avatar
The Roots of the Turkish Protests


Özlem Onaran for AVGI newspaper, Greece, by Anastasia Giamali mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
color:#20124D;mso-fareast-language:EN-GB”>Prime Minister Erdogan has been promoting a fully neoliberal agenda with privatisations, "development," etc. Has this reached a ceiling? Is this the reason why people are protesting?
 

Yes, absolutely. The obvious injustice and police brutality in Gezi Park was the last drop in a long process of accumulation of discontent against an authoritarian government, their social policies pushing for a conservative Islamic life style threatening in particular women and youth, criminalization and imprisoning of oppositional groups ranging from seculars to Kurds, socialists, and trade unionists,  and neoliberal policies which increasingly commercialized public services, created areas of rent for large corporations, and eroded the living standards and security of a significant part of the working people. 27 May and the mobilizations that has followed will mark a historic moment for the collective memory of the movements in Turkey. This has been the insurrection of a new generation, who has been brought up by the conservative neoliberal authoritarian AKP [Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party] regime for a decade.  

mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-language:EN-US”>Can authoritarianism be a model? Not a stable one, as the recent events have shown. Can neoliberal speculation and finance-led growth be a model of development, social cohesion and regional convergence? No, as the recent history of Turkey, which is marked by regular boom and bust cycles, and crises in 1994, 2001, 2009, shows. In the recent global crisis, Turkey had one of the severest recessions in 2009–deeper than other major emerging economies. Indeed Turkey’s growth model dependent on cheap labour and speculative financial capital inflows and a high trade deficit, would have experienced a crisis sooner or later even without the global recession. The recovery since 2009 is as fragile as before. The share of industry in Turkey’s production is decreasing and becoming increasingly more dependent on the imports of intermediate and capital goods. No wonder, this is a jobless growth process with high youth unemployment rates reaching 22%. This is neither socially nor economically stable. AKP has recently taken pride in having paid the last installment of its debt to the IMF. However, in the last decade Turkey has borrowed increasingly more in the international financial markets, and in particular the foreign debt of the private sector has reached unforeseen levels.  

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-fareast-language:EN-GB”>

font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";font-weight:normal;mso-bidi-font-weight:
bold”> has rescheduled its strike about a change in the labour law to 4-5 June in order to support the mobilization. What brought discontent to the tipping point of rebellion is also the increasing insecurity and impoverisation of the working people in Turkey. AKP has initiated a redistribution towards the poorest of the society via both crony in-kind transfers of food and fuel as well as some institutional pro-poor changes, e.g. in the health services. However, the source of this redistribution was income scrapped from the organized blue collar and white-collar/professional working people, and not taxes on the rich. This redistribution helps to increase the profits of the large capitalists without hurting the poorest further. This also explains part of the mass electoral support for the party. In the last decade insecurity has increased for all segments of the working people barely mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
color:#20124D;mso-fareast-language:EN-GB”> 

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-fareast-language:EN-GB”>Yes, the losers of these policies are multi-dimensional. Gentrification and commercialization are generating a potential for new urban alliances across different segments of the society ranging from the dislocated Roma people and the Kurdish street vendors to organized workers and small shop owners. Some of the latter may have voted for AKP but the neoliberal policies as well as the sheer arrogance of their brutality and ignorance about any popular discontent may mark the beginning of the erosion of the diverse mass support for them. 
 

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Özlem Onaran is Professor of