When Turkey’s President Erdogan compared the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to Hitler, there was some predictable outrage in the media but there was no indignant response from Berlin. The official line was not to respond to such “provocation”, particularly when the Dutch PM, Mark Rutte, had recently banned MPs from Erdogan’s AKP party from entering Holland. Rightly, it was calculated that such storms would soon blow over because Turkey continues to need Western investment, just as Germany still wants Turkey to cooperate in preventing refugees from crossing the EU’s borders.
Despite all the displays of indignation by the Turkish government, the prohibition of AKP events actually plays into Erdogan’s hands. At the moment, he is interested in a verbal escalation, because he wants to present the coming vote on constitutional changes, whose real content is to give him dictatorial powers, as a national referendum on “Turkey”, “Islam” and the racist impositions of the West. The fact that many Turks have fallen for his demagogy and “victim posing” is the result of the daily racial oppression experienced by millions of people in Europe and of imperialist exploitation.
Erdogan needs to raise the demagogic temperature because, despite his control over the media, the war against the Kurdish population and the dismissal of hundreds of thousands of public officials, he cannot be certain that he will win the referendum. The nationalist, ultra-reactionary agitation, the invocation of the “Ottoman Empire”, the terrorisation of the opposition by the police and his own gangs make it clear that the vote is about giving plebiscitary legitimacy to a dictatorship masked by parliamentary camouflage.
The AKP is not a fascist party, and the regime is also not fascist, but neither is it a “normal” religious, conservative bourgeois party. It is a right-wing populist party, which serves as an extension of the regime into society, in particular the rural population and the petty bourgeoisie, which organises them for mass mobilisations, and has departments for intimidating the opposition, the left and the workers’ movement.
A “yes” in the referendum would undoubtedly represent a further step towards the consolidation of this regime, at the head of which there has to be a “strong man”, a “Bonaparte”, who appears to rise above the classes and their “special interests”. That will allow him to act in the interests of the Turkish bourgeoisie, above all the factions that are particularly close to him, without any real constraints. In order to secure his rule, “peace” would not return even after a victory, because he would continue his strategy of tension, blaming all problems on an internal or external enemy, the Kurds, the conspiracies of Gülen, against which the “democratically” legitimised president must proceed with all harshness.
A “no” in the referendum would be a blow to these intentions. At the same time, it would exacerbate the political confrontation in Turkey, since it is unlikely that the AKP would accept such a result.
What to do?
The workers’ movement and the left should take the following political line:
Firstly, instead of calling for bans on Turkish politicians, we should support the NO campaign of the Kurdish and Turkish left. It is important and correct that this has not merged with the campaigns of the nationalists or reactionaries, but is led independently. This support, however, should not be uncritical of the policy of the Turkish and Kurdish left and the liberation movement. Supporting this campaign, of course, means organising and supporting meetings and demonstrations against the AKP campaign.
Secondly, this activity should be combined with the demand for lifting the ban on the PKK and all other Kurdish and Turkish organisations in Germany and the EU.
Thirdly, we call for the end of the EU-Turkey deal and the opening of the borders for the refugees, their right to work, freedom to choose their place of residence in the EU and full citizenship rights. We also call for the abolition of all entry restrictions for people from Turkey, in particular the introduction of visa-free travel.
Fourthly, we must stand for the ending of arms deliveries to Turkey and the withdrawal of all German troops from that country.
The government and racists do not want the conflict in Turkey to spill over into “our country” and at the same time support the Turkish government, not least by oppressing the opposition to it in Germany. Their prohibitions are directed only superficially against Erdogan, in reality they are imposed twice as harshly against left and democratic forces, which are not allowed to be politically active.
We oppose all such hypocrisy. The fight against dictatorship, for democratic rights and the national self-determination of the Kurdish people, also affects us, the left and the workers’ movement in Germany and other countries. We are partisan. We support the struggle of the left and the working class in Turkey. Therefore, our answer to Erdogan, Merkel and Rutte is: Full democratic rights for all migrants and refugees! Support the NO campaign! Build a solidarity movement with the Kurdish movement, the democratic opposition and the workers’ movement in Turkey!