May 302014
 

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

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Introduction

The European parliamentary elections witnessed a major breakthrough for the right-wing parties throughout the region.  The rise of the Right runs from the Nordic countries, the United Kingdom, the Baltic and Low countries, France, Central and Eastern Europe to the Mediterranean.

Most, if not all, of these emerging right-wing parties mark a sharp break with the ruling neo-liberal, Christian and Social Democratic parties who have presided over a decade of crisis.

The ‘new Right’ cannot be understood simply by attaching negative labels (‘fascist’, ‘racist’ and ‘anti-Semitic’).  The rise of the Right has to be placed in the context of the decay of political, social and economic institutions, the general and persistent decline of living standards and the disintegration of community bonds and class solidarity. The entire existing political edifice constructed by the neo-liberal parties bears deep responsibility for the systemic crisis and decay of everyday life.  Moreover, this is how it is understood by a growing mass of working people who vote for the Right.

The so-called ‘radical Left’, usually defined as the political parties to the left of the governing Social Democratic parties, with the exception of SYRIZA in Greece, have failed to capitalize on the decline of the neo-liberal parties.  There are several reasons that account for the lack of a right-left polarization.  Most of the ‘radical Left’, in the final account, gave ‘critical support’ to one or another of the Labor or Social Democratic parties and reduced their ‘distance’ from the political-economic disasters that have followed.  Secondly, the ‘radical Left’s’ positions on some issues were irrelevant or offensive to many workers: namely, gay marriage and identity politics.  Thirdly, the radical Left recruited prominent personalities from the discredited Labor and Social Democratic parties and thus raised suspicion that they are a ‘new version’ of past deceptions. Fourthly, the radical Left is strong on public demonstrations demanding ‘structural changes’ but lacks the ‘grass roots’ clientelistic organizations of the Right, which provide ‘services’, such as soup kitchens and clinics dealing with day-to-day problems.

While the Right pretends to be ‘outside’ the neo-liberal establishment challenging the assumption of broad powers by the Brussels elite, the Left is ambiguous: Its support for a ‘social Europe’ implies a commitment to reform a discredited and moribund structure.  The Right proposes ‘national capitalism’ outside of Brussels; the Left proposes ‘socialism within the European Union’.  The Left parties, the older Communist parties and more recent groupings, like Syriza in Greece, have had mixed results.  The former have generally stagnated or lost support despite the systemic crisis.  The latter, like Syriza, have made impressive gains but failed to break the 30% barrier.  Both lack electoral allies.  As a result, the immediate challenge to the neo-liberal status quo comes from the electoral new Right parties and on the left from the extra-parliamentary social movements and trade unions.  In the immediate period, the crisis of the European Union is being played out between the neo-liberal establishment and the ‘new Right’.

The Nature of the New Right

The ‘new Right’ has gained support largely because it has denounced the four pillars of the neo-liberal establishment:  globalization, foreign financial control, executive rule by fiat (the Brussels troika) and the unregulated influx of cheap immigrant labor.

Nationalism, as embraced by the new Right, is tied to national capitalism:  Local producers, retailers and farmers are counterpoised to free traders, mergers and acquisitions by international bankers and the giant multinationals. The ‘new Right’ has its audience among the provincial and small town business elite as well as workers devastated by plant closures and relocations.

The ‘new Right’s’ nationalism is ‘protectionist’ – seeking tariff barriers and state regulations to protect industries and workers from ‘unfair’ competition from overseas conglomerates and low-wage immigrant labor.

The problem is that protectionism limits the imports of cheap consumer goods sold in many small retail shops and affordable to workers and the lower middle class.  The Right ‘dreams’ of a corporatist model where national workers and industries bond to oppose liberal competitive capitalism and class struggle trade unions.  As the class struggle declines, the ‘tri partite’ politics of the neo-liberal right is reconfigured by the New Right to include ‘national’ capital and a ‘paternalistic state’.

In sum, the nationalism of the Right evokes a mythical past of harmony where national capital and labor unite under a common communal identity to confront big foreign capital and cheap immigrant labor.

Political Strategy: Electoral and Extra-Parliamentary Politics

Currently, the new Right is primarily oriented to electoral politics, especially as it gains mass support.  They have increased their share of the electorate by combining mass mobilization and community organizing with electoral politics, especially in depressed areas. They have attracted middle class voters from the neo-liberal right and working class voters from the old Left.  While some sectors of the Right, like the Golden Dawn in Greece, openly flaunt fascist symbols – flags and uniforms – as well as provoking street brawls, others pressure the governing neo-liberal right to adopt some of their demands especially regarding immigration and the ‘deportation of illegals’.  For the present, most of the new Right’s focus is on advancing its agenda and gaining supporters through aggressive appeals within the constitutional order and by keeping the more violent sectors under control.  Moreover, the current political climate is not conducive to open extra-parliamentary ‘street fighting’ where the new Right would be easily crushed.  Most right-wing strategists believe the current context is conducive to the accumulation of forces via peaceful methods.

Conditions Facilitating the Growth of the Right

There are several structural factors contributing to the growth of the new Right in Europe:

First and foremost, there is a clear decline of democratic power and institutions resulting from the centralization of executive – legislative power in the hands of a self-appointed elite in Brussels.  The new Right argues effectively that the European Union has become a profoundly authoritarian political institution disenfranchising voters and imposing harsh austerity programs without a popular mandate.

Secondly, national interests have been subordinated to benefit the financial elite identified as responsible for the harsh policies that have undermined living standards and devastated local industries.  The new Right counterpoises ‘the nation’ to the Brussels ‘Troika’ – the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission.

Thirdly, ‘liberalization’ has eroded local industries and undermined communities and protective labor legislation.  The Right denounces liberal immigration policies, which permit the large-scale inflow of cheap workers at a time of depression level unemployment.  The crisis of capitalism combined with the large force of cheap immigrant labor forms the material basis for right-wing appeals to workers, especially those in precarious jobs or unemployed.

Right:  Contradictions and the Double Discourse

The Right, while criticizing the neo-liberal state for unemployment, focuses mainly on the immigrants competing with nationals in the labor market rather than on the capitalists whose investment decisions determine levels of employment and unemployment.

The Right attacks the authoritarian nature of the European Union, but its own structures, ideology and history pre-figure a repressive state.

The Right rightly proposes to end foreign elite control of the economy, but its own vision of a ‘national state’, especially one linked to NATO, multi-national corporations and imperial wars, will provide no basis for ‘rebuilding the national economy’.

The Right speaks to the needs of the dispossessed and the need to ‘end austerity’ but it eschews the only effective mechanism for countering inequalities – class organization and class struggle.  Its vision of the ‘collaboration between productive capital and labor’ is contradicted by the aggressive capitalist offensive to cut wages, social services, pensions and working conditions.  The new Right targets immigrants as the cause of unemployment while obscuring the role of the capitalists who hire and fire, invest abroad, relocate firms and introduce technology to replace labor.

They focus the workers’ anger ‘downward’ against immigrants, instead of ‘upward’ toward the owners of the means of production, finance and distribution who ultimately manipulate the labor market.

In the meantime the radical Left’s mindless defense of unlimited immigration in the name of an abstract notion of ‘international workers solidarity’ exposes their arrogant liberal bias, as though they had never consulted real workers who have to compete with immigrants for scarce jobs under increasingly unfavorable conditions.

The radical Left, under the banner of ‘international solidarity’, has ignored the historical fact that ‘internationalism’ must be built on the strong national foundation of organized, employed workers.

The Left has allowed the new Right to exploit and manipulate powerful righteous nationalist causes.  The radical Left has counterpoised ‘nationalism’ to socialism, rather than seeing them as intertwined, especially in the present context of an imperialist-dominated European Union.

The fight for national independence, the break-up of the European Union, is essential to the struggle for democracy and the deepening of the class struggle for jobs and social welfare. The class struggle is more powerful and effective on the familiar national terrain – rather than confronting distant overseers in Brussels.

The notion among many radical Left leaders to ‘remake’ the EU into a ‘Social Europe’, the idea that the EU could be converted into a ‘European Union of Socialist States’ simply prolongs the suffering of the workers and the subordination of nations to the non-elected bankers who run the EU.  No one seriously believes that buying stocks in Deutsch Bank and joining its annual stockholders meetings would allow workers to ‘transform’ it into a ‘People’s Bank’.  Yet the ‘Bank of the Banks’, the ‘Troika’, made up of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, set all major policies for each member state of the European Union. Un-rectified and remaining captive of the ‘Euro-metaphysic’, the Left has abdicated its role in advancing the class struggle through the rebirth of the national struggle against the EU oligarchs.

Results and Perspectives

The Right is advancing rapidly, even if unevenly across Europe. Its support is not ephemeral but stable and cumulative at least in the medium run.  The causes are ‘structural’ and result from the new Right’s ability to exploit the socio-economic crisis of the neo-liberal right governments and to denounce authoritarian and anti-national policies of the unelected EU oligarchy.

The new Right’s strength is in ‘opposition’.  Their protests resonate while they are distant from the command centers of the capitalist economy and state.

Are they capable of moving from protest to power?  Shared power with the neo-liberals will obviously dilute and disaggregate their current social base.

The contradictions will deepen as the new Right moves from positions of ‘opposition’ to sharing power with the neo-liberal Right.  The massive roundups and deportation of immigrant workers is not going to change capitalist employment policies or restore social services or improve living standards.  Promoting ‘national’ capital over foreign through some corporatist union of capital and labor will not reduce class conflict.  It is totally unrealistic to imagine ‘national’ capital rejecting its foreign partners in the interest of labor.

The divisions within the ‘nationalist Right’, between the overtly fascist and electoral corporatist sectors, will intensify.  The accommodation with ‘national’ capital, democratic procedures and social inequalities will likely open the door to a new wave of class conflict which will expose the sham radicalism of the ‘nationalist’ right.  A committed Left, embedded in the national terrain, proud of its national and class traditions, and capable of unifying workers across ethnic and religious ‘identities’ can regain supporters and re-emerge as the real alternative to the two faces of the Right – the neo-liberal and the ‘nationalist’ new Right.  The prolonged economic crisis, declining living standards, unemployment and personal insecurity propelling rise of the nationalist Right can also lead to the emergence of a Left deeply linked to national, class and community realities.  The neo-liberals have no solutions to offer for the disasters and problems of their own making; the nationalists of the new Right have the wrong -reactionary – answer.  Does the Left have the solution?  Only by overthrowing the despotic imperial rule of Brussels can they begin to address the national-class issues.

Post-script and final observations:

In the absence of a Left alternative, the working class voters have opted for two alternatives: Massive voter abstention and strikes.  In the recent EU election, 60% of the French electorate abstained, with abstention approaching 80% in working class neighborhoods.  This pattern was repeated or even exceeded throughout the EU – hardly a mandate for the EU or for the ‘new Right’.  In the weeks and days before the vote, workers took to the streets.  There were massive strikes of civil servants and shipyard workers, as well as workers from other sectors and mass demonstrations by the unemployed and popular classes opposing EU-imposed ‘austerity’ cuts in social services, health, education, pensions, factory closures and mass lay-offs.  Widespread voter abstention and street demonstrations point to a huge proportion of the population rejecting both the neo-Liberal Right of the ‘Troika’ as well as the ‘new Right’.

Aug 052013
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Written by Turkish blogger, Tuğba Sivri:

The 'Invisible Man' protest in Istanbul

The ‘Invisible Man’ protest in Istanbul, where only the rioting police can be seen.

Police violence has become widespread in Turkey. On the night of Saturday August 3rd there was a call on Twitter with the #MilyonlarTaksime (Millions to Taksim) hashtag to protest the closing of Gezi Park again in Taksim. As can be understood from the “Millions,” this was simply a case of “trolling” aimed at manipulating the Governor of Istanbul and police to take unnecessary precautions out of fear that that many people might actually show up. However the Governor and the chief of police in Istanbul took measures; thousands of riot police and over a dozen TOMAs (Riot Intervention Vehicles) and “Spiders,” which are rapid shooters to disperse riot crowds, were brought in.

The 'Invisible Man' Protest

Police line up riot vehicles in preparation for the ‘Invisible Man’ protest

As the streets were empty of protesters, police chased the “invisible men,” running up and down streets, which started a random protest by people who had been walking around and shopping. A few dozen people started randomly shouting without drawing attention to themselves and these few protesters faced intervention by police with truncheons and water cannons. TOMAs started spraying chemicals on people randomly on Istiklal Avenue and by the end of the night 40 people had been detained.

As usual, Turkish rioting police use weapons they don't need.

Turkish rioting police use weapons they don’t need against people who aren’t there.

While all this was happening around Gezi Park, police went out hunting “protesters.” They started to attack civilians with colored rubber bullets. When it became obvious that the protest was not actually taking place, they started to spray tourists with water cannons. They detained a person who was sitting and smoking and they intimidated him because he was smoking publicly during the month of Ramadan, when many people are fasting in accordance with Islamic beliefs.

Rioting police viciously attack random people on the streets.

Rioting police viciously attack random people on the streets.

In addition to these incidents, police beat and detained two elderly people who were sitting in a restaurant, for no apparent reason. All this is proof of the fact that police do not even try to legitimize their illegitimate interventions, although earlier last month they had been excused by officials stating that the policemen were “overtired and nervous” and thus had attacked civilians with excessive force, unleashing all the terror and brutality.

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Jul 312013
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

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Submitted by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan, from Istanbul:

Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim had announced some weeks ago that Twitter did not respond positively to a “cooperation” agreement to determine and spot those who get involved in “criminal activities” by expressing their views online. This statement’s rhetoric would make any reader feel that Facebook is cooperating with the Turkish government, and it was Twitter that was declared a menace to society by Prime Minister Erdogan. The flow of information and the pace at which news spread nationally as well as internationally must have been felt deeply, and initially it was the Metropolitan Mayor of Istanbul Kadir Topbas who requested that the Gezi Park protesters tweet in English saying that “everything is fine in Istanbul and life is back to normal.”

Not long after this “request” came threats and rumors that opposition pages would be closed down on Facebook as soon as possible but definitely before the elections – mainly citizen journalism, leftistKurdishAlevi religious or LGBT pages. Although one might not want to believe in this possibility, apparently it was true that dozens of pages that reflect an alternative to the government’s rhetoric on the Internet have been closed down for no valid reason (the reason given for the closing down of some news sources was that they share pornographic content).

In order to protest this process of silencing opposition voices on Facebook, many users have been involved in a series of digital protests mainly involving twitter hashtags, penguin spamming (of Facebook’s official page), ad boycotting, and lastly a 24-hour account deactivation boycott on July 21. Even after these actions, Facebook does not seem to have heard the voice of the Turkish opposition and repeatedly closes down reserve pages of the same titles (which used to have hundreds of thousands of followers), this time not even giving a reason.

The cyber-army of government-leaning hackers have been terrorizing the social-media platforms through the use of an excessive number of fake accounts, organizing spam attacks and filing complaint reports about opposition pages stating that they are promoting sexual content. As Facebook has been avoiding any involvement in fighting hate speech and instigation to violence on hate groups, it actually now contributes to the ongoing “digitocide” happening in the cyber-lands of Gezi Park.

Among the pages that have been closed down are Ötekilerin Postasi (the biggest citizen journalism platform in Turkey that has broken the news of many big events that the mainstream media shunned), DurDe (an unofficial NGO that aims to prevent hate speech and hate crimes), BDP (one of the parliamentary parties, representing mainly the Kurdish population in the country), and Carsi (football fans, mainly of Besiktas). All these groups and pages in total welcomed millions of users, who are not giving up and continue to “like” the new pages.

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Jul 122013
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Ali's lsmail's last tweet

Ali’s lsmail’s last tweet

Submitted by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan, from Istanbul

Update from Turkey 10 July 2013:

Excessive use of force by police was already unbearable for peaceful protesters in Gezi Park. The addition of AKP-leaning mobs, armed with clubs, knives, machetes, and pistols, seems like a paramilitary force of the party terrorizing the streets. Another young man has fallen in this rape of civil life; Ali Ismail Korkmaz was only 19 years old, and was to be a student at Eskisehir Anadolu University.

His father gave an interview and described his son as quiet and political. Ali had never been to a political rally before, saw the group cheering and shouting, wondered, and joined them, and notified his father of his attendance so that he would not worry. When the police intervention on the peaceful protest began, he was hit on the head with a truncheon and then started running away from the beatings and teargas, friends later told his father.

He ran away from riot police while they were shooting gas canisters, aiming at him, and ran into a side street. The street Ali took refuge in was filled with angry mobs that some people consider to be undercover policemen, who were acting parallel to the riot police, and beating people in the shadows. Ali was mercilessly beaten and then left to his destiny. Exhausted as he was, he crawled to a bus stop to go back home when he could. As he reached the bus stop he came across another group of thugs and was again beaten, till unconscious.

When his friends found him by chance, they took him to a hospital where he was denied entrance as the hospital lacked sufficient equipment to detect his condition. He was sent to another hospital where he was denied treatment without first checking in with police headquarters, giving his statement about the protests and why he was beaten. Only after police gave orders for him to go to the hospital could he be treated.

It took him 20 hours to be accepted by the hospital, and only after he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and had to be taken to the intensive care unit. His father says he was unable to look at his son due to the horrible condition he was in.

Between the night of June 2 and today, Ali has suffered much pain, as did millions of people who were wishing to see him return to life. He did not make it. Another life had to fade due to violence.

When Ali’s father demanded that the people responsible be found, he found out that the video footage was supposedly defective and was useless. The police department had got the video footage from a hotel nearby, kept the record for a few days for security reasons and then declared in a report that the video had malfunctioned. The hotel manager stated that he had checked the video himself and that it was working. Thus police could not start a proper investigation and the case could not refer to an anonymous person as guilty.

Having seen no initiative from the police department or any attempt by the governor to calm the family down, Ali’s father is preparing to file a complaint to a number of courts to seek justice, including the European Court of Human Rights.

Now his father summarizes the situation, “Police gassed, mobs beat, hospital refused, doctors ignored, video footage erased, investigation halted, my son dead.”

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Jul 112013
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

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Submitted by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan, from Istanbul

Update from Turkey 10 July 2013:

Turkish PM Erdogan: “Separation of powers is an obstacle for our plans” 17.12.2012

AKP’s controversial midnight passing of laws have been regarded with infamy. This one focused on a “retaliation law” that was prepared urgently in a short time, to close down NGOs that do not share the same views as the governing AKP. The law passed with the AKP majority and even though all opposition deputies were present there, they were not able to stop the government as they have a landslide majority in the parliament resulting from the faulty election threshold of 10%.

According to the new law, NGOs (namely the professional chambers) will not be allowed to check on government (local or central) plans and decisions, they will not be asked their advice in their fields of expertise, and they will not be allowed to have a sustainable budget. This basically kills all the work of many proactive NGOs that have checked and tried to balance the excessively destructive plans of the government over the last years, though without much success.

The most recent restrictive law came as a harsh blow against Turkey’s Chamber of Engineers & Architects, TMMOB, which successfully formed Taksim Solidarity and prevented the government from demolishing Gezi Park while there was a court decision to protect the park. As a majority of management people from several influential NGOs and Unions are under detention and their homes were raided by police without a court order, the NGOs were left with only the young members who mobilized social media and started campaigns to stop this law from passing or being approved by President Gül.

Many protesters consider the practice of midnight legislation, dawn raids against civilians, and excessive use of force as indicators of a civilian coup by AKP, which has dominated all separate powers of the state except for civil society, and with this new law has managed to silence all NGOs. While in the legislative arena this is happening, on the streets of Tophane, just down from Taksim, paramilitary forces that support AKP and riot police are forming up gangs to “protect their neighborhood.” These people join and follow the riot police during the raids, holding up clubs and sticks and even some with machetes and pistols, threatening civilians.

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Jul 102013
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

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Submitted by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan, from Istanbul

Update from Turkey 9 July 2013:

It was the day of the grand opening, after a day of postponement by the government due to Saturday night’s police intervention in Gezi Park. The Governor, Mayor and many other AKP officials were present at Gezi Park alongside over 200 journalists asking questions. The police did not allow too many civilians in the park during the opening ceremony. As the Mayor called for an end to all kinds of protests and blamed the peaceful protesters for provoking police to turn violent, someone in the crowd asked “Will we be allowed to kiss in the park, I would love to show my affection to my wife with a simple kiss” to which the governor replied “If society allows it…”

This was the facial expression of officials when they heard the word “kiss” from a man.

This was the facial expression of officials when they heard the word “kiss” from a man.

The reopening of the park was welcomed by thousands of people. So many of them wanted to see the park over which four people were killed, dozens left without an eye, dozens are still in critical condition, over 9,000 injured and hundreds under arrest. There were seniors, disabled persons and children present in the park when police started evacuating not only the park but the Taksim district. The park had been open for just two hours when police announced that all shops would be closed in a pre-emptive action. Some shop owners did close down, some others did not. Then came gas, water cannons and shooter-panzers called “spiders.”

The view in Taksim looked as if the police were playing video games with unlimited ammunition. Rubber bullets and water cannons were shooting anyone that moved and those staying in their homes were hardly able to breathe due to excessive use of gas. Once again, there was intervention without a reason, later responded to in a declaration by Taksim Solidarity (TS).

Rioting police use of acidic water for water cannons has become the norm.

Rioting police use of acidic water for water cannons has become the norm.

TS announced that they would read a press statement at 7p.m. regarding the opening of the park, the guaranteeing of civil liberties and freedoms, police violence, and the arrest of so many people, as well as commemorations of the persons killed. Before they could even start reading the press statement, they were detained by police. Many intellectuals, academics, professionals, artists, and politicians were detained by force.

Detention scene of Taksim Solidarity members.

Detention scene of Taksim Solidarity members.

In the meantime Istanbul Technical University’s graduation ceremony was attacked by AKP mobs with clubs and stones, chanting the name of PM Erdogan. Later on, water cannons and riot police took over the campus area and prevented any further protest by attacked people. This amounted to another form of pressure on academia, after last week’s forced resignation or detaining of professors.

One other significant event of the evening was a man, dressed very similarly to the machete man, shooting a pistol in Taksim. People ran away, and hid behind blocks from bullets. When he was gone, someone collected the empty shells and brought them to the police, asking them to investigate the incident and arrest the man with the gun. The person who brought the empty shells and filed a complaint was detained for protesting and disturbing the public peace.

As all this happened, the Turkish media turned towards Egypt and on all TV channels that did not show penguin documentaries or nightly TV contest shows, there were discussions concerning the security problems in Egypt. Turkish officials gave out remarks stating “It cannot be justifiable nor defended when a government directs guns at its own citizens – that are paid for by those citizens.” The irony in this statement caused anger among protesters as they were getting shot with rubber bullets at close range, hit by water cannons, or gassed.

The headquarters of several civil-society and professional organizations were raided, including the TS building where a meeting was being held by non-detained members and supporters concerning the detention of well-known persons, including Mücella Yapici, secretary of the Istanbul Chamber of Architects.

Lastly, around midnight when the park was opened again for public use and people’s forum was established to discuss their problems, the police troops started marching on side streets in residential neighborhoods, shouting the infamous slogans commonly used by military troops such as “All is for the fatherland” or “Blood spilled for the fatherland”. This kind of behavior has been present especially in the southeastern Kurdish cities with military parades in city centers as part of psychological pressure for decades. Now the conditions for “state of emergency” seem to be applied in Istanbul too.

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Jul 082013
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Riot police use a water cannon to disperse demonstrators during a protest at Taksim Square in central Istanbul July 6, 2013.

Riot police use a water cannon to disperse demonstrators during a protest at Taksim Square in central Istanbul July 6, 2013.

Submitted by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan, from Istanbul

Update from Turkey 8 July 2013:

As part of a weekly routine, Istanbul experienced yet another weekend of police violence when thousands of people wanted to visit Gezi Park, having received the court decision to keep it as a park and after the Governor declared it “open to public visiting.” Except that no one is allowed there other than police… Once again, it was a crowd of many different people – children, seniors, disabled people, students, men, women, anti-capitalist Muslims, LGBT communities, leftists, nationalists… And once again they all faced excessive police violence, upon the Minister of Interior’s declaration that “no protest can ever be allowed, and of course we will disperse any crowd that gathers.”

Thus the democratic rights of civilians were put on the shelf, and thousands of policemen and undercover agents started arresting anyone around. Cafes and restaurants got their fair share of tear gas while people were hit by water cannons on streets. When a new weekend crackdown was added to the already long list, it proved to be one that has expanded in scope.

When protesters said “It’s not just Gezi Park any more,” no one would expect the same phrase to be used by government officials as well. It cannot be the park any more; nothing can explain this hatred that targets popular tourist destinations, the heart of night life and the center of cultural zones in and around Taksim.

People were subjected to tear gas, they were hit with nightsticks for simply enjoying a few drinks in cafes and bars. People were being shot by plastic bullets from a distance of 50 centimeters, and if they complained of violence they were beaten more. Many journalists experienced violence, and their already harsh working conditions were made harder. As police were detaining the protesters who were gathering to mimic water cannons through a water-gun fight game, several people with machetes appeared and attacked people on the streets.

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When the machete-wielding men started attacking people on the street, no one dared to stop them. The police did not even intervene, as they were busy detaining protesters, gassing children in the park, and chasing after disabled people. When finally, after much uproar from protesters, the machete men were detained, they were quickly brought to court… where they were released.

Yet on Friday night when the AKP organized a rally to protest the military coup in Egypt, there was no police intervention against the blocking of traffic or disturbing the public peace at midnight, or against the vandalism against the Egyptian consulate building. With these double standards prevailing, another event was organized on Sunday under the name “Gassed Man Festival,” in Kadikoy, where hundreds of thousands of people who had enjoyed a good amount of tear gas before cheered with protesting bands and musicians.

While all this is happening in the larger frame, on a more specific basis, journalists and bloggers are being accused of “espionage” for unspecified “international alliances,” and people continue being targeted.

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Jul 072013
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

turkey-considers-temporary-social-media-ban-3faff8fb97

Submitted by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan, from Istanbul

Update from Turkey 7 July 2013:

The Bar Association in Izmir organized a press conference stating that the Twitter arrests in the aftermath of the Gezi protests were based on illegally gathered information and no court decision. The police had staged a pre-emptive arrest of the authors of digital content in the absence of a direct order to even investigate the situation, finding evidence of any obvious criminal act, or a judge’s order to carry out these arrests.

The Bar’s report stated “Police officers, without a court warrant, logged into the Twitter and Facebook accounts of several people, went through and saved their message/sharing history. This happened in the absence of a court ruling to pursue these people, even when there was no need to determine their IP addresses. People were arrested out of suspicion and assumptions in pre-emptive manner.”

Currently these acts are considered unlawful; yet there are further developments to criminalize use of Twitter for political communication and in times of protests. A new bill soon to be passed in the parliament will enable the Turkish National Intelligence Agency to go over all information online, without needing any court ruling to investigate any event, using anyone as an informant to mobilize agents to spy on civilians’ Internet usage. The Bar Association’s declaration ends with the summary, “We are all being watched, we are all being filed.”

The Others’ Post

A popular citizen-journalist paper called Ötekilerin Postasi (The Others’ Post) has been the source of public news for a long time. It was the one to break the news that the mainstream media were reluctant to even consider publishing. It has been a good long journey with Ötekilerin Postasi until digital lynching campaigns were carried out systematically to ban their page from the social networks.

While the Facebook page of the Ötekilerin Postasi had 138,000 follower/reporters, a digital lynching campaign achieved success in getting Facebook to ban the page. A Facebook notice stated that the page is no longer active and has been taken down due to its spreading of nudity, porn or sexual content – which is not the case with a political digital newspaper.

While hundreds of hate groups and pages that target individuals, places, and groups of socially marginalized people (such as LGBT communities) are allowed by Facebook to operate and spread their hate speech online, the sole alternative citizen journalist platform for Turkish readers has been closed down.

At the moment online activists – after carrying out a “penguin campaign” for CNN Turk, filling their Facebook page with penguin smilies – are considering starting a new campaign to draw attention to Facebook’s double standards and its acting without consideration. The activists are considering a new set of penguin campaigns, boycotting Facebook advertisements or even closing down their accounts – which adds up to millions of people.

Digital media is the only platform where information spreads freely to millions of people. Although the government’s intervention against freedom of information and speech are handicapping this, it is even more harmful when organized civilian attacks are carried out against these freedoms and liberties.

MORE STORIES by Gürkan Özturan @ http://radicaldemocrat.blog.com

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Jul 062013
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

Blind Justice

Submitted by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan, from Istanbul

Update from Turkey 6 July 2013:

Justice apparently is not such a strange notion to Turkish protesters as one would expect. It seldom gives a decision that respects international law and basic human rights. Most recently the Istanbul court has ruled that the objection to stopping the court ruling to cancel demolishing of Gezi Park is unlawful and that the park should be preserved as green space; this decision would set an example for all green spaces that are currently under occupation by construction companies and security forces who try to keep civilian protesters away from green spaces. Although this declaration might seem hopeful, and appear to be a final decision regarding all events surrounding Gezi, it actually is a ruling that is still open-ended. There might yet be a final opposition to the court ruling and even a change of the law to invalidate the court decision.

In fact it is a general problem that laws are interpreted in a very liberal manner, usually in favor of the government. While it is a very common phrase to hear from the Prime Minister or members of the cabinet “I have given orders to my judges, they will handle this issue delicately,” for the remainder of society, justice remains a dream far away on the horizon.  Not only can one not actually observe constitutional rights and liberties being respected, but no one can actually see any kind of protection of civil rights unless it is in strong alliance with or an integral part of the governing AKP.

Most recently, concerning civil liberties and constitutional rights, the Istanbul Chief of Police, Huseyin Capkin, declared that whoever goes against the law will face tough consequences. While this statement might sound promising to many, it has a follow-up. “Those who aim to turn any event into a protest, or organize a rally, will of course face intervention. Gezi Park is open to public visit as long as there is no political agenda. We will allow a return to normality once people stop turning the park into a political atmosphere. Otherwise, of course we will intervene.”

The police forces in general misinterpret any law they read. They conclude that any kind of protest is against the law, as they have been ordered to stop any anti-government protest. Moreover, they take liberties in interpreting the Turkish Language Association’s definition of a coup, which concludes that “any attempt to force a government out of office through democratic means or by force is a coup.”

The injustices caused by police forces do not end there; as one looks at the arrest notices in Izmir concerning the Twitter users, it can be seen that they were arrested without any court approval to perform any kind of surveillance or control of their online written material. Obviously what happened was that police took the liberty of spying on people’s written online material and arrested them under the suspicion that they might be “insulting to the state.”

The majority of the people who were arrested in Izmir were accused of being members of the main opposition party, CHP (Republican People’s Party), IP (Labor Party), TKP (Turkish Communist Party), ÖDP (Freedom and Democracy Party), or NGOs varying from Kemalist groups to socialist groups, as well as labor unions.

The police reports concerning Gezi conclude that the media are partially responsible for everything, through not reporting and causing the social media to replace the regular media, which are much more controllable through governmental force. Moreover, the university senates were accused of participating in a “coup attempt” against the government by allowing opposition voices into the forefront of representation of the educational institutions.

While all protesters have been declared “terrorists” by the government and accepted as such by the police, the riot police who participated in the “quest” to end civilian protests were given 24 wage bonus payments for their “positive contributions to the suppression of revolts.” The biggest bonus payment – over 3,000€ – was given to the chief of the Istanbul riot police, for sending out a text message that glorifies all the violence carried out by the police against civilians, and calling their acts “a legend in the history of Turkey.”

While what prevails in Turkey at the moment is basically authoritarian, and even quasi-military, rule without complete participation of the military, it cannot be declared to be such and continues to be called “democratic” under heavy police-state guarantees. While a majority of the people in government continue to defy the military intervention in Egypt, they do not shy away from calling the military into action against peaceful protesters who are petitioning for recognition of their democratic rights and guarantees of internationally recognized freedoms.

Lastly, concerning Egypt and hearing the concerns of the Turkish authorities, it is important to cite the Turkish Language Association’s definition of the word “coup,” of historical importance to the situation:

Coup: “Ousting a government through use of force or democratic means; change of political system”

MORE STORIES by Gürkan Özturan @ http://radicaldemocrat.blog.com

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Jul 032013
 

Posted by SnakeArbusto and greydogg, 99GetSmart

page_sivas-olaylarinda-takviye-kuvvet-alinamamis_701140708

Submitted by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan, from Istanbul

20 years ago today, 37 people were burned alive in Sivas, in Turkey. They were mere intellectuals who gathered in a Madimak hotel for a conference. Among them were bards, poets, novelists, artists, scientists, philosophers… Islamist extremists had protested their presence in the city of Sivas, saying there were people who had cited Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and spread atheist ideals among the crowd. While hundreds of intellectuals had decided to gather in the name of “Anatolian Peace and Welcoming” there, thousands surrounded them with absolute hatred. When police and gendarmerie forces did not intervene, over ten thousand extremists who had already come to the hotel area with flammable chemicals and other supplies for arson, set the hotel on fire when many were inside with very low chances of escape.

madimak-benzin

Dozens of people died, many others were saved, a nation was left traumatized, and the perpetrators were never punished. Over two decades, civil society called for recognition of this crime by the state, an official apology from those who were responsible for the police/gendarmerie/firefighter inaction, a guarantee that those who organized, carried out, and covered up this crime would be punished. None of those things happened. A massive literature piled up on the event from all artistic and academic fields.

Today, across the country, Gezi protesters continue their struggle and include the massacre of Sivas in 1993. Last year when the court decided not to investigate the massacre any longer, PM Erdogan commented about the perpetrators being freed without any punishment, saying “this is all the best for the country.” The lawyers who defended the case against the victims do not seem to resent the fact that they defended a massacre. Many others who were involved in this crime have been promoted to high positions over the years, including many of the lawyers from Islamist parties getting elected into parliament, including eight current AKP deputies.

IF

As Erdogan keeps referring to his apology as head of government for the 1938 Dersim massacre, he still resists apologizing for the Sivas massacre or the Uludere air raid that left 35 people dead two years ago. The expectations are optimistic that someday there will be recognition of all the crimes committed against civilians while state officials organized/ordered/protected the perpetrators. Yet the chances that justice will prevail seem low. While this has been settled on as a demand of many millionsto see justice, many others, unofficially mobilized by AKP youth, continue glorifying the massacres and continue to threaten in the name of religion.

On the day when people were being burned alive, someone in the hotel Madimak asked “What happens if they hurt some of us?” and was answered by Metin Altiok – a poet who died as a result of the Sivas Massacre – “Survivors will write poems of the fallen…”

Rifat Ilgaz wrote:

“Pharaohs broke the clay tablets in Egypt. Hitler’s armies burned down libraries in Europe. Look here, intellectuals! For the first time in history they filled a building with intellectuals and set them on fire!”

sivas

NYTimes, July 03, 1993, 40 Killed in a Turkish Hotel Set Afire by Muslim Militants: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/07/03/world/40-killed-in-a-turkish-hotel-set-afire-by-muslim-militants.html

MORE STORIES by Gürkan Özturan @ http://radicaldemocrat.blog.com

PREVIOUS UPDATES: 

Turkey: Kurds’ Turn to Protest Government Violence @ http://99getsmart.com/turkey-kurds-turn-to-protest-government-violence/

Turkey: Justice Remains a Long-Lost Dream @ http://99getsmart.com/turkey-justice-remains-a-long-lost-dream/

Turkey: Erdogan Government Subjugates Police and the Courts @ http://99getsmart.com/turkey-erdogan-government-subjugates-police-and-the-courts/

Turkey: Another Night of Heavy Crackdowns @ http://99getsmart.com/turkey-another-night-of-heavy-crackdowns/

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