Turkey: class struggle erupts

ON SUNDAY March 12, the 14th anniversary of the infamous military coup of 1971, a gecekondu (built overnight) shanty town area of Istanbul, which has been mainly occupied by Alevi immigrants from various regions of Anatolia, was the target of a concerted state-terrorist attack.

According to eye-witness reports, three men and a woman opened fire into an Alevi community centre, four coffee shops and a patisserie with automatic assault weapons. The hit-team struck with military precision, leaving behind three dead and scores of wounded. Later the taxi was found with the owner-driver’s body locked in the boot with his throat slit.

Two so-called islamic fundamentalist illegal organisations, which have emerged recently, have claimed responsibility for the attack. Their semi-legal press has written, “We will make these districts resemble Sivas.” This refers to a previous attack on the Alevi community during their annual ceremonies in Sivas, where over thirty people burnt to death in a hotel.

Immediately after the Istanbul attack thousands of Alevi workers gathered around the community centre and began to protest against the inaction and silent collaboration of the police, who did nothing during and after the attack. Many more thousands from various districts of Istanbul began to gather in the area. Police reinforcements were brought in, but this did not diminish the resolve of the people and small skirmishes developed.

Towards Monday morning more commando units were sent in. The uneasy tension between the massed protesters and police and army units was broken when the police attacked using firearms. Altogether now at least twenty-six people have been killed in street battles and over three hundred injured. Partial curfew was declared in the area and all inward bound traffic stopped.

During Monday various bourgeois politicians - including social-democrat leader Bülent Ecevit, the conqueror of Northern Cyprus - tried to visit the area to invite massed Alevis, youth activists and striking workers to come to their senses (!) and to leave the area calmly. These attempts met with contempt and the politicians were sent back with Molotov cocktails.

There were smaller demonstrations in many shanty towns of Istanbul during Monday. A large protest was held in Ankara on Tuesday which the police attacked when it moved towards the National Assembly, leaving many wounded.

Many agree that Sunday’s attack aimed at intensifying conflict between Alevis and Sunnis. However there is no consensus on the purpose of such a provocation. The right wing of the liberal bourgeoisie located it as a new attempt to undermine the foundations of the present coalition government. Many left liberals were preaching unity of Sunnis and Alevis in the face of a danger which may split society into two.

The working class gave its verdict by its actions: it mobilised and fought against the state’s armed forces. Its militant action showed that so-called islamic fundamentalism would be nothing but a pipe-dream in Turkey if the state machinery did not actively support, organise and defend it. What has erupted in Istanbul was not “street violence”, as claimed by The Guardian, but highly political, albeit spontaneous, class struggle against the bourgeois state. This incident was yet another living proof of the age old slogan, “The only way to democracy is through revolution”.

Kemal Osman