The elections of May 14th took place first and foremost under oppression by the despotic regime. The election process began with the unlawful and unconstitutional imposition of Erdoğan’s candidacy through a self-serving re-design and unilateral implementation of the election laws by the so-called Alliance of the People. Throughout the process, Erdoğan and the Alliance of the People used every political, military, police, and most importantly fiscal means of the state to support their own campaign and suppress the opposition. The Supreme Electoral Council, the institution with the single most powerful say in the elections, acted completely under the tutelage of the government. The state-owned news agency Anadolu Agency conducted a systematic manipulation in favor of the government, just as it had in the past elections. In light of all this, no one can speak of an expression of popular will. On the contrary, the process was one in which the popular will was systematically usurped and manipulated.
Nonetheless, the result is not in the least a triumph for the despotic regime. The result for the regime is failure, even though every condition was in their favor, that they usurped all powers of the state, that they held all the force of the media in their hands, and that they fully engaged in political abuse of religious faith and chauvinist demagogy. Despotism’s candidate Erdoğan has not been able to secure the majority of the votes in the presidential elections, and the central force of the regime, AKP, has retreated to one of the lowest votes in its history. All this is the result of their protection of capital by making the toiling people pay for the economic ruin the government itself has caused, their unflinching servitude to imperialism, and their oppression of the people.
However, this drop in approval has not been translated into defeat. The primary reason for this lies in the class character of the opposition subservient to the status quo by the so-called Alliance of the Nation with the Republican People’s Party (CHP) at its center. This opposition is not in an antagonistic contradiction with the despotic regime. It is, however, bound to the existing regime of capital, the ruling classes of this regime, and imperialist interests with unbreakable ties. Therefore, the Alliance of the Nation continuously softens its attitude towards the despotic regime, with which it serves the same interests in the last instance. Thus, the Alliance of the Nation tolerated every imposition by the despotic regime, and worked systematically to render moot the organizing and mobilizing drive of the toiling people and turn the masses into a pacified and atomized aggregation of voters, because it is more afraid of and hostile towards the masses than it is towards despotism.
Erdoğan and the AKP’s practice of serving the interests of capital and making the toiling masses foot the bill of the economic crisis through inflation and rising cost of living is evident. This practice has turned away a considerable from Erdoğan and the AKP. This development took the character of a reaction based on class reflexes and instincts rather than a conscious and consistent political choice. However, the Alliance of the Nation’s pro-capital policies and its unity with the Stock Exchange, TÜSİAD, and NATO, with the additional impact of identity-based social divisions, has prevented the masses who turned away from the despotic front from completely breaking from this front.
The intense and demagogical black propaganda by the despotic regime that casted the Alliance of the Nation and especially its candidate Kılıçdaroğlu as implicated with terrorism, buttressed with chauvinist, religious-fundamentalist and sectarian content, has proven effective. With the masses under the influence of this propaganda, the constituents of the Alliance of the Nation have never had any class-based interaction with the masses that would overcome the identitarian divisions. The masses accepted readily this propaganda against the oppositional front, which they saw as opposed to themselves both on a class and identity basis. This black propaganda that was so effective on May 14th will continue between the two rounds of elections with possible new provocations and exacerbation of the atmosphere of conflict.
At this point, the lack of a political force based on the toiling people with the proletariat at their center emerges as the single most important factor that marks not only the May 14th elections but the entire national politics. The antidote to identity politics and to abuse of religious faith, sectarianism, chauvinism, racism, patriarchy, and all sorts of reaction that feed upon identity politics is class politics. It is the task of socialists to implement class politics. However, the vast majority of socialist parties have served up Kılıçdaroğlu to the masses as a solution with tongue-twisters such as “one vote for Kılıçdaroğlu” or “one vote to oust Erdoğan”, and thereby abandoned class politics altogether to settle into the seat reserved for them to the left of CHP. The results of this stance were utterly shameful.
The socialists who embraced this stance have explained their support for the bourgeoise with justifications such as “return to parliamentary system”, or “catching a spell of breath”. However, they ended up only deluding themselves and their followers. That the Alliance of the Nation did not aim for winning parliamentary majority to change the regime, that they had abandoned in their own official declarations even the principle of non-partisan Presidency, let alone a return to the parliamentary regime, was glaringly obvious. It is unacceptable to hide this truth from the people.
The socialists justified their support for Kılıçdaroğlu, even if not the CHP in the parliamentary election, with the promise of a “return to the parliamentary system”, which is an utter lie. The direct and real result of this policy is the fact that over 400 representatives from parties of fascist and Islamist origins in both Alliances are now in the parliament. Thanks to the socialists embracing the lies of the Alliance of the Nation as their own political axis, a reactionary bloc full of fascists, Islamists, militant servants of imperialism and capital now has enough numbers to change the Constitution without a referendum.
The presidential elections will be concluded in the second round. As the candidate who has secured parliamentary majority and came out of the first round ahead of his opponent, Erdoğan has the upper hand. Sinan Oğan, on the other hand, has secured a position with strategic importance by winning over 5% of the votes. Even if we leave everything else aside, not only did the policy of “one vote for Kılıçdaroğlu” – who was said to be the only realistic alternative to Erdoğan – fail, but also the socialists abandoned the political arena to a force with fascist policies and discourse by tailing the Alliance of the Nation. The socialists, who followed the policy of giving a blank cheque to Kılıçdaroğlu, are now bound hand and foot. Already, a host of socialist parties have already declared their support for Kılıçdaroğlu in the second round as well, even before knowing what concessions Kılıçdaroğlu will make to Sinan Oğan to gain the latter’s support.
In the context of these elections, it is the presidential elections that the question of power is on the agenda, and therefore the programmes and policies of parties matter the most. Revolutionary Workers Party (DIP) has defended the position that socialists enter the elections as an independent force with a class politics programme that would take the proletariat as its central point, base itself on the toiling masses, and remain in an antagonistic contradiction with capital and imperialism. Accordingly, it has called upon socialists to establish a force that would go beyond the propaganda work of one or a few groups, and would pose a real alternative to despotism, capital, and imperialism. Had this call not been rejected with mathematical excuses and apolitical justifications, today the voice of socialists, not fascists, would be heard. The attitudes that were defended in the past with the excuse of “not doing anything that would favor Erdoğan” today ended up inadvertently working in Erdoğan’s and his despotism’s favor. Moreover, they ended up making it easier for fascism to seize an opening in the political arena.
The Revolutionary Workers Party insists on class politics as the only true path. The slogan “Freedom will come with the workers!” that we have raised on May Day has been proven relevant once more in the May 14th elections. May 14th has demonstrated that those who cannot win over the working class and the toilers cannot win over freedom either. There is nothing to gain and all sorts of harm in the struggle for bread and freedom by delaying class politics for even a single day with this or that excuse or by keeping lashed on to the bourgeois parties’ tails for a single day more. There is only loss, disillusionment, despair, and weariness at the end of the path of tailing the status quo politics. Only those who chose organized struggle can change the future. There is no path other than establishing class politics against the politics of the status quo by trusting the working class and the methods of class struggle in the fight for bread and freedom.
Central Committee of Revolutionary Workers Party
May 17th, 2023