On Friday March 1, Ankara witnessed two important events. While as a result of the dirty haggles between the government and the US, parliament was negotiating the government petition for a permit to allow US troops on to Turkish soil, and send Turkish troops abroad, there were tens of thousands of workers and youth in the streets of Ankara shouting no to war in Iraq. The demonstration was part of a series of actions organised by the No To War in Iraq Platform and especially was called by DISK (Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions), KESK (Confederation of Public Employees’ Unions), TMMOB (Union of Turkish Engineers’ and Architects’ Associations) and TTB (Union of Turkish Physicians). There were more than 100,000 people on the demo from workers’ unions, professional associations, leftist parties and organisations, students, intellectuals, artists and ordinary people. Setting out to march in columns from Hipodrom, masses of people proceeded to a gathering in Sıhhiye Square. Some of the columns could not enter the square because it was full. The negotiations on the petition of “sending out and accepting troops” were continuing in the parliament that day, this was an important factor that made the voices of the demonstrators rise with all their might in a determined way.
The workers on the demo came from every corner of Turkey to Ankara by coaches and train. Especially large numbers came from provinces near to the war and particularly from Kurdish provinces. There was also a huge crowd formed by tens of thousands of teachers who are members of Egitim-Sen (Union of Education Employees) from all across the country. They were the biggest column in the demo and very enthusiastic.
For the first time since the military coup of September 12 we heard the “Internationale” from the stage, this is very significant because it has been unheard in mass meetings since then, except in some May Day demonstrations.
The demo was large, but could have been even bigger if the unions had conducted serious rank and file work to bring as many workers as possible. The fact that so many workers participated in the demo with a lively mood shows that, despite all the pacifying efforts of the union bureaucracy, millions could be brought to the streets should the mass organisations take a correct attitude. This should be the case in a country where those who are against the war form 95 percent of the population.
That the unions have played an outstanding role in this demo, in contrast to the fact that they did almost nothing to bring workers to antiwar actions so far, is due to the fact that the demonstrators were coming from all around Turkey. Some branches of unions, which are affiliates of the Turk-Is (Confederation of Turkish Workers’ Unions), have started a campaign against conciliationist, collaborationist attitudes on the part of Turk-Is bureaucracy. They declared that “the only way to counter the attacks is to advance the fight in a determined way” and that they would not remain silent in the face of collaboration with employers, on the part of the labour confederations. This has caused a panic not only among the Turk-Is bureaucracy but also other workers’ confederations, it has forced them under pressure to change their position.
These union branches declared that they were inviting all unions and forces that intend to fight, to unity - to a united fight. Even the two modest actions against the new labour bill carried out by them in Istanbul have sufficed to frighten the Turk-Is leadership, which has never allowed any independent initiatives within its ranks. All these are promising developments which show that the voices coming up from the rank and file, despite the fact that they are not strong enough at the moment, can shake the tops of the movement, and that the dead silence that has hovered over the workers’ movement for years can be removed.
We are passing through an atmosphere in which the rage against the imperialist war is turning into a massive reaction throughout the world. Through pacifist actions, pacifists and reformists are trying to limit this reaction of the masses, which is gradually assuming an anti-capitalist content, to the confines of capitalist order. Yet the only force that can stop this war is the organised power of the world working class, which comes from production. All revolutionists, communists and conscious workers should mobilise all working class organisations, above all unions, to form factory committees against war and coordinate them on a national and international scale. Preparations and rehearsals of general strikes that will stop all production and transportation when the war begins should immediately be started.
Only the working class can stop this war!
Class war against war! Not pacifism but revolutionary fight!
When War Drums Are Beaten