Interview with Kemal Okuyan, First Secretary of the CC of TKP, on the results of the referendum. [ES]
soL: What can you say right away about the results of the referendum?
KO: We cannot talk about an arithmetical result. They did something they are good at, and they have stolen the score. Our logic, our mind and conscience tell us that ‘No’ won in arithmetic terms, too.
Yet, there are other results. First, we saw what they could do despite all that repression, exploitation of public facilities, and fraud; the picture speaks for itself. We saw that in reality their followers do not make up more than 40 percent of the population in Turkey.
And still more importantly, the resistance in big cities have increased rather than decreased. Istanbul and Ankara have been added to Izmir. We should also count Adana, Mersin, Diyarbakır, Antalya, Denizli, Aydın, and Eskişehir. With this picture you cannot change the constitution whatsoever. You only think you can.
soL: Before coming to that matter, let’s talk about frauds. Did they really have a big impact on the election?
KO: If we take into account all violations as a whole, yes of course they did. Why don’t we call utilization of all public facilities in favor of ‘Yes’ a fraud? The media lies, are not they fraud? The threats, the terrorization, are not they fraud? They limited the number of parties eligible to participate in the elections and so they decreased the number of ballot observers, is not this fraud? To all these, add what they did on the day of referendum. Missing ballot papers, unsealed ballot papers, images of mockers sealing on ‘Yes’ outside the voting cabins, even on the streets, thousands of people shamelessly showing off photographs of their votes for ‘Yes’, pictures of two-three people standing all at once in the same cabin, unlawful interventions by the police and the gendarmerie, repeated voting, and finally the decision of the Supreme Committee of Election to accept unsealed ballot papers. When you take into account this as a whole, the referendum is wallowed in mud.
soL: Can anything be done about it?
KO: The people should react. Yet, there is the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which stands in front of the reaction of the people, which people still have faith in. Erdoğan should once again thank to Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of CHP.
soL: What could CHP do?
KO: CHP cannot do anything. They cannot; but we are the ones who know that. The common people of CHP constantly get their hopes up, “maybe this time…”, and wait. Each time, CHP fulfills very successfully the task of soothing the anger and the energy accumulated. Before the referendum we were telling that there were CHP executives who wished that ‘Yes’ succeeded with a slight margin. Those executives also include Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of CHP.
soL: How can you be so certain?
KO: First of all, Kılıçdaroğlu was not ready for ‘No’. What was he going to do if ‘No’ succeeded? The government would not accept the result and there would be a lot of tension… All along the referendum process, Kılıçdaroğlu did nothing but preaching ‘consensus’. There is nothing about ‘power’ here. Secondly, and most importantly, we should not forget that ‘Yes’ was the result aspired by a weighty section of the big capital and international monopolies. It is our prominent bosses who paved the way for the presidential system. We know that the imperialist centers also pushed for a system with strengthened executive powers. The only problem is the extremism and self-ordained manners of Erdoğan. A ‘Yes’ with a narrow margin would hogtie Erdoğan on the one hand, and keep in force a ‘program’ with a wide space for maneuver for the capital on the other hand. They achieved what they desired. This is the personal mission of Kılıçdaroğlu for years.
soL: Then, will this lead to some relief? I mean, if this was what they wanted…
KO: No. This is because the contradictions within the imperialist system have reached serious levels and Turkey is standing on a crucial node of those contradictions. On the one hand, Erdoğan is extending his political life exploiting the contractions, and on the other hand, this continuously means plantation of new mines on the road of Erdoğan. There is no space for stability in this picture. Nor the internal dynamics of Turkey can produce stability. Turkey rejects to carry the burden of Erdoğan. Culturally, ideologically, politically, and economically… And there is another fact that is slowly coming up: the working classes of Turkey cannot withstand Erdoğan and his mentality. No matter what Kılıçdaroğlu does…
soL: What will happen then?
KO: The status quo in the Turkish political order has been shaken as of yesterday. There are serious problems in AKP. Let’s say they knew they had already lost Izmir; but a government party that has also lost Ankara and Istanbul… If the results had been a little bit worse, Erdoğan would not have had any choice but to rush to take up the presidency of AKP.
CHP never ceases to have problems anyway. In all these years I have never met a CHP member who is happy with CHP. There, the discussion never ends.
And now there is a new reality in the Turkish bourgeois politics: Akşener. Her team will nibble AKP as Erdoğan and AKP face difficulties. They have also acquired the authority to representation the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). They will also attract the attention of the discontented in CHP. We know that there are preparations and contacts for the construction of a new ‘center’.
The other party in the parliament, People’s Democratic Party (HDP), showed that it successfully consolidated its grassroots despite all the repression.
soL: So, what should we expect in politics: recovery or disintegration?
KO: For recovery, disintegration is needed first. However, at this moment Turkey seems far from such episodic classifications; ambiguities increase each day in the country. Especially in this world! This is why we argued that the referendum alone would not be able to determine everything at once.
soL: That is the point where I was going to get. TKP said, “Keep on with the struggle no matter if it is ‘Yes’ or ‘No’”. After the referendum, can we attach new meanings to this perspective?
KO: TKP said so because if ‘No’ had succeeded, this would have been a big achievement, a step forward that would lead to positive outcomes but it would never have been a solution as such. There was not even a level of organization to protect the ‘No’ votes. And actually this was confirmed. Mathematically we know that more than half of the voters in Turkey voted for ‘No’. Yet, the party in power stole them and the response was no more than a few very valuable but weak acts of reaction. We also said, ‘Yes’ would not be the end of the world. Now is it the end of the world? Do we have to pull up stakes and leave? No way! TKP was and still is calling for immediate strengthening of organized struggle. Yet, on a different ground…
soL: What is that ground?
KO: TKP is a party that defends enlightenment, secularism and the Republic against religious fundamentalism. Without any hesitation and from the beginning… And today in Turkey, the majority of the ‘No’ votes are centered on secularism, although not all of them. However, there is clear fact in Turkey: the deadlock in Turkey cannot be solved through the polarization between secularism and religious fundamentalism. Secularism alone cannot push back religious fundamentalism, and vice versa. What they want is to reconcile these two poles and strengthen the transitive area in between. This actually means the triumph of religious fundamentalism. Just as ‘moderate Islam’ is an imperialist fabrication, there is nothing possible like moderate Enlightenment or moderate secularism. Yet, the gang of bosses still wants that. This would be the defeat of the society in Turkey. The deadlock can only be resolved by a class-based polarization. Secularism also needs that.
TKP is primarily a class party; we fight for the emancipation of the working class and we affirm that emancipation of the working class is emancipation of the whole society. Here we do not pit secularism against working class struggle, the struggle for socialism. We just say: in this bourgeois world, in this capitalist order, forget about secularism; what you will find is its caricature.
soL: So, you mean without class-based politics, secularism cannot get the upper hand against religious fundamentalism. Then, Turkey will not be able to overcome this deadlock in the short term. Is that true?
KO: No, it won’t. However, in countries like Turkey it is difficult to say what is the short term and what is the long term. The imperialism is in crisis. And the capitalist order in Turkey is on the brink of a very serious economic crisis. Lack of organization in such a period is fatal. We insist in our call. The people in Turkey should be organized. And secular sectors should leave behind the heedlessness, “let exploitation and injustice prevail as long as they don’t mess with our raki (an alcoholic beverage) or the length of our skirt”; there is no other choice.
soL: The pro-‘No’ sector can live such transformation?
KO: Look, in a sense, the referendum remained back. The result is illegitimate; this is an indisputable fact. But from now on people should raise their heads from the ballot box and focus on the realities of life. This society is unorganized. We are unorganized in factories, in offices, in schools, in neighborhoods. Then, you cannot protect your votes either. It is not enough to sing the Anthem of Izmir. Those who are satisfied with this capitalist order but do not want to lose secularism will have to take care of themselves if they remain satisfied with the system; they do not have the right to complain. However, the majority of the voters of ‘No’ are workers. We should start understanding that it was the bourgeois class who placed dynamites in the foundations of secularism in Turkey, and that what we call imperialism is an order of monopolies. And there is no way to deal with it unless you are organized.
soL: Do we need to address the pro-‘No’ sector only?
KO: Primarily yes. This is the only way to be able to extend hand to the working people in the social basis of AKP. If ‘No’ loses energy, if its self-confidence gets weaker, if the atmosphere of defeat becomes prevalent, nothing can be changed in this country. No one can be convinced. And there is only one single way to infuse energy and identity to ‘No’: giving it the color of the working class. This is not a mathematical operation but a political one. The day one tenth of the voters of ‘No’ take such an organized stance, everything will change. And nobody will be able to steal it! Neither the governing party, nor the official 'AA' new agency, nor the Supreme Committee of Election!
soL: Do you believe that such organization will be possible in the near future?
KO: This country does not have any other choice. TKP will do the utmost effort. We need socialism as we need air and water. We are in favorable conditions to demonstrate this, we are in favorable conditions to make it comprehended, we are in favorable conditions to organize it. The idea of Republic also needs socialism. Turkey cannot withstand Erdoğan and capitalism cannot withstand the Republic. Then what?
soL: Finally, what would you like to say?
KO: Before and on the day of the referendum many people worked for ‘No’ with great sincerity and self-sacrifice. These people are the honor of this country. Nobody should regret that all those efforts went for nothing. Nothing is in vain. Yesterday a very important lesson was taken. If you are unorganized, you are nothing. If we fulfill the requirements of that lesson, there is nothing to be pessimistic.