Turkey: Tekel workers’ “Day of Action”

To win the Turkish tobacco workers’ struggle, a broader general strike is necessary

Critical stage in your fight

Your struggle has come to a critical stage: Time is short! To win this great battle, the pressure must be immediately increased.

The government is preparing an escalation at the end of the month and threatens end your struggle with violence.

Some Tekel workers are afraid because the deadline to apply for C4 status expires also at the end of the month.

Therefore, we fear that the “action plan” of your union leadership does not include the determination and widening of this battle which are required, after a heroic struggle of more than two months, to keep our ranks united and to show Erdogan his limits.

The general strike of 4 February was a step in the right direction. The experience of the global labour movement shows that those in power only understand one language – that of class struggle. If the working class uses its power it can achieve anything.

The strike of 4 February has not yet led to the fulfilment of your demands. This does not mean that a strike is not the right weapon. It just shows that more massive strikes and another general strike is necessary to increase the pressure. To limit the struggle only to actions such as those on 20 February is not enough.

Now it is time to put the strength of the labour movement in the balance, to finally force the Erdogan government and the capitalists behind it to their knees.

A general strike must combine your demands and the immediate issues facing millions of Turkish workers: all together against wage cuts, layoffs and poverty!

Erdogan and the government can’t be convinced only by words. They are determined as you, the Tekel workers, are to emerge from this controversy as the winner. Their stubborn attitude has to be answered with determination.

How can we achieve a broader "general action"?

After 4 February, the leadership of your union, Tek Gida-Is, and the trade union confederation, Turk Is, let 6 days pass before they met with the other trade union confederations in order to take discuss further steps. The argument for this was that talks with the government should be conducted first. These talks have not achieved anything.

Had the unions immediately, after the general strike of 4 February, prepared and conducted further strikes, your position would be further strengthened, in order to enforce your demands and strengthen workers throughout the whole of Turkey in their fight against privatisation, wage cuts and layoffs.

Workers from other areas are ready to strike. This was shown on 4 February. Not only out of solidarity, but also because their own future is at stake. If you lose, it makes it easier for the ruling class to attack other sectors (sugar, water supply …). If you are victorious, it will strengthen all workers!

We call on Kumlu (leader of Tek Is) and on Türkel (leader of Tek Gida-Is) and all the union leaders to act immediately!

But it is obvious: they are reluctant and do not show the same determination as the Tekel workers in the streets of Ankara. Like many who have spent the last few weeks with you in the streets of Ankara, CWI members were impressed how determined you are in pursuing your goals and the perseverance with which you are willing to fight for your future.

If Kumlu, Türkel and so on are not willing to take matters into their hands, then you, the Tekel workers, ought to!

On 17 January, following the completely unsatisfactory speech of Kumlu at your rally, you yourselves entered the stage and forced your union leaders to take more radical measures. Thus, you made sure that on 4 February, the “general action” was called and 2 million workers went on strike! Who’s going to stop you taking your struggle forward?

A first step to tackle this could be:

  • A meeting of delegates of Tekel workers from all provinces. Even before the "General Action" on 4 February, delegates from all provinces were involved in consultations. Why can’t these delegates come back together? We suggest that these delegatesbe held accountable to meetings of the workers in the Kondus at all times, and are elected there subject to recall.
  • These assemblies can act as action committees to co-ordinate the next steps.
  • It is your fight. The trade unions must be your fighting organisations. You must discuss and decide what happens and how the struggle goes forward.
  • The trade unions should not only take up your demands regarding the "General Action", but also those to fight wage cuts, layoffs and privatisation in general.
  • For a successful fight, we need:To build committees of action to organise the “general action” and, as the next step in building 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

Stop the government of Erdogan!

The AKP government has made it clear with its actions whose side it is on: International companies such as British American Tobacco (the new owners of Tekel, who destroyed thousands of jobs) and the capitalists in Turkey can count on this government. Workers’ interests are trampled underfoot.

But none of the opposition parties in Parliament represent your interests. Initially, these parties tried to exploit the protests of Tekel-workers. But they all dissappeared as the strength of the joint struggle of all workers, whether Turkish, Kurdish or other nationality, regardless of religion and belief, became visible.

We are fighting for a government in the interest of the working class. Workers and young people in Turkey need a new mass party that represents their interests. A bold socialist program is needed to counterbalance the profit-driven greed of capitalism.

  • – Build a mass workers’ party, with bold socialist policies.

CWI – Committee for a Workers’ International

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.

  • In Britain, CWI members in trade unions and amongst youth are in the forefront fighting to defend jobs and against racial divisions among workers, for example at the Lindsey dispute, and Vestas. CWI members struggle for fighting and democratic unions.
  • In Brazil, Chile, Venezuela and Bolivia, CWI sections are involved in anti-privatisation struggles and for the rights of indigenous peoples.
  • In the US and elsewhere, CWI sections play an important part in the anti-war movement
  • In Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan, CWI sections fight for the unity of all workers, against war, terrorism and ethnic/religious division.
  • In Greece, Germany, and France, CWI members are involved in the struggle to build new workers’ parties inside the new formations like Syriza, Die LINKE and the NPA, arguing for a bold socialist programme and a real involvement in the class struggle
  • In South Africa and Nigeria, CWI sections organise to fight back against unemployment and education cuts caused by capitalist globalisation and multinationals, such as Shell in Nigeria.
  • In June, Joe Higgins of the Socialist party (CWI Ireland) was elected to the European parliament. Joe and the SP have led a number of mass campaigns – including defeating water charges and support for Turkish construction workers.

Join or find out more about the CWI!

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February 2010