Translated by Erkal Ünal
The horrible scene Turkey is facing as of February 6, 2023, is not a “disaster” or a “catastrophe”. It is a massacre with variegated economic and political layers, whose conditions have taken time to develop, and the calls to stop it have gone unheeded. The fact that there have been two very strong earthquakes in a row of “historic” magnitude doesn’t change this fact. Citizens in the ten cities devastated by the earthquake were abandoned to perish by the state and the government, which failed to draw the necessary lessons from the tragic repercussions of the 1999 Marmara earthquake almost a quarter-century ago; both before and after the earthquake… The executioners of this atrocity are those who did nothing to avert this destruction despite repeated warnings from scientists, engineers, and (as evidenced in the case of Hatay) local administrators. At the time of writing, the official death toll was more than 30,000, but we know that the real toll is several times greater. Tens of thousands of our people were buried alive in their homes and bedrooms whilst sleeping. Those who somehow survived were left to face the cold, hunger, thirst, and agony of being unable to reach their relatives under the rubble. The Turkish state and its principal functionaries are both culpable for and spectators to the Anatolian carnage that has led millions of people to destruction.
The main perpetrator of this atrocity is, of course, the political authority that has ruled Turkey for 20 years and continues to do so now. However, in terms of history and actors, the chain of blame is much more complicated and wider… All those who oversaw Turkey’s neoliberal capitalist transformation after 12 September 1980 coup d’état and shouldered the economic, political, and cultural biddings of that transformation have direct responsibility for what occurred. The monopoly bourgeoisie in the first place, all sections of the capitalist class with its “Westernist” and “Islamist” factions, the notables and aghas of the provincial economy, the chieftains of sects, congregations, and other religion-profiteering organizations, the parasitic political class, and the entire ruling team of the civil-military bureaucracy, all of which are extensions of all these, are complicit in this massacre that spilled the blood and took the lives of hundreds of thousands of Anatolian people, leaving millions of them alone in horror.
It is not only hypocrisy but also an act of criminal cover-up for these very groups to call for solidarity and unity now. The people of Turkey have displayed unwavering solidarity, surpassing all artificial differences imposed on them. In this regard, they don’t need anyone’s counsel or arrogant prodding. And they never have. The people don’t need help to understand the catastrophe that has befallen them. What the people of Turkey immediately need is to get rid of all those responsible for the devastation they have been pushed into and to organize the reconstruction of the country and society.
The geography of the destruction is a field of exploitation plowed in unison by international capital, local monopoly bourgeoisie, and religion-profiteering bourgeois strata, which are also incorrectly referred to as “Anatolian capital”. The spinning industry in Maraş is one of the supply centers for international monopolies, including, for example, IKEA. Antep and Urfa are hellish cities for labor where the textile industry provides a “competitive advantage” with cheap labor, where tens of thousands of workers are driven to the workshops as if they were driven to the front line during the pandemic when the snow took over the city as in the winter of 2022 and under conditions of raging costs; where even the unions, even the smallest acts social and economic solidarity were associated with “terror”. Adıyaman is a city of the poor left to unemployment and despair with its pitiful 3 per thousand shares of “national income”. It is a city where the livelihood opportunities of tobacco-producing peasants have been liquidated by methods sometimes resorting to the gendarmerie, due to the strategic interests of international cigarette monopolies and privatization policies, and The epicenters of the earthquake are also the epicenters of child labor exploitation performed under the guise of “vocational training” (institutionalized by the state under the MESEM brand [Turkish acronym of Vocational Training Center]). Children who were taken away from their classrooms and driven into the trenches of the “exporting” industry with a monthly wage of 1,200 liras have been victims of the earthquake in dwellings deemed worthy of them and their families. Laborers living in the jerry-built houses of Maraş, Antep, Adıyaman, Hatay, and other cities were left to perish in these rickety buildings where they were heaped like an input item of capitalist production relations. Teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers, all professionals, and low-level civil workers have been crushed to death in coffins that resemble houses sold or rented to them with fancy words, crushed to death by the greed for profit of treacherous contractors who stole from iron and concrete.
In these respects, the February 6 massacre in the southern and eastern cities of Anatolia is a massacre of capitalist exploitation. The above-mentioned accomplices’ partnership table is this exploitation itself. Perhaps the question “Where’s the state?”, which was sometimes uttered as a reproach immediately after the earthquake, should be answered from the center of this table: The state is not missing, this is what Turkey’s capitalist state is now, and what it consists of. A state that distributes biddings and concessions, undertakes the circulation of money, the organization and legislation of exploitation, but doesn’t send rescue teams to the survivors of the exhausted laborers buried in their bedrooms. It is a state that distributes biddings, guarantees profits, and provides the political-social “security” required to keep this order of exploitation by force in place. The app released by the regime’s propaganda bureau called the Communication Directorate shortly after the earthquake, the open threats in all of Erdoğan’s speeches, the writings and words of the scribes of the sell-out and parasitic media are all weapons of this force, this violence.
But today, the destruction that our country and each and every one of us is going through has a radiance that demonstrates how the power that’s assumed through these instruments of violence is fragile. Turkey is indeed at a turning point today, not just on the level of the contradictions of the center politics, but also historically. To use a cliché, we are “at the bottom” – and we’ll either get out or we’ll remain there even if the actors change. Today we are at a moment when the fatal contradiction between Turkey’s society and the order of the dictatorship of capital is visible in the ruins, with hundreds of thousands of casualties, destroyed cities, and historical and social assets. These contradictions are determined not by political parties, official or “civilian” institutions, but by the objective conditions of class contradictions and struggle. It is the class struggle that shapes the state apparatus and its functions, in both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances. Turkey has reached a point where its human, natural and even historical assets are being tossed into the fire for the sake of the short-term interests of capital, but that fire is engulfing the entire roof. The competing projects of various factions of capital are not the only alternatives.
The images of violence that have prompted the outpouring of rage (especially among the citizens in the earthquake zone) in response to this devastation to deviate from the right targets and to take on the appearance of a “public order problem”, are another cause for concern for our country. Neofascist agitators are rushing to the aid of the neoliberal Palace cabinet, which is nearly a collection of representatives of private corporations. The traumatizing trajectory of public order problems in the demolition zones is in the best interest of those responsible for the destruction. The capitalist state, which abandons people first to death and then to deep public order problems, is this public disorder itself.
Photo Credit: İskenderun, Benoît Tessier [Reuters]