Turkey gets there! Well, nearly "¦

Esen Uslu of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) reports on the reaction of Turkish workers and capitalists to negotiations on European Union membership

If you visit Turkey and stop at some tourist trap for a famous 'Turkish' coffee (for some it is known as Greek coffee, but let's leave that aside), you might try your luck with a fortune-teller who predicts your future by examining the residue at the bottom of your cup. The fortune she (always a woman!) tells inevitably ends with a caveat: be it wealth, health or a godsend lover, whatever lies in store will be realised, as the saying goes, "by the third go". Why bother your fortune-teller by asking for the specific details? You have already heard that something very good will happen to you, so just be patient and wait, for you are sure to be rewarded with a happy outcome. So it is with the working class of Turkey. Once more we are told that Turkey has passed a new and important stage in its 40-odd-year saga of trying to become a member of the European Union. The good fortune of full EU membership is awaiting us - eventually. As things stand, a further period of discussions between the EU and Turkey (lasting between 10 and 20 years) and many difficult reforms are required before the membership qualities of Turkey are finally assessed. And we are told it will be an 'open-ended' negotiation: that is, full membership may not be on offer at the end of it all. What the EU fortune-tellers predict is that old familiar story: we will definitely make it "by the third go"! Why should the working class concern itself with the nitty-gritty? Why should we question our masters, in Turkey and abroad, about their intentions? What awaits us is a far better lot than what the pseudo-democratic, demagogic politicians and military oppressors have delivered up to now. Unhappy facts However, the working class is not happy at all. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLF), the political education wing of the Party of Democratic Socialism of Germany, and the Food Workers Union (GIDA-IS), which is affiliated to DISK (Revolutionary Trade Unions Confederation), jointly arranged for an opinion survey to be conducted among 900 workers (there is no English version available, but for the results in Turkish see www.sendikanet.org/tr/modules/news/article.php?storyid=783target=_self). While it is always advisable to treat such surveys with caution, some of the findings are indicative of the discontent of the working class with the accession procedure. Of the surveyed workers, 44% believe that EU membership would be positive for Turkey and support the application. While 41% are against EU membership, a substantial 15% are undecided. Let us put these figures in perspective. A recent Eurobarometer survey put support for EU membership amongst the population as a whole much higher despite a recent fall: "Compared with the 2004 results, the ratio of those stating that membership would be a 'good thing' has declined in Turkey. Fifty-nine percent (62% in 2004) of the Turkish public agreed that membership of the EU would be a 'good thing', while 20% (12% in 2004) indicated the opposite" (Eurobarometer No63, spring 2005, p5). Meanwhile, Transatlantic Trends (publication of the US Marshall Fund) states: "While a large majority of Turks (73%) agree that Turkey's membership of the EU would be good for Turkey in economic terms, the percentage of those who view membership of the EU as a good thing has declined from 73% in 2004 to 63% in 2005" ('Key findings 2005' Transatlantic Trends www.transatlantictrends.org/doc/TTKeyFindings2005.pdf). If, then, we compare the RLF survey with the above findings, we may say that workers' support for EU membership is substantially lower than that of the general public. The RLF survey also makes some interesting observations in relation to expectations and concerns. For those workers in support of membership as a positive thing, 'expectations' are set out as follows: improved democracy and human rights - 93%; better social rights - 92%; economic development - 80%; improved trade union rights - 76%; tackling unemployment - 64%; and reduction of poverty - 60%. For those against EU membership, 'concerns' are: increasing economic and political dependence - 89%; adverse effects on agriculture - 80%; losing Cyprus - 74%; worsening economy - 72 %, adverse effects on industry - 61%; and dividing the country on the basis of ethnicity - 60%. Amongst the surveyed workers 39% think that EU membership would positively affect them personally, while 24% think that it would adversely affect them. And 39% believe that it would not affect them at all. For those who believe they would be affected positively, expectations are ranked as follows: improved social rights - 93%; more political rights - 82%; better rights for trade union organisation and participation in union activity - 72%. For those who believe that membership will adversely affect them, their concerns are: job loss - 80%; reduced wages - 69%; losing social rights - 67%. However, the most striking finding is that the proportion of workers who believe that Turkey would eventually become a member of the EU is merely 24%. Sixty-three percent do not believe it will ever happen. Even 45% of those who regard EU membership as a positive thing do not actually believe it will be achieved (the figure is 85% among those opposed). The preliminary report on the findings of RLF survey reaches the following conclusion: "The most important expectation of those who view EU membership positively is improving democracy and human rights. This expectation is based on the idea that European democracy is more advanced than Turkish democracy. On the other hand, despite the decline in working standards and social rights in the EU countries, expectations on social rights are still very important for Turkish workers. "However, the main problems of wage workers in the EU countries, such as increasing unemployment and declining wages, have also affected workers in Turkey, and concerns about unemployment and declining wages following EU membership have become the primary ground for opposition to it. Moreover, adverse developments in the economies of EU member-countries have caused a decline in the expectation that EU membership would bring economic prosperity." Finance capital content While workers see EU membership - or at least the process of harmonisation of legislation - as a way of improving human rights and democracy, on the bosses' front things are viewed quite differently. Turkey's membership is supported not only by the Justice and Development Party government. The parties that took part in the previous national coalition government, forged under the veiled 'guidance' of the army top brass, are also staunch supporters. Although the Nationalist Action Party, the tail-end of the notorious 'Grey Wolves', organised a rally against membership on the eve of the October 3 EU talks, it was a member of that coalition government and wholeheartedly supported the harmonisation process. The Republican Peoples Party, which is a member of the Socialist International, also supports EU membership as a basic tenet of its programme. Although it vehemently opposes the handling of the negotiations by the present government and its inability to reject 'privileged partner' status, it supports full EU membership. However, the euphoria after the December 17 2004 decision to start negotiations with Turkey has been replaced by increasing dismay, as the EU was plunged into crisis over its constitution and budget and Turkey became the scapegoat of Europhobes and obstructionists. As a response, the influential organisation of Turkish finance capital, the Association of Turkish Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSIAD), has stepped up its campaigning for membership. Since this spring it has organised many activities to ensure the momentum is carried forward. Finally it convened its Supreme Consultative Council, a rarely used showcase, on September 30 - that is, just before the start of negotiations. The chair of the Consultative Council, the president of the Koc Group, addressed the assembled crème de la crème of the bourgeoisie of Turkey. He dismissed the 'no' camp out of hand and stressed three points: "1. Turkey's accession to EU membership is a marathon: it requires steadfastness, perseverance and fortitude. 2. The steps taken on this long road are primarily the measures required to change the fate of this country, and these steps have also facilitated harmonisation with the EU. 3. Crises are inevitable elements of this process, and the long-term interests of the parties are fundamental to resolving them." The same emphasis could be seen in the speech of the president of the executive board of TUSIAD, who is the boss of the other twin of Turkish finance capital, the Sabanci Group: "The record-breaking growth in the economy achieved in 2003 and 2004 has not made a positive impact on employment. The national economy has focused on increased productivity in this period and the problems arising from the revaluation of the new Turkish lira were partially addressed. "Recent employment figures have shown the creation of more than 900,000 jobs this year. However, the numbers of new participants to the workforce have remained the same. That means, while the economy has started to build up employment, we were unable to attain the level where unemployment figures are reduced in absolute terms. This can only be achieved by a rapid increase in new investment "¦ This must be attained through the creation of a climate suitable for investment in order to assist competitiveness in world markets." Then he listed the demands of finance capital: reductions in fuel, consumption and corporate taxation; a clampdown on the untaxed black economy sectors; reduction in electricity prices; expansion of the internal market through privatisation; subsidies and grants to assist regional development; cuts in the state budget, especially on social security; reform of public governance. He went on to stress the particular importance of two international institutions in achieving this wish list: "One of the two anchors that aids economy stability is our relationship with the IMF "¦ Our relationship with the European Union is not only the second important anchor for our economy in the short and medium term, but it is also crucially important for the future of our country." Turkey's aim is full membership, he said, and nothing less is acceptable. He confirmed that the government's non-negotiable 'red line' - flatly refusing the 'privileged partnership' on offer - is totally in accordance with the wishes of finance capital. He also called for the EU to have greater appeal and gravitational power by the time Turkey is ready for membership: it should be on the road to economic growth and global competitiveness; it should improve its political integrity and maturity by renouncing the populist, introvert, xenophobic and racist political trends that are harming European democracy; it should deepen the process of reform in foreign policy, budgetary and agricultural policies; it should rid its institutional system of uncertainties following the constitution referenda; etc. Horse trading and brinkmanship The actual negotiations before October 3 have emphasised the importance of timing and follow-up in politics. The Eurobarometer survey shows that 52% of EU citizens are against Turkey joining the union. Crucially, citizens of the EU 15 are only 32% in favour. While a narrow majority in Britain is in favour, with 45% for and 37 % against, opposition is 74% in Germany, 72% in Luxembourg and 70% in France and Greece. In Austria, opponents of Turkey's membership outnumber supporters by a massive 80% to 10% (The Times July 19). Armed with such figures, the Austrian finance minister called for entry talks to be suspended. The British government did the bidding of international finance capital and got down to some hard bargaining with the Greek Cypriots, Greece and Austria - the arch-opponent of Turkish admission. Greek and Greek Cypriot opposition was quickly tempered by a carrot - the assurance that a Turkey strictly bound within the EU framework would be far better for them then a loose cannon; and a stick - recognising Turkish-occupied north Cyprus is a possibility unless the Greek side acquiesces. However, the Austrian opposition went down to the wire despite the support for British efforts from the US administration. At one point the US became so concerned that it intervened in EU affairs directly, with secretary of state Condoleezza Rice involved in frantic telephone activity. In the end Austria dropped its insistence on 'privileged partnership' for Turkey in exchange for the removal of EU objections to entry talks with Croatia. These objections had been based on the non-cooperation of Croatia with the UN war crimes tribunals and the harbouring of suspected war criminals, but the impasse was finally broken by Carla del Ponte, the UN chief war crimes prosecutor, who conveniently reported that Croatia was now cooperating. Legal communist opposition While this nail-biting drama was being played out in bourgeois circles, the legal communists of Turkey stepped up their opposition to Turkey's membership. On October 2 they organised a rally in Istanbul, addressed by their president. He proclaimed: "Tomorrow the most despicable representatives of a cruel and treacherous class will sit at a table with the imperialists and they will concede to the ever increasing appetite of the international monopolies, when they accept the new concessions demanded by Bonn, Paris and London. What we must do here and now is tarnish their image, remove their gloss in the eyes of the working classes of Turkey. And we shall. "Who are we? We are the patriots. Some of us are members of the Communist Party. Some of us struggle in the ranks of the Patriotic Front. Our common point is being anti-imperialist, accepting working class patriotism "¦ We are also internationalists "¦ We will never accept the supremacy of one nation over another "¦ "A demonstration was to be held today in Diyarbakir. But it was postponed by the governorship. The demonstration was in support of EU membership "¦ What a shame that thousands of Kurdish poor were to have taken part. They delude themselves that liberation will come through the EU. What a shame." This social-patriotic jumble requires no further comment. The publications of the legal communists and their entire activity are based on the same nonsense. However, despite their claim of being unprecedented and unique, the 'patriotic internationalists' of the legal CPT are not following an original political line. They are, like many other leftwing organisations, tailing the increased Turkish nationalist fervour among the petty bourgeoisie in the face of recently rekindled activities of Kurdish nationalists and the perceived humiliation of the Turkish state at the hands of the EU imperialists. They are incapable of understanding that, unless the working class is conscious enough to stand against the Turkish state as much as it stands against any other bourgeois state, including the EU, all the anti-imperialist rhetoric in the world will mean precisely nothing. And unless an organisation that dares call itself communist flushes out the mish-mash of chauvinist and leftist ideas from its ranks, it will never be able to assist the working class in attaining such a high level of consciousness.