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1/29/2010 Live Labor Broadcast From Istanbul Of Terkel Workers
Friday Jan 29th, 2010 8:10 AM will do a live stream from Istanbul of the Turkel workers who are on strike against privatization and union busting.
1/29/2010 Live Labor Broadcast From Istanbul Of Terkel Workers

Terkel Tobacco Workers In Live Stream From Turkey's LaborNet Website
Friday 9:00 PM Istanbul Time
Friday 11:00 AM PST

The Turkey LaborNet website http://www.sendika will stream a live broadcast from the hunger strike of the Terkel union workers on Friday 9:00PM Istanbul Time (Friday morning 11:00AM PST ) They will be visiting the resistant tents and will be asking striking workers about their latest discussion with the Prime Minister of Turkey and what they are fighting for. This is the second live broadcast from the striking workers and it received tremendous publicity in the main stream press and even CNN about the use and role of the internet in getting labor's story out.

Turkey: The working class (literally) takes the stage
Written by Workers' Struggle
Friday, 22 January 2010
After at least a decade and a half ofstagnation, the working class movement of Turkey ismaking a great stride forward, thanks to the militant action of the workers ofa now privatised former state economic enterprise, Tekel, the state monopoly oftobacco and alcoholic beverages. The resolute and tenacious fight put up by the12,000 Tekel workers and their families has made an electrifying impact onmajor sections of the working class. Despite the dogged resistance of the topbureaucracy of the Türk-İş confederation, the biggest of Turkey,to which the Tekel workers' union is affiliated, the pressure for a generalstrike is mounting. Given the immense social and political contradictionsTurkey has been subject to within the last few years, this new awakening of theproletariat adds still another tension to a society already torn apart bystrife and dissension, but is susceptible to change the whole chemistry of thecountry and to create the possibility of a progressive resolution to thealready existing problems.

The background to the Tekel conflict is theprivatisation of the company, completed in early 2009 despite strong resistanceput up by the workers. British-American Tobacco, the new owners, sackedthousands of workers, who are now to be transferred to low-wage jobs in thepublic sector without any job security. To many Tekel workers, this means acomplete destruction of the standard of life they had built over the years.What they are now fighting for is the preservation of their wage level andtheir status as permanent workers. Tekel is a big company whose factories werespread all around the country. Workers from 43 factories and workplaces from 21cities have been putting up a resolutely militant fight in the capital city of Ankara for 38 daysnow. They are living in makeshift tents outside Türk-İş headquarters in thefreezing cold of winter. A clear sign of their resolution came through duringthe poll the union took a fortnight ago (called a "referendum" in Turkish unionterminology), asking the workers whether to go on fighting or to quit. Althoughthe workers had already two dozen days behind them, there was not a single voteto quit among those in Ankara and in the provinces the "go on fighting" vote reached theproportion of 99.6 %!

The timing of the struggle helped raise thesolidarity action of the rest of the proletariat. For one thing, publicemployees (who are organised in union confederations of their own) had staged asector-wide one-day strike at the end of November. Since public employees haveno right to strike under Turkish legislation, the state tried to persecute somesectors, but especially state railroads employees started to fight backmilitantly in action that coincided with the beginning of the Tekel struggle.Other sectors of workers and public employees, especially firemen in Istanbul, alsojoined this new wave of militancy. Soon, unions and workers across the spectrumwere displaying solidarity with the workers of Tekel. Even Türk-İş, whoseleadership is divided between a strong right-wing faction and a minority soft lefttendency, had to pay lip service to the heroic fight of the Tekel workers,declaring, but not consistently implementing, one-hour work stoppages everyFriday.

The government's intransigent attitude inthe initial phase played into the hands of the Tekel workers. The ferociousattack by the police (using tear gas, pressured water and clubs) on the workerson the fourth day of the struggle created a backlash not only within theworking class but also among the people at large. In the face of growingsupport for the workers, the government felt it had to make some concessions,but these were definitely of a token nature. The semi-Islamist (and entirelyneo-liberal) AKP government feels it cannot yield to the demands of the Tekel workerssimply because this will have repercussions in other sectors, such as sugar andenergy, where privatisations are in the pipeline.

Workers revolt against the Türk-İşbureaucracy

The quasi-unanimity of the workers in thereferendum gave a clear mandate to the union to step up the fight. Thus beganthe second stage of the struggle. The entire work force of twelve thousand wasbrought to Ankara along with their families and held overnight vigils throughout 72hours, culminating in a demonstration organised by the Türk-İş confederation.Close to 100 thousand workers participated in the march and demonstration, thebiggest such event since 1999. The crowd frequently chanted slogans thatsupported a general strike. The President of Türk-İş, a certain Mustafa Kumlu, catapultedinto this position by the governing AKP, made an anodyne speech, saying nothingconcrete about the way forward, simply lamenting the situation the entire workingclass finds itself in.

The indignation this created pushed theTekel workers to mount on the stage built for the purpose of the demonstration.From that moment on, for close to an hour, there ensued a tug-of-war betweenthe thousands of Tekel workers and the thousands of members of socialistgroups, on the one hand, and union bureaucrats of different ranks, on theother. The workers repeated unceasingly a slogan that had originally borne themark of the socialist left: "General strike, general resistance!" Thebureaucrats, for their part, tried to bring the workers down from the podiumand get them to disband and go home, alternatively cajoling and threateningthem. Finally, a unionist from the Türk-İş leadership promised to take thedemand for a general strike to leadership bodies, to which the crowd dulyreplied by another slogan: "Kumlu has to come and promise us a general strike!"This paralysed the bureaucrats. But in the end, a clever bureaucrat had theidea of threatening the workers with a police attack-after all the "official"demonstration was over and the police disposed of the legal right to dispersethe crowd. Thus came to an end this unusual public revolt of the workersagainst the union bureaucracy. Whatever the outcome in the coming days, thissingle episode has placed the Tekel fight in the annals of class struggle in Turkey.This was the first time when workers openly revolted against the bureaucracyduring mass action, which of course will send shivers through every bureaucratin future actions of a similar dimension.

This revolt heartened workers in othersectors and widened the fissure within the confederation bureaucracy. Now,bureaucrats of all stripes are talking about a general strike. (It is perhapsin order to point out that general strikes are outlawed in Turkey, acountry that has almost no established tradition of this kind of action. So ageneral strike is a much more explosive event in the Turkish context than inmany other countries.) As of the 38th day of the struggle, Türk-İş has todaycome together with other workers' and public employees' unions to issue awarning to the government: Either do something by Tuesday the 26th or we willhave to go on a "solidarity strike". Itseems we are finally on a descending slope towards a general strike (by whatevername it is eventually called), a very radical move by Turkish standards.

Currently some 140 of the workers are onhunger strike, with thousands more wishing to join in but prevented from doingso by the unionists and sympathising doctors, who fear that, after close to 40days of exhaustion in the freezing cold of Ankara, many aworker might already be in bad health.

DIP totally immersed in Tekel workers'struggle

The Initiative for a Revolutionary Workers'Party (DIP), Turkish section of the Coordination for the Refoundation of theFourth International, has been part of the Tekel workers' struggle at an ascendinglevel. From day one, the Ankaraorganisation joined all the action undertaken by the workersthemselves. Three bulletins were printed in the thousands and distributed amongthe workers. Comrades literally spent day and night with the workers. Given thelimited resources of the Ankara organisation despite selfless efforts, teams were sent out to Ankara from othercities in the wake of the referendum, doubling the number of militants on theground.

DIP participated in the demonstration in Ankara withmilitants and sympathisers from all over Turkey ina remarkably spirited and disciplined manner. Despite the modest size of itscolumn, DIP played an important part in the tug-of-war between the workers andthe bureaucrats: It was DIP that first launched the slogan "Kumlu has to comeand promise us a general strike!"

Intellectuals sympathising with DIP werealso very active in building the "Intellectuals' Platform for the TekelStruggle". The petition for the Platform was signed by close to 400 academics,writers etc. Our comrade Sungur Savran was invited on a national TV channel totalk about the Tekel struggle. Without mincing his words, Savran staged afrontal attack on the right-wing bureaucracy of Türk-İş, differentiated hisposition from those who simply work for a face-saving concession to Tekelworkers by advocating the generalisation of the struggle to all sectors of theclass and clearly defended a general strike.

Savran's line was indeed representative ofthe audacious line the party has pursued from the very beginning. The editorialof our paper published during the first days of the struggle was titled:"Either with the AKP or the Tekel workers". (This is a reference to the factthat Kumlu, the president of Türk-İş, is a protégé of the AKP.) Theparty then consistently made an intervention along two axes in all itsbulletins and leaflets: The demand for a general strike and a recommendation tothe workers to create a "Resistance Committee" made up of representativesdemocratically elected by each of the 43 workplaces, a recommendation that no othersocialist party has put forward. (The importance of such a committee was,unfortunately, confirmed by what happened at the demonstration: Not wielding acentralised body, the workers had no authority to rely on. Hence, the mostbackward elements decided the outcome.) Not one single party has dared to nameKumlu by name and tried to push him into the corner by saying (as our latestleaflet has): "You're either with the AKP government or with the Tekel workers"

The fourth dimension

Turkey has lately been shaken by powerful contradictions that have almostbrought the country to the edge of the precipice. Three major contradictionstear the country apart. On the one hand, the ongoing struggle for therepartition of surplus-value between the two wings of the bourgeoisie, thedominant Westernist-secular wing and the ascending Islamist wing, has reachedthe proportions of a political civil war, bordering, in recent months, amilitary conflict on several occasions. On the other hand, the quarter-of-a-centuryold Kurdish war has now apparently entered a new stage. All throughout theyears of guerrilla warfare waged by the PKK against the Turkish army, relativecalm reigned within society itself. But now evidence mounts that there is agrowing danger that Turkish chauvinism against the Kurds, fanned consciously bythe state and all of the bourgeois political forces, may result in the lynchingor wholesale massacre of Kurds, possibly leading on to ethnic civil war, thisdespite the so-called "Kurdish overture" of the government or perhaps becauseof its restricted nature. And in the background lurches the prospect of Turkeybecoming more closely a part of the US war drive, be it in Afghanistan (whereTurkey already has troops, but no combat mission), Iraq (where some of the formerduties of the now withdrawing US troops may be turned over to Turkey), Iran(whose alleged nuclear armament efforts seriously disturb the secular Turkisharmy) or Georgia (in its conflict with Russia). This prospect has directbearing on Turkish domestic politics and is conditioned by the othercontradictions in its turn.

Under the stress of these three sets ofcontradictions, Turkey has become a powder keg. It is in this bleak context that the awakeningmilitancy of the working class should be situated. We have been saying allalong that it is a new class struggle front that alone will create thepotential to resolve in a progressive direction the many contradictions thatbeset Turkey. This claim seems ripe for testing.

The most encouraging sign in the Tekelstruggle is the fact that Turk and Kurd are struggling together in comradelyfashion. For Tekel has factories both in the Turkish dominated Western part ofthe country and in the tobacco-rich Eastern part populated by the Kurds(properly speaking Turkish Kurdistan). At the beginning, the Turkish workerswere as infested as the rest of the Turkish people with hostility against theKurds. It was precisely for this reason that many leftists under the effect ofidentity politics originally kept their distance from the Tekel struggle. Weunswervingly defended the idea that under the transformative impact of militantclass struggle, the Tekel workers were bound to shed this attitude in favour ofa "fraternity of peoples", as the left in Turkeycalls solidarity between Turks and Kurds. This is precisely what is slowlyhappening. An abundance of evidence gathered through the experience of DIPmilitants on the field clearly shows that the attitude of even the most right-wingTurks, including some who used to sympathise with the openly anti-Kurd fascistparty, has changed radically. It is now commonplace to hear many a Turkish Tekelworker say, "Were it not for the Kurds, we couldn't have come this far!"

The Tekel struggle also reorders societyalong class lines. Up until very recently, Turkish society (excluding the Kurdsthat is) was divided in its sympathy clearly between the two camps of thebourgeoisie. Now a distinct working class position is overtaking these twoallegiances.

Turkey seems to be entering a new and promising stage. If the Tekelstruggle can be generalised, and it now seems there are distinct possibilitiesfor this, a very different conjuncture will be born. If, on the other hand, thebureaucracy betrays the Tekel workers into defeat, the working class as a wholewill stand to lose from this.

21 January 2010

Unions warn of general strike for Tekel workers

Unions warn of general strike for Tekel workers
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Friday, January 22, 2010
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

AA photo
As protests by workers from the country’s former state-owned alcohol and tobacco monopoly, or Tekel, continue, union confederations have pledged a general strike if the government fails to meet their demands by Jan. 26.

Thousands of Tekel workers have been protesting in Ankara for more than a month against the privatization of the former monopoly and the government’s refusal to address their concerns regarding a change in their working status.

Some workers have held a sit-down strike in front of the Confederation of Turkish Labor Unions, or Türk-İş, headquarters in the capital, while other workers, including many women, began a hunger strike Tuesday at the same venue.

In response to what is seen as government indifference to the workers’ demands, six union confederations convened Thursday to discuss future plans, including calls for a general strike. The unions announced late Thursday after the meeting that they have decided to go on a general strike if the government does not respond to Tekel workers’ demands by Jan. 26.

If the government does not respond by that time, the confederations will convene again on that date to identify a day for the general strike. The workers also put the hunger strike on hold until Jan. 26 as they await developments. Türk-İş says it will seek different modes of dialogue with the government to try and find a solution before that deadline.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meanwhile criticized Tekel workers’ protests, saying Friday that there are other groups and protesters among the workers, implying that the Tekel employees had been provoked.

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