Tue Dec 05, 2023
December 05, 2023

Türkiye| Facing poverty, Fight like the Akbelen Forest Defenders

By Esat Erdogan – Kırmızı Gazete

Unquestionably, the most important item on the agenda for us is the cost of living. As the rate of inflation continues to climb after the elections, we are being dragged deeper into poverty. While our purchasing power has been increasingly diminished due to the never-ending price increases, we have become afraid to even go to the market.

July 2023 was an especially difficult month when poverty and the cost of living peaked. The Turkish Statistic Association announced that July inflation was 9.5%, while annual inflation is at 48%.  This is a 59-year record. ENAG, which conducts independent research, announced July inflation to be at 13% and annual inflation at 123%.

The VAT (Value-Added-Tax) increased to 20%. In July, fuel prices increased by 28%, medicines by 16%, and bread by 14%. Bagels, the staple of the poor, have reached 10 liras. The same bagel was 1.5 liras in 2016 and 3.5 liras in 2021. Most recently, at the beginning of August, public transport in Istanbul was raised by 52%.  It seems that there is no end in sight to this torrent of price increases.

The cost for feeding a family has reached a record 11, 658 liras (~$432 USD) and the poverty line has reached 37,974 liras ($1409 USD). A significant part of the population has been forced to live on wages that leave them on the verge of food insecurity.  All pre-2000 retirees and 80% of those who retired between 2000 and 2008 now live in a situation of precarity as they are unable to ensure their basic needs are met. This is a situation of complete misery for many.

Working people have had to max out their credit cards and credit limits just to make ends meet. While total card expenditure was 785 billion in June (~$29 billion USD), this figure increased to 839 billion liras in July (~$31 billion USD). 3.8 million people have faced debt collection proceedings, while 3.6 million people have been forced to live on welfare assistance.

As a result of the government’s choices, we are becoming poorer while the wealth of the rich continues to grow. Does the government have a solution? No! Their only objective is to delay the rate of unemployment until after the municipal elections. While they also seek to cut domestic demand and fund exports with foreign debt. Every policy is targeted at protecting the bosses and their own wealth and power.

We workers in the private sector, in municipalities, and in the public sector, are facing the threat of dismissal, exploitative working conditions, and increased burdens. This is to say that we are facing brutal attacks by the bosses, and that currently we lack the organization and unity to fight back. The bosses are using this against us. If we do not come together and organize our struggle, there will be mass unemployment.

Of course, union bureaucrats and the bourgeois opposition have been coming to the rescue of the government and the bosses in this crisis. And as if that were not enough, the state has put its repressive forces at the ready. But this is no excuse for our lack of organization. We need to put aside our post-election demoralization, unite our struggles, and mobilize from the factories to the streets.

The Akbelen Resistance is Our Example for How to Fight Back

Activists in the Akbelen forest are breaking with our state of lethargy and showing us the way forward with their courage and determination. They are showing us how to stop the government and the capitalist looting. Their legitimate struggle has become a nightmare for both the government and the bosses. In Akbelen, the people are waging a war against environmental plunder and against the forces of the government.

They have been subject to violence because they stand against those who pillage our land, pollute our water, and steal our labor. In this way, they are undermining the foundations on which the regime sits, because it is get its support from the mining companies that plunder the forests of the Aegean, the timber companies, the construction companies that use these materials, and the arms dealers who produce the bullets, batons and bombs of state repression. The forests of the beautiful Aegean region have been turned into dumping grounds for these extractive companies. From Eczacıbaşı to Zorlu and from Nurol to Cengiz, their only aim is to get their share of the loot.  Both gangs and the police are there to guarantee that the robbery can go on undisturbed. Mineral exports are at a record high and their value has increased by fourfold in the last 5 years. Exports of paper and forestry products have also doubled since 2015. First, they plundered companies through privatization, and now they are polluting our land and water.

The Akbelen forest defenders are lighting the way through the darkness of this tyrannical alliance. And they are showing us that the only way to fight against a tyrannical regime is to mobilize for our rights. They are uniting all of us from the villages of Muğla to the big cities.

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