Trade unions’ 48 hour general strike must be first step to building mass, united movement against murderous regime of Erdoğan

The horrendous double bombing attack that struck a protest rally for peace organized by several trade unions in Ankara, Turkey’s capital city, on Saturday 10 October, led, at the last count, to at least 128 deaths, and hundreds injured. It is the largest terrorist attack in the country’s history. Many victims are still in intensive care units in various hospitals, while a number of bodies, unrecognizable, have not yet been identified. This attack, by its human and political magnitude, has shaken the country to its foundations.

Photo by Sosyalist Alternatif members

Saturday’s demonstration was organized by the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK), the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) and the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB). A few minutes before the start of the protest, a bomb exploded on where activists from the left and pro-Kurdish party HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) had gathered. A second blast occurred about fifty meters from the first one, bringing more destruction and deaths on its way. Eyewitnesses, including members of Sosyalist Alternatif (CWI) who arrived on the scene just a few minutes after the bombing, reported scenes of unspeakable horror.

They also confirmed other reports of attempts by the police to obstruct help being given to the victims. Tear gas was fired into crowds of surviving protesters and relatives and ambulances were stopped. Riot police were sent to the scene of the carnage even before the first ambulances arrived. Huseyin Demirdizen, from the Physicians Association of Turkey (TTB) said: “While the doctors from the health workers union were calling for blood donations, the government announced there was no need for blood. If the health workers were not already at the demonstration the number of deaths and wounded would have been much higher.”

Almost immediately after the attack, the regime decided to block Twitter and Facebook accounts, in an obvious attempt to prevent grassroots reports circulating and to give to the media controlled by the AKP (Justice and Development Party, the governing party) the upper hand, which accused left groups or the PKK of being behind the twin bombing.

The first response by state forces has left absolutely no doubt about where the regime stands in relation to what is not just a tragedy, but clearly a politically-orchestrated massacre. Whatever is the exact role played by the Erdoğan regime in this attack its political responsibility is overwhelming. This bombing took place in a context of a strategy in recent months of growing escalation and provocation, including physical attacks, by Erdoğan’s regime forces and his thugs against the Left and the Kurdish national movement. A brutal war of aggression is also underway by the Turkish army against the PKK and the Kurdish people in the country’s south east, which has killed hundreds. Even though the PKK said on Saturday they would hold a ceasefire before Turkey goes to the polls on 1 November, the Turkish army bombed PKK positions in south east Turkey and northern Iraq, killing scores over the weekend.

The “anti-terrorist” drum beat of the regime fools no one. It has been mainly used as a cover to crackdown on the Left and against the pro-Kurdish and HDP activist base, which have overwhelmingly been at the receiving end of a campaign of state terror. Over the last years, ISIS and other jihadists groups have, on the contrary, benefited from the established complicity of the Turkish state in their activities in Syria.

Desolation and rage

Hence the sadness and desolation provoked by Saturday’s horrendous bombings rapidly and rightly merged into rage against the AKP government, including internationally. On Saturday afternoon, tens of thousands of people demonstrated against the government in Istanbul and other cities. On Sunday, in Ankara, about 10,000 were back on the streets, at the very square near the railway station where the bombings took place the day before. This shows the mood of defiance and fearlessness that exists. At the burial of some of the victims, the anger of the masses was running deep, and it is very unlikely to evaporate anytime soon.

Photo of Ankara protest on Sunday, by Sosyalist Alternatif

The four left-wing trade union confederations have called for a 48 hour general strike on Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th October. This is a very appropriate and welcoming move that needs to be supported by the Left and the labour and trade union movement internationally. A general strike, by bringing together the Kurdish and Turkish people to fight in a united way, is the best response to Erdoğan and his ruling clique’s attempts to use the blood of working people to divide-and-rule and enhance their power, as well as the profits of the rich business tycoons which this power defends. Seeing the utter failure of the state and police forces to protect the people, Left and union rallies and demonstrations will have to be properly stewarded and protected. Appropriate self-defense measures, involving all communities, need to be taken in conjunction with trade union organisations.

The CWI wants to bring its full solidarity, sympathy and condolences with all those who have been victims of Saturday’s attack, all those who have lost relatives, friends and comrades. The best way to honour their deaths is by renewing the struggle against the thuggish and dictatorial regime of Erdoğan, against the capitalist system and imperialist powers that stand behind it, and for a socialist and democratic world. Let us make sure that this strike is only the beginning of the building of a mass and united workers’ and youth movement that can put this cynical and murderous regime into the dustbin of history.

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