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How the AKP’s ’protestant capitalism’ chastises workers

Monday 5 May 2008, by Cengiz Aktar

The mess regarding the forbidden Labor Day rally in Taksim Square in Istanbul was appalling.

Overt threats from the authorities of “no rallies will be allowed in Taksim and no one will take responsibility if something bad happens” were preparing the public opinion for days. Threats were mimicking the most primitive approach in the world that caused the May 1 celebrations to be banned in the past century and tried to tame workers by beating them up. This was so obvious, especially when compared to the Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association’s (TUSIAD) liberal approach to the celebrations.Turkey being dragged into an unprincipled vulgar growth model with no democracy, like in China, is nothing new. Following the 1980 military coup d’état, the trade union movement and leftist opposition fell to pieces. Today the labor advocacy is so weak that for instance the Limter-İş Union is simply fighting to save the lives of workers working in shipyards, let alone securing their wage increases.

Whoever works wins

One does not need to be professor of economics to figure out how the shallow idioms such as “common rabble” and “whoever works wins,” made by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) top officials referring to the workers, are far away from understanding the modern labor world. Today to secure labor rights one should rather show devout community allegiance. This ferocious and unprincipled growth approach does not pay regard to workers but neither to the environment: Environment-unfriendly golf courses, skyscrapers, coal plants, indiscriminate mineral exploration and irrational hydraulic dams are all over the country.

As a beginner in economic affairs, the AKP’s foolhardy development approach against the human and nature gives the impression that we’re living in the 18th century! Today the hardline of Cemil Çiçek, government spokesman, dominates the government as more as it implies concessions to the status quo, subservience to the state, looking sympathetic thanks to crude nationalism and a tendency toward labor-hostile cliches of the state. A political movement like the AKP deriving from the periphery of the center adopts this attitude enthusiastically; that’s pathetic and dangerous. The AKP didn’t understand that its legitimacy derives from its social and reformist action, not from the stately reflexes. The more it closes up to the state, the more it loses its character. Pages-long sociological analyses exist on how the newly rich jumping to a higher class become cruel toward the less successful, on how they look down on the place they came from and on how they emulate the upper class.

To this, a protestant-like religious dimension is being added in Turkey. Cliches like “the man who works hard wins,” “God will be generous toward hard workers,” or another one by the prime minister who suggested to a complaining man to “work harder” are in line with the tradition of allegiance in Islam and being resigned to God. However, to what degree is the allegiance recommended to people convincing when compared to the skyrocketing fortunes of pro-AKP business circles? Besides, one can ask, “Is there a job that you want me to work hard in?” The AKP’s pro-status quo deviation clearly emerged in the Kurdish issue, and now the hostility toward the left and workers is being added on top. The prime minister, who has never uttered the word “left” before, pronounced it recently with a negative connotation in connection with the leftist opposition to the Social Security Law. And recently he let another extremely unfortunate and unnecessary cat out of the bag. But one utters whatever is in his mind. And in fact no disclaimer has been published so far. Neither did he deny it. Specialists argue that his words are copied from an early hadith by caliph Ali.

It is not just Baykal

In its relations with the state, the AKP always prefers to live together by adjusting its own turf first. That was, and still is, the case in the aftermath of the April 27 military e-memorandum. It is very doubtful that, if acquitted in the closure case, the AKP would start a brand new page for democracy. Quite to the contrary, it is most likely that being acquitted would mean sticking to power by getting closer to the state. Therefore the most serious danger awaiting the country is the substitution of the reformist period, which has continued since 1983 with a climax in the period of 2002-2004, with a long period of restoration, with or without the AKP in the driving seat. The AKP got used to the opposition from Baykal and made itself believe that the opposition consists of only Baykal to such an extent that it has started to think politics means getting into cock-fights with Baykal. There are plenty of other oppositional forces beside Baykal’s, more colorful and pro-reform. In the future, a contest will take place between pro-restoration forces and this authentic opposition.

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Source : Saturday, May 3, 2008 TDN

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