A Spring Thunder Resonating Far and Wide

June 20, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


The following was written by a contributor and is being posted in both English and Turkish:

A social uprising on a scale not seen in recent decades has burst into the open like spring thunder, rejecting the way things are and opposing the direction they are heading. It has rapidly spread across Turkey, bringing a massive number of protesters into the streets in more than seventy cities and towns all the way from Istanbul to Diyarbakir. And it has brought forward a whole lively chorus of international solidarity from four corners of the world.

Since the end of May an explosion of a political crisis of tremendous significance has seized the center stage, sharply polarizing the whole society, drawing millions into debate and exposing all the basic rotten and oppressive nature of the existing social order and its fundamental assumptions. One defiant young woman, in the heat of pitched battle with the police, proudly responded, "It is not about a few trees, this struggle is about our souls!", to a journalist inquiring about what motivated the relentless surge of the protests.

On the surface it was the brutal attack by the riot police and the authorities at 5 o'clock in the morning on the 31st of May to evict 50-100 people peacefully protesting the planned demolition of Istanbul's Taksim Gezi Park that sparked the whole social uprising. However from behind the thick fog of cr-gas and crippling shots of high pressure water cannons and concussion grenades of the first day engagements, it became clear that a new and fresh and determined force, a young generation of rebels has emerged, increasingly impatient with and intolerant of the existing political and social reality in Turkey.

The depth and scope of the rebel forces arrayed against the regime of the AKP (the Justice and Development Party), which has been ruling since 2002, reveals the sharp intensification of the contradictions. The young people from universities and the shantytowns, middle class people from all walks of life, artists and intellectuals are united with those who have been recently dislocated from the countryside, demanding the resignation of the prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with the people who are outraged with the systematic islamization of the state and the public space and growing imposition of Islamic values and traditions and unrelenting promotion of religion-based morals. At the center and in the front ranks of this rebellion stand women who are furious about the encroachments on their bodies, lives and freedoms and the restrictions of abortion, and the government dictats about how many children a "patriotic," "good mother" should have. People who are outraged about the state sponsored efforts to erode or reject scientific truths like Darwin's theory of evolution are also part of the protests. The sympathizers of revolutionary groups and organizations fight alongside the people who oppose the deterioration of the environment and those who demand real freedom of speech, a stop to internet censorship and the arrests of journalists for even mild truth telling or criticism. Hence the slogan "Tayyip Resign!" loudly echoes between battle lines and barricades in different cities, representing a deep loathing of the AKP regime.

The AKP came to power cultivating an image of the "underdog" and promising a "just economic order" and development. Now the truth of this is clear in all its ugliness: an orgy of speculation, profiteering, and cronyism, all done with the help of the state: huge construction projects such as Istanbul Canal (a new artificial Bosporus), the Third Bridge or yet another "the biggest mosque ever" and many others. Not only are these projects aimed at enriching a handful of "pious AKP entrepreneurs," they are also ecological disasters that waste water resources, provoke land erosion and destruction of irreplaceable historic archeological treasures. An out-of-control mosque building program is masquerading as urban planning.

People are fed up with the regime's increasingly bellicose and arrogant swaggering in the region. They are glorifying, whitewashing and instrumentalizing the heritage of the Ottoman Empire. Foreign affairs minister Davutoglu's pseudo academic thesis about the importance of the Turkish state's "strategic depth" for governing the region in cahoots with the real masters of the region—the U.S. and European imperialists—represents their predatory aims and over-sized appetite. The fueling of sectarian reactionary civil war in Syria amply manifests this. And now they are coming to a cynical agreement with some Kurdish nationalist forces in order to chase after the reactionary regional ambitions of the Turkish ruling class and to stomp on the legitimate aspirations of the Kurdish people in the process.

Despite the public posturing of the prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with his dismissive tone laced with overt threats against the protesters, there are signs within his ruling party that a gnawing sense of being under siege is making itself felt. There is talk of breaking ranks with Erdogan's leadership in order to deal with the developing legitimacy crisis of the reign of the Islam-based traditionalist pro free-market AKP which has been in government for 11 years.

What Lies Underneath the Surface

For the past three decades giant changes have been sweeping Turkey as part of the quickened pace of "globalization" in the world as a whole. During this period capitalist development has intensified in Turkey, which has meant new capitalists who want their share of the state power and their right to a "fair share" in the loot. This same process of development has also led to dislocation of millions of peasants and subsistence farmers, driven to bankruptcy and pushed into the shantytowns or to migrate abroad. This process of displacement and upheaval has been reflected in culture, ideas and morals. One strong tendency has been nostalgia for traditional values and morals such as seen in "Arabesque" music. Women have in massive numbers been brought out of the house and forced to feed their family as low wage laborers. Yet these same women are the victims of this Islamic and feudal ideology and the yearning for traditional values and lifestyle. The much vaunted modernization of Turkey has gone hand-in-hand with increasing occurrence of degradation and brutalization of women even including horrific honor killings. This is the bloody secret of the "pious entrepreneurship" model that symbolizes so much of the consciously cultivated posture of the AKP machinery.

The AKP came into existence and was propelled into power as an expression of these drives and contradictions toward, on the one hand, an increased "modern capitalist development" and, on the other hand, the promotion of traditional values and religious ideology—its "politics of piety." On the one hand, the AKP represents the unashamed defense and practice of "free market" capitalism and exploitation, working hand-in-hand with imperialism, yet their claim to power, their ideological cohesion and their appeal to a section of the people is increasingly rooted in religious ideology (Islam) and its nostalgic yearning for a traditional way of life that is being undercut by the very workings of the world capitalist system that the AKP is salivating over.

In the world today, and especially in the Middle East and North Africa, these two conflicting but interdependent drives are shaping political events and posing reactionary alternatives, contending with each other, and fueling reactionary violence and manipulation. Aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, Somalia, the imperialist "war on terrorism," the ongoing confrontation with Islamic Republic of Iran, all of this is marked by this same dynamic. The so-called "Turkish Model" was touted, as recently as May 31, as an example of mitigating and harmonizing unbridled capitalist, imperialist fueled development with reactionary outmoded Islamic political regime. Many in the region and in Turkey believed that this gymnastic leg splits was the best possible option available. Three elections were won with this self-delusion and this model was being sold (or pushed down the throats) as the deadening, stifling final curtain of the Arab Spring.

The current explosion is the sudden surfacing of these insoluble contradictions.

The efforts to reconcile imperialist-fueled capitalist development and western bourgeois democracy with a "harmless" moderate dose of Islam cannot achieve its aims. Tayyip may not be Taliban or Bin Laden, but he too is both an agent and a product of these same two opposed tendencies that he cannot possibly control. And this is one of the reasons he is so uncontrollably arrogant in his speeches.

The other side of the same dream was that Turkey would go from being a feasting ground for foreign imperialism to taking a seat at the imperialists' own table: the hopes of joining the European Union. From the beginning of the Turkish Republic in 1923 the goal of reaching the level of the "West Civilization" has been the dream of all of the rulers in Turkey. The AKP promised to deliver what even Ataturk and the generals could not. Beyond and above the fact that this was self-delusional, why should the peoples of Turkey want to aspire to take part in the pillaging of others or be proud of being a "strategic partner" (actually cop and torturer) for world class marauders, to protect a system which puts billions of dollars in the hands of a handful while billions of people are degraded? Where international sex slave trade becomes a big industry, child labor persists and the environment sustains irreparable damage? Isn't the effort to resurrect the grandeur of the Ottoman Empire nothing but a dream of Turkey taking its coveted place in the world imperialist system?

The most important fruit of the social rebellion against AKP, its ideology, its heavy hand and its project of society is the emerging collective realization that a completely different, opposing society must be brought into being.

Fighting Our Way and Bringing Forth a Radically New Society

People in Taksim Square and increasing numbers around the country want to participate in determining the direction of the country. They want to make good use of their passions and their talents to contribute to create a better society. There is a growing sense of the need to be good caretakers of the planet and not sacrifice the earth for money grubbing. Women and men dream of a society where patriarchy, the oppression and degradation of women can be overcome through struggle. Where one nation no longer lords it over others. People yearn for genuine cooperation and community and to get out from under the dog-eat-dog competition and indifference characteristic of the capitalist and imperialist world.

All of what people are fighting for and in fact much, much more is possible in Turkey and in the whole world. It is possible through a communist revolution. As "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have, A Message, And A Call, From The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA" put it:

"Communism [is] a world where people work and struggle for the common good....Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings... Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world."

Without this vision, without a determined struggle to emancipate humanity from the life devouring social divisions and antagonisms, people's hopes and dreams for a different world, without exploitation and oppression, cannot be realized.

The conditions necessary to reach communism exist in the world today. Extremely advanced productive capacity exists and links together people all over the globe. But under the existing social system, this very capacity can only be used for the accumulation of ever greater private capital. And the greatest resource of all—the masses of people themselves—are held back from contributing to solving the needs of every one. Not only are unemployed workers and displaced farmers left idle, even those who have had the chance to gain important knowledge and skills are not allowed to use them in the service of the people. The condition and the oppression of women, of the half of human society, is a striking manifestation of the imprisonment of humanity.

The fundamental reason that society goes on and on this way is that the small minority who benefits from the existing setup, the exploiting classes, have the control of the state—the government, the army, the police, the bureaucracy. And the economic and political domination also is reflected in the ideas, culture, ethos, etc. which draw on systems, past and present, of exploitation and oppression and contribute to keeping the people enslaved.

So there has to be a revolution, a real revolution, if society is going to be transformed. By this we mean the overthrow and dismantlement of the existing state and its replacement by a radically new political power, a socialist state, in which the exploited in alliance with the middle class and professionals govern society with the leadership of a visionary vanguard party.

Such a socialist society could only exist as a "base area" for revolution in the region and the world.

Most importantly, a socialist society would be a transition from the society of today toward the future communist world. It could only exist if it is a lively, colorful society full of debate, struggle and experimentation. A society that would be a joy to live in.

But for the possibility and desire of revolution to actually lead to a successful revolution there has to be a revolution in theory and ideology. There has to be a section of people who consciously take up the revolutionary theory and the responsibility to lead the masses in seizing power and embarking on the process of transforming society. This is the importance of the New Synthesis of Bob Avakian: a re-envisioning and reinvigorating of communist revolution. He scientifically examines the history of proletarian revolution and contemporary society, and the new knowledge emerging from different fields of human activity. The result is a Marxism that is more scientifically grounded, more emancipatory and makes the revolutionary transformation of society more desirable and even more feasible.

A Glimpse into Such a Future

In broad strokes it is possible to see two major features of immediate revolutionary transformation that need to be at the heart and center of any genuine revolutionary programme. First, there is the whole spider web of connections to the world imperialist system that keep Turkey and similar societies economically, politically and culturally entrapped and dependent. A real revolution can not just try to tinker with these chains, or even worse, try to figure out how to somehow "use" this or that connection to the imperialist world system as some kind of leverage or advantage. The modern imperialist-centered tourism industry in Turkey, to take one clear example (or petroleum involving other countries in the region) is a major chain on the people and the whole society and most definitely not a potential vehicle for "national liberation."

The second immediate objective of the revolution is unleashing a whole process of social transformation which will sweep away the reactionary, patriarchal and backward social relations which continue to weigh so heavily on the masses of people and the whole society.

The fact of the matter is that these two major objectives can only be achieved through genuine, revolutionary, socialism.

The events at Avenue Bourgiba, Tahrir Square and now in Taksim Square and Gezi Park electrified the world, not only as focal points of resistance, but also as "free zones" full of lively debate over the direction of the movement and society as a whole. The daring to criticize anything and anyone that was felt to be standing in the way. Under the reactionary rule this kind of activity was met with police charges, thugs on camel back, television blackouts, and secret informers. In the socialist society of the future this kind of ferment will not only be "tolerated," it must be welcomed and fostered by the leaders of the society and its revolutionary institutions. Protest and mass upheaval, a spirit of daring to think, to re-evaluate, to criticize, will exist on a scale never seen in history and involve the masses of people normally "locked out" of intellectual and political life as well as the intellectuals and artists who will continue to have a crucial role to play in the conditions of the new society. The state power will protect the rights of the people to carry out these kinds of struggles. To be clear, opposition to socialism can be expressed as long as these opponents do not try to actually overthrow the system by illegal means.

Avakian's vision of socialism is one where controversy, dissent, struggle over right and wrong, and mass debate are woven into the fabric of the society, not the exception. Resources (publications, television stations, meeting halls and so forth) must be made available so that these rights are real and meaningful, unlike the bourgeois democracy where money, connections and ownership empties "free speech" of most of its meaning. This orientation is not a pious wish to be cast aside at the first difficulty. In the future socialist societies there will certainly be vicious enemies at home and abroad that will do everything to bring back the reactionary system, but all-too-often the realities of such enemies and the need to combat them has been seen as a reason to resort to heavy-handed methods and to not rely on and bring forward the masses of people.

The new socialist societies of the 21st century must be marked by an unprecedented expansion of individual rights throughout the population. The state itself will be qualitatively different from currently existing states in that it will be a result of the revolution of the masses, but this will not change the fact that there will still be contradictions between the state and the people as long as it is still necessary to have a state at all. The democracy that will exist and the guarantee of individual rights will be part of the struggle to keep the social transformation moving forward and will create more favorable conditions for the advance of the revolution.

Take, for example, the important question of the fight for a scientific world outlook and opposition to religious outlooks that weigh heavily on the thinking of the masses. In basically all of countries in the region including Turkey and across the globe as well, whether by law or just the weight of family and tradition, the media, and sometimes thugs, people are not encouraged to explore and debate alternative outlooks, and those who don't believe are often cowed into silence. There must be a strict separation between religion and the state. The educational system must treat religion according to the same scientific standard used to examine all other social phenomena. There will be no state-imposed official ideology, including the ideology of communism.

A radically different socialist society will handle the discussion over religion much differently. We know that for a long time there will be people who reject the scientific world view of communism and cling to religion. Freedom of religion will be respected and no one will be pressured to pretend to be something they are not. On the other hand, the communists will not back away from the struggle over religion and world outlook more generally, because it will be impossible to achieve a communist society until people look at the world as it actually is and on that basis transform it. This struggle in the sphere of thinking between believers and revolutionary communists can be a real and exciting "school" through which millions can participate, learn and transform.

Sound Familiar?

Many people say, the communist revolution has been tried and it was a failure in the Soviet Union and Mao's China. It is true that these socialist revolutions were ultimately defeated, but to call these revolutions "tyranny" or a "nightmare" is a vile slander. It is worth considering who it is that most considers these socialist states a disaster: the very representatives of the same exploiting classes that were overthrown by these revolutions! The actual fact is that these revolutions put power in the hands of the masses for the first time in history and dared to undertake and realize never before seen social transformations. It is not surprising that these initial efforts contained shortcomings and errors, some of which were serious in both implementation and conception.

Some people argue that the communist revolution may succeed in meeting the material needs of the people but at the unacceptable price of forfeiting freedom and individuality. But despite real errors, this is not a fair characterization of those societies. More importantly, today Avakian's new synthesis offers a different and more emancipatory way of understanding and leading the revolutionary transformation. In the light of this new understanding it is important to grasp that while revolution must have as its center the millions of downtrodden and oppressed, the goal of the proletarian revolution is not revenge, but the emancipation of all humanity.


The upsurge in Turkey is closely linked to the winds of hope and change that have been sweeping through the region and often called the Arab Spring. While this had been a most necessary breath of fresh air and unleashed great enthusiasm, even bringing the fall of some regimes, these movements have not yet led to real revolution.

The same conditions, the same fault lines and contradictions, can also, in the absence of a real revolutionary alternative, lead to horrors as well. Witness the bloodbath in Syria in which two reactionary sides are abusing and misusing the masses of people.

A great and tremendous moment is being played in the history of Turkey. It requires a real revolution in thinking as well, if the aspirations of the people are to be fulfilled. We have the great advantage that more rigorously scientific and revolutionary understanding exists in the new synthesis that can serve as a theoretical foundation for initiating and carrying through a new process of communist revolution.

At this moment it is crucial that a determined struggle must be waged so that the present movement continues to advance and forces the government to back down in the face of the people's just demands. The forces on the side of the people must strive to unite their ranks closely and solidly against this regime and the rulers of this system, while understanding clearly that the known reactionary forces and their political symbols such the blood-soaked flag of the Turkish state cannot possibly aid those who are fighting the police and the hated government of the same state. We cannot defeat our oppressors while holding up their flag or defending their outlook. What it stands for must be understood and it must be rejected.

It is a liberating feature of this movement that it has brought into the open many burning issues of the conditions of society and the world to debate and struggle and in doing so brought together a broad spectrum of people from all walks of life. It is vitally important to reach out and win over a lot more forces from broad sections of the people, including from among the proletarian and downtrodden social groups. The AKP and other reactionaries cannot be allowed to continue to fool and mislead many of them against this movement and the future it must be fighting for.

There are many who yearn for revolutionary change, many dream of revolution, again. And others are just beginning to realize why it is necessary. It is decisively important to debate, struggle over and clarify our thinking about how to make revolution and emancipate humanity. To draw correct lessons from past revolutions, to develop clear strategic conceptions about how to initiate and carry through revolution in today's world towards human emancipation worldwide is a task that cannot be put off or belittled. Old tired run-of-the-mill arguments for communism will no longer suffice. Engaging with Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism is essential for all those who desire to arm themselves theoretically and politically to prepare the ground and the forces for the revolution that cries out to be made.

Step forward, Turkey and the whole world needs to be transformed through revolution!


Ishak Baran, June 15, 2013

Supporter of Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism and a veteran participant of the Maoist movement in Turkey.

Distributed by the Revolutionary Communist Manifesto Group (Europe) rcmanifestogroup@yahoo.co.uk

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