By HAKKI YÜKSELEN
Even though the question, “How did they win?” is mostly asked after elections, the real question that should be asked under the circumstances is “How did they lose?” Although it has become nearly invisible in the natural turmoil that unfolded following the election, the bourgeois opposition, even in its most united form, had limited courage, power, and capacity to overthrow the Palace regime. In fact, due to their awareness of their own situation on the one hand, and their fear of the regime’s evil on the other, they left the job to the spontaneous consequences of the existing economic conditions. In other words, they left it up to a kind of “economic determinism!” However, things did not turn out as the opposition had envisioned. By mobilizing all the means of the “holy state,” the regime managed to extract an electoral victory from the “same economic situation.”
A game within a game!
For the last few years, the biggest concern of the bourgeois opposition has been “to be played!” For this reason, the opposition has resisted even the government’s most flagrant illegal maneuvers in order not to mobilize the masses’ democratic and deterrent power. It gave guarantee after guarantee about the inevitability of electoral victory if the masses were patient until the polls were set up “without any tricks.” After all, the polls were already showing them ahead. Although their fear of the regime played a part in this, their main concern was to keep working people away from mass mobilizations that could transform them from passive “voters” into real subjects who could change the order of things. Nothing else could be expected from this opposition. The bourgeois opposition greeted every illegal act of the government, every anti-democratic obstacle it threw in its way, with the rhetoric “We will hold it to account at the ballot box!”
However, the aim of the Palace was to win the elections by creating an electoral environment in which it would not be held accountable in any way. As the government realized that it would not face any real resistance, and that its illegitimate actions would not be subjected to any real questioning, it increased its audacity. Erdogan ran for and was re-elected as a presidential candidate for the third time in complete violation of the constitution, and no power could prevent it. The “game” was set up by the regime with all its rules and irregularities. It could only be broken by the deterrent action of the masses, but the exercise of this democratic right was consciously prevented by the bourgeois opposition. There was a deep class collaboration between the government and the bourgeois opposition on the issue of the “action of the masses,” even if there were some secondary differences. It was not in vain that one party directly and the other indirectly “criminalized” the “street” and all other mass actions except election rallies: they did whatever the regime and “order” had to do to survive! The continuation of capital’s social domination required this. Although the government often resorted to violating rules, the rules of the “game” had already been set by big capital as the real master of the nation. In short, the main problem that tied the hands of the bourgeois opposition was their fear of the working class.
Leaving aside the “special case” of Kurdish politics for now, another loser of the elections was the socialist opposition. We must say that the main problem of this camp was not its low share of votes. Despite its familiarity with the “streets,” the socialist opposition was unable to respond to the regime’s illegal actions beyond verbal protests. This was due to its limited power, its weak influence on the working masses, the repression it was subjected to, the fear of being held responsible for a possible provocation, and the effort to get through the elections without incident and win something.
The power to break the deadlock belongs to the working class
There are of course many reasons for the election results, and some of them have deep roots. The existence of a historical sociological balance in Turkey, which has remained almost unchanged despite all the socio-economic changes, is often discussed in politics. To this, we can add a problem that has developed over the last two decades, which is the political deadlock despite changes in objective conditions. It has once again become clear that it is not possible to overcome this situation with mere words and propaganda, electoral promises, imitating religious or nationalist reaction, or even accusing those in the opposing camp of “stupidity.”
In our opinion, this situation can only be overcome by the intervention of a social force that has been left out of the political equation for a very long time. Our claim as revolutionary socialists is that this balance, which constitutes one of the pillars of capitalist domination in our country, can be broken by the working class, one of the two basic classes of capitalist society. The lock can only be opened by the working class. The political involvement of the working class is only possible through its conscious, organized, and mass action. Although many revolutionary situations first emerge as a spontaneous uprising, “the fate of social movements is determined in the political arena.” Politics, of course, necessitates political leadership; however, the political structure must rise from the ground of class struggle in order to lead the working class at decisive moments in history.
Only by relying on the confidence it can inspire in society through its action, organization, and power of struggle, can the working class draw its class siblings within the orbit of bourgeois reaction to its side. Only then can it break the chains of reactionary “community solidarity” and pave the way for “class solidarity.” The urban and rural middle classes can only be influenced, or at least neutralized and prevented from following bourgeois reaction of all kinds, especially fascism, if the working class, with its organized power, can confront society as a leading and liberating force. This is the main problem that confronts us in the present conditions of the world and the country.
Let it not be thought that we are trying to manage the situation with some “tales” on the historical role of the working class and class struggle! We are aware that at a time when the objective conditions open up space for many revolutionary-counterrevolutionary possibilities, our subjective conditions, and of course the extremely backward level of social-political consciousness of a very large sector of the organized and unorganized working class, are in the orbit of the regime for many reasons beyond that. Nevertheless, what must not be forgotten is this: there is no substitute for failure and deficiency in the class arena!
You cannot fill the “vacuum” of the working class with a “radical democratic” attitude, for example, with another “unstable subject” or another “rising” social movement! The low level of consciousness and disorganization of the working class cannot be an excuse for socialists. Changing the world is a laborious task and there is no shortcut!
In this respect, socialists’ perspective of the class and what they see when they look at it is very important. The difference between seeing the class as a “community of voters” and seeing it as a vanguard, a revolutionary force that will transform society allows us to distinguish between reformism and revolutionism. It is one of the hallmarks of reformism to see the action of the working class as “an opportunity to be converted into votes.” The podiums of parliament are tools that should not be bypassed under certain conditions in order to make the voice of the class heard and to reflect its struggle. But when they replace the actual tools of the class struggle, they turn into the usual reformism: a banal element of bourgeois politics whose initial glow will soon fade. Political movements like Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain, not to mention older examples, are recent proof of this.
The point to remember is this: If you are dissatisfied with the situation of the working class, do not to replace it with something else; if you are not aiming for a revolution today, the time for that revolution will not come under any circumstances! Socialists have to open the road that the bourgeois opposition and reformism are trying to close. There is no other way to change the balance, to open the lock and to break the game.