Turkey: Tekel workers’ struggle and general strike show the way forward

Workers and youth need their own party to fight for their interests

The victory of the Tekel workers’ struggle would not be only a victory for them, but for the whole of the working class. Last December’s assault on the rights and conditions of the Tekel workers were courageously resisted. Millions of other workers immediately sympathised with the Tekel workers, as they also face big attacks, as the bosses try to make working people pay for the crisis of their profit system.

The Turkish state reacted brutally to the Tekel workers’ fight-back. Riot police attacked thousands holding a sit-in at a central park in Ankara. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government refused to make any real concessions to the workers’ demands, and only offered them severance pay or contracts with lower wages. Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, called the workers’ protests “illegal” and threatened to use riot police to crush the protests.

TEKEL workers fight on

For Tekel workers and many other workers, this dispute has revealed that the AKP government will side with the bosses. In fact, the AKP has pursued pro-capitalist policies since it came to power, including carrying out privatisations that have led to many job losses and attacks on workers’ rights and conditions.

The so-called ‘opposition’ parties are no better. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) refused to fully support the strikers when it saw that the dispute is radicalising big sections of the workforce.

The Tekel dispute has had a big impact already on the outlook of workers, including many of whom previously voted for the AKP. These workers see that despite their sharp clashes on various issues, the AKP and CHP represent different wings of the ruling capitalist establishment. These parties will find common ground when they believe the fundamental interests of the ruling capitalist class are under threat. The AKP and CHP will do everything to try to stop the development of a strong, independent workers’ movement.

After years of neo-liberal attacks and of ‘boom’ and ‘bust’, many workers and youth now conclude that only determined, militant action will win the Tekel workers’ struggle and stop all other attacks. Feeling increasing pressure from below, the Turkish union federations called the 4 February general strike. Even this one-day display of workers’ power forced Prime Minister Erdogan to appeal to the workers to allow more time for the Cabinet to discuss the dispute!

Following the one-day general strike, the six union federations stated they would meet to decide the next steps. The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) believes that the working class must press home its advantage and the struggle must be stepped up, for the Tekel workers to win their struggle and to force the government and bosses to stop all their attacks on working people and youth.

The CWI stands for:

  • The defence of all jobs and wages, re-nationalise Tekel, under workers’ democratic control and management.
  • For a 48 hour general strike, as the next step to support the Tekel workers, followed by all-out strike action, if needed, linking up all struggles against privatisations, redundancies and poverty.
  • Build committees of action in workplaces, universities and schools to organise general strike action and to build a movement to defend workers, youth and pensioners
  • For fighting and democratic trade unions, for union representatives elected by the members and subject to recall, to live on an average workers’ wage
  • For full democratic rights, including the right to organise independent unions, to strike, assembly and demonstrate, for free mass media, free elections and equal rights for minorities.
  • Building a mass workers’ party, with bold socialist policies.

Message from Joe Higgins, Socialist Party (CWI Ireland), Member of European Parliament (MEP)

Socialist Party MEP, Joe Higgins, has been in solidarity correspondence with the Tekel workers. Joe Higgins also raised the issue in the European parliament.

Joe Higgins sends this new message to Tekel workers and to all working people and youth in Turkey:

“I applaud the magnificent struggle by Tekel workers and the solidarity general strike by millions of workers on 4 February. These mass struggles in defence of wages and conditions and against privatisations inspire working people and youth everywhere.

“I and the CWI salute the united action of working class people, overcoming divisions to resist the attempt by bosses to make workers pay for the crisis of their profit system.

“An awakened working class in Turkey is a huge step forward. With its own party and bold socialist policies, it will be an unstoppable force.”


The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) is a campaigning international socialist organization, based in over 35 countries, in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Western and Eastern Europe, Russia, North and Latin America. The CWI is part of the struggle to overthrow the rule of big business and global capitalism. We fight for a democratic socialist society internationally.

The CWI participates in and leads workers’ and youth struggles, as well as campaigning against imperialism, oppression and injustice.

The CWI is based on the ideas of genuine socialism – the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky applied to the problems of workers and youth all over the world. We call for the creation of independent, campaigning trade unions and new mass parties of the working class, as part of the fight for a new society based on peoples’ needs not profits.

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February 2010