North Cyprus: Second 24-hour general strike against austerity cuts

Right wing government launches attacks on living conditions and union rights

Today (2 March) sees a second general strike in Northern Cyprus against the austerity measures of the right wing National Unity Party government. The following is the text of a CWI leaflet that will be distributed in Northern Cyprus and also amongst the Turkish Cypriot community in other European countries.

No to the austerity cuts – Solidarity with the struggle of the Turkish Cypriot working class!

For a united struggle of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot workers!

For a united, workers’ solution to the national question – for an agreed, common land and a socialist future!

On Wednesday, 2 March, the Turkish Cypriot workers in North Cyprus are going on a 24 hour general strike. This will be the second 24 hour general strike since the beginning of 2011. It is expected to be even more successful than the previous one, on 28 January, which saw 40,000 workers on the streets, protesting against government attacks on their living standards and rights.

Turkish Cypriot workers will go on strike against the UBP [National Unity Party – the right wing nationalist party] government which is implementing the worst austerity package ever experienced by the working class in North Cyprus. It includes amongst other things, a 40% cut of the salaries of the public sector, a cut of 1000 liras (500 Euros) in the salary of new employees in the public sector, big increases in taxes, attacks against the pensioners, privatisation of the Turkish Cypriot airlines (already gone through) privatisation of the semi-public university EMU, the power sector and telecommunications. What is more, it abolishes the right of unions to negotiate collective agreements!

This austerity package was initially proposed by the previous government of the CTP [Republican Turkish Party – a social democratic party]. However, they were never able to implement it because of the immediate resistance of the Turkish Cypriot working class. As a result of their neoliberal agenda, the CTP lost the next elections. But the new UBP government began to implement the same programme, the moment they were elected in 2009.

Attacks by Erdogan

During the 28 January strike, protesters demanded that the AKP Turkish government in Ankara withdraw their cuts package. A banner read “Ankara take your hands off Cyprus! This caught the attention of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. He responded by showing the real intentions of the Turkish ruling class concerning Cyprus: “Who are they to say to Turkey to leave Cyprus?” He attacked the strikers, “Workers in Cyprus take [salaries of] a minimum of 10.000 liras [5.000 euros – a complete lie] but in Turkey management consultant takes only 5000 liras”.

Erdogan even “proposed” to Eroglu [he president of the UBP government] to take to court protesters that held up banners attacking the Turkish government! He completed his attacks by saying: “We pay them and they have to act accordingly”, adding, “Turkey is in Cyprus for the same reason that Greece is, because it has strategic interests and will not leave”.

In this way, Erdogan actually admitted that Turkey did not invade Cyprus in 1974 to “liberate” the Turkish Cypriots, as claimed by all Turkish governments up to now, but in order to serve the interests of the Turkish ruling class.

The AKP government continued its attacks against the Turkish Cypriots working class by calling on the UBP government to declare a strike by teachers “illegal”.

New situation

Erdogan’s statement created a new situation for the Turkish Cypriots’ struggle. Firstly, it created a new wave of resistance in North Cyprus. Delegates from ten trade unions protested outside the Turkish embassy in North Cyprus, declaring: “We don’t accept your insults – the minimum wage in North Cyprus is 1500 liras [.e. 750 Euros]…you call for Mubarak to listen to the people but you don’t…We are watching in horror the neo-liberal Islamic policies of the AKP on the Turkish working people, and we, as a community, living in another country, would like to declare on behalf of our patriotic and working people that we will not permit these policies and we will not step back. This country is ours, we will rule it”.

Secondly, Ergodan’s attacks actually attracted a lot of support from workers in Turkey for the Turkish Cypriot workers. Statements of support were made by many unions and left wing parties in Turkey.

Workers determined to continue the struggle

The anger of the Turkish Cypriots towards the Turkish government is growing. Even sections of the Turkish Cypriot ruling class and the Turkish Cypriot right wing parties reacted to Erdogan’s speech by declaring that the AKP government should not claim to giving financial ‘handouts’ to the Turkish Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots should bend to Erodogan’s demands. These voices claimed that the AKP government has “obligations” to the Turkish Cypriots because Turkey is the “motherland” and is obliged to support the Turkish Cypriots, as it does all other parts of Turkey. Of course, the Turkish Cypriot ruling class and right wing parties do not have the interests of Turkish Cypriot workers in mind – they are furious that Erdogan’s austerity cuts will hit their profit making and potentially their positions of influence and power.

The trade unions in Turkish Cyprus blame the AKP government in Turkey for putting forward the austerity package and the local UBP government for implementing it. A significant section of the trade union movement calls for the Turkish government to take its hands off North Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot community, and they are resisting the austerity measures and privatisations.

This attack is not just “Turkish” – it is international

The Turkish Cypriot workers are determined to continue the struggle. Many have the impression that the austerity attacks imposed on North Cyprus only take place because of the policies of the AKP but this is only partially true. The reality is that the working class, the youth and the poor, in one country after another, face vicious attacks by their ruling classes and their governments. In Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, in every country of Europe, on every continent, the worst neo-liberal onslaught has been launched against working people.

This is the result of the worst economic crisis since the 1930’s, the consequence of which is shaking the whole planet. This crisis was caused by the insatiable greed of capital for profits and by the neo-liberal policies that they applied, to this end. Now their new neo-liberal attacks are aimed at making the working class pay for the crisis caused by the system.

No illusions in CTP and DP.

There should be no illusions in either the CTP [Republican Turkish Party – an opposition social democratic party or the DP [Democratic Party – an opposition right wing bourgeois party].

The CTP and DP were ready to retreat after Erdogan’s speech and they participated in Turkish Cypriot governments that implemented neo-liberal policies in the past.

These parties offer no solution to the working class. Workers in North Cyprus need to build their own political parties, which will serve the interests of the working class, fight determinately against the policies of capitalism and, also, against the power of capital – for a society in the service of the working class, the youth and the poor, for a society ran democratically by the working masses.

Erdogan accuses Turkish Cypriot workers of being agents of Greek Cypriot nationalists

Erdogan used all possible means to stop the mobilisations of the Turkish Cypriot working class against his austerity policies. His threats and blackmails did not work; actually they saw even larger parts of Turkish Cypriot society turn against the ruling class in Ankara.

Erdogan then attempted to scare the Turkish Cypriots with references to the national question in Cyprus, saying that essentially the movement of the Turkish Cypriot workers is in the interests of the Greek Cypriots who want Turkey to leave the island, in order to take it over.

A socialist solution to the national divide

Erdogan’s has admitted that Turkey is in Cyprus because of the strategic interests of the Turkish ruling class and not because the ruling elite is in any way concerned about the interests of the mass of the Turkish Cypriot workers and overall population.

Indeed, behind the 1974 war and the division of Cyprus, lie the conflicting strategic and economic interests of the Turkish and Greek ruling classes, as well as the conflicting interests of the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot ruling classes and nationalists.

But the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot workers and the ‘mainland’ Turkish and Greek workers have nothing in class terms to divide them: they have no conflicting strategic or economic interests. On the contrary, it is in their common interests to fight against the neo-liberal attacks they face, to struggle for a better life for all, for an end to military antagonisms, for peace on the island of Cyprus and between Greece and Turkey. Only through the common and co-ordinated struggles of the working classes of the island and Greece and Turkey can these goals be achieved.

On the basis of the above, we declare: We will not pay for the capitalists’ crisis. Solidarity to the struggle of the Turkish Cypriot workers. No to the austerity measures. No to privatisations. Our right to assemble, demonstrate, organise and strike are not negotiable.

We need to advance the struggle for the nationalisation of the banking system and all major industries, under workers’ control and management, and for a massive programme of investment in infrastructure, housing etc, to put the economy on the path of major growth and to create jobs.

No to the involvement of the pro-capitalist Turkish government, in Ankara, or the Greek government, in Athens, or any of the imperialist powers, in the affairs of North and South Cyprus. The Greek and Turkish Cypriot people should decide on their own future.

Greek and Turkish Cypriot workers have common class interests and gaols of fundamental economic development and real, lasting peace on the island, and need to fight for these together, through common independent organisations of the working class the youth and the poor, including the building of mass parties of the working classes, with socialist policies.

The Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot ruling classes have conflicting economic and strategic interests over who will dominate the island and aim to exploit the working class to make more profits. To this end, they make use of the ruling classes in their respective “motherlands”. The struggle of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot workers has nothing in common with the profit interests of any the bosses and must inevitably be in conflict with their corresponding ruling classes.

We must resist every austerity attack and, at the same time, prepare for our mass, united resistance: no to all cuts and attacks on working people, for the overthrow of the power of big business, no to meddling imperialism, and for a socialist federation of the North and South of Cyprus. Our struggle inevitably links up with the struggle of our brothers and sisters in mainland Greece and Turkey and also with the rest of the working class of Europe, in Germany, Britain, and elsewhere, for a socialist federation of Europe on an equal and voluntary basis.

Youth against Nationalism in Cyprus – youth section of CWI in Cyprus,

Xekinima –CWI section in Greece

SAV –CWI section in Germany

Socialist Party – CWI section in England and Wales

Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot members of the Socialist Party CWI (CWI in England and Wales)

The Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) is a socialist international organisation, based in 47 countries, on all continents, fighting against the capitalist neo-liberal onslaught, and for a socialist future, based on the democratic running of society by the working class.

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March 2011