that TMMOB are not actually striking. Is this really how it is done? Does this figure represent the ultimate in lazy journalism? Is duran adam really more important than accurate reporting. Personally, I thought that a Doğan group company would be trying to give a lower figure.
I have heard different things from different sources though. I have spoken on Skype to people who have said in the hospitals it is pretty good, with non-unionised workers also on strike. Then I have spoken to people who have said exactly the opposite.
It would be interesting to know the real figure for both days.
Steven. wrote: Chilli Sauce
If what you were saying were true, Chilli, we would expect that SolFed had done all this during recent Post Office strikes in the UK, and now has this level of organisation on the shop floor in the Post Office. I don't think it has.
Steven is 100% right when he says that "there needs to be the confidence and organisation within workplaces themselves already. And this is what seems lacking - in Turkey as just about everywhere else unfortunately". The situation within the class is not going to be changed by a few activists running about.
Quote: If what you were
I don't know if I totally understand the point that you're making here?
The situation in Turkey--at least in my admittedly limited estimation--is far different from any situation I've ever experienced in the UK or the States.
The closest analogy, at least that I can come up with, is the US during the Occupy May Day General Strike callout. In terms of experience of struggle, confidence, and workplace organisation, things are low. The difference is that just every person I've talked to about it here in Turkey--and these are not all lefties or politicos--claims they would participate in the strikes if they could. The problem is lack of infrastructure and support. I'm arguing that those networks could be built--like what was attempted during the May Day callout--if there were a group of activists dedicated to that sort of work.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm overestimating the potential based on the interactions I've had in my workplace, but I think such a project would very quickly spread out beyond a preexisting activist base into workplace and communities--much like we've seen with these protests in general.
Chilli Sauce wrote: I don't
The situation on the streets in Turkey at the moment is certainly extreme. There isn't any doubt about that.
This is also true. As Steven points out this situation is also true internationally, and has been for some time. However, people who are a little older can remember times when it was better. In the specific situation in Turkey, I am not sure if the current struggles, on a workplace level alone, are at the same scale as in the spring of 2010. If they are higher, it is not by a quantitative level. Yes, there is a background that certainly 'helps', but that only gives opportunities and doesn't change the situation on the shop floor.
This is the point. There isn't the organisation, consciousness, and confidence for these people to move. To draw an analogy with the UK in the 1980s if the mine workers had had a pound for every time somebody said that "we should strike/have struck with the miners", they wouldn't have needed to go on strike because they could have all retired to islands in the Caribbean.
Could this have been changed by 'a group of activists' dedicated to' solving 'the problem of lack of infrastructure or support? Well there were networks like this in the miners' strike, and it didn't change it.
Which if we remember was largely unsuccessful.
Yes, I think that you are wrong. I don't think that it is as easy as that. To come right to the point, I don't think that 'activists' can move the class by willpower, and lots of running around, alone.
Of course I am not advocating that people do nothing, but just for a sense of realism. Yes, I think it would be a good thing to try mass leafleting workplaces. I have done it enough in my time. There are lots of things that people can and should be doing. Doing these things alone though is not what will give small workplaces the confidence to come out.
If it was as easy as that everyone would be doing it.
Devrim wrote: Chilli Sauce
I meant more the point about SF and the postal strikes in particular?
I don't actually know much about that period. Any good links?
Which is my point: I think that proposed strike was basically bound never to materialize. I don't think Occupy ever really had the potential to move beyond an activist base. In Turkey, the protests have not only drawn in a much wider swath of the population than Occupy ever did, but the militancy, tactics, and momentum are already more developed.
I think there's a larger debate here about whether dedicated revolutionaries are acting as part of the 'class' or as 'activists' (a term, to be honest, I actually don't like and probably should have been more careful in my choice of words) when we promote and organise class struggle. But I don't think that will be solved here and it's probably not worth getting too deeply into on this thread.
And, I guess again, here's my point. It appears to me--again given my very limited experience--that the interest in an actual general strike is pretty widespread and extends beyond those who were politicized prior to the protest movement.
All I'm saying is that is that I think now would be a good time to try and make up for those lost decades. I think a first step to doing that now would be for those who have some experience in these matters to call public meetings. These could be bolstered by leafletting campaigns and, later perhaps, targetted mass pickets--focusing on public transportation depots for examples. The people who attend them could bring the ideas back to their workplaces, building momentum and hopefully a feeling of a confidence-building critical mass.
I don't think there are any groups, certainly in Ankara, that are even considering this type of activity. Maybe it's because there's a widespread ultraleft understanding current position of the working class in Turkey, I don't know. But like I said, in my experience it certainly feels like that type of campaign has more opportunity for success than in any other situation I've personally experienced.
Thank you for the comments. I
Thank you for the comments. I think there are severe limitations to the above post, for this I can only blame time constraints and stress.
@Chilli Sauce and Devrim. You are absolutely correct, I shouldn't have used the term 'general strike' without clarification. Especially because I was aware of the (likely over blown) statistics on union membership. I did so as this was the term being used by people I spoke to and in twitter feeds and by the unions themselves. However as Devrim points out:
Over the last three posts I have made various omissions and engaged in hyperbole. It would, I feel, be disenguous to reedit the last three posts for anything other than grammer mistakes. However I was thinking of added a few asterisked disclaimers for the clarity of future readers.
I'm currently writing a post about yesterdays 'general strike'. This is going to be half straight forward report, half short essay. If anyone has any good resources on unions in Turkey, class composition etc I would appreciate it. Friends/comrades have provided me with some but the more the better.
Dominic, don't worry I don't
Dominic, don't worry I don't think this was a criticism of your use of the word "general strike" but more of the way activists use it in general. I agree that one of the strengths in your posts is there immediacy (and resultant optimism). And agree that you shouldn't edit them afterwards for anything other than grammar/spelling. If you change your view on anything in time you can make this clear in subsequent articles. This would be expected, as we can all see things much more clearly in hindsight!
Dominic. wrote: @Chilli Sauce
Dominic, it wasn't aimed at you. Personally, I have no problem with calling this a 'general strike', though I have tried to use inverted commas, I have quite probably forgotten some times. It is not a general stike in that everybody is out, far from it. I think that is the case though in most general strikes.
Chilli Sauce wrote: I meant
The point was that it is not as easy as you make out. You can't just come up with confidence, consciousness, experience, and organisation from nowhere. Yes what is going on in Turkey is an extraordinary thing, but also the UK Post Office is a place where there is a lot of experience within the workforce. It still isn't as easy as you seem to make it out to be.
It is the stuff around the TEKEL struggle. I think the ICC ran a lot of it in English. Look there with the tag TEKEL.
But this good mean too things. Either there was not enough momentum in the occupy movement to pull this off, or the whole tactic, of thinking that activists can pull the working class behind them is flawed.
Maybe it wasn't a good term, and of course revolutionaries are a part of the class. I think that there are different groups here though. To formulate the question in another way (and I am not stuck on these words) can young people/activists/demonstrators pull the 'collective mass worker' part of the working class behind them?
I brought up the example of the UK miners' strike before because it is one that I can remember, and that will also be familiar to people who post on here. There was a feeling for a general strike then, yet it never came about. It is not as easy as organising a few meetings.
Which means in Turkey the left unions.
I am for the idea of leafleting campaigns, for example. The idea of 'mass picketing' is a bit unclear to me. I understand this term to mean strikers having huge numbers outside a workplace. Do you mean what the English call flying pickets? Surely only strikers can do this?
Pretty much the same groups exist in Ankara as in İstanbul. Which sort of groups would you expect to do it. I don't think that any who would be interested are anywhere near strong enough.
I am not sure what you mean here. Partially it is because I think you have made a typo in the sentence, but mostly because I don't know what you mean by 'ultra-left'.
@Steven and Devrim. Ha, don't
@Steven and Devrim.
Ha, don't worry, I didn't take it personally. Expect the next post some time later this evening.
Turn up for the books when a
Turn up for the books when a left-communist is stressing the importance of pre-existing workplace organisation to the prospects for a strike wave while an anarcho-syndicalist is arguing to build the necessary organisation in the midst of the upheaval! ;)
[for less nerdy readers; anarcho-syndicalism is often caricatured of stressing long-term workplace organisation to the exclusion of all else, while left communism is often caricatured as placing a lot of faith in workers forming the organs of struggle in the midst of the struggle]
I've no idea what the situation is like in Turkish workplaces, what the pre-existing level of organisation is, fwiw. I'd tend to think it would be pretty hard to go from zero to sympathy strikes, but then it seems like a pretty unprecedented situation. When the bin men wildcatted recently, people in my work were saying 'why can't we just do that?'... But there's a big gap between words and deeds, and the kind of organisation needed to bridge it can't necessarily come together that quickly.
Steven. wrote: Dominic, don't
To be honest, this feels like
To be honest, this feels like a lot of fuss over nothing.
What I will say is that if you told me three weeks ago that there would be massive ongoing streets protest all throughout Turkey, I would have said that's crazy. And, to be honest, I imagine you would too. But here we are.
I don't think at any point I said or suggested it would be easy.
What I've said--or at least what I've tried to convey--is that I'm in a situation where I feel the tactics normally advocated by anarchists for spreading struggle might have a shot at actually working. I'm lamenting the fact that there are no workplace-oriented anarchists groups who have some experience in workplace struggles who might be able to function as a catalyst for that sort of organizing.
I'm basing that mostly on the conversations I've had with my co-workers and others in my industry. I've also acknowledged that I have a very limited perspective on the situation. I don't mind people disagreeing with me, but I feel like the discussion has been oddly aggressive and that things I've said have been mischaracterized--the above being an example of that.
To clarify (although I don't
To clarify (although I don't feel like this is a massively productive conversation):
Yeah, which is one of the things I think is such a shame. Although, I do think folks can be pretty quick to learn on their feet and I still think a small group of dedicated activists (or whatever term we want to use) could pull that off with a little bit of strategy and foresight.
I guess I had in mind the sort of tactics used by Occupy on the West Coast. To have a critical mass of supportive picketers outside a workplace--say transportation depots--to give workers an excuse not to work. Also, lots of leafletting in the run-up to a proposed strike day to build up a sense of confidence and critical mass. Obviously, you'd want all this done with the involvement and coordination of militants inside any given workplace.
Fair enough. I was just being sarcastic.
Chilli, I see what you are
Chilli, I see what you are saying but think you are kind of projecting the organisational ideas you support onto the situation. Even if you did have such a group (which would have to be pretty massive to have a significant impact in a country with 80 million people), you're not going to be able to encourage significant strike action from the outside: it has to come predominantly within workplaces themselves.
People speaking about striking in abstract is much easier than the reality, as in Devrim's example of the miners strike, but even more recently: I'm sure you saw that recent you gov poll which showed 27% support for a general strike in the UK.
The only way you could get critical numbers of people to shut down open workplaces would be with people from striking workplaces. I guess similar to the recent nationwide strike in Spain where strikers and supporters roamed around town centres shutting down mostly retail outlets it seemed.
Joseph Kay wrote: [for less
not wanting to derail this discussion of current events into historical minutiae, but I think this is principally because at the time and place when the left communists were writing, i.e. mostly early 20th-century Germany, the very strong level of day-to-day organisation in factories was already a given.
iexist wrote: What are your
iexist, I'm a teacher in a private language school. How could this spread? Phwww... I don't think anybody could have predicted this and I think it's even more unlikely to sort of parachute any sort of tactics or movements into a different place.
What I do think is that--to sound really pretentious--there is a sort of zeitgeist about these historical moments. I don't think it's a direct causal effect, but I think there's certainly a confidence and consciousness that extends from the proto-Occupy movement in Israel-->the Arab Spring-->the Occupy movement-->UKUncut-->Indignados-->Unrest in Greece-->Turkish protest movement-->Brazil riots.
Will that come full circle back around to the States? We can only hope so. In the mean time, I think it's important to support those global struggles in any way we can (particularly hooking up with groups with whom we have close politics).
Chilli Sauce wrote: I don't
I don't think that this discussion has been aggressive. In may have come across that way, but I certainly didn't intend it to. If I was trying to I think I could mange to come across as much more aggressive.
Nor do I think I have mischarecterised things that you have said. Obviously you disagree, but that is how I have interpreted them.
To be honest I think if this comes across as aggressive, then we need more aggression on here. To me this is a friendly discussion. Actually on a personal level I quite like you. I do though disagree with a lot of the perspectives that you put forward. In real struggles people will be aggressive to the point of physical violence, will not just mischarecterise people's position, but will resort to outright lies and slander.
When people have talked about Libcom being bad, I have often wondered how they would deal with Stalinists in a real dispute.
Yes, I think that this is true.
My opinion though is that a group such as SolFed (and I use this example because it is the anarcho-syndicalist group that I am most familiar with, and one that many people on this board will be familiar with too) doesn't have a strategy that would make that much difference either.
The problem at hand is how do the 'activists'/'young people' in the street involve, again for want of a better term,the mass worker in the workplace. From what I understand of SolFed's composition it is more similar to that of the demonstrators than that of the mass worker. Yes, I know that in the Turkish case there is obviously some cross over, and that also in SolFed there are people who fit into the latter category. What I am making are sweeping generalisations, but that doesn't invalidate them.
The impression that I get of the SolFed strategy is that it is based around people in small workplaces without unions. While attending the SolFed sample training course at the anarchist book-fair, that is the impression I picked up, and talking to SolFed members in the pub afterwards, I was told that is where their members are. Obviously they are right in that people have to fight where they are.
The situation in the places with the 'mass worker' is different though. For one, unionisation is high. In my first full time job, I was a given the union membership form by the management on my first day. I know places where this still happens. The dynamics inlots of ways are very different.
Now, I think that this part of the working class has a weight that outweighs their actual numbers. Chilli has talked about there being a will for a strike, but not their not being the confidence in small workplaces:
But in situations like this, their is no legal protection. These strikes are illegal. In fact the interior minister has been directly threatening the jobs of striking government workers. The only thing, that I see, that will bring this confidence is massive strikes in big workplaces. If, in Ankara for example, the metro and EGO buses came out, it would be a massive thing. Even something like the sugar factory would be important.
I think that the workers in these places because of their concentration, power, and visibility have a critical mass many times higher than an equal number of workers in small workplaces, and even more importantly,can act as a spark to bring those workers in small workplaces into struggle.
The question comes up of how to approach this. I don't think that it is at all easy, and I feel that some of the things proposed are very erroneous.
To me this is very worrying. the idea of people outside a workplace calling a strike,and picketing it is something that makes me very uncomfortable, and I think is bound to end in disaster.
I think Steven agrees:
Just on a couple of other minor points:
Fair enough. I was just being sarcastic.[/quote]
I didn't even pick up on the sarcasm. To me I associate the term ultra-left with workerism because they are two things I often get accused of. Most of the Turkish left aren't that interested in the working class. A good example would be the two day national hospital strike in Turkey in 2011.The only group with a leaflet addressing it was the ICC.
Yes, I wouldn't have expected it to happen in three weeks. Although two years ago we were talking about very similar situations to these happening in the next few years:
Turkish section of the ICC
I think we were expecting a very similar scenario to this to unravel in Turkey within the next five years or so.
Steven. wrote: Chilli, I see
That's fair enough and perhaps I haven't been clear enough with my own language. The idea is that it would come from people in workplaces who want to strike. The suggestion came from the fact people in my workplace wanted to strike and that I know at least two other workplaces in the same situation. I just though, shit, wouldn't it be great if there was some organisation holding meetings of folks just like us who want to strike but don't have the infrastructure or experience to do so. If those sorts of public meetings were being held, I think--at least based on my workplace--that confidence could develop pretty quickly if folks knew there was a solid critical mass.
And, of course, people verbalizing a desire to do something and actually doing it isn't the same thing. But it also seems pretty strange to have a situation of a generational high point of social upheaval and to say, well, there wasn't a general strike during the Miner's Strike, so why try now?
In any case, I don't think it would need a massive group to catalyze it. I mean, look at how the idea of a general strike spread in Wisconsin. It came from a small group of dedicated, experienced folks who were active within the movement and within their own workplaces. They promoted the idea and much like the protests themselves, it spread through social media, public meetings, propaganda and, probably most importantly, word-of-mouth during the protests themselves.
Obviously, any strike movement would have to be rooted in workplaces to be successful. Perhaps using the term 'activist' created confusion, but I did specifically start by discussing the situation in my workplace and described a desire to link up with other workplaces. It seems weird to then have people criticise me for not being workplace-oriented!
iexist wrote: Devrim: How are
I am not living there at the moment, and have talked to more people in Ankara than Istanbul. I think the protests in the two places are quite different primarily in that in Istanbul there is this camp around which you can organise assemblies. I think that all of the mechanisms you outline have played a part. I also get the impression that 'pure spontaneity' has played it's role.
Just on a factual point, the parliament is m Ankara not Istanbul.
Good post Devrim. I think
Good post Devrim. I think it was comments like "keyboard callouts" and "activists running about" that I found a bit dismissive and got my back up.
But again, in the example I gave, those protests were coordinated with militants dockworkers. The union hierarchy opposed them, but it wasn't like there wasn't an established relationship between the protesters and the workers inside. If that relationship didn't exist than, yeah, of course that's going to have a really problematic dynamic--which would be the point of a week or so of targetted leafletting in the run-up, to establish those contacts and build those relationships. And if that didn't happen, well then the mass pickets probably shouldn't either. But as an idea, I don't think it's unsound if done tactically and intelligently.
I'm not sure the SF strategy
I'm not sure the SF strategy is based on 'young, casualised, non-union' workers per se, though that probably is a majority of the membership. I think the training comes from that, though it's in the process of being reworked for different sectors, and there's ideas to modify it to deal more with working with/against existing unions. I think what's important here is to both develop all the strands here, cos like you say, everyone needs to be organising where they are (which is where they have much more influence than 'at the factory gates' so to speak), while also building solidarity across the 'mass worker' / 'graduate without a future' demographics.
So to give an example in Brighton, there's been longstanding mutual support between bin workers and uni staff/students (edit: also, the shortlived Sparks-student link ups during the student movement were encouraging). We're still some way off that meaning sympathy action (though if the RMT wins its case in Europe, that could make things interesting). I think in training/strategy terms, the situation is quite different for a younger, casualised worker in say retail/call centre/bar/tech work, in a historically unorganised sector, to someone in a unionised 'mass' workplace with significant structural power trying to work inside/around/against established unions, like the Royal Mail/railways/Cityclean depot. Developing this is mainly a trial and error thing though, I think the temptation to try and bridge the gap with theorising can't substitute for experience (not accusing anyone here of this - just stressing learning by doing).
In terms of Turkey, I guess if some structurally important big workplaces went out (public transport say), the question is what it would take for others to join them. And whether the street movements could encourage such action, e.g. going on mass to transport hubs, even occupying depots to give the workers an excuse to down tools. That,, in turn, would seem to depend on whether the protesters are received as 'outsiders' or comrades-in-struggle, which would draw on previously existing links (unions, family, football...) or new shared identities (e.g. in the face of police brutality). What do you guys think of the prospects of some kind of non-substitutionist link-up like this? Sounds like there's lots of open assemblies in Istanbul, are organised workers being invited? How would mass delegations to workplaces (like the ones Devrim mentions) to discuss industrial action be received?
Quote: whether the street
Beautifully articulated JK.
To be honest, my Turkish isn't remotely good enough to say anything definitely. In terms of transport workers, every bus I've been on since the protests have started has honked supportively when they pass a group of protesters. We even went on a march the other day where we passed a sanitation truck and had a beautiful moment where they cheered us and we cheered them and back and forth.
How generalized is this? I have no idea. Will it translate to concrete action? Again, I have no idea. But for the moment it doesn't appear to me that people have a split identity between being workers during the day and protesters at night. But here's the problem again: there doesn't appear that there are groups consciously trying turn that into action in the workplace. I don't think it'd be difficult to build those sort of organizations or ideas, however.
I do get the feeling folks in general are looking for ways to push the struggle forward and just about everyone I talk to about it seems to feel an actual general strike would be a good way to do that. It's the confidence that's lacking. You can keep in mind here, that most folks I speak to are under-30, university educated, speak English and are engaged in precarious work, FWIW.
Quote: Considering I got both
I suppose after all these years I have a pretty good grasp of how you think.
Well, when they say that's the number that participated, yes. However, most say that's the number of members in the organizations going on a strike.
Then again, the Turkish media isn't exactly well versed in calculating how many people went on a strike.
Leo wrote: Well, when they
Yes, it was 16.00 pm, Turkish time, news and she was talking about the numbers stopping work.What would be a more accurate figure do you think?
Chilli Sauce wrote: Good post
Yes, I think the phrase activists running around was a bit cynical. That is how I feel about it.If I wanted to be scathing, I would have added something like 'like headless chickens'. I didn't mean the keyboard call-outs like that at all. I think that social media things are really important. I don't draw a distinction between it,and 'in real life' as some people seem to. The Turkish state doesn't either. It has arrested scores of people for tweeting (If I remember correctly, the UK state did the same thing in the last round of riots). I say a quite nice graphic after the opening round of violence, which said something like 'invitation to a general strike-If not now then when'. While these things can bring people onto the streets, and can and do scare the state, I don't think that they have to power to call out workers.
Part of this, but not the whole thing of course, is about the demographics. The 'mass worker' is generally older than the people demonstrating in the street. Particularly in the state sector, which has cut back on recruitment over recent years. For example, in the TEKEL struggles it was really noticeable that there were no young workers. It turned out that they hadn't recruited any new staff for 12 years). Older people tend to use things like Facebook and Twitter less. Just holding myself up as an example, I don't use either. I would imagine that these calls are not not convincing these workers, but not even reaching many of them.
Also I think that people in SolFed in general seem to have become very sensitive to criticism of any sort. To me, I didn't get involved in the discussions around your book because SolFed people came across to me as hyper defensive. I don't consider myself as belonging to the 'stand up and loudly denounce people while annoying everyone around brand of left communism', so I didn't make any contribution. A number of other people I spoke to about it felt the same.
Just on a specific point about Turkey before moving onto more general things:
DİSK has a hold in public transport in İzmir. Generally in these sort of events you hear reports of a third of it stopped. In Ankara in one of the 2010 general strikes there were walk outs on the metro, they managed to get a full service going by the afternoon, but there were serious disruptions in the morning. I can also remember a one day strike of red (EGO) buses once, but it is a long time ago.
It comes across that way to a certain extent. I think partially it is unavoidable if you have that sort of membership composition. When I was in DAM it was very different, and the composition of your organisation certainly seems to have changed. That said, so has class composition.
I think that there has to be a recognition that still today the mass worker occupies a special place. How to relate to that is perhaps the heart of the question. In the late 80s the archetypal DAM member would have worked in those sort of jobs. Now this isn't true. Yet what you term ' building solidarity across the 'mass worker' / 'graduate without a future' demographics' is vital.
Which brings us onto the 'mass picketing'.
People my age have been involved in strikes have bad memories of students standing outside their workplaces telling them what to do. personally I have a particular memory of the complete incomprehension between a co-worker, and a Cliffite; "You have to pressure the union to call everyone out on strike", "but everyone is out on strike" ad infinititum to complete incomprehension. Maybe that is a prejudice, but it is there.
The one time I know about this sort of action in detail was the DİSK action at Tuzla shipyards in İstanbul. I didn't go, but people from ICC Ankara did, and the stories that they came back with were terrible. I can't remember if Leo actually went there either. He is on this thread he might comment if he went there. Anyway, there were virtually no workers on strike, and students were spitting at workers and calling them strike-breakers, a day of shame.
As I said, I feel uncomfortable about these things. I don't know if they can work.
Chilli Sauce wrote: ...
In which case, how easy would it be to get as many of your co-workers who want to strike as you can, and some of the people who want to strike from the other two workplaces (presumably if you know that the workplaces are in the same boat, you or your colleagues must know people in those workplaces who want to strike) and have the meeting yourselves? If people are lacking confidence (that the strike will be strong enough or enough places will come out) then convincing each other that you're serious and will stand together is a start is it not?
Quote: DİSK has a hold in
I know I'm the one who said this latest but that was my bad - actually two thirds stopped.
I went there alright. Two hundred strikers and two thousand student supporters having their "strike memory" picture taken, as tens of thousands of shipyard workers crossed the picket line being abused by those same students.
For June 17th, I would imagine less than 250,000 as the Kurdish nationalists in KESK didn't go out and DISK went out only in the public sectors. For June 5th, 400,000 to 500,000.
@iexist It is my perception
@iexist It is my perception that as Devrim puts it "all the mechanisms you outlined have played a part" though in each case I would add that in each case these mechanisms played out in a way different from the way you phrase them. I will provide some more information on this in my next two posts.
But basically, as far as I have been able to gather, most of the mass mobilisations that have occurred so far i.e. the initial mobilisations against the violent dispersal of the original Gezi park encampment, the mobilisations in Gazi, the crossing of the bosphorus, the attempted convergence of people from numerous districts of Istanbul on the weekend of the 15th and 16th June etc were all spontaneous. These spontaneous gathering were stimulated by information disseminated via social media, including calls via social media for people to gather at certain times etc and also via word of mouth, coverage by the limited independent media etc.
Within these spontaneous mobilisations there were/are innumerable groups who have varying organisational methods, the Marxist-Leninist parties, the Kemalist parties, the Kurdish nationalists, eco-groups, the anarchists, the 'anti-capitalist muslims' and the ultras, some of whom have top-down command structures, some of whom have more horizontalist decision making structures. In terms of Gezi Park itself when it was operating as an occupied space, it was my impression that there essentially wasn't that much of a structure, not even a 'tyranny of structurelessness', rather groups of individuals and groups of people from organised groups basically spontaneously and chaotically cooperating. I stand to be corrected on this point though.
There haven't been many situations that I am aware of in which:
However, the DISK and KESK unions did negotiate with the city authorities and (I assume) the police during Monday's 'general strike'.
In terms of:
This has not been a generalised practice (again this is only my impression I can't speak with absolute authority on any of these issues), except in a very chaotic spontaneous manner, people cooperating on the streets to build barricades etc.
However over the last couple of days there has been a mushrooming of 'open forum', you could term them popular assemblies springing up across the neighbourhoods in Istanbul, these seem to have been called via social media, however I became aware of them through the Carsi's twitter feeds (they are an organised group with a command structure). I have yet to attend any, but from what I have heard from people who have they are essentially operating as horizontal open meetings of protesters. However I'm working on finding out more about this.
I saw over at wsws.org that
I saw over at wsws.org that they just conducted a series of raids arresting party leaders from their private residence. Are they just trying to prevent these parties from capitalizing on what's going on, or does the AKP really think they're cutting the head off this thing?
No, Ankara is the capital.
No, Ankara is the capital.
iexist wrote: Istanbul is the
As has been pointed out Ankara is the capital and has been since the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923. It is not that bad a mistake to make. I once saw a journalist on CNN announce that he was coming live from Istanbul, the capital of Turkey. I wouldn't worry about it.
slothjabber wrote: Chilli
Fair point (and we did almost call the the meeting), but there'd be various reasons not to do it if it was just us:
1) The lack of confidence that comes from being the only workplaces in the city on wildcat.
2) The resulting--and legitimate--fear of getting sacked.
3) We'd actually want to achieve something. Even if we avoided getting some people disciplined, I'm not sure it would have any impact on the larger situation unless if it was co-ordinated with workers in other industries.
4) Most of us don't speak Turkish so the potential to spread it is pretty slim from that angle.
Quote: Istanbul is the
Yeah, I didn't realize that Istanbul wasn't the capital until I moved here. And, FWIW, culturally and in terms of social movements, Istanbul definitively is the capital.
From what I remembr Ataturk
From what I remembr Ataturk deliberately chose Ankara for the capital because it was away from the centre of power that was Istanbul, a bit like the French in Morocco.
It's a bit like thinking that Sao Paolo is the capital of Brazil, or New York as the capital of the states, it happens.
jef costello wrote: From what
It was explained to me that Istanbul was under siege (or maybe under threat of siege) and he needed to set up shop somewhere ASAP and it ended up being Ankara.
Chilli Sauce wrote: ... Fair
Obviously, all these are legitimate points, but also, you obviously know that 1-3 apply to whoever jumps first, whether it's you or any other workplaces.
4 really is a serious problem. I suggested this in a PM that you might not yet have seen, but can the ICC help you? They speak Turkish and English and have an orientation to workers' self-organisation and are in Ankara.
Can you instead of calling a 'strike' meeting call a 'how do we support the protests?' meeting for the three workplaces, and see what happens?
Just PMd you back, sloth.
Just PMd you back, sloth.
Bit late but responding to
Bit late but responding to the earlier debate about picketing workplaces.
Thing is, I think these suggestions are only a good idea when the workers have already decided they want to do something and that they want outside support. Otherwise, if you put up a picket line that most people will probably cross, then you risk just a few most class conscious workers not crossing and getting victimised for it.
I would also say that there is a very different dynamic in mass protests and in taking action in your day to day life: in a mass protest you are with loads of other people who have decided to go to the protest. In “daily life” direct action you have no choice but to work with the people who work with you, or live on your estate or whatever, and it doesn’t matter if they are radicals or arseholes, you are stuck with them and they are stuck with you.
Which is probably part of what makes protests so good to be part of sometimes, as opposed to daily life stuff, the liberating feeling of being surrounded by all these other people who have chosen to go on the protest and the potential that unleashes.
How we make workplace struggles connect with protests, and also workplace struggles connect with other types of struggles, and indeed each other, is a massive question and I have no answers to it. But unfortunately I think daily life struggles (work, housing) go very much by their own rhythms, which is a serious problem as this leads to struggles flaring up and then dying down in isolation from each other, and means that often when there is a chance to seize the moment, like now in Turkey or Brazil would be a really significant time for people to go on strike, that doesn’t happen and the chance is missed.
However I think trying to jump start walkouts like this has loads of potential for going horribly wrong.
I tried to think of some
I tried to think of some examples where I would react more positively to not-the-workers trying to picket my workplace. I thought of some.
1. If our own students were really angry about something and had decided to walk out and were trying to picket out the workers and to shut the place down, I would think that was fantastic and would be trying to get everyone to support it.
2. People from the estate next to my workplace were blocking the roads to try to stop bedroom tax evictions, and were blocking the front of my workplace as well.
I would see these types of blockades as something pretty different from protest blockades.
However, the problem is that these things at the moment don't appear to be happening at all, and if they did happen then sadly I don't think most other workers would support it, they would go into work and think it was annoying and inconvenient.
Great post by fingers. And
Great post by fingers.
And chilli, your point about the practicalities of a strike in your workplace are key.
Obviously, I haven't experienced something equivalent to the current protest movement in Turkey. However, especially given its cross class and very heterogenous nature, I can see how it would be difficult to engage workers as workers (i.e. within workplaces, as opposed to going to protests after work).
As chilli points out, going on illegal strike is a risky business. And what would the actual purpose of it be? What with the aim of it be? In my experience (which as I said is in nothing like this, but I think some of the same problems would apply) people can be prepared to strike for a concrete reason if there is a reasonable prospect of success, or if there is such anger or hardship that they don't care if they win or lose.
Also, looking historically at mass strikes, they seem to develop more when different groups of workers start coming out making their own demands. So rather than trying to organise a strike in abstract in support of the protests it might seem sensible for the "activists" to try to encourage workers to formulate their own demands at work and strike in pursuit of them.
And of course the best way of winning demands is for different groups of workers to say they will only go back when all the different groups of workers have been settled with.
Now, the situation in Turkey seems very far from a situation like this, unfortunately. But just a few thoughts…