Sleepless in Istanbul III

Sleepless in Istanbul III

More brief notes, quotes and interviews from inside the current uprising in Turkey from Istanbul.

The situation has dramatically escalated in the last 24 hours. I am sure that no one reading this needs me to inform them of that, turn on your television, check your twitter account. But I simply can't emphasise enough how profoundly the atmosphere has shifted in light of these events, things have entered a new phase. Time is very limited, so I shall therefore briefly recount the events I witnessed with a few observations and impressions.

In the days and nights following Tuesday 11 June, the situation around Gezi Park was largely calm. Each night there were mass mobilisations around Taksim square as well as around the old police station in the Gazi quarter. Yet all the while this was coupled with a creeping build up of police forces near the park. With Erdoğan’s ultimatum to evacuate the park by June 16 concerns were high every night that the government would attack, yet day after day all remained calm. Then they attacked. On Saturday evening while trying to write another post I was alerted via SMS and Twitter that police had swamped the park in a surprise attack, the news was met all around with the a now familiar sound; people everywhere banging together pots and pans. With little further information I ran toward Taksim square via Sıraselviler Caddesi. Finding the road blocked by riot police and guarded with a water cannon I moved towards Istiklal Cd, then further to Tarlabaşı Bulvarı, at each entry point towards the park I was met with the same site; phalanx of riot police, water cannons and armoured vehicles.

Yet, everywhere I was also met with the sight of thousands upon thousands of people flooding the streets, chanting and singing, raising fists and 'v' signs. I moved back towards Istiklal which was by that point tightly packed with people. The police began firing tear gas and dowsing the crowds with high pressured water. The effect was, more than anything I have yet seen, both horrific and inspiring. Under each attack people tried to move forward, throwing back gas canisters, before finally having to retreat their skin and faces burning, but each time this occurred new crowds of people stepped forward to fill their place. This rhythm continued along Istiklal for perhaps an hour, perhaps more, I have stopped making any real attempt to document the times of attacks so generalised are they. Eventually under heavy water cannon fire and use of percussion grenades the crowd was pushed back from the Taksim square side Istiklal Cd.

By this point I had, quite accidentally, ended up very close to the front. The force and speed with which the police moved forward took me completely off guard; It was at this point that I was first hit by the water cannon, which struck me, luckily, in the middle of my back pack. The force of the water cannon very nearly knocked me flat on the ground and trying to run up Meselik Sq I again found myself at the back, turning around I could see lines of police meters behind marching up. There appears to be a much greater presence of very large policemen in full riot gear. The gas was so heavy and the combined power of percussion grenades and water cannon fire so powerful and terrifying that I genuinely feared there would be a stampede. Running through the crowds towards Sıraselviler Cd the crowd was met by another heavy line of advancing police, they were extremely close and firing gas and percussion grenades directly into the crowd. A crowd in that moment consisting of screaming running people, men and women from the very young to the very old. Throughout this whole experience I was profoundly afraid. Words simply escape me in expressing the level of terror.

Retreated along the length of Sıraselviler Cd, everywhere people were building barricades and moving steadily forward towards Taksim. The water from the water cannons induced a pronounced burning sensation, though I did not experience any actual corrosion or the kind of pain widely reported by others effected (though I assume the composition of chemicals in different water cannons varies and the effects vary based on exposure). After showering, crying and changing my clothes at a friends apartment I spent most of the evening around Sıraselviler Caddesi. I wanted initially to try to move West and then North towards Harbiye to see the crowds that had gathered from those marching in from Gazi and other areas, but once outside again that seemed recklessly stupid, so I stayed in the area.

The streets all around were again packed with people building barricades and trying to push forwards towards the square. I have two observations on this, first the tactics being used by the crowds were offensive but almost entirely non-violent, some stones were thrown, but for the most part people proceeded by erecting barricades moving forward towards the square, throwing back tear gas canisters, then retreating under water cannon and volleys of tear gas, to be replaced by more crowds of people. I was struck by what I can only describe as the incredible bravery of those around me, meeting each volley of gas and the aftermath of each percussion grenade and water cannon blast with cheers and applaud, chanting and singing. This process continued long into the night, I tried to keep my distance from the front, but I saw innumerable people being carried back suffering gas inhalation and physical injuries. Scenes like this played out across the city. Major roads were blockaded, many hundreds of thousands flooded over the Bosporus and from the suburbs of Istanbul towards the centre. All the while reports flooded in of increasing state terror, attacks on hospitals and the international hotels functioning as clinics, mass arrests and beatings.

In the calmer days between Wednesday and Saturday I have been attempting to set up some interviews. Today, that is Sunday 16th June, I interviewed a non-party aligned Kurdish journalist. I shall attempt to write up this interview in the coming days. Even as I left for the interview at around 15:00 pm people were already gathering in the streets and during the interview clashes began again nearby along Istiklal Cd. As I returned along Sıraselviler Cd huge long lines of people were tearing up the paving stones, passing them along in great lines, building barricades. I returned to my friends apartment and tried again to write a post, but massive rioting broke out again along the street. Reports, of mass mobilisations across the city are coming in, along with increasingly horrific reports of state terror. Mass arrests and AKP gangs attacking neighbourhoods with knives, reports of the military being mobilised. I wish I could write more about all of this, particularly the events of this evening, I wish I could draw a clearer analysis on events and cross reference sources, but at the moment there just isn’t the time. I shall try to edit this post again tomorrow to improve the content.

Tomorrow, Monday 17 June there will be a 24 hour general strike and yet another new phase in the situation is likely to unfold. Every day everyone I speak to asks me whether people outside know what is going on here, they ask me whether people know what they are doing. I don’t know what those abroad can do, I do not know what the best tactics to be used are. But I do know that the sight of solidarity demonstrations across Europe, the sight of Brazilian protesters raising banners and slogans in solidarity with Turkey do filter through and they embolden and enliven peoples spirit of resistence. So keep it up, do more, do it better. I don’t know what to write anymore but I do know I need to go to sleep.

Posted By

Dominic.
Jun 16 2013 23:23

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MonsieurPlume
Jun 17 2013 06:18

thanks for taking the time to write these and keeping the rest of us updated on what's going on, don't really know what else to say but good luck.

Chilli Sauce
Jun 17 2013 07:27

Yeah, stay safe comrade. Thanks again for the write-ups, they're really good.

Quote:
Tomorrow, Monday 17 June there will be a 24 hour general strike and yet another new phase in the situation is likely to unfold.

I hadn't heard about this?

And I also think we need to be careful about using the term general strike. I know the last general strike was general in the sense that two union federations called out their members. At the absolute most, it was maybe 2% of the Turkish working class who were out--not very general at all I'm afraid.

Devrim
Jun 17 2013 08:31

There is a 'general strike' today called by KESK, DİSK, and the associations. Also some of the Istanbul branches of the main union confederation are calling for a strike. http://www.kizilbayrak.net/ana-sayfa/sinif/haber/tuerk-ise-grev-cagrisi/

As to what a general strike is, I think that people in the English speaking world have this image of 1926 or whatever. Even then I suppose there was not 100% of the workforce on strike. 'General strikes' in European countries are often not general if you see what I mean.

Devrim

Chilli Sauce
Jun 17 2013 09:05

I hear you Devrim. What would interest me is if there was some sort of grassroots mobilization. I remember that Occupy tried to pull of that May Day general strike. To be honest, at no point did I think they would ever realistically pull that off, but the callout for it and the organisation that went into it was truly a bottom-up affair.

With Turkey, on the other hand, I do think there's the potential to have pull off a much wider general strike. Like I've said before, in my workplace when we thought there was going to be callout for wildcat strikes in the private sector, a majority of my workplace was prepared to get involved. And while the trade unions we spoke to were surprisingly supportive if we did want to strike, without any sort of legal protection and outside of a wider strike wave, the confidence was understandably not there.

If some activists were to put out a callout for co-ordinated wildcats and could offer some structures for co-ordination and support, well, like I said, I think there's real potential.

Devrim
Jun 17 2013 09:42
Quote:
I remember that Occupy tried to pull of that May Day general strike. To be honest, at no point did I think they would ever realistically pull that off, but the callout for it and the organisation that went into it was truly a bottom-up affair.

There have been calls for general strikes on the social media since nearly the beginning of the whole thing. I don't think though that this sort of call out has its desired effect. Basically, young people and the left can not force the 'mass worker' part of the working class to go on strike. Yes, I think that it can increase awareness of the need for strikes, but you can't just sit down at the keyboard, and call the working class out.

There was an event in Turkey a few years ago in a place called Tuzla where the left tried to force workers on strike without even consulting them. Ask people about the details. It was horrible.

Was the call for a strike during Seattle occupy a 'truly bottom up affair' from the people involved in occupy or from workplaces? I suspect the later.

Quote:
With Turkey, on the other hand, I do think there's the potential to have pull off a much wider general strike.

Yes, I think there is. Here we start to get into all the 'general strike' vs 'mass strike' argument, but I don't want to get into that now.

Quote:
Like I've said before, in my workplace when we thought there was going to be callout for wildcat strikes in the private sector, a majority of my workplace was prepared to get involved.

A call-out for wildcat strikes in the private sector from whom? To do that you would need an organisation on the shop floor in workplaces that just doesn't exist.

Quote:
And while the trade unions we spoke to were surprisingly supportive if we did want to strike, without any sort of legal protection and outside of a wider strike wave, the confidence was understandably not there.

Which puts you in the same situation as other workers who may want to strike at the moment, but don't feel the confidence too, following the unions.

This is not a personally criticism. It is merely a statement of what the reality is. Workers do not have the confidence, organisation, or experience at the moment to do that, and what they are left with is following the unions.

I think that sort of confidence, organisation, and experience can only be built through struggle, and it doesn't emerge near the start of a struggle.

I think that there is a possibility of a strike wave developing in Turkey now. There is the metal workers strike coming, and there are some metal workers involved in small strikes, 'independent' of the main events, at the moment. How it develops remains to be seen.

Quote:
If some activists were to put out a callout for co-ordinated wildcats and could offer some structures for co-ordination and support, well, like I said, I think there's real potential.

Again which activists? The people who need to be brought into a struggle are the large workplaces. Only a huge amount of these sort of places on strike will create the confidence necessary for small workplaces such as yours to join them. The 'activists' of this movement do not have the 'structures for co-ordination and support' in these workplaces.

Sorry if that seems a bit rambling.

Devrim

Leo
Jun 17 2013 13:31
Quote:
Also some of the Istanbul branches of the main union confederation are calling for a strike

No, all of the Istanbul branches, not some. This might well prove to be much bigger than DISK, KESK etc. declaring one day general strikes - something like this is unseen in the last 20 years.

Devrim
Jun 17 2013 13:38

The numbers they were quoting on CNN Türk were 800,000.

Devrim

Jacques Roux
Jun 17 2013 14:09

Every resourceful Nadir.org is translating real time info from Turkey:

http://turkishspring.nadir.org/

Leo
Jun 17 2013 17:24
Quote:
The numbers they were quoting on CNN Türk were 800,000.

Which is roughly the number of people estimated to be members of all these unions. However, TMMOB has 400,000 members (engineers and architects have to be members), most of whom certainly won't be on strike.

From what I hear, today's "strike" - which was actually called "not working" rather than a strike, was much smaller compared to the one on the 5th of June.

Devrim
Jun 17 2013 17:37
Leo wrote:
Quote:
The numbers they were quoting on CNN Türk were 800,000.

Which is roughly the number of people estimated to be members of all these unions. However, TMMOB has 400,000 members (engineers and architects have to be members), most of whom certainly won't be on strike.

It is difficult to say. The numbers that they claim as members would be higher than 800,000. Of the top of my head, I would guess that together they claim well over a million KESK 250,00, DİSK I haber Gerard them claim over 400,00, TTMOB over 400,000, doctors 75,000).

So where did CNN get this figure? I will look at the papers tomorrow, but I don't really hope for much more accuracy.

Devrim

Ramona
Jun 17 2013 18:06

Thanks again for these updates Dominic!

Chilli Sauce
Jun 17 2013 19:37
Quote:
Yes, I think that it can increase awareness of the need for strikes, but you can't just sit down at the keyboard, and call the working class out.

Well it would obviously take a lot more than an online callout and of course you're right that it needs actual organisation, but the impression I get is that if there were actual meetings called, leafletting campaigns outside workplaces, and even some social media then things could develop.

I don't know the situation in Istanbul, but in Ankara it doesn't seem that there are any organisations oriented to promoting and supporting that sort of shopfloor action. It might be too late to build them, but if I spoke Turkish and knew a critical mass of liked-minded folks, I don't think it'd be massively hard to begin promoting the sort of public meetings that could begin to build for such actions.

Steven.
Jun 17 2013 21:13
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Quote:
Yes, I think that it can increase awareness of the need for strikes, but you can't just sit down at the keyboard, and call the working class out.

Well it would obviously take a lot more than an online callout and of course you're right that it needs actual organisation, but the impression I get is that if there were actual meetings called, leafletting campaigns outside workplaces, and even some social media then things could develop.

I don't know the situation in Istanbul, but in Ankara it doesn't seem that there are any organisations oriented to promoting and supporting that sort of shopfloor action. It might be too late to build them, but if I spoke Turkish and knew a critical mass of liked-minded folks, I don't think it'd be massively hard to begin promoting the sort of public meetings that could begin to build for such actions.

I think the point Devrim is making is pretty much correct, that regardless of activists going in leafleting workplaces or having public meetings, there needs to be the confidence and organisation within workplaces themselves already. And this is what seems lacking - in Turkey as just about everywhere else unfortunately

Leo
Jun 17 2013 22:57
Quote:
DİSK I haber Gerard them claim over 400,00,

Well, DISK claims 400,000 but it is ridiculously high. At the beginning, they admitted to having 150,000, now everyone is saying they merely have 100,000.

So, 240,000 KESK, 90,000 TTB, 400,000 TMMOB, 100,000 DISK and 20,000 TDHB which makes something like 850,000.

Devrim
Jun 18 2013 08:22
Devrim wrote:
DİSK I haber Gerard them claim over 400,00,

That is a terribly typed sentence.I meant to say I have heard them claim over 400,000. Considering I got both the number and the verb wrong it is pretty amazing that you understood it at all.I will try not to type on the phone when tired in future.

Leo wrote:
Well, DISK claims 400,000 but it is ridiculously high. At the beginning, they admitted to having 150,000, now everyone is saying they merely have 100,000.

I have seen reports in newspapers today putting the joint membership of DİSK and KESK at 330,000. If KESK is about a quarter of a million (the usual figures are put at 240,000-250,000) what does that make DİSK? Historically they have claimed around 320,000. At the start of these events I heard Beko talking about 150,000, but I understood that to be not members, but people they could pull out. The highest I saw was over 400,000, which I think we are agreed is unbelievable.

It seems it is not only Tayip who has problems with numbers.

Leo wrote:
So, 240,000 KESK, 90,000 TTB, 400,000 TMMOB, 100,000 DISK and 20,000 TDHB which makes something like 850,000.

Which sort of works out. Except that everybody (presumably even CNN Türk journalists) knows that TMMOB are not actually striking. Is this really how it is done? Does this figure represent the ultimate in lazy journalism? Is duran adam really more important than accurate reporting. Personally, I thought that a Doğan group company would be trying to give a lower figure.

I have heard different things from different sources though. I have spoken on Skype to people who have said in the hospitals it is pretty good, with non-unionised workers also on strike. Then I have spoken to people who have said exactly the opposite.

It would be interesting to know the real figure for both days.

Devrim

Devrim
Jun 18 2013 08:27
Steven. wrote:
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Well it would obviously take a lot more than an online callout and of course you're right that it needs actual organisation, but the impression I get is that if there were actual meetings called, leafletting campaigns outside workplaces, and even some social media then things could develop.

I don't know the situation in Istanbul, but in Ankara it doesn't seem that there are any organisations oriented to promoting and supporting that sort of shopfloor action. It might be too late to build them, but if I spoke Turkish and knew a critical mass of liked-minded folks, I don't think it'd be massively hard to begin promoting the sort of public meetings that could begin to build for such actions.

I think the point Devrim is making is pretty much correct, that regardless of activists going in leafleting workplaces or having public meetings, there needs to be the confidence and organisation within workplaces themselves already. And this is what seems lacking - in Turkey as just about everywhere else unfortunately

If what you were saying were true, Chilli, we would expect that SolFed had done all this during recent Post Office strikes in the UK, and now has this level of organisation on the shop floor in the Post Office. I don't think it has.

Steven is 100% right when he says that "there needs to be the confidence and organisation within workplaces themselves already. And this is what seems lacking - in Turkey as just about everywhere else unfortunately". The situation within the class is not going to be changed by a few activists running about.

Devrim

Chilli Sauce
Jun 18 2013 08:50
Quote:
If what you were saying were true, Chilli, we would expect that SolFed had done all this during recent Post Office strikes in the UK, and now has this level of organisation on the shop floor in the Post Office. I don't think it has.

I don't know if I totally understand the point that you're making here?

The situation in Turkey--at least in my admittedly limited estimation--is far different from any situation I've ever experienced in the UK or the States.

The closest analogy, at least that I can come up with, is the US during the Occupy May Day General Strike callout. In terms of experience of struggle, confidence, and workplace organisation, things are low. The difference is that just every person I've talked to about it here in Turkey--and these are not all lefties or politicos--claims they would participate in the strikes if they could. The problem is lack of infrastructure and support. I'm arguing that those networks could be built--like what was attempted during the May Day callout--if there were a group of activists dedicated to that sort of work.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm overestimating the potential based on the interactions I've had in my workplace, but I think such a project would very quickly spread out beyond a preexisting activist base into workplace and communities--much like we've seen with these protests in general.

Devrim
Jun 18 2013 09:16
Chilli Sauce wrote:
I don't know if I totally understand the point that you're making here?

The situation in Turkey--at least in my admittedly limited estimation--is far different from any situation I've ever experienced in the UK or the States.

The situation on the streets in Turkey at the moment is certainly extreme. There isn't any doubt about that.

Quote:
In terms of experience of struggle, confidence, and workplace organisation, things are low.

This is also true. As Steven points out this situation is also true internationally, and has been for some time. However, people who are a little older can remember times when it was better. In the specific situation in Turkey, I am not sure if the current struggles, on a workplace level alone, are at the same scale as in the spring of 2010. If they are higher, it is not by a quantitative level. Yes, there is a background that certainly 'helps', but that only gives opportunities and doesn't change the situation on the shop floor.

Quote:
The difference is that just every person I've talked to about it here in Turkey--and these are not all lefties or politicos--claims they would participate in the strikes if they could. The problem is lack of infrastructure and support.

This is the point. There isn't the organisation, consciousness, and confidence for these people to move. To draw an analogy with the UK in the 1980s if the mine workers had had a pound for every time somebody said that "we should strike/have struck with the miners", they wouldn't have needed to go on strike because they could have all retired to islands in the Caribbean.

Could this have been changed by 'a group of activists' dedicated to' solving 'the problem of lack of infrastructure or support? Well there were networks like this in the miners' strike, and it didn't change it.

Quote:
I'm arguing that those networks could be built--like what was attempted during the May Day callout--if there were a group of activists dedicated to that sort of work.

Which if we remember was largely unsuccessful.

Quote:
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm overestimating the potential based on the interactions I've had in my workplace, but I think such a project would very quickly spread out beyond a preexisting activist base into workplace and communities--much like we've seen with these protests in general.

Yes, I think that you are wrong. I don't think that it is as easy as that. To come right to the point, I don't think that 'activists' can move the class by willpower, and lots of running around, alone.

Of course I am not advocating that people do nothing, but just for a sense of realism. Yes, I think it would be a good thing to try mass leafleting workplaces. I have done it enough in my time. There are lots of things that people can and should be doing. Doing these things alone though is not what will give small workplaces the confidence to come out.

If it was as easy as that everyone would be doing it.

Devrim

Chilli Sauce
Jun 18 2013 09:51
Devrim wrote:
Chilli Sauce wrote:
I don't know if I totally understand the point that you're making here?

The situation in Turkey--at least in my admittedly limited estimation--is far different from any situation I've ever experienced in the UK or the States.

The situation on the streets in Turkey at the moment is certainly extreme. There isn't any doubt about that.

I meant more the point about SF and the postal strikes in particular?

Quote:
In Turkey, I am not sure if the current struggles, on a workplace level alone, are at the same scale as in the spring of 2010.

I don't actually know much about that period. Any good links?

Quote:
Quote:
I'm arguing that those networks could be built--like what was attempted during the May Day callout--if there were a group of activists dedicated to that sort of work.

Which if we remember was largely unsuccessful.

Which is my point: I think that proposed strike was basically bound never to materialize. I don't think Occupy ever really had the potential to move beyond an activist base. In Turkey, the protests have not only drawn in a much wider swath of the population than Occupy ever did, but the militancy, tactics, and momentum are already more developed.

Quote:
I don't think that 'activists' can move the class by willpower...

I think there's a larger debate here about whether dedicated revolutionaries are acting as part of the 'class' or as 'activists' (a term, to be honest, I actually don't like and probably should have been more careful in my choice of words) when we promote and organise class struggle. But I don't think that will be solved here and it's probably not worth getting too deeply into on this thread.

And, I guess again, here's my point. It appears to me--again given my very limited experience--that the interest in an actual general strike is pretty widespread and extends beyond those who were politicized prior to the protest movement.

All I'm saying is that is that I think now would be a good time to try and make up for those lost decades. I think a first step to doing that now would be for those who have some experience in these matters to call public meetings. These could be bolstered by leafletting campaigns and, later perhaps, targetted mass pickets--focusing on public transportation depots for examples. The people who attend them could bring the ideas back to their workplaces, building momentum and hopefully a feeling of a confidence-building critical mass.

I don't think there are any groups, certainly in Ankara, that are even considering this type of activity. Maybe it's because there's a widespread ultraleft understanding current position of the working class in Turkey, I don't know. But like I said, in my experience it certainly feels like that type of campaign has more opportunity for success than in any other situation I've personally experienced.

Dominic.
Jun 18 2013 13:40

Thank you for the comments. I think there are severe limitations to the above post, for this I can only blame time constraints and stress.

@Chilli Sauce and Devrim. You are absolutely correct, I shouldn't have used the term 'general strike' without clarification. Especially because I was aware of the (likely over blown) statistics on union membership. I did so as this was the term being used by people I spoke to and in twitter feeds and by the unions themselves. However as Devrim points out:

Quote:
As to what a general strike is, I think that people in the English speaking world have this image of 1926 or whatever. Even then I suppose there was not 100% of the workforce on strike. 'General strikes' in European countries are often not general if you see what I mean.

Over the last three posts I have made various omissions and engaged in hyperbole. It would, I feel, be disenguous to reedit the last three posts for anything other than grammer mistakes. However I was thinking of added a few asterisked disclaimers for the clarity of future readers.

I'm currently writing a post about yesterdays 'general strike'. This is going to be half straight forward report, half short essay. If anyone has any good resources on unions in Turkey, class composition etc I would appreciate it. Friends/comrades have provided me with some but the more the better.

Steven.
Jun 18 2013 14:12

Dominic, don't worry I don't think this was a criticism of your use of the word "general strike" but more of the way activists use it in general. I agree that one of the strengths in your posts is there immediacy (and resultant optimism). And agree that you shouldn't edit them afterwards for anything other than grammar/spelling. If you change your view on anything in time you can make this clear in subsequent articles. This would be expected, as we can all see things much more clearly in hindsight!

Devrim
Jun 18 2013 14:52
Dominic. wrote:
@Chilli Sauce and Devrim. You are absolutely correct, I shouldn't have used the term 'general strike' without clarification. Especially because I was aware of the (likely over blown) statistics on union membership. I did so as this was the term being used by people I spoke to and in twitter feeds and by the unions themselves. However as Devrim points out:

Dominic, it wasn't aimed at you. Personally, I have no problem with calling this a 'general strike', though I have tried to use inverted commas, I have quite probably forgotten some times. It is not a general stike in that everybody is out, far from it. I think that is the case though in most general strikes.

Devrim

Devrim
Jun 18 2013 15:20
Chilli Sauce wrote:
I meant more the point about SF and the postal strikes in particular?

The point was that it is not as easy as you make out. You can't just come up with confidence, consciousness, experience, and organisation from nowhere. Yes what is going on in Turkey is an extraordinary thing, but also the UK Post Office is a place where there is a lot of experience within the workforce. It still isn't as easy as you seem to make it out to be.

Quote:
I don't actually know much about that period. Any good links?

It is the stuff around the TEKEL struggle. I think the ICC ran a lot of it in English. Look there with the tag TEKEL.

Quote:
Which is my point: I think that proposed strike was basically bound never to materialize. I don't think Occupy ever really had the potential to move beyond an activist base. In Turkey, the protests have not only drawn in a much wider swath of the population than Occupy ever did, but the militancy, tactics, and momentum are already more developed.

But this good mean too things. Either there was not enough momentum in the occupy movement to pull this off, or the whole tactic, of thinking that activists can pull the working class behind them is flawed.

Quote:
I think there's a larger debate here about whether dedicated revolutionaries are acting as part of the 'class' or as 'activists' (a term, to be honest, I actually don't like and probably should have been more careful in my choice of words) when we promote and organise class struggle. But I don't think that will be solved here and it's probably not worth getting too deeply into on this thread.

Maybe it wasn't a good term, and of course revolutionaries are a part of the class. I think that there are different groups here though. To formulate the question in another way (and I am not stuck on these words) can young people/activists/demonstrators pull the 'collective mass worker' part of the working class behind them?

Quote:
And, I guess again, here's my point. It appears to me--again given my very limited experience--that the interest in an actual general strike is pretty widespread and extends beyond those who were politicized prior to the protest movement.

I brought up the example of the UK miners' strike before because it is one that I can remember, and that will also be familiar to people who post on here. There was a feeling for a general strike then, yet it never came about. It is not as easy as organising a few meetings.

Quote:
I think a first step to doing that now would be for those who have some experience in these matters to call public meetings.

Which means in Turkey the left unions.

Quote:
These could be bolstered by leafletting campaigns and, later perhaps, targetted mass pickets--focusing on public transportation depots for examples. The people who attend them could bring the ideas back to their workplaces, building momentum and hopefully a feeling of a confidence-building critical mass.

I am for the idea of leafleting campaigns, for example. The idea of 'mass picketing' is a bit unclear to me. I understand this term to mean strikers having huge numbers outside a workplace. Do you mean what the English call flying pickets? Surely only strikers can do this?

Quote:
I don't think there are any groups, certainly in Ankara, that are even considering this type of activity.

Pretty much the same groups exist in Ankara as in İstanbul. Which sort of groups would you expect to do it. I don't think that any who would be interested are anywhere near strong enough.

Quote:
Maybe it's because there's a widespread ultraleft understanding current position of the working class in Turkey

I am not sure what you mean here. Partially it is because I think you have made a typo in the sentence, but mostly because I don't know what you mean by 'ultra-left'.

Devrim

Dominic.
Jun 18 2013 16:03

@Steven and Devrim.

Ha, don't worry, I didn't take it personally. Expect the next post some time later this evening.

Joseph Kay
Jun 18 2013 18:56

Turn up for the books when a left-communist is stressing the importance of pre-existing workplace organisation to the prospects for a strike wave while an anarcho-syndicalist is arguing to build the necessary organisation in the midst of the upheaval! wink

[for less nerdy readers; anarcho-syndicalism is often caricatured of stressing long-term workplace organisation to the exclusion of all else, while left communism is often caricatured as placing a lot of faith in workers forming the organs of struggle in the midst of the struggle]

I've no idea what the situation is like in Turkish workplaces, what the pre-existing level of organisation is, fwiw. I'd tend to think it would be pretty hard to go from zero to sympathy strikes, but then it seems like a pretty unprecedented situation. When the bin men wildcatted recently, people in my work were saying 'why can't we just do that?'... But there's a big gap between words and deeds, and the kind of organisation needed to bridge it can't necessarily come together that quickly.

Chilli Sauce
Jun 18 2013 21:25
Steven. wrote:
Dominic, don't worry I don't think this was a criticism of your use of the word "general strike" but more of the way activists use it in general. I agree that one of the strengths in your posts is there immediacy (and resultant optimism). And agree that you shouldn't edit them afterwards for anything other than grammar/spelling. If you change your view on anything in time you can make this clear in subsequent articles. This would be expected, as we can all see things much more clearly in hindsight!

This^^

Chilli Sauce
Jun 18 2013 21:38

To be honest, this feels like a lot of fuss over nothing.

What I will say is that if you told me three weeks ago that there would be massive ongoing streets protest all throughout Turkey, I would have said that's crazy. And, to be honest, I imagine you would too. But here we are.

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The point was that it is not as easy as you make out.

I don't think at any point I said or suggested it would be easy.

What I've said--or at least what I've tried to convey--is that I'm in a situation where I feel the tactics normally advocated by anarchists for spreading struggle might have a shot at actually working. I'm lamenting the fact that there are no workplace-oriented anarchists groups who have some experience in workplace struggles who might be able to function as a catalyst for that sort of organizing.

I'm basing that mostly on the conversations I've had with my co-workers and others in my industry. I've also acknowledged that I have a very limited perspective on the situation. I don't mind people disagreeing with me, but I feel like the discussion has been oddly aggressive and that things I've said have been mischaracterized--the above being an example of that.

Chilli Sauce
Jun 18 2013 21:40

To clarify (although I don't feel like this is a massively productive conversation):

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I think a first step to doing that now would be for those who have some experience in these matters to call public meetings.

Which means in Turkey the left unions.

Yeah, which is one of the things I think is such a shame. Although, I do think folks can be pretty quick to learn on their feet and I still think a small group of dedicated activists (or whatever term we want to use) could pull that off with a little bit of strategy and foresight.

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The idea of 'mass picketing' is a bit unclear to me. I understand this term to mean strikers having huge numbers outside a workplace.

I guess I had in mind the sort of tactics used by Occupy on the West Coast. To have a critical mass of supportive picketers outside a workplace--say transportation depots--to give workers an excuse not to work. Also, lots of leafletting in the run-up to a proposed strike day to build up a sense of confidence and critical mass. Obviously, you'd want all this done with the involvement and coordination of militants inside any given workplace.

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I am not sure what you mean here. Partially it is because I think you have made a typo in the sentence, but mostly because I don't know what you mean by 'ultra-left'.

Fair enough. I was just being sarcastic.

Steven.
Jun 18 2013 22:17

Chilli, I see what you are saying but think you are kind of projecting the organisational ideas you support onto the situation. Even if you did have such a group (which would have to be pretty massive to have a significant impact in a country with 80 million people), you're not going to be able to encourage significant strike action from the outside: it has to come predominantly within workplaces themselves.

People speaking about striking in abstract is much easier than the reality, as in Devrim's example of the miners strike, but even more recently: I'm sure you saw that recent you gov poll which showed 27% support for a general strike in the UK.

The only way you could get critical numbers of people to shut down open workplaces would be with people from striking workplaces. I guess similar to the recent nationwide strike in Spain where strikers and supporters roamed around town centres shutting down mostly retail outlets it seemed.

Steven.
Jun 18 2013 22:19
Joseph Kay wrote:

[for less nerdy readers; anarcho-syndicalism is often caricatured of stressing long-term workplace organisation to the exclusion of all else, while left communism is often caricatured as placing a lot of faith in workers forming the organs of struggle in the midst of the struggle]

not wanting to derail this discussion of current events into historical minutiae, but I think this is principally because at the time and place when the left communists were writing, i.e. mostly early 20th-century Germany, the very strong level of day-to-day organisation in factories was already a given.