The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey’s (DİSK) 16th General Assembly convened in 2020 with a claim to build “Labor’s Turkey and Labor’s World.” Some critics often labelled that goal as “ambitious” and “unrealistic”. However, when we look at 2022’s Turkey and World that witnessed Ukraine Crisis just after Covid 19 pandemic, I can say with much more confidence that there is no other way for the salvation of our country, humanity and even the world. We have been saying “another world is possible” for years, but at the point that we have reached today, “another world is a must” even more urgently!
To emphasize the bankruptcy of the capitalist order would not be a new claim to be made. Because all that is happening in the world and our country is happening on the debris of this order. The destruction that neoliberal capitalism has created by profound inequalities and injustice now threatens the world. While 40, 50 years ago, the dominant discourse was propagating that the unbounded and unaccountable capital will bring freedom; nowadays we are talking about the global pandemic and climate crisis under the shadow of the “Third World War”. So the question “How far we are from the destruction of the world” is not dystopian anymore.
How did we get to this point?
Neoliberal capitalism was built as an order based on the usurpation of public rights, in which all public resources were put at the service of capital. The unlimited plundering of nature became the lifeblood of this order. The social, economic and union rights of the working class, gained through two-century struggle, have been destroyed and restricted almost all over the world. Working life has been made insecure, flexible and makeshift in order to provide maximum profit and minimum accountability to the capital. While wages were suppressed, workers were left in precarious jobs, and their labor was devalued. The precondition was obvious: to barbarously attack and neutralize the working class’s economic, democratic and political organizations.
All of these were made while defending concepts such as social welfare, the happiness of individuals, globalization, free access to information, peace and democracy. However, we were aware that it was just an illusion.
Contrary to what was promised and claimed, democracy did not come to our planet; on the contrary, authoritarian regimes suppressed political and social rights and created a suitable environment for global capital. On the other hand, reactions to the social destruction caused by neoliberal capitalist globalization facilitated the strengthening of neo-fascist political waves. Unlimited capital plunder aiming to raise competitive power in the world markets was legitimized with the slogans such as “domestic and national.”
Neither democracy nor peace, just crisis
Neoliberal capitalism has not brought peace to our planet. On the contrary, the imperialists’ invasions, interventions, and wars became widespread. The unilateral war and occupation attacks, which were initiated by the claims such as humanitarian intervention and preventive intervention, became generalized as an arbitrariness that allowed states with military superiority to claim a “threat” and initiate war wherever they wanted.
As a result of these endless wars, there were great humanitarian crises with the displaced refugees. These humanitarian crises were again used as a mortar to construct authoritarian regimes. The process started with the phrase, “Borders will be lifted with capitalist globalization”. In contrast, all physical and legal borders for capital and military forces disappeared. Workers were imprisoned in their own countries or ruthlessly exploited as “the lowest classes” in other countries. This humanitarian crisis has also been turned into an opportunity, and the workers have been divided and become more and more rivals of each other.
The 2008 world economic crisis revealed that the capitalist system was blocked. But to all these bottlenecks, the system’s response was to repeat itself: more capital plunder, cheaper labor, more destroyed nature, and more war.
It is also our story being told
What we are experiencing in Turkey is not disconnected from this global context and trends. With millions of workers who have fallen below the poverty line and are obliged to a minimum wage that has become the average wage, Turkey has become a “cheap labor paradise” for the capital. Being a union member as a constitutional right has become the most common reason for dismissal in our country, where a mentality that prides itself on banning strikes is dominant. From essential public services such as health and education to our nature and cities, almost everything has been destroyed and sacrificed to unlimited and unaccountable capital accumulation. Even during the Covid-19 era, limited resources were used to revive the capital, not to help the millions who lost their jobs and became impoverished.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made us witness how rotted and collapsed this order is. According to official figures alone, more than 6 million people worldwide have lost their lives.
Wouldn’t it be expected that global capital and world states to “learn the lesson” from this epidemic and set some priorities regarding public health? However, even in the pandemic, “the supreme interests of capital accumulation” took precedence over public health – more or less – all over the world. As always, the crisis has been turned into an opportunity for the sovereigns. While transnational companies were multiplying their profits, political powers used the Covid virus as a tool to suppress social opposition.
And while humanity has not healed the wounds of the pandemic, war policies gained momentum after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Valuable resources go to armament
The armament expenditures, which has been increasing even in the pandemic period, will further increase in the upcoming period. Germany is allocating 100 billion Euros for armament expenditures. Legitimization of the destruction of nature in the name of creating energy sources and dominating energy resources continues. The closure of nuclear power plants began to be postponed, and new nuclear power plant plans started to be made.
My concern is that, with armament and energy expenditures, the markets will be revived through the military-industrial complex, and there will also be further restrictions on public spending. The resources that should be spent on the public will be usurped in the name of national security and external threat. What this will bring for the people of the world is clear: more poverty, slavery and more deaths.
To overcome the crisis, policies that do not attempt to depreciate labor and resuscitate markets by increasing wages and social spending have never been proposed. Because, in an environment where the world population has become proletariat to a great extent, a working-class that is not indebted and strengthened with social rights and whose dependencies have decreased, that is, the working class as a social and political subject, is seen as a greater threat to this system than before. For this reason, the responses to the crisis of capitalism do not and cannot exceed “military Keynesianism”.
Towards a crisis of civilization
The current environment in which the capitalist system collapsed on humanity, nature and life is now a civilizational crisis. We have been asked to believe that there is no order other than this order, which condemns the world to ecological crises and wars, hunger, unemployment and insecurity. But today, we are all sure that what the impossible and irrational is the continuation of this order.
The science-fiction movie that we watched recently, “Don’t Look Up”, came closer to the truth, especially in a world where nuclear war threats are in the air. As with the metaphor in the movie, the system has nothing left to say to the people of the world except, “Don’t look up,” while a meteor is rapidly approaching our planet. This order, which locked everyone indoors except those who “had to work” during the pandemic, now forces people to take shelter in the subways with the fear of war.
We need to break the ideological siege that makes us believe that the destruction of the world is more rational than changing the world. Without hiding behind the excuse of the weakness of our economic-democratic and political organizations, we should remember that the way to become a power is to claim to change the world. We have experience in many occasions how the working class, whose claim to change the world was stripped from their hands, have fallen distant to become economic, political and social power. And we also experienced that the world shaped by capital brings nothing but injustice and disaster.
Good for workers, good for humanity
The world and our country will become more beautiful with the economic, political and social empowerment of labor. Our world and our country will become a livable place with public policies that guarantee the right to education, health and shelter, not with policies that invest in armament or projects destroying the city and nature for the benefits of privileged companies and financial lobbies. As we always say, today it is more clearly seen that what is in the interest of the workers is also in the interest of our country and the world.
Because this order, which was designed to exclude the working class “from of the political scene” and was not established to keep those who produce all the values and beauties of the world alive humanely, is now become a disaster that humanity must abolish.
It is not just possible but also a must to establish a new political/social order based on the sovereignty of the people, not the capital, the rights of labor and the benefit of society against unlimited exploitation and plunder, and to rebuild democracy and peace destroyed by market fanaticism.