The concealment of class contradictions and the dominance of identity-based polarizations have marked election process that ended with the run-off of Presidential Elections. That Erdoğan and his allies have vested interests in distracting the people from class issues in a time period where economic crisis is felt burningly and large masses are increasingly impoverished in the face of rising costs of life is obvious. The opposition that has grouped around the Nation Alliance, bound to the class interests of capital as they are, played the same game as the front of despotism. This of course proved advantageous for the latter. Nonetheless, Erdoğan’s 52% vote share should not be interpreted as the contention of the entire mass of people who voted for him. An important section of the toiling masses has voted for Erdoğan for the same reasons as they did in the last two decades, seeing as they did no alternative that would solve their economic problems or direct its policies against the capital and imperialism.
An election won under threat of violence
There is no real victory for Erdoğan in the elections’ outcome. Erdoğan is but the winner of elections enacted under threat of violence. He was able to win only with a run-off in an election where he imposed his anti-constitutional presidency, with an election law that he had designed to favor himself and put in place – again – unconstitutionally, presided over by a Supreme Electoral Council that toed his line, and under the watchful eye of the Armed Forces commanded by his Minister of the Interior, who was also a parliamentary candidate from AKP, Erdoğan’s party. It should not be forgotten that Erdoğan’s party, AKP, has lost a considerable amount of votes despite usurping all resources of the state, even influencing who would run as the opposition’s candidate by using the judiciary branch, threatening İstanbul’s oppositionist mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu with a political ban and the pro-Kurdish HDP – the third largest party in the Assembly – with shutting it down and thus robbing them from ability to maneuver, and employing all kinds of suppression during the propaganda, voting, and counting phases of the elections.
Those who write of an Erdoğan electoral victory are nothing but bootlickers. Erdoğan is no victor. The country appears as split down the middle, and Erdoğan emerges from the ballot box as the winner with an ever so slight margin one way or another. The explanation as to why he won with this tiny margin is obvious: these elections took place under the threat of violence. The symbol for these elections is the child whose head was split open with a stone in the İmamoğlu rally in Erzurum.
Other than the threat of violence, the most important factor that contributed to Erdoğan’s victory is the misery of the opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the parties that lined up behind him, completely lacking in policy, programme, or principles. Their surrender had begun by going along with Erdoğan’s unconstitutional candidacy culminated in absolute passivity in the face of potentially rigged voter lists and carousel voting. The Nation Alliance proclaimed loudly against unlawful impositions, but in practice they neither defended the ballot boxes nor could implement measures against carousel voting (such as fingerpaints), thus in the end conceding the political arena entirely to the front of despotic regime.
The opposition that attempted to outbid Erdoğan’s chauvinism, political Islamism, and servitude towards imperialism and capital
The demagogy of the government accusing the opposition with being “terrorist” has prevailed over the equally demagogic discourse of the opposition, who said “No, you are the terrorist!”. The fascists and political Islamists who stood with Erdoğan overpowered their counterparts who supported Kılıçdaroğlu. The stock market rose remarkably as Kılıçdaroğlu appeared to be ahead in the last polls right before May 14th, but domestic or foreign monopoly capital did not put all their bets on one horse. As early as May 15th, they began to buy up, to use the market’s language, Erdoğan’s re-election. They compelled Erdoğan to utter the phrase “internationally acclaimed financial governance” in his balcony address. Though having widely supported the Nation Alliance of the pro-USA opposition, Western imperialism immediately expanded the credit it had opened for Erdoğan for the sake of the interests of NATO, US, and British imperialism. The fact that England was one of the first congratulate Erdoğan’s victory, or that the US President Biden declared that he is looking forward to working together with Erdoğan, are not mere coincidences. In the absence of an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist political force that can speak to the vast majority of toiling people, Erdoğan could easily camouflage his pro-capital and pro-imperialist policies behind the opposition’s blatant support for TÜSİAD, the main boss union in Turkey, and NATO, and thus win.
Finally, the role of Welfare Again Party (a recent Islamist party claiming the heritage of Necmettin Erbakan’s old Islamist movement and led by Erbakan’s son), which Erdoğan allied himself with in order to compensate for the decline in his mass support, should not be understated in explaining his margin of victory over Kılıçdaroğlu. Erdoğan has prevailed over Kılıçdaroğlu by four points of margin. Three of these come from Welfare Again. That Erdoğan’s victory means an even greater reaction (especially keeping the Hüda Par - another Islamist party with its origins in a clandestine terrorist organization – factor in mind) will become clear if we consider the fact that Welfare Again is a lot more reactionary than the historical leader of political Islamism in Turkey, Erbakan, whose mantra it nonetheless claims. This development was made by possible Kılıçdaroğlu, who carried the political Islamist current to the front and center of politics by making Ahmet Davutoğlu, Ali Babacan and Temel Karamollaoğlu part and parcel of his coalition – a policy that in turn enabled Erdoğan, who is in the position of the real protagonist of that political space, to consolidate his position.
We are neither the 48% nor the 52%! We are the 99%
Analyses that claim that Turkey is split 48% to 52% are false and disorienting. The real split is between the toiling, poor, and oppressed people, who constitute the vast majority, and a small minority of exploiters. To miss this truth, to proclaim that “half of the people wanted change”, is to surrender to the politics of the current system. No, the will for change is much higher among the people. It is a much vaster majority whose interests lie with a change in the direction of bread and freedom. The equation that will determine Turkey’s future is not the 52% versus the 48%, but the poor 99% against the exploiting 1%. The only type of politics that can unite the masses that constitute the 99% is class politics. Class politics necessitates an uncompromising attitude against the leaders and parties of bourgeois politics and there is no way other than working patiently and consistently to convince and win over the workers, toilers, and poor people who vote for these parties.
An important section of those who supported Kılıçdaroğlu genuinely and enthusiastically for freedom and gathered around the Nation Alliance solely for the sake of defeating Erdoğan in the ballot box committed the grave error of belittling the voter base of the People’s Alliance, which also consists largely of workers and toilers, all the while showing the utmost tolerance towards the system parties. The most extreme and degenerate expression of this wrong attitude has been the curses directed at the earthquake survivors because Erdoğan won more votes than his opponent in the areas hit by the earthquake. Socialists are the only force who would not commit this mistake and lead large masses away from such mistake. However, most socialists also broke from class politics, and themselves drifted rather than convincing people to a correct line.
The bankruptcy of the socialist movement that tail-ended the bourgeoisie’s Nation Alliance
The socialist movement has failed completely in the test of this whole process. Tail-endism that consisted of attributing the bourgeoisie a vanguard position in the fight for democracy and thus supporting it completely was the dominant orientation of socialists. The socialist parties and organizations that gave Kılıçdaroğlu a blank cheque with the justification of “ending the one-man regime” thus raised the flag of political bankruptcy from the very beginning. Once this blank cheque was handed to Kılıçdaroğlu, it became contradictory to uphold socialist ideas or policies, since the President is elected as both the head of the executive and the founder of the cabinet. Thus, voting for a presidential candidate means a vote of confidence for that candidate’s programme. Most socialists have therefore given a vote of confidence to the Nation Alliance’s blatantly, nay zealously pro-imperialist and pro-capital programme, which will uphold the NATO as the guarantor of democracy, attack the seniority compensations, and support the TÜSİAD interest, fiscal and monetary austerity policies. In accord with this policy of tail-endism, the same socialists propagated that a programme that entailed the working class’s transitional demands was unrealistic, and that socialism was not a solution. No anti-socialist propaganda by the class enemy could have been as effective as this unfathomable surrender of the socialists.
Apolitical silence and unconditional support
There is no value in uttering a few critical remarks or claiming to be inclusive of sections of the population that the Nation Alliance cannot include once this blank cheque and the vote of confidence is handed to it. Kılıçdaroğlu maneuvered all along the way knowing full well that the socialists’ support would continue whatever steps he took. The Kurdish movement demonstrated a similar attitude. This so-called “responsible” attitude is in fact the epitome of the greatest irresponsibility. At the end of the first round of elections, it led to the parliament shifting to the extreme right, filled as it is with political Islamists and fascists whom the CHP carried over. But Kılıçdaroğlu went even further especially in the second round, and moved on to turn his election propaganda into an anti-immigrant and anti-Kurdish fascist campaign with the blank cheque the socialists and the Kurdish movement had handed to him. Thus, the policy of apolitical silence and unconditional support that the socialists and the Kurdish movement adopted for the sole sake of not making Kılıçdaroğlu lose a single vote ultimately turned into its opposite and resulted in the loss of votes especially among the Kurds. Therefore, those who forewent socialism for the sake of “getting rid of the one-man regime” ended up behaving in the way most favorable to the regime they oppose, even if unintentionally.
There is no stability but crises in the future! The impending collapse in the economy will leave its mark in every sphere!
We must learn the correct lessons from the elections and prepare for the struggles ahead. Erdoğan’s victory cannot bring stability neither to the regime nor to the order of capital. Election-time economics has carried the economy all the way to May 28th without a major financial collapse, but it has also left a major bill to be footed behind. A gigantic swamp of foreign debt, inflation beyond control, an increasingly growing trade and budget deficit have tendered the economy bound to continuous and gargantuan foreign financing in a context where the Central Bank net reserves show negative. The hole is too big to be patched with either the money the Gulf is pumping in, or the natural gas debts Russia has postponed. Erdoğan sooner or later will have to knock on the door of London, New York, or Frankfurt for foreign financing. All this will culminate in the government attempting to surpass the deepening crisis by forcing the working class to foot the bill in the economic sphere and taking on the role of imperialism’s sub-contractor in foreign policy.
They will continue robbing the people with nationalist fictions and serving imperialism with mehter march!
What Biden is eagerly waiting for is Erdoğan to knock on his door for dollar funding. The attack NATO is preparing against Russia in Ukraine with mercenaries from all over the world and its Nazi proxies, the siege targeting China by the American-English-Japanese imperialist axis, the increasing concretization of the Israeli-Azerbaijani axis against Iran – all this will sooner or later rip off the mask of Erdoğan’s so-called balance policy. Having condemned the economy to dollar dependency, Erdoğan sooner or later will capitulate to the dollar’s true owner. Biden is thus preparing to enlist Erdoğan in some of NATO’s most dangerous battlefronts in exchange for giving the F-16s, continuous support of the Barzani – Erdoğan axis against the PKK in northern Iraq, giving him leeway to conduct PR-stunt military campaigns against the PYD in Syria, and a few other concessions.
The front of despotism will employ all sorts of nationalist, chauvinist, sectarian demagogy to hide its crimes and dupe the masses while forcing the working class to foot the bill of the economic crisis and giving the most critically important support to imperialism. The fact that Erdoğan had his mass of supporters chant for Selahattin Demirtaş – the imprisoned ex-chairman of HDP - to be executed is an omen in this direction. The union bureaucrat and class traitor chair of Türk-İş, the biggest trade-union confederation in the country, Ergün Atalay’s discourse of “no fatherland, no union” shows us what smokescreen will be used to make the proletariat foot the bill. The fascist anti-immigrant sentiment that was tolerated, once again, for the sole sake of defeating Erdoğan will in the future be employed to direct the proletariat’s anger away from capital and imperialism.
The non-destructive, “constructive opposition” of the “one-man”
Those who had embraced the Nation Alliance will soon see the leaders of this alliance – which they supported in order to “end the one-man regime” – conducting “constructive opposition” towards the “one-man” Erdoğan to meet the demands of imperialism and big capital. Meral Akşener and Ali Babacan positioned themselves that way during the night of the election even before the official results were clear. Kılıçdaroğlu will follow suit as soon as he secures his chair within the CHP, that is, if he manages to do so. This might come as a surprise to some, although after all that happened, it should not. Kılıçdaroğlu, who had worked towards peddling Abdullah Gül, a former ally of Erdoğan and a former President, as a candidate for the opposition for the longest time, handed over several parliamentarians to the political Islamist trio of Future – Felicity – Democracy and Progress Parties higher than Gül could have ever dreamed of by imposing himself on the Table of Six as the candidate. While many hoped from him a return to the parliamentary regime, he helped constitute one of the most reactionary parliaments in the history of the republic. Him switching over to “constructive opposition” or creating “it is unconstitutional but yes” situations is a matter of time. All it takes is for the interests of capital and imperialism to wish so.
The only way forward: class politics!
Thus, system politics will not offer a different picture moving into the local elections next year. The contending sides will probably unite in different alliances, but they will nonetheless direct politics away from class contradictions and leave imperialism off the agenda. The toiling masses will be divided through identity-based, sectarian, racist propaganda. The need for working class politics independent of imperialism, capital, and the state as well as upholding the fraternity of peoples unflinchingly against chauvinism, racism, and sectarianism, will be as vitally necessary as bread and water. The faster and larger progressive forces break from system politics, the more possible it will become to make class politics determining. In line with this direction, Revolutionary Workers Party calls on all socialists, the vanguards of the working class, and people who give their hearts and labor to the fight for freedom to struggle against imperialism, capital, and despotism.
Countless socialist-leaning people and hundreds of thousands whose hearts beat as one with the toilers ended up tail-ending one of the representatives of the bourgeoisie because of the wrong policy the Left followed in this election. The truths Revolutionary Workers Party uttered sometimes seemed to them detached from reality. Of course, the depression the 21-year Erdoğan rule and the regime of despotism has created, and the dream of getting rid of this nightmare the easy way contributed to this. There is no easy way towards liberation! Our call is clear: we invite tens of thousands of socialists and hundreds of thousands of people whose hearts beat as one with the toilers to leave the catacombs of the political maneuvers of the bourgeoise, come to the light, and meet with the workers together with us in the factories, shipyards, and all sectors. We invite them to the struggle. Once this is understood, the rest is our responsibility to explain!
Central Committee of Revolutionary Workers Party (DIP)
May 29th, 2023